Market close: Freightways hits new high, Infratil climbs on news of second bidder

Courier and information management company Freightways sped to a new high, as the New Zealand sharemarket had a late turnaround and finished nearly half a per cent ahead.

The market traded most of the day in negative territory as the ongoing effects of the tricky Covid-19virus clouded investors’ minds.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index’s late surge saw a 60-point turnaround, closing up 65.66 points or 0.49 per cent to 13,399.10, after reaching a low of 13,272.26. Trading, in the end, was solid with 40.18 million share transactions worth $166.07 million. There were 71 gainers and 70 decliners over the whole market.

Shane Solly, portfolio manager with Harbour Asset Management, said the worsening pandemic and a community case in New Zealand have caused investors to reconsider the rate of recovery.

“Some of the issues we were facing last year are still bouncing around and influencing the market. There is the potential for the border reopening to be pushed out,” Solly said.

“There was a rotation back into cyclical stocks but with a question mark over the pandemic, investors are revisiting growth stocks that benefit from Covid – such as technology. There’s also the question of whether the US Federal Reserve will provide more financial stimulus, and a merger/acquisition play involving Infratil. So there’s plenty to chew on,” he said.

Freightways is one stock benefiting from the pandemic. Its share price climbed 35c or 3.32 per cent to $10.90, surpassing its previous high of $10.70 established on January 7. Another beneficiary is Mainfreight, up $1.20 or 1.75 per cent to $69.80, just short of its high of $69.89 set on December 30.

A third Covid beneficiary, market leader Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, led the late trading, finishing ahead 27c to $35.37 on trade worth $27.6m after reaching an intraday low of $34.27.

Three stocks longing for the border to reopen had down days. Air New Zealand fell 6c or 3.51 per cent to $1.65; SkyCity Entertainment decreased to $3.05; and Z Energy, dragged down by lower jet and marine fuel sales, shed 7c or 2.24 per cent to $3.05.

Auckland International Airport increased 14c or 1.9 per cent to $7.50 even though it reported a continuing plunge in passengers moving through its terminals. Total passenger volumes decreased 69.7 per cent in November and 70.3 per cent in December compared with the same months in 2019. Domestic passengers were down 38.3 per cent in November and 32.2 per cent in December.

Utilities investor Infratil climbed 20c or 2.71 per cent to $7.58 after rumours circulated out of Australia that a second bidder, Melbourne-based IFM Investors, was eyeing a takeover. Infratil has already shrugged off a $5.4 billion bid by AustralianSuper.

Trustpower, 50 per cent owned by Infratil and part of a takeover package, slipped 4c to $8.66 but it has risen sharply lately.

The other gentailers had quiet days – for once. Contact Energy was up 5c to $9.24, Mercury rose 7c to $7.37, Meridian gained 2c to $8.10, and Genesis fell 7c or 1.82 per cent to $3.78. Tilt Renewables rose 29c or 5 per cent to $6.09.

Retirement village operator Oceania Healthcare was up 5c or 3.38 per cent to $1.53 after reporting a solid half-year result on Friday. Solly said it took a little time for people to digest its result which was sound and Oceania has done a good job looking after its residents.

Among the gainers, Ryman Healthcare gained 10c to $15.81; a2 Milk increased 7c to $10.97; Chorus was up 9c to $8.40; and Foley Wines climbed 9c or 4.74 per cent to $1.99. On the downside, Port of Tauranga fell 14c or 1.82 per cent to $7.56.

Cancer diagnostic firm Pacific Edge continued to be scaled back, falling 4c or 3.81 per cent to $1.01, after reaching a high of $1.23 on December 22. Synlait Milk was down 8c to $4.66, and PGG Wrightson fell 14c or 3.9 per cent to $3.45.

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