The Australian share market has closed with modest gains, propelled by a strong healthcare sector marked by a private equity bid for Australia’s biggest private hospital operator.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 ended four points higher, or 0.05 per cent, to close at 7569.2 on Wednesday. The index threatened to touch its record high of 7624.8 struck in August last year before retreating in afternoon trading.

Shares in Ramsay Health Care were up 24.2 per cent to $80 after it revealed a $20 billion bid by a consortium led by private equity giant KKR. The offer represents a premium of more than 36 per cent from Ramsay’s close on Tuesday.

The ASX healthcare index surged as a result, up 2.58 per cent to 1024.1 points. Almost all major health stocks including CSL, ResMed, Sonic Healthcare and Cochlear were in the green.

The All Ordinaries index rose 1.8 points, or 0.02 per cent, to 7869.7.

Investors retained an upbeat post-Easter mood even as energy and commodity prices pulled back, denting the appetite for Australia’s big miners and oil and gas companies.

Rio Tinto’s quarterly iron ore exports dropped eight per cent compared with the same period last year, creating a drag on its share price, down 2.76 per cent to $118.30.

AGL Energy revealed on Wednesday its Loy Yang coal-fired power station had suffered an electrical fault, wiping one-quarter of its generation capacity potentially until August. Its shares fell 3.2 per cent on Wednesday in the fallout.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar was buying 74.19 US cents at 1620 AEST, compared to 73.78 US cents 24 hours earlier.


(Australian Associated Press)