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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares drop as Air NZ, Ebos fall; F&P Healthcare, Auckland Airport gain

Thursday 23rd August 2018

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New Zealand shares dropped as investors picked a weaker outlook for Air New Zealand and Ebos. Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp and Auckland International Airport gained on expectations for continuing strong earnings growth.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index fell 22.47 points, or 0.2 percent, to 9,139.87. Within the index, 26 stocks fell, 20 rose and four were unchanged. Turnover was $115.4 million. 

Leading the index lower was Air New Zealand, down 4.3 percent to $3.265. It lifted full-year pre-tax earnings 2.5 percent to $540 million despite significantly higher fuel prices, but the airline is slightly more downbeat about the current financial year as those costs continue to push higher. 

The company had expected to improve on 2017's $527 million earnings based on an average jet fuel price of US$60 per barrel. The price, however, increased 25 percent to US$75 per barrel. 

"After having been very strong for the last few days, and perhaps surprisingly strong given the known fuel cost and currency headwinds they'll face going into next year, it's a bit of reality," said Matt Goodson, managing director at Salt Funds Management. "The factors are no surprise. The business is still performing well in terms of the controllables, but the reality of those two things came home."

The dual-listed banks dropped as the Australian benchmark index weakened amidst political turmoil in Canberra.Westpac Banking Corp was down 2.8 percent to $31.08 and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group fell 2.4 percent to $31.25. The ASX200 was down 0.2 percent at 5:20pm New Zealand time. 

Comvita fell 2.1 percent to $5.62 and Spark New Zealand dropped 1.9 percent to $3.875.

Ebos dipped 0.05 percent to $20.99. It boosted annual earnings in line with its forecast even though revenue fell, as the pharmaceutical and animal health products company increased margins and benefited from acquisitions. Underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation on a constant currency basis increased 10.3 percent to $272.4 million in the year ended June 30, in line with its forecast for 10 percent growth.

"It was bang in line with expectations, but the multiple is quite extended relative to peers for a company with relatively skinny ebit margins," Goodson said. "Their outlook comments were for further growth, but perhaps didn't quite meet the market's expectations, and they had had a very strong run going into the result."

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp was the best performer, up 3 percent to $15.69. It raised its full-year earnings forecast by about $5 million on the back of strong sales growth and the weaker New Zealand dollar.

"When you dig into it it appears almost entirely due to currency. There was an initial reaction from the algo machines which took it as high as $16 for a nanosecond," Goodson said. "It was very much expected and the market, at least locally, will continue to focus on core business where growth has been slowing a touch. The market is keenly awaiting the launch of a new sleep apnoea mask."

Pushpay Holdings rose 2.4 percent to $3.85, continuing yesterday's gains. Trade Me Group rose 2 percent to $5.10.

New Zealand Refining Group gained 2 percent to $2.51. It reported a $2.8 million loss for the six months through June 30 after an extended shut of the site’s hydrocracker reduced yields and increased the cost of the firm’s biggest shutdown in 15 years.

With no shutdowns planned this year or in 2019, and the potential for a record 44 million barrel throughput next year, the board agreed to pay a 3 cent-a-share first-half dividend on Sept. 20. Last year the first-half payout was 6 cents. Goodson said the market hadn't expected a dividend from the company and its outlook was also quite buoyant.

Auckland International Airport edged up 0.2 percent to $6.935. It lifted underlying profit 6.2 percent to $263.1 million in 2018 and expects further uplift in 2019 as it spends more on redevelopment.

The airport is anticipating moderate underlying profit growth in 2019, between $265 million and $275 million, and expects between $450 million and $550 million of capital expenditure in the year ahead, as part of its $2 billion aeronautical infrastructure development programme.

"It was a good solid result, largely as expected, as was their guidance for next year," Goodson said. "The next key thing will be any regulatory outcomes around the return on capital they've proposed, which is above the regulator's midpoint. The result particularly featured a very strong performance from their retail expansion and their industrial property investments."

Outside the benchmark index, NZME sank 14.5 percent to 71 cents. It will pay a smaller interim dividend than analysts expected as first-half earnings almost halved to $5.5 million on declining print revenue. Weak business confidence also dented radio agency advertising. 

"It does carry a reasonable historic debt load. In terms of earnings multiples, it looks cheap; in terms of audience metrics it's doing well, radio was perhaps a little disappointing versus expectations. In a declining market, it's perhaps a little surprising their choices between dividend and debt repayment," Goodson said. 

(BusinessDesk)

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