Sharemarket drops on airport sell down

New Zealand shares took a haircut this morning, with a massive institutional selldown in Auckland International Airport dragging the benchmark index down.

The NZX 50 Index fell 32.75 points, or 0.77 per cent, to 4,206.45 in the first 30 minutes of trade. Nineteen stocks fell and five rose.

The kiwi dollar recently traded at US84.85 cents, rising from US84.71c at 8am, surpassing US84.74c at 5pm yesterday.

The New Zealand Superannuation Fund divested a $277 million stake in Auckland International Airport overnight in a block sale to institutional investors.

The move cuts what the fund called its "large overweight position" from 10 per cent to 2 per cent.

The massive spike in volume paced the market's decline with almost 110 million shares changing hands, and saw stock in the nation's busiest gateway plunge 5.4 per cent to $2.78.

Tepid company results released this morning and dismal European economic data overnight cast a gloomy pallor over the rest of the benchmark index.

Output in the European Union fell 0.6 per cent in the fourth quarter, reigniting fears the region could remain in recession for the first quarter of this year.

Closer to home, Michael Hill, Colonial Motors and Steel & Tube released mixed results.

It was a tale of two quarters for Michael Hill, which reported a net profit up 6 per cent to $27.8 million for the half-year to December but a disappointing run into Christmas. Stock in the international jeweller was unchanged at the open.

Construction materials supplier Steel & Tube's profit was up $1m, but revenues fell. Stock rose a modest 1.2 per cent to $2.57.

Meanwhile Colonial Motors reported a profit after tax of $5.74 million, down 3 per cent on the corresponding comparable period.

Telecom was the next biggest decliner after Auckland International Airport, down 1.8 per cent to $2.18.

Industrial chemicals and resins manufacturer Nuplex fell 1.4 per cent to $3.48, and Australian lender Westpac Bank fell 1.1 per cent to $35.

Retirement village operator Summerset Group led the few gainers, up 1.6 per cent to $2.52, and Heartland Bank, the country's newest registered bank, rose 1.4 per cent to 73 cents.

SkyCity Entertainment Group rose 0.8 per cent to $4.05. Investors have continued to see upside in the stock since it reported a half-year profit of $66.3 million, down 15 per cent on the same time the previous year when the country played host to the Rugby World Cup.