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MARKET CLOSE: NZ shares fall; NZX, ANZ down on earnings

New Zealand shares fell, led by NZX after its annual costs rose more than expected. Australia & New Zealand Banking Group declined as its interest margins shrank in the last three months of 2014.

The NZX 50 Index fell 8.034 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5750.211. Within the index, 20 stocks fell, 21 rose and nine were unchanged. Turnover was $154 million.

NZX fell 4.1 percent to $1.16. The stock market operator, which made its biggest-ever acquisition by buying funds manager SuperLife in 2014, posted annual profit growth of 8.3 percent to $13.1 million in calendar 2014, below First NZ Capital's forecast of $15.2 million, after raising prices for securities data and benefiting from increased listing fees and funds management revenue. Sales rose 3.8 percent to $65.2 million, while costs rose 9.6 percent in 2014 to $40.6 million.

"They're a monopoly operator which always justifies a bit of a premium but investors think that result certainly didn't justify the price," James Smalley, director at Hamilton Hindin Greene said. "There was certainly a perception with investors, with the new listings, the state owned assets, etcetera, that would certainly help not only for the one-off gain involved when companies listed but also the increase in revenue, and that really hasn't flowed through to their bottom line, as investors were hoping."

Dual-listed ANZ fell 2.6 percent to $36.20 after its net interest margin shrank six basis points in the three months ended Dec. 31, while lifting cash profit to A$1.79 billion in the first quarter from A$1.73 billion a year earlier.

"People were disappointed on the margin side, where there is probably some strong competition with the other major banks has squeezed those a bit," Smalley said. "Investors were not too amused with that result."

Dual-listed Westpac Banking Corp rose 1 percent to $38.95 after its New Zealand unit reached a settlement with the Commerce Commission and Financial Markets Authority over the way it sold interest rate swaps to farmers between 2005 and 2012. The bank will pay $2.47 million in compensation to affected customers, $250,000 towards the regulator's costs, and another $250,000 to Rural Support Trusts.

Property For Industry fell 0.6 percent to $1.61. New Zealand's only listed company specialising in industrial property expects to pay more of its earnings in dividends in the coming year after its dividend payout ratio declined last year. The company posted a 48 percent increase in net profit to $59.9 million in the year ended Dec. 31 as it marked its first full financial year since merging with Direct Property Fund.

Spark New Zealand, formerly Telecom Corp, fell 1 percent to $3.315. Fletcher Building, the construction and building supplies company, rose 0.2 percent to $8.74.

Outside the benchmark index, Opus International Consultants advanced 7.4 percent to $1.45. The engineering firm was sold off amid restructuring plans, as investors feared it would involve write-downs, Smalley said. Today the company lifted its full-year dividend payment 13 percent to 8.9 cents per share as its annual profit rose 15 percent to $26.2 million.

"The result they came out with, particularly increasing dividend payments, was a lot better than the market expected," Smalley said.

Evolve Education Group declined 0.9 percent to $1.11. The company, which raised $132 million in its initial public offer last December to acquire childcare businesses, said it's on track to settle its acquisitions as forecast in its prospectus and is eyeing further childcare centres for purchase.

Colonial Motor Co was unchanged at $6.41 after the motor vehicle distributer increased first-half profit 0.8 percent $12.9 million, while revenue grew 15 percent to $410 million.

Dual-listed Pacific Brands was unchanged at 48 cents after the apparel firm halved its first-half loss to A$108.7 million, and used the proceeds from asset sales to repay debt.