press digest-australian business news - feb 16

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    PRESS DIGEST-Australian Business News - Feb 16
    07:13, Wednesday, 16 February 2005

    (Compiled for Reuters by Media Monitors)

    THE AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW (www.afr.com)

    Hearing implant maker, Cochlear , yesterday upgraded
    its full-year earnings forecast on the basis of strong sales in
    the six months to December 31. Chief executive, Chris Roberts,
    said Cochlear should have a net profit of A$53 million to A$55
    million this year, up from last year's A$51 million. Net profit
    for the December half was a record A$29.5 million, 10 per cent
    better than the previous first-half. Cochlear shares closed at
    A$28.85, A$1.15 higher on the day. Page 17.

    --

    Australia's fourth-ranked Internet service provider (ISP),
    iiNet, based in Perth, has agreed to pay A$104.5 million to
    acquire OzEmail, one of the country's first ISPs. In addition,
    iiNet will assume OzEmail's working capital and employee
    entitlements of approximately A$6 million, funding the purchase
    with A$60 million cash and A$50 million in debt. iiNet chief
    executive, Michael Malone, said yesterday the A$60 million would
    be raised by an institutional placement of new shares at A$3.30
    each. Page 17.

    --

    Woodside Petroleum and Hardman Resources ,
    partners in the Tiof offshore oil project in Mauritania, West
    Africa, yesterday reported a flow of 12,400 barrels of oil plus
    11 million cubic feet of gas a day from their latest appraisal
    well. The announcement saw the price of Woodside shares rise A73
    cents to A$21.68, while Hardman shares rose A19 cents to A$2.06.
    The Tiof field is now believed to hold up to one billion barrels
    of oil. Page 17.

    --

    Hutchison Telecommunications yesterday reported a
    full-year loss of more than A$550 million, taking losses
    associated with its third-generation (3G) business to almost
    A$1.3 billion. However, chief executive, Kevin Russell, said
    losses had peaked and Hutchison expected to end 2005 in a
    position of sustainable, positive monthly earnings before
    interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation. He said the
    company would be free cash flow positive by next year or 2007.
    Page 18.

    --


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

    The Australian Stock Exchange yesterday reported its
    best half-year profit, with interim earnings up 19 per cent to
    A$50.5 million for the six months to December 31. Under a new
    policy of paying out 90 per cent of profits to shareholders, the
    company lifted its dividend from A29.2 cents to A44.2 cents a
    share, fully franked. Managing director, Tony D'Aloisio, said
    the ASX had 'no obvious scars' from the departure of News
    Corporation, formerly the biggest local listing. Page 23.

    --

    Ainsworth Game Technology executive chairman, Len
    Ainsworth, yesterday announced a proposal to merge with Russia's
    largest casino and gaming equipment supplier, Unicum. Mr
    Ainsworth, 81, a veteran of 52 years in the gaming machine
    industry, said the proposal had 'all the hallmarks of a A$1
    billion business.' Unicum, a private group of companies owned by
    Boris Belotserkovsky, already assembles and distributes AGT
    machines. Page 23.

    --

    Two former bank employees were fined a total of A$130,000 in
    the Federal Court yesterday for insider trading involving BRL
    Hardy shares at the time of the takeover by Constellation Brands
    of the United States. They were also ordered to repay a
    profit of A$128,495 and to cover legal costs of A$93,254 incurred
    by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
    Commission chairman, Jeffrey Lucy, said the penalties should act
    as a warning. Page 25.

    --

    Macquarie Countrywide Trust yesterday announced
    plans to buy a A$3.5 billion retail portfolio in the United
    States (US) with its US joint venture partner, Regency. MCT will
    have a 65 per cent stake in the portfolio and the deal will make
    it the largest owner of neighbourhood shopping centres in the US.
    The acquisition will be funded by a A$843 million renounceable
    rights issue and debt of A$1.53 billion. Page 25.

    --

    Mineral sands producer, Iluka Resources , increased
    net profit in 2004 by 4.8 per cent to A$89.3 million, despite the
    higher Australian dollar and a book loss on borrowings
    denominated in United States dollars. Managing director, Mike
    Folwell, said the 2005 result would be 10 per cent higher if the
    Australian dollar averaged US73-74 cents for the year. He said
    all Iluka's mineral sands production for 2005 was pre-sold. Page
    25.

    --

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

    Federal Transport Minister, John Anderson, has agreed to work
    towards an 'open skies' agreement with Singapore within six
    months, opening the way for Singapore Airlines to enter
    the Sydney-Los Angeles route in competition with Qantas Airways
    . The agreement was struck in talks yesterday with
    Singapore Transport Minister, Yeo Cheow Tong, but was immediately
    criticised by leading Coalition Members of Parliament at a
    meeting of the Liberal and National parties. Page 25.

    --

    Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) chief executive, Tony
    D'Aloisio, yesterday dismissed speculation about an ASX takeover
    of the Sydney Futures Exchange. Mr D'Aloisio said the concept
    'has not been on my radar' since his appointment in October. He
    said it had been clear for some time that such a takeover lacked
    'shareholder value' and would strike opposition from the
    Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. ASX yesterday
    reported a net profit of A$50.5 million for the December
    half-year on revenue of A$137 million. Page 25.

    --

    Macquarie Countrywide Trust (MCT), with its United States
    (US) joint venture partner, Regency Centres, is buying a US$2.4
    billion portfolio of US neighbourhood shopping centres spread
    throughout California, Washington DC, Baltimore and Chicago. MCT
    entered the US market with Regency in July 2001 and the joint
    venture now has a 75 per cent interest in 50 properties across
    North America. The latest deal will raise MCT's market
    capitalisation from A$1.5 billion to A$2.4 billion. Page 25.

    --

    Hastings Funds Management yesterday announced the float of a
    A$300 million investment vehicle to be known as the Hastings High
    Yield Fund (HHYF). Hastings said HHYF would focus on
    high-yielding subordinated debt arising from the infrastructure
    and privatisation markets. The announcement follows Macquarie
    Bank's decision this week to increase the size of its latest
    investment vehicle from A$600 million to A$1 billion. Page 25.

    --



    THE AGE (www.theage.com.au)

    Administrators of failed gold and tantalum producer, Sons of
    Gwalia , are suing international accountants, Ernst &
    Young, alleging that they failed in their duty as auditors of the
    mining company. The administrators allege that Ernst & Young
    failed to detect that the trading limits imposed on Sons of
    Gwalia treasury operations were being exceeded and could result
    in large losses. The action has been lodged in the Supreme Court
    of Western Australia. Page B1.

    --

    Analysts are forecasting that Woodside Petroleum will report
    today that its 2004 profit exceeded A$690 million, an increase of
    some 32 per cent on the previous year's result. The forecasts
    are based largely on surging oil prices and lower operating
    costs. Woodside's share price reached a record A$21.72 at one
    stage yesterday on confirmation of strong oil and gas flows at
    the Tiof discovery in Mauritania, West Africa, and speculation
    about a major North West Shelf has contract with South Korea.
    Page B1.

    --

    Government members of Federal Parliament expressed concern
    yesterday at proposals to allow Singapore Airlines to compete
    with Qantas Airways on the Sydney-Los Angeles route. At a
    meeting of the Coalition parties in Canberra, several members
    said that such a decision could lead to job losses with no
    offsetting benefits for travellers. Federal Transport Minister,
    John Anderson, has agreed to a process that could lead to
    consideration of an 'open skies' air services agreement with
    Singapore within six months. Page B2.

    --

    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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