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Australian shares boosted by miners, $2 bln telco sale plan

* Miners lead gains on ASX 200

* Telstra to sell mobile tower business

* NZX 50 rises 0.1% (Updates to close)

June 30 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose to one-week highs on Wednesday, lifted by robust gains on mining stocks and a 5% surge on telecoms provider Telstra which announced a $2 billion-plus decision to sell its mobile towers business.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.16% to close at 7,313 points, having risen as high as 7,370 points earlier in the day. The index is up 11% so far in the first half of 2021, compared with an 8% fall in the same year-ago period.

Australia’s biggest telecom firm Telstra scaled a 16-1/2-month high after it announced plans to sell nearly half of its mobile tower business for A$2.8 billion ($2.11 billion).

The index was lifted too by record closing highs on Wall Street and gains on mining stocks, while the end of Australia’s corporate financial year spurred institutional buying.

“The volumes are particularly huge today as the financial year-end provided a pleasant distraction from the dour coronavirus-related news with heavy end-of-year institutional buying,” Henry Jennings, senior analyst at Marcustoday Financial Newsletter said.

“Market confidence was also lifted after Telstra hit its highest level since the start of the pandemic on selling its mobile towers business.”

Mineral sands producer Iluka Resources Ltd, seen as one of the prime beneficiaries of Rio Tinto’s decision to halt mining at its Richards Bay project in South Africa, jumped to the highest since April 2012.

It was the top gainer on the benchmark, posting its biggest one-day gain since early-2016

But with iron ore prices set for a seventh straight quarterly gain, shares of Rio Tinto rose more than 2% to a three-week high, pushing miners 0.94% higher

Sector heavyweight BHP Group Ltd soared 1.6%.

The financial index closed 0.02% higher, with National Australia Bank and Westpac Banking Corp adding as much as 0.9% and 1.2%, respectively.

However, AGL Energy fell 9.7% after the country’s top power producer said it expects to split into a bulk power generator and a carbon-neutral energy retailer by June 2022 and would stop paying special dividends.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.1% to 12654.6. ($1 = 1.3301 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Riya Sharma in Bengaluru)

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