Asian markets mostly advanced today, with Australian shares getting a lift from Rio Tinto's announcements of a bid to raise capital and a joint venture with BHP Billiton. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.9%, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 climbed 1% and South Korea's Kospi Composite was up 1.2%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 1%, China's Shanghai Composite slid 0.5% and New Zealand shares added 0.7%. Taiwan's Taiex was down 0.3% and Singapore's Straits Times advanced 1.4%.
Shares in BHP Billiton Ltd. climbed 4.2% Friday to a record price in Sydney after a report Chinese companies want to buy a major stake. Chinese state-backed companies approached an Australian pension and investment fund about cooperating to buy 9% of the world's largest mining company, the Australian newspaper reported. Neither the Chinese nor the Australian actors were identified in the report. Chinese companies oppose BHP's proposed $189 billion takeover of mining rival Rio Tinto Group, fearing the merger would give it dominant pricing power for key minerals.
The Chinese Government is said to have orchestrated a boycott of Australian mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, costing Australia millions in export profits and threatening a diplomatic battle. China's steel association said no official directive was issued and that steel companies decided for themselves.
Japan's Fair Trade Commission has initiated discussions with its European and Australian counterparts about a possible investigation into the BHP Billiton acquisition of Rio Tinto, according to a report in the Asahi newspaper. The Iron and Steel Federation in Japan said the proposed merger would be anti-competitive. The deal would create a massive mining group with a market capitalization of about $350 billion.