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Contact Energy leads NZ shares lower

Contact Energy leads NZ shares lower

New Zealand shares fell for a second day as investors pared back their exposure to the equity market after the threat of lower interest rates spurred on demand for companies paying reliable dividends. Defensive stocks including Contact Energy, Mercury NZ and Infratil fell.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index declined 46.66 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 9,892.60. Within the index, 19 stocks fell, 21 gained, and 10 were unchanged. Turnover was $145.1 million.

The benchmark index rose 12 per cent in the March quarter and hit a record on Monday, as investors piled into utilities and infrastructure companies paying reliable dividends to replace dwindling yields on bonds and term deposits. That demand pushed the likes of electricity generator-retailers Mercury, Meridian Energy and Genesis Energy, and infrastructure investor Infratil to all-time highs.

“The market may be giving a little bit back after a fantastic run on the low interest rate expectations,” said Grant Davies, an investment adviser at Hamilton Hindin Greene.

Contact led the market lower, down 2.7 per cent at $6.80 on a volume of 1.7 million shares, in line with its 90-day average of 1.6 million. Lines company Vector fell 2 per cent to $3.48, Mercury declined 1.5 per cent to $3.87, Infratil declined 1.5 per cent to $4.335 and Genesis slipped 1.5 per cent to $3.03. Meridian rose 0.4 per cent to $4.08 on a volume of 1.5 million shares.

Spark New Zealand fell 1.6 per cent to $3.59 on a bigger volume than usual of 9.1 million shares. It was the busiest stock on the day. Managing director Simon Moutter yesterday announced his exit at the end of the financial year on June 30, and will hand over the reins to customer director Jolie Hodson.

Morningstar Research said in a note that Moutter’s exit has no impact on its fair value estimate of $3.80 a share, but noted that the market hates surprises and the stock is trading at a discount.

Davies said Spark’s decline the past two days was an over-reaction, and that since it posted subdued first-half earnings in February, the stock had lost the momentum it had late last year.

Trade Me rose 0.2 per cent to $6.44 on a volume of 4.1 million shares, more than twice its 90-day average. Shareholders yesterday agreed to a $6.45 per share takeover offer.

SkyCity Entertainment Group was unchanged at $3.93 after announcing the sale of its Auckland car park for $220m. Davies said the sale will free up cash for its development plans in Auckland and Adelaide, giving it some more headroom.