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ASX 200 morning report – WPL, ELD & TLS shares in focus

The S&P/ASX 200 (ASX: XJO) gained another 0.3% to begin the week, benefitting from broad-based strength.

Each of the consumer discretionary, healthcare and technology sectors gained more than 1% with experimental group Mesoblast Limited (ASX: MSB) leading the market by finishing 12% higher.

The company delivered a positive update on its “new weapon”, a treatment aimed at combatting heart failure after a Phase 3 trial was completed in New York.

Elders’ FY21 profit boost

Agricultural business Elders Ltd (ASX: ELD) delivered another strong update, reporting a 40% increase in profit to $151 million for the year.

Management remains confident of a strong market for end commodities, with beef prices expected to be elevated as a shortage of supply is met with surging demand as restaurants reopen.

Cost-cutting contributed to a 38% improvement in earnings and supported a final dividend of 22 cents per share, a near doubling of 2020. Elders shares finished close to 1% lower despite the news.

Elsewhere, Platinum Asset Management Ltd (ASX: PTM) shares also fell by more than 2% after the company withdrew its decision to grant the CEO additional performance options.

Woodside sells Pluto

Shares in Woodside Petroleum Limited (ASX: WPL) gained 1.1% after announcing the sale of 49% of the Pluto Train 2 gas joint venture to Global Infrastructure Partners.

The sale allows management to avoid the US$5.6 billion that will be required to develop the asset in the coming years as it focuses on the tie-up with BHP Group Ltd (ASX: BHP).

Incitec expands

Incitec Pivot Ltd (ASX: IPL) gained nearly 4% after the fertiliser manufacturer delivered a 91% increase in first-half profit to $359 million.

The result was driven by a booming second half and recent investments in technology, with mining explosives seeing a significant ramp up as commodity prices continue to rally.

The dividend was increased to 8.3 cents per share and follows the closure of its Queensland-based facility in an effort to cut costs.

Telstra switches to AI

Finally, shares in Telstra Corporation Ltd (ASX: TLS) also climbed nearly 1% after the CEO confirmed the group had entered a joint venture with data and analytics firm Quantium, which is owned by Woolworths Group Ltd (ASX: WOW), to expand the use of Artificial Intelligence within its business.

ASX 200 today

Looking ahead, the ASX 200 is expected to open lower this morning. This comes as US markets finished relatively flat overnight. To find out more, check out my US stock market report.

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