Australian, N.Z. Equities: AGL, BHP, Billabong, Echo, Newcrest

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Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index rose

0.5 percent to 4,306.80 at the close of trading in Sydney, taking this week’s gain to 2.6 percent. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index declined 0.1 percent to 3,319.76 in Wellington, paring its weekly advance to 0.9 percent.

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

AGL Energy Ltd. (AGK AU) dropped 4.7 percent to A$13.67 after the electricity and gas retailer agreed to buy the shares it doesn’t already own in Victoria’s Loy Yang power station and coal mine for A$448 million ($481 million).

Air New Zealand Ltd. (AIR NZ) fell 3.4 percent to 86 New Zealand cents after the country’s biggest carrier said it will enforce cost-saving measures that add NZ$195 million ($163 million) to annual profit after posting a “disappointing” half-year result. The Auckland-based company reported a 61 percent drop in net income for the six months to Dec. 31 and said it will cut 441 jobs by the end of June as part of a series of initiatives to improve profit by its 2015 fiscal year.

BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP AU), Australia’s biggest oil producer, advanced 0.9 percent to A$36.54 after crude oil for April delivery gained 1.5 percent to $107.83 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange yesterday, the highest settlement since May 4.

Billabong International Ltd. (BBG AU), Australia’s largest surfwear company, gained 5.4 percent to A$2.91. TPG Capital, the buyout firm run by David Bonderman, has offered A$765 million for Billabong, valuing the Gold Coast, Australia-based company at 12 times projected fiscal 2012 net income, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s half the median 24 times paid in takeovers of apparel makers in developed markets worth more than $500 million, the data show.

David Jones Ltd. (DJS AU), Australia’s second-biggest department store chain, rose 3.9 percent to A$2.65 after the stock was raised to “hold” from “sell” by analysts at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc. The stock was raised to “neutral” from “sell” by analysts at UBS AG.

Echo Entertainment Group Ltd. (EGP AU), the owner of the only casino in Sydney, surged by a record 13 percent to A$4.30 after rival Crown Ltd. doubled its stake in the company to 10 percent and sought regulatory approval to buy more.

Newcrest Mining Ltd. (NCM AU) fell 4.3 percent to A$34.55 after Australia’s largest gold mining company said production at its Lihir plant in Papua New Guinea will be cut by as much as 60,000 ounces this quarter because of production disruptions.

Ramsay Health Care Ltd. (RHC AU) declined 1.9 percent to A$18.16 after the stock was cut to “neutral” from “outperform” at Credit Suisse Group AG.

Toll Holdings Ltd. (TOL AU) rose 6.6 percent to A$5.68 after the stock was raised to “buy” from “hold” by analysts at Deutsche Bank. The stock was cut to “neutral” from “outperform” by analysts at Credit Suisse Group AG.

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