Australia: Shares close flat as virus worries offset Sydney Airport's boost

[BENGALURU] Australian stocks pared early gains to close flat on Monday as worries about rising Covid-19 cases in the country's most populous state, New South Wales, countered a surge in shares of Sydney Airport after a US$16.7 billion buyout bid.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended flat at 7,315 points after rising as much as 0.5 per cent earlier in the session.

Sydney Airport soared 34 per cent after a group of infrastructure investors proposed one of Australia's biggest-ever buyouts, a A$22.26 billion (S$22.54 billion) bid for Australia's only listed airport operator.

"The rise in Covid-19 numbers in New South Wales has weighed on the market a bit, after the morning trade," said Mathan Somasundaram of Deep Data Analytics.

New South Wales on Monday said the next two days would be critical in deciding whether a two-week anti-coronavirus lockdown in Sydney will have to be extended amid rising Delta variant cases.

Additionally, Australian dollars were weaker ahead of the Reserve Bank of Australia's policy meeting, which could see a course change in its massive stimulus programme.

Limiting gains on the benchmark was Tabcorp Holdings, which fell 5 per cent, as the gambling firm said it would spin off its Lotteries & Keno business into a listed entity, drawing an end to a company-wide review it undertook earlier this year as interest built for a separate unit.

ASX 200 Energy index rose 2 per cent, boosted by Australia's largest independent coal miner Whitehaven Coal, which rose 3.3 per cent, and fuel supplier Ampol, which gained 3 per cent.

Technology stocks fell 1 per cent, as AI-data developer Appen fell 5.1 per cent and software provider Nuix lost 4.9 per cent.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.8 per cent to 12,812.3 points.


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