Westpac Bank jumps 5%; NZ shares rise

Dual-listed Westpac Bank lead the New Zealand share market higher as it reported half-year profit more than doubled and said it would resume paying dividends.

Monday, May 3rd 2021, 7:09PM

by BusinessDesk

The S&P/NZX 50 Index rose 37.71 points, or 0.3%, to 12,768.84. Within the index, 29 stocks rose, 18 fell and four were unchanged.

Westpac reported an enormous leap in its bottom-line result, up 189% to A$3.44 billion. The board declared an interim dividend of 58 Australian cents, representing a 60% payout ratio.

Shares in the banking group jumped 5.3% to $28.28 on the NZ stock exchange, as investors welcomed the first dividend payment since 2019. ANZ Bank also rallied 1.6% to $31.31.

Westpac NZ’s chief executive David McLean announced his retirement at the same time as his division’s more than doubled first-half net profit.

He said the result was driven by better-than-expected economic conditions and by a sharp reversal in charges for bad debts.

The parent bank is reviewing the ownership of its NZ operations, which could see it become a stand-alone business or be snapped up by another bank such as Kiwi Bank. Westpac NZ accounted for 15% of group cash earnings before notable items and 12% of lending.

Sky Network Television climbed 3.5% to 18 cents. Its competitor Spark Sport today revealed broadcast rights for mixed martial arts organisation UFC would be shared between the two platforms. Spark shares were up 1.7% at $4.47.

Retirement village operator Oceania Healthcare climbed 3% to $1.39. It said today it plans to announce its result for the 10 months ended March on May 21.

Arvida Group said its chief executive Bill McDonald will retire from the end of September leaving current chief financial officer, Jeremy Nicoll, to take on the top job. The aged care providers share price was unchanged.

Equity research from Forsyth Barr may have given investors reason to pause as they gave three popular stocks a ‘neutral’ rating today.

Both Auckland Airport and Air NZ are trading above the brokerage firm’s valuations but still get a neutral rating as investors may be more influenced by “reopening sentiment” than by the fundamentals for now.

Air NZ dropped 1.7% to $1.71 and Auckland International Airport slipped just 0.1% to $7.59.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare was the biggest drag on the index, falling 1.7% to $35.35.

Forsyth Barr also gave the healthcare exporter a ‘neutral’ rating today, saying there were signs of improvement in the sleep apnoea market but that demand for hospital products would be the more important factor for F&P Healthcare.

Tags: Market Close

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