MIDDAY UPDATE: Fletcher shares climb to 13-month high

By Paul McBeth

Nov. 20 (BusinessDesk) - Shares in the Fletcher Building rose to a 13-month high after the country's biggest listed company flagged earnings growth of up to 22 percent.

Fletcher sees operating earnings of between $560 million and $610 million in the year ending June 30, 2013, up by between 12 percent and 22 percent from the 2012 year, chairman Ralph Waters told shareholders at today's annual meeting. The stock climbed 3.8 percent to $7.66, the highest level since October last year.

Fletcher has rejigged its business and executive team since the recent departure of chief executive Jonathan Ling, restructuring its steel business and expanding its Indian laminates unit.

Waters said New Zealand's residential housing activity has improved, with activity in Canterbury and Auckland leading the way, though work elsewhere has been limited and commercial work remains subdued.

"Any further deterioration in the Australian market in particular, or in other key markets in which Formica operates, may necessitate a revision to this guidance," Waters said

Burger Fuel boosts profit on growing Arabian dream

Fast-food chain and franchisor Burger Fuel Worldwide bolstered first-half profit on its growing exposure to Middle Eastern nations and a rejig of its local stores.

The Auckland-based company lifted net profit 37 percent to $308,000 in the six months ended Sept. 30, increasing operating revenue 10 percent to $5.3 million. Middle Eastern sales climbed 22 percent to $1.49 million while the New Zealand unit lifted revenue 12 percent to $3.87 million.

Still, the increased profitability won't translate to shareholder returns, with the company still focused on growth and expanding its global presence.

The shares, which trade infrequently on the NZAX, fell 6.5 percent to $1.15.

Kiwi dollar rallies as investors grow more confident fiscal cliff will be averted

The New Zealand dollar gained amid hopes US policymakers will reach agreement over the US$607 billion fiscal cliff of automatic spending cuts and tax hikes.

The currency traded at 81.85 US cents at midday in Wellington, having gained half a US cent in Northern Hemisphere trading after stocks on Wall Street and in Europe rallied on optimism US President Barack Obama will cut a deal with the House of Representatives to beat the fiscal cliff.

That upbeat sentiment has seeped into New Zealand's stock market, with the benchmark NZX 50 index up 0.9 percent to 3977.68 at midday.



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