Market close: a2 Milk surges on positive signs from China

Signs that China sales channels have improved gave dairy nutritional company a2 Milk a huge boost as it surged more than 12 per cent on a recovering New Zealand sharemarket.

Global marketer a2 Milk leapt 76c or 12.38 per cent to $6.90, driving the S&P/NZX 50 Index to a close of 13,025.18, up 28.92 points or 0.22 per cent – breaking a six-day run of falls. The index climbed back from an intraday low of 12,992.51 points.

Trading reached 51.71 million shares worth $206.64 million, and was again dominated by Z Energy, up 1c to $3.63, with 14.08 shares worth $51.03m changing hands.

There were 73 gainers and 66 decliners across the whole market, soon to host 185 stocks. A third medicinal cannabis firm Greenfern Industries, chaired by Brent King, gave notice it will be listing on October 21, probably at 25c.

A positive first-quarter result from infant formula company Bubs Australia provided a shot in the arm for a2 Milk. Bubs, which specialises in goat milk formula, rose 35.5 per cent to A49.5c (52.35c) at 5.45pm NZ time after saying China demand has strongly rebounded.

Bubs reported a 156 per cent rise in Chinese revenue compared with the same quarter last year, daigou sales for infant formula surged 648 per cent and cross-border e-commerce increased 49 per cent.

“The disruption and challenges of Covid-19 are largely behind us,” said Bubs. A local analyst warned that investors should wait for a2 Milk’s update later this month (at its Investor Day) to know if the optimism is justified.

Greg Smith, head of research for Fat Prophets, said a2 shareholders have been looking for some good news after its share price has fallen 70 per cent since August last year. “Maybe the worst is now behind them and they are seeing good growth.”

Smith said the local market is seeing buyers returning to beaten-up stocks like a2 Milk. “I think the official cash rate hike is still sinking in, and the rising interest rates are going to have some impact on dividend-yielding stocks such as the energy companies.”

Mercury Energy fell 14c or 2.16 per cent to $6.3335, while other dividend stocks Contact decreased 8c to $8.29; Genesis lost 4c to $3.29; Chorus was down 11c to $6.34; Stride Property declined 3c to $2.44; and Argosy Property shed 3c or 1.88 per cent to $1.57.

Retail jeweller Michael Hill International provided a bright note, rising 5c or 5.26 per cent to $1 after reporting business growth in the 13-week period ending September 26. Same-store sales increased 15.5 per cent compared with the first quarter of the 2021 financial year, and digital sales rose 58.2 per cent, representing 9.4 per cent of total sales.

Smith said “when you strip out the impact of store closures, Michael Hill is doing quite well. It has lifted its margins and is a beneficiary of pent-up spending.”

Other retailers Hallenstein Glasson was up 9c to $7.09; Kathmandu Holdings increased 4c or 2.6 per cent to $1.58; Briscoe gained 4c to $6.93; and The Warehouse Group was down 5c to $4.02.

Mainfreight recovered 65c to $90.65; Port of Tauranga put on 5c to $6.74; Freightways was up 10c to $12.65; Seeka rose 16c or 3.19 per cent to $5.18; Sanford increased 5c to $4.95; and Scales Corporation gained 6c to $5.30.

Synlait Milk fed off a2 Milk, rising 18c or 4.95 per cent to $3.82; Serko gained 10c to $8.09; Gentrack picked up 5c or 2.9 per cent to $1.76; and Smartpay Holdings increased 2c or 2.42 per cent to 84.5c.

Air New Zealand gained 1.5c to $1.655 after being awarded a further five months of support, through to the end of March, for cargo flights under an extension of the Government’s Maintaining International Air Connectivity scheme. The government support is expected to contribute $150m-$170m towards the airline’s cargo revenue.

Auckland International Airport declined 13c to $7.635; Fletcher Building decreased 9c to $7.10; Delegat Group fell 25c to $14.45; EROAD was down 9c to $5.40; and after its strong run, Rakon shed 6c or 3.75 per cent to $1.54.

Retirement village operators Ryman Healthcare was up 10c to $14.80; and Summerset Group Holdings was down 10c to $14.95.

Napier Port told the market that during the fourth quarter ending September bulk cargo trade increased 26.6 per cent to a record 3.95m tonnes, and container volume was up 2.9 per cent to 276,000 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units). Napier’s share price was up 2c to $3.20.

Vital Healthcare Property Trust is buying Adelaide’s The Tennyson Centre, specialising in cancer treatment, and while be raising $140m through a $115m underwritten placement and $25m unit purchase plan. Vital Healthcare went into a trading halt and last traded at $3.01.

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