New Zealand shares rose, led by Tegel Group on prospects for growth in Australia, while Port of Tauranga dropped following broker downgrades.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index gained 20.14 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 7405.26. Within the index, 24 stocks rose, 21 fell and six were unchanged. Turnover was $162 million.

Tegel Group led the index, up 2.9 per cent to $1.78. The shares have gained 8.5 per cent since an announcement on Thursday that it will be able to export raw poultry to Australia for the first time. In a statement to the NZX, Tegel told investors that previously exports had been limited to fully cooked chicken, but work alongside the Ministry for Primary Industries had secured changed access conditions to the market across the Tasman.

"It's probably one of the highlights - clearly investors are beginning to factor in potential export growth for the business," said Matt Goodson, managing director at Salt Funds Management.


"It will be very interesting to see in the future if they can take advantage of that. It had been a little bit stuck post-IPO a little bit above the IPO price, and certainly there had appeared to be some quite intense pricing competition in chicken, but this announcement potentially opens up a very large export market."

A2 Milk Co gained 2.8 per cent to $2.18, Meridian Energy rose 2.3 per cent to $2.90, and Heartland Bank advanced 2 per cent to $1.50.

New Zealand Refining Co was the worst performer, down 2.7 per cent to $2.54. Mercury NZ dropped 2.3 per cent to $3 and Sky Network Television fell 2 per cent to $4.88.

Port of Tauranga dropped 1.2 per cent to $19.10. New Zealand's biggest port company posted a 2.3 per cent decline in full-year profit on Thursday, missing some estimates, while announcing plans to return $140m to shareholders over four years and a five-for-one share split to boost liquidity. It declared a fully imputed special dividend of $34m, or 25c a share, as the first step in a capital return proposal that chairman David Pilkington says will still allow for a conservatively geared balance sheet and an investment-grade credit rating.

According to Reuters, Port of Tauranga is rated a sell across two broker recommendations with a mean target price of $17.08.

Outside the main index, Michael Hill International was unchanged at $1.56. The jewellery chain business posted a 30 per cent decline in annual profit to A$19.6m as it accounted for tax adjustments. The jewellery retailer grew revenue and earnings before interest and tax across its key Australian, New Zealand and Canadian markets.

Insurance Australia Group's New Zealand division posted a 38 per cent slide in annual profit. The ASX-listed shares were trading at A$5.80 yesterday.