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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares fall; Fonterra drops after earnings, Sky TV gains on ComCom appeal

Wednesday 22nd March 2017

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 New Zealand shares fell, with Fonterra Shareholders' Fund and Fletcher Building dropping while Sky Network Television rose after the pay-TV company said it will challenge the regulator's decision to decline its Vodafone merger.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index dropped 24.71 points, or 0.3 percent, to 7,060.83. Within the index, 30 stocks fell, 12 rose and eight were unchanged. Turnover was $171 million.

Dual-listed banks led the index lower, with Australia & New Zealand Banking Group down 2.7 percent to $33.56 and Westpac Banking Corp falling 2.7 percent to $36.50. 

Units in the Fonterra Shareholders' Fund fell 0.6 percent to $6.18. Fonterra Cooperative Group cut its forecast for full-year earnings per share while maintaining its projected milk payout, citing volatility in returns from ingredients, tightening margins and potential increased milk supply in the autumn.

Per-share earnings are forecast at 45 cents to 55 cents while the farmgate milk price payout was affirmed at $6 per kilogram of milk solids, giving a forecast available for payout of $6.45 to $6.55 before retentions for a fully shared-up farmer. It had previously projected per-share earnings of 50-to-60 cents for a payout of $6.50 to $6.60 before retentions.

The dairy exporter downgraded its forecast while releasing first-half results today which showed revenue climbed 9 percent to $9.2 billion. Normalised earnings before interest and tax fell 9 percent to $607 million in the six months ended Jan. 31. Net profit rose 2 percent to $418 million.

"The result was a bit of a mixed bag really, it was okay but I think earnings per share guidance was a downer on the overall result," said Peter McIntyre, investment adviser at Craigs Investment Partners. 

Fletcher fell 0.2 percent to $8.34. The shares plunged over 10 percent on Monday after it unexpectedly cut full-year earnings guidance by $110 million because of losses related to construction projects. The downgrade came just four weeks after the company affirmed earlier guidance for the full-year while announcing its first-half results. Fletcher gives up rights to a 27 cent final dividend tomorrow.

"A lot of investors are wanting to sit on the sidelines and see what happens," McIntyre said. "Certainly there's questions within the market over management. Some investors will be hanging in there for the dividend, it will be very interesting tomorrow to see where that one trades."

New Zealand Refining dropped 1.7 percent to $2.35. Its gross margins edge higher in the first two months of the year with strong throughput at the Marsden Point refinery.The Whangarei-based company achieved a gross refinery margin of US$6.58 per barrel in January and February, down from US$7.96/barrel a year earlier, though higher than the 2016 average of US$6.47/barrel. Some 7.16 million barrels were processed in the two-month period, up from 6.83 million a year earlier and ahead of the planned maintenance shutdown in March. 

Sky TV was the best performer, up 6 percent to $3.69. Sky TV and Vodafone New Zealand will today lodge appeals against the Commerce Commission's decision blocking their merger. The pay-TV operator and telecommunications group are filing the papers in the High Court today to fall within the statutory timeframe while they wait on the regulator's reasoning against the decision, Auckland-based Sky TV said in a statement. Those reasons are expected to be released in the coming weeks.

Mercury New Zealand gained 2.1 percent to $3.15 and Tourism Holdings rose 1.6 percent to $3.80.

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