April 12, 2017 / 7:00 AM / 4 months ago

Australia, NZ stocks end little changed as geopolitical risks weigh

(Updates to close)

April 12 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended little changed on Wednesday as gains in financial stocks outweighed a sell-off in some telecom companies.

Investors were also averse to making fresh bets amid rising geopolitical risks in the Middle East and North Asia.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed up 0.1 percent, or 4.726 points, at 5,934.

Financials recouped early losses to end 0.4 percent higher. The "Big Four" banks gained between 0.2 percent to 1 percent.

But shares of Telstra Corp dropped as much as 8.6 percent at one point to their lowest level since 2012, after rival TPG Telecom Ltd won an auction for mobile phone airspace that will pave the way for the firm to bring services to 80 percent of the population.

Telstra was not allowed to bid in the government auction because of its dominant market position. TPG stocks were suspended ahead of the announcement and will not resume trading until April 18.

Stocks were also under pressure from rising geopolitical tensions over U.S. relations with Russia and North Korea, sending investors to safer assets. Gold hit a five-month high.

Newcrest Mining rose 1.6 percent and St. Barbara Ltd climbed 1.4 percent, both hitting their highest close since November 9, 2016.

BHP Billiton dismissed a wide-ranging proposal by shareholder Elliott Advisors to overhaul its corporate strategy and sell off oil interests, saying the measures would not benefit the firm.

The response offered no counterproposal and instead defended the miner's longstanding strategy.

BHP shares slipped 0.4 percent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell a marginal 2.84 points to finish the session at 7,251.54.

Materials and healthcare stocks led the losses.

Fletcher Building lost 2.6 percent, while medical devices maker Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp dropped 0.7 percent. (Reporting by Christina Martin in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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