Australia shares track Wall Street higher, Telstra jumps on stake-sale plans

June 30 (Reuters) - Australian shares climbed nearly 1% on Wednesday, tracking a strong overnight finish in Wall Street, while Telstra scaled a 16-1/2-month high on plans to sell nearly half of its mobile tower business for A$2.8 billion ($2.1 billion).

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.9% at 7,366.4. The benchmark closed flat on Tuesday.

Elsewhere, Japan’s Nikkei was up 0.24% and S&P 500 E-minis futures were up 0.12%.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq registered record closing highs overnight, lifted by Apple Inc and other technology stocks after an upbeat consumer confidence report.

The Australian miners sub-index gained as much as 1.9% to hit its highest since June 16, making it the top performer on the benchmark.

Rio Tinto said it had declared a force majeure on customer contracts at its Richards Bay Minerals project in South Africa, citing “an escalation in the security situation at the operations.”

Shares of the global miner, however, rose more than 2% to hit a three-week high.

AGL Energy expects to split into a bulk power generator and a carbon-neutral energy retailer by June 2022 and would stop paying special dividends. The announcement sent AGL shares down 4.4% to their lowest since June 4.

Shares of Telstra Corp rose up to 5%, their highest since Feb. 13, 2020, after the country’s biggest telecom firm said it would sell a 49% stake in its mobile tower business and return half the sale proceeds to shareholders.

The heavyweight financial index gained 0.8%, with National Australia Bank and Westpac Banking Corp adding 0.9% and 0.7%, respectively.

Macquarie-backed Nuix Ltd was the top loser on the benchmark after the software company disclosed it was likely under investigation.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2% to 12,662.54.

$1 = 1.3312 Australian dollars Reporting by Harish Sridharan in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips