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Australia: Shares slip on Santos slump; NZ falls on Fonterra

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares dipped on Wednesday, with energy stocks leading declines after oil and gas producer Santos rejected US-based firm Harbour Energy's US$10.8 billion takeover offer.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.2 per cent or 12.50 points to 6,029.40 by 0245 GMT. The benchmark declined 0.7 per cent on Tuesday.

Santos on Tuesday ended talks with Harbour Energy and rebuffed its bid saying it undervalued the firm in the context of the recent surge in oil prices.

The decision shocked analysts and sent the Adelaide-based company's shares tumbling 9.2 per cent on Wednesday, its biggest intraday percentage fall in nearly one and a half years.

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The news, coupled with lower oil prices on Wednesday, also led to weakness in the wider sector, with the energy index slumping 2.8 per cent to a two-week low.

However, Dale Raynes, Associate Director at CPS Capital, said the decline isn't surprising given energy stocks' recent strong run.

Oil prices edged lower on Wednesday as the market took a breather on expectations Opec may raise supplies as early as June.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd fell 1.8 per cent to its lowest since May 15, while Origin Energy Ltd slid 2.3 per cent.

Healthcare stocks were also lower, hurt by an extended fall in biotherapeutics firm CSL Ltd, which dipped about 1.1 per cent, and hospital group Healthscope which fell 2.5 per cent.

Healthscope rejected two takeover approaches on Tuesday and said it will instead explore selling its properties.

The scandal-hit financials sector was on track for a fifth straight session of decline, having lost nearly a percent since the third round of Australia's powerful inquiry into the industry began on Monday.

Top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) slipped 0.5 per cent, while National Australia Bank Ltd fell 0.6 per cent to its lowest in more than one and a half year.

CBA is selling its 37.5 per cent stake in a Chinese life insurer to Japan's Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance for 3.2 billion yuan (S$674.2 million), in a bid to simplify its portfolio and focus on its core banking business.

Elsewhere, global miner Rio Tinto Ltd rose 0.4 per cent. Rio confirmed on Wednesday it was in discussions to sell its interest in the world's second largest copper mine to Indonesia's Inalum for US$3.5 billion.

Across the Tasman sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slumped 0.4 per cent or 36.53 points to 8,576.79.

Consumer staples accounted for most of the losses, with Fonterra slumping 6.8 per cent to a near two-year low.

Fonterra, the world's biggest dairy exporter, cut its full-year profit and dividend forecasts as the company takes longer to pass on higher milk costs to its customers.

REUTERS