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Stocks to Watch: New Zealand Equity Preview

Wednesday 24th December 2008

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The following stocks may be active on the New Zealand exchange after developments since the close of trading yesterday.

Themes of the day: Figures yesterday showed New Zealand's economy shrank 0.4% in the third quarter and economists are now paring back any sense of a rebound next year, with the contraction possibly set to run through the first quarter of 2009. Oil slid 2.3% to US$39.01 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. U.S. home sales for November had the biggest drop in 21 years.

New Zealand Oil & Gas (NZO): The oil company, one of only two stocks on the NZX 50 to gain this year, has lifted its stake in Pan Pacific Petroleum to about 15%, the limit without getting approval from Australia's regulator. The stock fell 1 cent to NZ$1.24 yesterday.

Metlifecare Ltd. (MET): The operator of rest homes fell 6.7% to NZ$2.80 yesterday after suspending its dividends and announcing plans to raise as much as NZ$40 million selling shares, as the weakening economy weighs on the property market. The stock trades infrequently and is down 60% this year

Plus SMS Holdings (PLU): The mobile phone services company that terminated contracts of its CEO and CFO in October, says it has failed to recover company data from the former executives, incurring additional costs to try to meet its NZX reporting obligations. The company is unlikely to file within the NZX deadlines, it said yesterday. The stocks last traded on the NZAX market on Dec. 18 at 1.8 cents and has fallen more than 70% this year.

PGG Wrightson (PGW): The rural services company's finance arm completed the sale of NZ$100 million of bonds, including over-subscriptions, which pay 8.25%. Wrightson Finance head Mark Darrow said demand for the debt was "a sound endorsement" of the company."  The shares rose about 1% to NZ$1.06 yesterday.

Smiths City Group (SCY): The Christchurch-based retailer said its operating profit fell 53% to $820,000 in its first half while revenue fell 14%. Chairman Craig Boyce said difficult trading conditions "are clearly having a negative impact on our trading results." The shares fell 7% to 26 cents yesterday.

Tower Ltd. (TWR): TOWER, the insurer part-owned by Guinness Peat Group has a "positive" outlook despite the softening market conditions, managing director Rob
Flannagan said in the report. Trading at NZ$1.45, its stock has dropped almost 40% in the last 12 months.

By Jonathan Underhill

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