19 Nov 2013

Air NZ dominates sharemarket

6:55 pm on 19 November 2013

Air New Zealand has been dominating the sharemarket - despite not even trading.

The Government sold 221 million shares in Air New Zealand to professional investors, reducing its its stake in the airline to about 53%.

It announced about 5pm it had sold the shares at 1.65 each, the same price they closed at last Friday.

Complicating the sale, Australian national carrier Qantas has asked the Australian Government to stop Virgin Airlines Australia's $350 million capital raising.

Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways and Air New Zealand, which owns just under 23% of Virgin, are all backing Virgin's capital raising, which could lead to Air New Zealand lifting its stake to 25.5%.

Qantas' appeal appears to be driven by the competition Virgin is providing.

Demand for Air New Zealand's shares is reportedly strong, despite the move by Qantas.

Tyndall Asset Management head of equities Rickey Ward said most fund managers had been waiting to hear how many shares they would get from the placement.

"The market is pretty light in volume. It's broad-based selling across the whole market today to probably get access to funds to help fund any likely purchase in Air New Zealand from the placement that's occurring as we speak," he said.

The NZX Top 50 Index fell 30 points to 4863.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand dollar is slightly weaker against the currencies of all our major trading partners.

Dealers say there were no driving factors, other than technical triggers of some selling.

Just after 5pm, the New Zealand dollar was buying 83.16 US cents, 88.64 Australian cents, 51.64 pence, 0.6155 euro and 82.99 yen.