12:00 pm

The New Zealand sharemarket was trading higher this morning, buoyed again by a rise in market leader Telecom.

The benchmark NZSE-40 index was up 6.15 points at 2096.20 on turnover totalling $42 million.

"There is a bit of an uptick, a little bit on the offshore side and also the market does seem to have a bit more net buying in it," ABN Amro dealer Nigel Scott said.

Telecom, which carries a 22 per cent weighting on the local bourse, rose 9c to 532 on turnover of 1.4 million shares worth $7.6 million.

Mr Scott said the stock was enjoying a bit of "price respite" after coming under selling pressure in recent days.

Drinks maker Frucor was steady at 228 on the final day for shareholders to accept Groupe Danone's $2.35 per share offer for the company.

Danone said yesterday it had received 68.5 per cent of acceptances.

The offer is conditional on obtaining 90 per cent of Frucor, but analysts say the food and drinks giant is likely to waive that.

Fellow takeover target Contact Energy slipped 5c to 385, with many brokers tipping Edison's $1.34 billion bid for the company will fail.

"The way the Contact price seems to be going, people are indicating that there will be no success there," Mr Scott said.

The United States energy giant's offer of $4.14 for the 49 per cent of Contact shares it does not own runs out on February 3. Today is the effective expiry of a deadline for changes to that offer.

If it is to increase the offer, it must let all shareholders know within 14 days of the deadline.

Bendon Group, also on the auction block, rose 3c to 195.

Media reports this morning named Australian mogul Solomon Lew as the "mystery bidder" vying for control of the lingerie manufacturer.

The group has now drawn the attentions of three competing factions; a consortium led by the group's managing director Hugo Venter; the Eric Watson-controlled Pacific Retail Group; and the mystery bidder.

PRG yesterday secured an option to buy a further 3.55 per cent of Bendon from Axa for $1.90 per share, effectively taking its stake to 19.05 per cent - a level at which it could upset the other two buy-out bids.

"(Investors are saying) is one party going to block the other party?" Mr Scott said.

In other positive movements, Auckland Airport was up a cent at 386, Fisher & Paykel Appliances rose 5c to 1090, and Sky TV added 6c to 417.

Carter Holt Harvey, which reports its third quarter result on Tuesday, was up a cent at 176.

Carters, the largest wood products company in Australasia, is forecast to have made $10 million in the three months ended December 31, according to the median of five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News.

"People are still a little bit hesitant due to the weakness in Asian log markets and also seeing whether they have cleared the log inventory," Mr Scott said.

"(Investors) would like to see some positive comments on the housing side, how the housing industry is out of New Zealand and Australia, the building starts, and whether that has impacted in a positive sense for them."

On the downside, BaycorpAdvantage slipped 5c to 730, F&P Healthcare was down 5c at 1670, The Warehouse fell 15c to 665 and Sky City was down 2c at 618.

Rises narrowly outweighed falls by 30 to 26 among the 108 stocks traded so far.

On Wall St overnight, US stocks rose, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average to its biggest gain in a month, as better-than-expected reports on profits and jobless claims encouraged investors anticipating a first-half economic rebound.

The Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 11.32, or 1 per cent, to 1138.89. The Nasdaq Composite Index jumped 41.38, or 2.1 per cent, to 1985.82. The Dow gained 137.77, or 1.4 per cent, to 9850.04, led by United Technologies Corp.

- NZPA