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MARKET CLOSE:NZ shares rise, led by Chorus after Comcom draft, Spark drops

New Zealand shares rose, led by Chorus, after the Commerce Commission lifted the amount the network operator can charge on its regulated copper lines. Spark New Zealand fell on the regulator's decision.

The NZX 50 Index edged up 0.413 points, or 0.01 percent, to 5430.035. Within the index, 24 stocks rose, 19 fell and seven were unchanged. Turnover was $146 million.

In a draft determination issued this morning, the competition watchdog effectively lifted prices Chorus, the regulated telecommunications network operator, can charge for access to the traditional copper lines network for broadband internet services by $3.95 a month to $38.39, from the $34.44 monthly regulated price that came into effect on Dec. 1.

Chorus advanced 17 percent to $2.51, the highest it's been since the Commission first revealed its cut copper prices last October. In the past, the network provider has claimed regulated copper service price cuts left a $1 billion hole in funding for the ultra-fast broadband. Chorus expects the draft new rates, will still knock an $80 million hole in annual operating earnings, but was better than the $170 million dent earlier flagged.

"It's the tale of something being taken with one hand and given to someone else with another," said Paul Harrison, managing director at Salt Funds Management. For Chorus "it was the confirmation that the Commerce Commission has understood the difficulties that Chorus faces and also the logic around the arguments. The market has taken heart that it's a positive and there should be some kind of resolution for them."

Spark, formerly Telecom Corp, was the worst performer on the benchmark index, dropping 3 percent to $3.025, paring an intraday drop of 5.4 percent to $2.95, after it said it was reviewing its prices, as the draft decision on wholesale copper line pricing threatens to push up the telecommunications company's costs, increasing them by approximately $60 million on an annualised basis, relative to the reduced charges that came into effect yesterday.

"What the share price is telling you is that it may be difficult for them to pass it on," Harrison said. "We haven't really seen the benefit of it to start with. Perhaps it was a gain Spark thought it might get - certainly the earlier decision from Commerce Commission in our view was uncommercial. There's obviously going to be noises from Spark saying it's too high and Chorus saying it's too low."

OceanaGold Corp rose 9.6 percent to $2.41 recovering some of yesterday's 17 percent decline after the price of gold fell.

Fletcher Building, the construction and building supplies company, fell 1.8 percent to $8.05. Ryman Healthcare, the retirement village operator, declined 0.9 percent to $7.90.

Energy generators and retailers advanced. Contact Energy climbed 2.5 percent to $6.28. MightyRiverPower increased 2.4 percent to $3.03 while Meridian Energy rose 2.3 percent to $1.77. Genesis Energy gained 0.3 percent to $2.03.

NZX rose 0.8 percent to $1.21. The stock market operator has appointed Edisons Investment Research as the market research provider for its small-to-medium sized enterprise growth market NXT.

Vital Healthcare Property fell 1.3 percent, or 2 cents, to $1.50 as it shed rights to its interim 2 cents per share dividend. Goodman Property Trust slipped 0.9 percent, or 1 cent, to $1.105 as it gave up rights to its interim 1.613 cents per share dividend.

Outside the benchmark index, Dorchester Pacific rose 5.2 percent to 30.5 cents after it said it's still in the hunt for acquisitions having completed the $82 million cash, scrip and bonds-funded purchase of Turners Auctions. The company said pretax earnings in the year ending March 31, 2016 - the first full year with Turners on board - would be about $23 million, after previously giving guidance of $20 million to $25 million. Turners last traded at $3.02 and Dorchester plans to delist the car auction house.

On the NZ Alternative Index, Enprise Group, the accounting software reseller which debuted on the NZAX yesterday, was unchanged at 55 cents, after it said it narrowed its first-half loss to $79,000 in the six months ended Sept. 30, from $110,000 in the same period a year earlier, as its Australian unit turned to a profit and it reduced costs.

Just Water International was unchanged at 17 cents after Tony Falkenstein, its founder and majority owner pushing to takeover the entire company, will return to head of the water cooler and supplies business as managing director after chief executive Ian Ormiston resigned.