SYDNEY, AAP – A string of mergers and acquisitions involving major players on the Australian market proved talking points at the start of the trading week.
A takeover of Sydney Airport and Wesfarmers’ purchase of Australian Pharmaceutical Industries were among the deals on a stagnant Monday for the indices.
Energy and industrials shares were best but the market was held back by losses in technology and healthcare.
IG Markets analyst Kyle Rodda said he wondered whether a dearth of events and data this week would offer any momentum to traders.
European and US shares were at record highs after the past two weeks. This has included a strong US earnings season and well-received central bank decisions.
Some big names on the ASX are due to give earnings and updates on Tuesday.
NAB will likely attract most attention for its full-year earnings. Banks have capitalised on a housing market booming from low rates.
Shares in NAB closed up 0.62 per cent prior to the news.
Iron ore miner Fortescue will have its annual general meeting. There will be plenty of interest in company leaders’ projections of China’s appetite for iron ore, which has declined of late.
Building group James Hardie will give first-half earnings.
Job advertising in Australia has jumped to a 13-year high, based on National Skills Commission data.
Demand for workers was high in NSW, Victoria and the ACT as people emerge from coronavirus lockdowns.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed lower by 4.7 points, or 0.06 per cent, to 7452.2.
The All Ordinaries closed down 9.3 points, or 0.12 per cent, to 7767.9.
The Australian dollar hovered around 73-74 US cents. The Reserve Bank last week gave little ground to those tipping a rate rise before 2024.
On the market, Sydney Airport shares closed higher by 2.79 per cent after a consortium including superannuation funds sealed a $23.6 billion offer.
The decision ends a four-month tussle over price between the operator and Sydney Aviation Alliance.
Wesfarmers entered a merger with API after Sigma Healthcare called off its bid on Friday.
Wesfarmers recently took a 19.3 per cent stake in the Priceline Pharmacy owner and will pay $1.55 each for the remaining shares.
Wesfarmers shares closed down 0.5 per cent.
API shares were up 3.7 per cent to $1.54.
Poker machine and electronic games provider Aristocrat has competition to buy UK games software vendor Playtech.
Gopher Investments is reviewing the financial data of the latter although this does not ensure Gopher will bid.
In October, the Aristocrat and Playtech boards recommended a merger following the former’s $5 billion bid.
Aristocrat shares were lower by 2.13 per cent.
Market giant BHP sold its metallurgical coal joint venture in Queensland.
The miner is selling its 80 per cent stake in BHP Mitsui Coal for about $US1.1 billion to Stanmore Resources.
BHP said it would produce higher quality coal which produces less carbon.
BHP shares were up 0.8 per cent.
Stanmore shares were better by about 14 per cent to $1.18.
Fortescue and Rio Tinto each improved by less than half a per cent.
Elsewhere in banking, ANZ traded ex-dividend and lost 1.56 per cent. Westpac was best of the big four and gained 1.29 per cent.
Fertiliser and chemicals producer Incitec Pivot will stop manufacturing at its Gibson Island plant in Queensland by the end of next year.
Gas costs have made the plant unviable although Incitec Pivot is exploring producing green ammonia at the same site.
The costs of the closure and write-downs will be about $186 million. Land sales may generate about $45 million.
Shares were down 0.63 per cent to $3.13.
The Australian dollar was buying 74.06 US cents at 1728 AEDT, lower from 74.41 cents at Friday’s close.
ON THE ASX
* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed lower by 4.7 points, or 0.06 per cent, to 7452.2 on Monday.
* The All Ordinaries closed down 9.3 points, or 0.12 per cent, to 7767.9.
* At 1728 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was down four points, or 0.05 per cent, at 7443 points.
One Australian dollar buys:
* 74.06 US cents, from 74.41 cents on Friday
* 84.12 Japanese yen, from 83.94 yen
* 64.03 Euro cents, from 63.92 cents
* 54.90 British pence, from 54.73 pence
* 103.69 NZ cents, from 104.20 cents.