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Teeny gains for Australian sharemarket as investors digest torrent of quarterly updates and AGM remarks

The Australian sharemarket finished flat after a choppy session as a slew of quarterly reports were issued and annual general meetings held.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed up just 1.7 points to 7415.4, while the All Ordinaries Index inched 1.3 points higher to 7728.5.

OMG chief executive Ivan Tchourilov said the local bourse had been buoyed in intraday trade by mainly stronger international markets overnight, despite growing global inflationary concerns and a slowing Chinese economy.

Woodside announced production slipped in the September quarter by 2 per cent compared to the prior three month period but revenue soared 19 per cent amid high oil prices.

It expects more strong revenue in the current quarter, reflecting the oil price lag in many of its contracts and recent increases in gas hub prices, and kept its full-year production guidance unchanged.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Gordon Ramsay described the result as solid, but asked what happened at Woodside’s Wheatstone project, where total reserves were materially downgraded.

Woodside shares dropped 2.33 per cent to $23.95.

A handout photograph taken April 19, 2006 shows Woodside Petroleum Ltd. employees working on the Ensco 83 jack up rig in the Gulf of Mexico, provided to the media on Thursday, May 1, 2008. Woodside Petroleum Ltd. (WPL AU), Australia's second-largest oil and gas producer, dropped 17 cents, or 0.3 percent, to A$55.73, the lowest since April 14. Source: Woodside Petroleum Ltd. via
Camera IconHigher oil prices benefited Woodside, which is merging with BHP’s petroleum assets, and Santos, which is acquiring Oil Search. Supplied by Woodside Credit: Supplied

Santos reported record quarterly sales revenue and free cash flow, but its shares eased 1.1 per cent to $7.20.

Mr Ramsay said the record revenue still managed to disappoint, as it was below RBC’s forecast, mainly due to lower than expected Darwin LNG net production and sales volumes after a downward adjustment to Santos’ net entitlement barrels under the joint venture.

Bunnings owner Wesfarmers released its AGM remarks ahead of the Perth gathering after market close, saying overall sales growth in its huge retail network including Kmart, Officeworks and Target had been dented by lockdowns, but online sales remained strong despite capacity constraints in distribution channels.

Wesfarmers shares dipped 1.2 per cent to $55.55.

Unsurprisingly, toll road operator Transurban said lockdowns had curbed traffic in the September quarter, down 43.7 per cent in Sydney and 30.7 per cent in Melbourne, but up 4.6 per cent in Brisbane.

Transurban shares dipped 1.3 per cent to $13.62.

Beleaguered casino giant Crown Resorts held its AGM and dodged a board spill despite a big protest vote by shareholders against hefty termination payments paid out during its executive exodus.

Crown shares eased 0.53 per cent to $9.47.

Construction group Cimic surged 5.85 per cent to $21.88 after reporting its financial result for the nine months to September 30 and maintaining its full-year net profit guidance, excluding any one-off items.

AMP rose 4.02 per cent to $1.16 after posting its third quarter results.

“The amount of money it’s got under management has been largely unchanged and the amount of cash leaving the group has also improved,” CommSec analyst Steven Daghlian said.

“Its shares are still down 25 per cent this year and it has had double digit losses each year for the past four years, so it has a very long way to go.”

Mr Tchourilov said AMP’s outflows were still “massive” as its move to an index-based investment approach to trim down its advisory offering stripped costs and assets.

Fellow wealth manager Perpetual released its quarterly update showing increased inflows across the board, sending its shares surging 7.8 per cent to $40.38.

“Total assets under management grew 2.7 per cent, the biggest percentage increase coming from private funds under advice,” Mr Tchourilov said.

“Wealth managers have been struggling for market shares since the financial services royal commission.”

Gambling machine maker Aristocrat Leisure continued to gain ground since announcing on Monday a $5bn offer to acquire software and content supplier Playtech, which the target’s board backed.

beautiful girl in casino
Camera IconCrown was once again in the spotlight as it held its AGM, while gaming machine provider Aristocrat kept rising on the back of an acquisition announcement. istock Credit: istock

“In recent days, three brokers have raised their share price targets for the group over the next 12 months,” Mr Daghlian said.

Aristocrat shares gained 2.86 per cent to $47.10.

Battery minerals explorer iTech Minerals made its ASX debut, jumping 10 per cent to 22 cents.

BHP slipped 0.23 per cent to $38.48, Fortescue declined 0.62 per cent to $14.41 and Rio Tinto gave up 1.32 per cent to $96.79 after releasing after market close on Wednesday ambitious new emissions targets that will cost tens of billions of dollars.

“This series of moves provides a substantial, and in our view, much needed shift in strategy, which we think is a positive over the long term,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Kaan Peker said.

ANZ fell 0.53 per cent to $28.24, Commonwealth Bank inched eight cents lower to $104.95, National Australia Bank put on 0.24 per cent to $28.90 and Westpac lifted 0.58 per cent to $25.83.

Mr Tchourilov said travel stocks suffered a sharp price correction, with Flight Centre losing 5.82 per cent to $20.39 and Webjet declining 3.07 per cent to $6.31, but Qantas shed a modest 0.7 per cent to $5.69.

“Flight Centre and Webjet each received a downgrade from analysts, the two of which saw the most growth due to the lifting of NSW lockdowns,” he said.

“Given the uptick in price without anything material to show for it, some measured caution isn’t surprising.

“The market will want to see realised value before pushing higher into next year.”

The Aussie dollar was fetching 75.02 US cents, 54.31 British pence and 64.37 Euro cents in afternoon trade.

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