The NZX has opened sharply lower for an eighth consecutive session as companies queued up to issue warnings about the impact of the Covid-19 virus on their earnings.
The benchmark top 50 index was down 454 points or 4.8 percent in early trading.
The losses were broad-based, with virtually every company in the index down in price. On the broader market the falls outnumbered the rises 100 to 9.
Before the market opened, Auckland Airport said it was cancelling its interim dividend payout as well as cutting costs and spending to counter the fall in revenue from reduced flights and passengers.
The slide followed Wall Street’s worst single session since the global financial crisis, with all the main indices fell about 12 percent.
Locally, an increasing number of companies detailed how the virus was affecting their earnings or the measures they were taking to counter the impact.
Before the market opened, Auckland Airport said it was cancelling its interim dividend payout and looking to cut costs as it faced a near term future of fewer flights and passengers.
“As a result, we have decided that continuing with this year’s interim dividend payment [of] 11 cents a share due on 3 April would not be in the best interests of the company,” chief executive Adrian Littlewood said.
He said the airport was also cutting all non-essential spending, reviewing its capital spending, freezing hiring, directors would take a 20 percent cut in fees, and he had offered to take a similar sized pay cut. Last week the company scrapped all financial forecasts for the current year.
The airport, which is nearly a quarter owned by the Auckland Council, was down another 6 percent this morning. So far this year its shareprice has fallen more than 45 percent.
Software company Vista Group, which has close links to China, said it was also withdrawing its earnings guidance and suspending dividends.
Freight and logistics company Mainfreight, which has operations throughout Asia, Europe, the US, New Zealand and Australia, said it had seen lower cargo volumes but trading was still at “reasonable levels.”
“More recently, China volumes are re-emerging as factories and ports return to normal operations… Although we are heading into a period of uncertainty, the world’s freight trade-lanes remain open,” the company said in a Stock Exchange statement.
Fish farmer, NZ King Salmon, said its China trade was up and running again after a disruption to supply chains.
One company benefiting from the virus was medical equipment maker Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, which said it was seeing increased demand for its breathing masks respiratory products.
“Our respiratory humidifiers and consumables are directly involved in treating patients with coronavirus,” chief executive Lewis Gradon said.
“We have seen an increase in demand globally and have ramped up our manufacturing output.
It raised its full year net profit forecast to between by about $10m to between $275m-$280m.
This article was originally published on RNZ and re-published with permission.