The Commerce Commission has preliminary concerns about Ampol’s $2 billion takeover of service station operator Z Energy as the New Zealand sharemarket went into the Christmas break on a positive note.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index gained 25.7 points or 0.2 per cent to 12,888.4, after reaching an intraday low of 12,862.71 in the half-day trading session. It was up 1.33 per cent for the week.

The index still has work to do next week in the final three days of trading in December to erase its worst performance in a decade. The gross index has now fallen 1.35 per cent for the year – just short of the 1.04 per fall in 2011.

There were 75 gainers and 38 decliners over the whole market on light volume of 38.3 million share transactions worth $46.1m.

Shane Solly, portfolio manager with Harbour Asset Management, said the market has had a soggy year but it now feels orderly with defensive stocks strengthening.

“We’ll see what the final three days of the year bring. Our central bank has been more aggressive in removing stimulus – we have had most of the moves already – and it will slow down parts of the economy.

“That’s one of the many reasons why the market has been softer – and of course there’s the Omicron uncertainty. But over the last 10 years the market has averaged a 14.7 per cent gain each year and if you annualise that, it’s a 294 per cent gain over a decade. So the market hasn’t done too badly,” Solly said.

In the United States overnight, the S&P 500 Index hit a new all-time high after rising 0.62 per cent to 4725.79 points and has increased nearly 25 per cent so far this year.

Fuel supplier Z Energy was down 4c to $3.45, after going as low as $3.39, following the release of the Commerce Commission’s statement of issues paper. The commission is worried about Ampol’s plan to divest Gull through a trade sale or initial public offer.

“We have preliminary concerns that the proposed divestment undertaking is not sufficient to address the competition concerns that could arise from the proposed acquisition,” the commission said.

The concern involved Ampol’s ongoing influence over a Gull listing and whether Gull could continue to operate as a low-cost, ‘no frills’ supplier. The commission will now release its decision in mid-March.

Solly said it was disappointing for Z Energy that further changes have to be made to the (takeover) proposal but the commission is doing its job to protect New Zealand consumers.

Ebos Group, leading transtasman distributor of medical supplies and animal health products, broke through the $40 mark for the first time, rising 28c to $40.08.

Port of Tauranga was up 7c to $6.66; a2 Milk gained 6c to $5.87; Genesis Energy increased 5c or 1.76 per cent to $2.89; and Skellerup Holdings collected 8c to $6.20.

Oceania Healthcare rose 3c or 2.29 per cent to $1.34; Gentrack gained 7c or 3.57 per cent to $2.03; Scott Technology recovered 5c to $3.15; Michael Hill International increased 3c or 2.5 per cent to $1.23; and Bremworth was up 2c or 3.08 per cent to 67c.

Leading banks were strong. ANZ Banking Group was up 39c to $29.29, and Westpac Banking Corporation rose 41c or 1.84 per cent to $22.71.

AMP rose 5c or 5 per cent to $1.05 after selling its PrivateMarketsCo infrastructure debt platform to Ares Holdings LP for $A428m ($NZ454m). PrivateMarkets is concentrating on managing equity investments in real estate and infrastructure and will operate separately from AMP.

Sanford, up 6c to $4.84, has appointed Peter Young as acting chief operations officer to replace Clement Chia who leaves on January 14. Fishing general manager Colin Williams will also report directly to the chief executive Peter Reidie.

Amongst the property companies, Vital Healthcare Property Trust rose 5c to $3.12; Stride was up 3c to $2.09; Goodman Property Trust gained 1.5c to $2.57; and Argosy was down 2.5c to $1.545.

Fast food operator Restaurant Brands fell 46c or 3.23 per cent to $13.80; Freightways was down 7c to $12.80; Tourism Holdings decreased 6c or 2.03 per cent to $2.89; The Warehouse Group declined 4c to $3.45 amidst the Christmas shopping rush; and Delgat Group shed 20c to $14.20.

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