New Zealand shares edged higher with gains by utility and real estate yield stocks offsetting a clutch of companies shedding rights to dividends. Restaurant Brands New Zealand gained on its continuing sales growth.
The S&P/NZX 50 Index increased 22.36 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 9,437.36. Within the index, 26 stocks gained, 21 fell and three were unchanged. Turnover was $128.1 million.
The defensive qualities of New Zealand's market remained the flavour of local trading with power companies, airports and property developers - attractive for their relatively stable dividends - among the day's gainers on hefty volumes.
Auckland International Airport rose 1.3 per cent to $7.63 on a volume of 1.9 million shares. Contact Energy increased 0.3 per cent to $6.39 on a volume of 1.8 million, Meridian Energy gained 0.9 per cent to $3.88 on a volume of 2 million, Kiwi Property Group edged up 0.4 per cent to $1.435 on a volume of 1.1 million, Chorus advanced 1.5 per cent to $5.42 on a volume of 1.1 million and Precinct Properties New Zealand climbed 1.3 per cent to $1.57 on a volume of 1.4 million.
Sky Network Television was the most traded stock, with 3.6 million shares changing hands. It dropped 7.8 per cent, or 11 cents, to $1.30, having shed rights to a 7.5 cents per share dividend.
The dividend "is how they planned on keeping investors happy, but people are looking for earnings in the long-term," said Grant Davies, an investment adviser at Hamilton Hindin Greene.
Sky TV was one of several stocks going ex-dividend today. Others included NZX, down 4 cents, or 3.9 per cent, at 98 cents after shedding rights to a 3.1 cent dividend. Summerset Group Holdings was down 2.3 per cent, or 15 cents, at $6.49 after losing rights to a 7.2 cent dividend. Port of Tauranga fell 0.9 per cent, or 5 cents, to $5.40 after shedding rights to a 6 cent dividend. Skellerup fell 0.5 percent, or 1 cent, to $2.12 after shedding rights to a 5.5 cent dividend.
Outside the benchmark index, Augusta Capital was down 0.9 per cent or 1 cent, at $1.12, after shedding rights to a 1.5 cent dividend.
Restaurant Brands rose 1.3 per cent to $8.76 after reporting continuing annual sales growth from its Hawaiian and Australian expansions. The fast-food operator is currently under a partial takeover offer by Mexico's Finaccess, which will pay $9.45 a share for up to 75 per cent of the company. The offer closes next week.
The Fonterra Shareholders' Fund led the market higher, up 2 per cent at $4.50 on a volume of 391,000, in line with its 90-day average. Fonterra today confirmed Judith Swales will lead the consumer and foodservice business, which is a key driver for the dairy company's earnings. Scales Group rose 1.7 per cent to $4.79 on a typically small volume of 51,000 shares. After trading closed, the company announced a petfood joint venture with Alliance Group, which will see the local meat processor pay $15m for half of Scales' Meateor New Zealand business.
Of other companies trading on volumes of more than a million shares, Spark New Zealand rose 1.1 per cent to $3.77, Air New Zealand was up 0.8 per cent at $2.55, Trade Me was unchanged at $6.40, and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare increased 0.7 per cent to $15.05.
Outside the benchmark index, TruScreen dropped 17 per cent to 15 cents after it forecast a smaller annual loss for the year ending March, while more than doubling annual revenue to $2.2m.
Dual-listed Michael Hill International rose 6.7 per cent to 80 cents on a volume of 1.9 million. The Smartshares NZ Property Fund was up 1.1 per cent at $1.251 on a volume of 4.3 million, almost 10 per cent of the shares on issue.