Australian, N.Z. Stocks: Atlas Iron, BHP, Sigma Pharmaceuticals

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 1.6 percent to 4,005.80 at the 4:10 p.m. close of trading in Sydney. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index (NZSE50FG) declined 0.7 percent to 3,264.11 at the 5 p.m. close in Wellington.

The following were among the most active shares in the market today. Stock symbols are in parentheses after company names.

Banks and commodity stocks: Oil and mining companies, along with banks, erased gains after China’s Premier Wen Jiabao said economies “must put their own houses in order” and a former central-bank adviser said the nation shouldn’t buy bonds from troubled European nations.

The comments exacerbated concern that Europe’s sovereign- debt problem may escalate into a banking crisis.

BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP) , the world’s No. 1 mining company, dropped 1.1 percent to A$36.90. Woodside Petroleum Ltd. (WPL) , Australia’s second-biggest oil and gas producer, declined 2.7 percent to A$32.25. Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) , the nation’s largest lender by market value, sank 2.5 percent to A$44. National Australia Bank Ltd. (NAB) , the country’s biggest lender to companies, dropped 3 percent to A$21.81.

Atlas Iron Ltd. (AGO) gained 1.5 percent to A$3.46. Chief Executive Officer David Flanagan said he has rebuffed approaches from potential bidders because he foresees a 10-fold gain in the value of the Australian iron-ore exporter.

“We’ve had a number of groups approach us with confidentiality agreements,” he told a conference in London yesterday. “We just don’t engage because we are not for sale.” Separately, Atlas said today that it received acceptances for its off-market takeover bid for FerrAus Ltd. (FRS AU).

Boral Ltd. (BLD) dropped 4 percent to A$3.33. The building materials supplier is seeking to offload units in Indonesia and Thailand, the Australian Financial Review reported in its “Street Talk” column, without saying where it got the information.

Sigma Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (SIP) jumped 12 percent to 58 Australian cents after the drugmaker reported a 113 percent increase in half-year net income to A$26.7 million ($27.7 million).

To contact the reporter on this story: Shani Raja in Sydney at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Nick Gentle at

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