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Austar, BHP, Virgin Blue, Woodside: Australian Stocks Preview

March 24 (Bloomberg) -- The following is a list of companies whose shares may have unusual moves in Australia. The preview includes news announced after markets closed. All prices are from yesterday’s close unless otherwise stated.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index futures contract due in June gained 0.4 percent to 4,689 as of 6:59 a.m. in Sydney. The Bank of New York Australia ADR Index climbed 1.3 percent. The S&P/ASX 200 Index added 0.2 percent to 4,652.40.

Mining companies: Copper futures for May delivery rose 2.7 percent to settle at $4.4285 a pound at 1:13 p.m. on the Comex in New York.

BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP AU), the world’s No. 1 mining company, was unchanged at A$44.20. Its American depositary receipts gained 1.5 percent in New York trading.

Rio Tinto Group (RIO AU), the world’s second-largest mining company by sales, advanced 0.2 percent to A$80.68 in Sydney. Rio said it increased its holding in Riversdale Mining Ltd. (RIV AU) to 35.89 percent from 34.94 percent.

Oil stocks: Crude climbed to near a 30-month high as the U.S. and its allies attacked Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s troops, and as protesters clashed with government forces in Syria, bolstering concern supplies will be disrupted.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd. (WPL AU), Australia’s second-biggest oil and gas producer, climbed 0.7 percent to A$44.98.

Gold producers: Gold rose for the sixth straight session, nearing a record in New York.

Newcrest Mining Ltd. (NCM AU), Australia’s biggest gold producer, rose 0.1 percent to A$37.07.

Austar United Communications Ltd. (AUN AU): The pay-television operator said there’s no proposal before the board for an acquisition by rival Foxtel, the Australian Financial Review reported, citing a speech by Austar Chief Executive Officer John Porter. Austar shares fell 0.4 percent to A$1.245.

Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. (FMG AU): Australia’s third-biggest producer of iron ore is tapping investors in Asia to help fund an $8.4 billion expansion of its mines in Western Australia, Chief Executive Officer Andrew Forrest said. The stock fell 0.2 percent to A$5.87.

Foster’s Group Ltd. (FGL AU): Australia’s biggest brewer was raised to “overweight” from “neutral” at JPMorgan Chase & Co. The stock rose 0.2 percent to A$5.52.

Nufarm Ltd. (NUF AU): Australia’s biggest supplier of farm chemicals said its operating profit for the six month period to January 31 will be slightly above earlier guidance provided by the company. Its shares declined 0.4 percent to A$5.12.

Virgin Blue Holdings Ltd. (VBA AU): Australia’s second-largest airline was downgraded to “hold” from “buy” at Deutsche Bank AG. The stock plunged 6.1 percent to 31 Australian cents.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shani Raja in Sydney at sraja4@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Nick Gentle at ngentle2@bloomberg.net.

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