press digest-australian business news - april 27

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    PRESS DIGEST-Australian Business News - April 27
    07:14, Wednesday, 27 April 2005

    (Compiled for Reuters by Media Monitors)
    THE AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW (www.afr.com)

    Global beverages company, Foster's Group , has
    assembled a 25-member team to integrate the Southcorp wine
    business into the Foster's structure once it achieves control
    through its enhanced takeover bid. Foster's has refused to
    quantify the synergies it believes can be found in the merger,
    but Southcorp has estimated them to be as much as A$160 million.
    Supply chain executive, Michael Brooks, who heads the
    integration team, said yesterday its operations would be as
    transparent as possible. Page 55.

    --

    Papua New Guinea miner, Lihir Gold , reported
    yesterday that March-quarter gold production was 101,370 ounces,
    39 per cent below the figure of 167,000 ounces in the December
    quarter. Lihir told investors in the December quarter report
    that it expected March-quarter production to be around 110,000
    ounces. Yesterday, the company restated its target of producing
    700,000 ounces in gold in 2005, saying its underlying performance
    was strong. Page 56.

    --

    Hunter Valley miner, Coal & Allied , expects global
    demand for coal to give it a strong second-half performance again
    this year. Chairman, Chris Renwick, told the annual meeting
    yesterday that last year the company made A$7 million in the
    first half and A$104 million in the second half, and that was
    likely to be the pattern this year. Mr Renwick said the company
    expected the global coal market to remain at its 'strongest in a
    generation.' Page 56.

    --

    Investment firm, Babcock & Brown , announced
    yesterday it had completed financing arrangements for its A$450
    million Braemar electricity generating project in south-east
    Queensland. The gas-fired plant, set to deliver 450 megawatts in
    the summer of 2006-07, is being developed jointly with
    privately-owned, ERM Power. Babcock & Brown said it would take
    up to 60 per cent of the equity in the project. Page 56.

    - - - -

    THE AUSTRALIAN (www.theaustralian.news.com.au)

    Andrew Kay, executive producer of the struggling stage show,
    The Hobbit, sold his stake in the production company,
    International Concert Attractions (ICA), last month before the
    show's opening - and close - in New Zealand last week, according
    to an Australian Stock Exchange announcement yesterday. The
    statement showed that Mr Kay sold more than 11 million shares,
    representing almost 10 per cent of ICA, for a net profit of
    A$360,000. Scheduled performances of The Hobbit were cancelled
    after poor reviews and ticket sales. Page 19.

    --

    WMC Resources' shareprice reached a record high
    yesterday on a new round of speculation that global miner, Rio
    Tinto, was about to launch a takeover bid worth more than A$9.6
    billion, aiming to knock out the offer from BHP Billiton. WMC
    shares reached A$8.14, compared with the BHP offer of A$7.85,
    which has been recommended by the WMC board. According to the
    market rumours, Rio was preparing to offer between A$8.20 and
    A$8.40 a share. Page 19.

    --

    Second-ranking telecommunications company, Optus, confirmed
    yesterday that it will raise line rental and call connection
    charges next week for more than 1.1 million residential customers
    as it seeks to maintain the viability of its fixed-line telephony
    business in the face of the increasing migration to mobile
    services. From May 1, customers will pay up to A$35.95 a month
    for line rental and A39 cents for call connections. It will be
    the third price rise since March last year. Page 21.

    --

    Melbourne-based gaming company, Tabcorp , and casino
    operator, Publishing & Broadcasting, based in Sydney, have been
    invited to take part in the 'request for proposal' stage of
    bidding to develop an integrated casino resort in Singapore. The
    Singapore Tourist Board has invited 14 companies from the United
    States, South Africa, Australia, Malaysia and the Bahamas to
    submit proposals to build and operate the resort, Singapore's
    first casino venture. Page 21.

    --

    Prime Infrastructure yesterday increased its dividend
    forecast for next year following last week's ruling allowing it
    to charge higher fees for use of its coal loading facility at
    Dalrymple Bay in Queensland. Prime forecast a distribution of
    A11.5 cents per stapled security rather than the A10.5 cents it
    forecast in February. The Queensland Competition Authority
    ruling on fees clears the way for an A$800 million expansion of
    the Dalrymple Bay facility. Page 22.

