New Zealand shares were led higher by A2 Milk after the firm gave upbeat earnings and margin guidance, more than offsetting a five-month low for Ebos Group when its cornerstone shareholder pared back its holding.
The S&P/NZX 50 Index rose 19.08 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 10,892.24. Within the index, 12 stocks rose, 32 fell, and six were unchanged. Turnover was $558 million, of which Ebos accounted for $349.3m.
A2 jumped 10.3 per cent to $14.12, with 4.3 million shares changing hands, well up on its 90-day average of 730,000 shares. Chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka told shareholders that the company expects a wider operating margin than previously signalled, with better prices, lower costs, and favourable exchange rates all helping. The company had been sold off aggressively after disappointing investors when reporting its annual result in August.
Matt Goodson, managing director at Salt Funds Management, said the guidance was above expectations. The high volume of short positions in the stock - where investors borrow stock predicting its price will fall - also needed to be reversed.
That positioning was "quite thematic rather than looking at the hard metrics of A2, so some of the aggressive buying would have been short-covering," he said. "It certainly has been a polarising stock."
Chorus climbed 6.9 per cent to $5.55 on a volume of 2.6 million shares, compared to its 496,000 average. The Commerce Commission today outlined the draft input methodologies that would guide the regulated pricing regime for fibre companies.
Goodson said the decision was more favourable for Chorus than some analysts had expected. While technical, it would ultimately make a difference in how much revenue the company would be able to generate from its regulated assets.
Ebos dropped 8.7 per cent to $22.81 on a volume of 15.5 million shares, of which 15 million were through an underwritten block trade by cornerstone investor Zuellig Group at $22.50 apiece. The Hong Kong-based firm took on the stake when it sold the Symbion pharmaceutical business to Ebos.
Goodson said the share price was still above the Zuellig sale price and that the size of the block trade meant investors had to sell other stocks to buy Ebos shares.
Spark New Zealand fell 1.3 per cent to $4.45 on a volume of 3.1 million, Meridian Energy was down 1.8 per cent at $4.45 with 1.8 million shares traded, Fletcher Building fell 1.9 per cent to $5.21 on a volume of 1.6 million, Auckland International Airport decreased 0.2 per cent to $8.98 with 1.1 million shares traded, and Kiwi Property Group was down 1 per cent at $1.545 on a volume of 1 million shares.
Sky Network Television hit a record low 82 cents and ended the day down 6.7 per cent at 83 cents on a volume of 2.4 million shares, more than twice its 1 million average. The pay-TV operator issued a profit warning yesterday.
Of other stocks trading on volumes of more than a million shares, Metlifecare fell 1.9 per cent to $5.08, and Contact Energy was unchanged at $6.80.
Arvida Group rose 1.9 per cent to $1.58 after reporting a 47 per cent lift in first-half profit, primarily on property valuation gains.
Investore Property shares were halted - having last traded at $1.91 - to let it raise $65m in a placement and a further $15m via a share purchase plan to help fund a $141m acquisition of three properties from its manager Stride Property. Stride shares declined 1.4 per cent to $2.20.
Outside the benchmark index, Napier Port rose 3.4 per cent to $3.35 after beating prospectus guidance with record log volumes and higher refrigerated cargo than expected.
NZME rose 3.6 per cent to 43 cents after it confirmed it was lobbying government to let it buy rival Stuff from ASX-listed Nine Entertainment Co. An earlier iteration of a deal had been rejected by the Commerce Commission, a decision that was affirmed by the courts.
Rakon sank 12.1 per cent to 25.5 cents after it reported a 34 per cent slide in first-half profit due to one-off charges. Underlying earnings were up 18 per cent and revenue rose 7 per cent.