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NZX CLOSE: NZ shares rise; Wrightson, HBY gain on earnings

Thursday 25th February 2010

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New Zealand shares rose, paced by PGG Wrightson and Nuplex Industries, amid optimism corporate earnings growth will continue apace this year, helping the equity market to extend its gains.

The NZX 50 Index climbed 20.80, or 0.7%, to 3151.68. Within the index, 22 stocks rose, 15 fell and 13 were unchanged. Turnover was $90.4 million.

A survey today showed New Zealand business confidence rose to the highest level since April 1999, with companies growing more upbeat across manufacturing, agriculture, construction and services. A net 42% of companies surveyed expect a pick-up in trading over the coming year, up from a net 36.9 percent in December, according to National Bank’s Business Outlook survey.

PGG Wrightson (NZX: PGW ) climbed 3.5% to 60 cents. New Zealand’s biggest rural services company today named John Anderson as chairman of a revamped board and reported a modest profit on reduced spending by farmers and costs to refinance debt.  

While risks remain, “there appears to be a general lift in farmer and grower sentiment from recent improvements in dairy commodity prices and global economic conditions,” the company said.

Nuplex (NZX: NPX ) rose 2.4% to $3.41 after the specialty chemicals group announced a record 477% increase in interim profit, driven chiefly by strong demand growth from China.

“On the demand front, clearly there was significant demand growth in China, and all that growth was in high-end sophisticated product areas which carry high margins,” Nuplex managing director John Hirst told BusinessWire. “We also saw demand recovery in the ASEAN region, which also gave us a big boost.”

Hellaby Holdings (NZX: HBY ), the diversified investment group, gained 4.7% to $1.55 after reporting first-half profit soared to $2.3 million from a year earlier $372,000, as it recouped $1.2 million of provisioning on the sale of its BBQ Factory chain in 2008.

Goodman Fielder (NZX: GFF ) fell 4% to $1.90. The company posted a 25% jump in first-half profit to A$90.3 million after cutting manufacturing and logistics costs and benefiting from more stable raw material prices. Profit lagged behind the A$92.4 million forecast in a Bloomberg survey and it provided no full-year guidance.

Port of Tauranga (NZX: POT ) edged up 0.3% to $7 after posting a 2% gain in first-half profit by reining in costs as freight volumes fell, eroding revenue. The port company said full-year earnings would be little changed from last year, when it had a profit of $45 million.

AMP (NZX: AMP ) fell 2.2% to $7.70 on the NZX. The company is considering a A$4 billion proposal to sell a controlling stake in itself to Australia & New Zealand Banking Group, in exchange  for a controlling stake in the bank’s ING wealth-management unit, the Age newspaper reported. The bank has responded that it is only seeking “organic growth.” ANZ Bank shares were little changed at $28.70.

Contact Energy (NZX: CEN ), the biggest utility on the NZX 50, climbed 4.2% to $6.14. Children’s clothing chain Pumpkin Patch (NZX: PPL ) rose 3.7% to $1.97.

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