    - - - -

    THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (www.smh.com.au)

    Strong competition had made Sydney 'a hub for creativity in
    structured finance,' Record Investments chairman, David Coe, said
    yesterday after he was installed in the position at a special
    meeting of shareholders. Record is the listed investment vehicle
    of Allco, which Mr Coe founded in 1979, initially as a lease
    underwriter and packager, then moving into structured finance in
    the 1980s. Mr Coe said the strength of competition had 'raised
    the bar' for structured finance in Australia. Page 21.

    --

    In the Victorian Supreme Court yesterday, former Village
    Roadshow tax expert, Peter Ziegler, claimed a
    termination payment from the company of between A$49 million and
    A$76 million for his lead role in arranging a A$1.15 billion film
    finance facility that is still used for major Village
    productions. Mr Ziegler said that, in addition, Village Roadshow
    executives agreed to pay him 7.5 per cent of profits and 7.5 per
    cent of company assets. Page 23.

    --

    Junior mining company, Redport Limited , announced
    yesterday it had acquired control of three prospective uranium
    projects in Western Australia (WA) despite a state ban on uranium
    mining. Chairman, Richard Homsany, said the acquisition was
    based on confidence the WA and federal governments would accept
    the 'enormous pressure' to change their uranium policies.
    Redport shares closed at A6.4 cents, a rise of A3.7 cents on the
    day. Page 23.

    --

    Australand Holdings directors yesterday warned investors that
    the year ahead would be quieter because of the slowdown in the
    residential sector, but said this would not affect dividends.
    For the March quarter, the property group declared a
    dividend/distribution of A4 cents per stapled security,
    comprising a A2.2 cent fully franked dividend from Australand
    Holdings and a A1.8 cent distribution from Australand Property
    Trust, tax deferred to an estimated 28 per cent. Page 27.

    - - - -

    THE AGE (www.theage.com.au)

    Kodak Australasia has struck an exclusive deal with mobile
    phone retailer, Crazy John's, to sell camera-equipped mobiles
    through up to 150 Kodak Express stores. The deal is expected to
    generate A$60 million a year, to be shared by Kodak, Crazy John's
    and Telstra. Kodak Australasia general manager, Stephen Morely,
    said any device that captured an image was viewed as 'great news'
    by Kodak 'because we print most of the world's photos.' Page 17.

    --

    The case against a rise in official interest rates next week
    was strengthened yesterday when the Australian Bureau of
    Statistics reported that prices of goods from producers were flat
    in the March quarter, largely because of falling oil and petrol
    prices. At a seminar in Melbourne, Federal Treasury secretary,
    Ken Henry, warned against the use of monetary policy to slow the
    economy because 'we know from history that growth cycles tend to
    end untidily.' Page 17.

    --

    Directors of Collins Booksellers have appointed external
    administrators to look after the interests of unsecured
    creditors, who are owed A$7.4 million. The decision followed the
    launch of a solvency investigation by the Australian Securities
    and Investments Commission. Only 23 of 54 stores that carry the
    Collins name are affected by the decision, with the rest
    operating as franchises. The administrators said yesterday there
    were no plans to close stores at this stage. Page 17.

    --

    The organising company of the Australian Open tennis
    tournament announced yesterday that Wilson Sporting Goods would
    produce the event's official tennis ball for the next five years,
    replacing local company, Slazenger, part of Pacific Brands, which
    has had a 100-year association with the tournament. Wilson will
    use the Australian Open logo on all the balls, racquets and
    tennis bags it sells around the world, except in the United
    States (US), where it sponsors the US Open. Page 18.

    --

    Fear of an imminent interest rate rise led to a rise in the
    volume of home loans written by mortgage brokers in the December
    quarter, according to the latest survey by Market Intelligence
    Strategy Centre. Results released yesterday indicated a 12 per
    cent rise in the value of loans to A$12.9 billion, rebounding
    from a seven per cent fall in the previous quarter. The number
    of loans in the December quarter increased 11 per cent. Page 18.

    --

    Looking for more information from local sources? Factiva.com
    has 112 Australian sources including the Australian Financial
    Review.

    ((Reuters Sydney Newsroom, 61-2 9373 1800,
    [email protected]))

    (c) Reuters Limited 2005
    REUTER NEWS SERVICE
 
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