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Australia: Shares flat amid mixed financial results

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares struggled to advance on Wednesday as mixed earnings reports offset a boost from firmer mining and bank stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 was up just 0.01 points at 5,555.0 at 0224 GMT.

Ardent Leisure Group surged as much as 19 per cent after unveiling a 32 per cent rise in annual profit. Ardent profited from rising numbers of Chinese visitors to its theme parks and the successful rollout of US family entertainment centres.

Air carrier Qantas, which posted a record annual profit, was 2.6 per cent firmer. It also declared its first final dividend in eight years.

But retail and resources conglomerate Wesfarmers Ltd, Australia's No 1 company by sales, was down 3 per cent after recording its worst net profit in 15 years.

Miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto were modestly higher, helped by firmer base metals prices.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index edged down 8.7 points or 0.1 per cent to 7,458.56 as investors took a pause after five consecutive sessions of gains.

A2 Milk led losses, down 6.5 per cent, on profit taking after the stock had gained strongly ahead of the company's full-year results. The results released on Wednesday showed A2 Milk's revenue was up more than 120 per cent, in line with expectations.

Comvita continued to edge down, losing 2 per cent after the natural health products company said in its full-year results released the previous day that regulatory changes in China might slow demand in its key market.

Power company Mercury NZ lost 1.1 per cent while freight company Freightways fell 0.8 per cent.

Retirement village operator Metlifecare rose 5.1 per cent after it announced its full-year net profits were up 86 per cent.