New Zealand shares fell, with markets weaker across Asia as the uncertainty over Britain's exit from the European Union keeps investors on edge. Fletcher Building dropped as investors remain wary of the construction firm.
The S&P/NZX 50 Index decreased 9.56 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 9.387.69. Within the index, 20 stocks fell, 24 rose, and six were unchanged. Turnover was $192 million.
Brexit fears weighed across Asia after UK Prime Minister Theresa May after the House of Commons rejected her latest attempts to broker a transitioned exit from the EU. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index was down 0.4 per cent in afternoon trading, Singapore's Straits Times Index fell 0.8 per cent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 0.6 percent.
"On a more regional basis, it's just a bit soft following on from the uncertainty around Brexit and more data-points a bit softer globally," said Shane Solly, a portfolio manager at Harbour Asset Management.
Fletcher Building fell 3.6 per cent to $4.60 on a volume of 1.4 million shares. The country's biggest listed building company has been under pressure since reporting earnings last month and disappointing some investors who'd been hoping for an early capital return on the sale of Formica. Other investors remain wary about its proposals to re-enter vertical construction.
The dual-listed banks were also weaker, with Westpac Banking Corp falling 2.5 per cent to $27.30 and Australia & New Zealand Banking Group down 0.7 per cent at $27.65. AMP fell 2.5 per cent to $2.33.
Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, which has been buoyed in recent weeks by its settlement with rival ResMed, declined 1.1 per cent to $14.67 on lighter volume than usual of 551,000 shares. A2 Milk Co fell 1.1 per cent to $14.16 on a volume of 418,000, less than half its 90-day average.
Sky Network Television rose for a second day, up 2.3 per cent at $1.33. Volume of 9.1 million shares was almost 15 times its 616,000 three-monthly average. The pay-TV operator has been trading more heavily than usual and hit an all-time low this week as investors remain cautious about its ability to adapt to a new operating environment.
Solly said upcoming index reweightings may also be driving bigger trading volumes in Sky TV.
Chorus closed at a record, up 1.9 per cent at $5.685 on a volume of 2.2 million shares, more than four times its recent average. Solly said the network company's regular income stream is seen as attractive by investors, especially when there's growing unease about global growth.
Spark New Zealand was the most traded stock on a volume of 10.2 million, more than twice its 4.8 million three-month average. The stock fell 0.7 per cent to $3.715.
Air New Zealand fell 0.8 per cent to $2.48 on a larger volume than usual of 3.7 million shares. Z Energy dropped 1.3 per cent to $6.12 with 2.7 million shares changing hands.
Of other companies trading on volumes of more than a million shares, Precinct Properties New Zealand was unchanged at $1.545, Contact Energy slipped 0.2 per cent to $6.47, Summerset Group rose 1.8 per cent to $6.70, Auckland International Airport increased 0.1 per cent to $7.72, Ryman Healthcare advanced 0.4 per cent to $11.33, Genesis Energy edged up 0.2 per cent to $2.855, and Meridian Energy rose 1.2 per cent to $3.85.
Mercury NZ slipped 0.4 per cent, or 1.5 cents, to $3.685 after shedding rights to a 6.2 cent dividend.
Trade Me Group was unchanged at $6.40 on a volume of 1.1 million. The online marketplace released its notice of meeting for the April 3 vote on whether to accept a $6.45 per share offer from UK private equity firm Apax Partners. The offer is higher than independent adviser Grant Samuel's valuation range.
Restaurant Brands New Zealand rose 2.3 per cent to $9 on skinny volumes of 34,000. Mexican suitor Finaccess Capital yesterday declared its partial takeover at $9.45 a share unconditional and has another nine working days before the offer closes. It's received 73 per cent acceptances and will scale down anything above 75 per cent.
Outside the benchmark index, Methven was unchanged at $1.63. Shareholders yesterday agreed to a $1.60 a share takeover by Australia's GWA Group, which also has scope for an interim dividend. Methven's board are expected to declare a 4.69 cents per share payment now shareholders supported the deal.
Solly said the takeover activity will be supporting the local market to a degree, as investors find another home for their funds once they accept the offer or exit a stock.
Pushpay Holdings posted the biggest gain on the NZX50 today, up 3.1 per cent at $3.33 on a slightly smaller volume than usual of 377,000, while Vista Group International rose 2.7 per cent to $4.88 on a volume of 254,000.