press digest-australian business news - feb 17

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    PRESS DIGEST-Australian Business News - Feb 17
    06:54, Thursday, 17 February 2005

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

    Woodside Petroleum chief executive, Don Voelte,
    yesterday said the oil and gas company planned to press ahead
    with the development of a new liquefied natural gas (LNG)
    production unit at the North-West Shelf despite having missed out
    on a share of a A$38 billion export contract to South Korea. Mr
    Voelte said the plant was still likely to be approved later this
    year, with production expected to begin in mid-2008. Page 12.

    --

    JB Hi-Fi yesterday reported a first-half profit of
    A$15.4 million, up 65 per cent on the previous corresponding
    period. Chief executive, Richard Uechtritz, said the electrical
    goods group had benefited from booming sales of new technology
    goods such as plasma and LCD televisions, digital cameras and
    iPod portable music players. However, Mr Uechtritz said the
    company had also experienced a slowdown in sales of whitegoods.
    Mr Uechtritz attributed the fall in whitegood sales to the
    likelihood of an increase in official interest rates in the near
    future. Page 14.

    --

    Flight Centre yesterday announced the A$8.3 million
    purchase of a 51 per cent stake in Friends Globe Travel (FGT),
    its first acquisition in India. FGT, which has branches in six
    major Indian cities, aims to expand to 20 locations by the end of
    2006. Flight Centre said the purchase was part of its strategy
    to take its FCm Travel Solutions corporate travel brand into all
    major markets in Asia. Page 15.

    --

    The Reject Shop yesterday lifted its profit outlook
    for 2004-05 to between A$6.5 million to A$6.7 million after
    reporting a 22.5 per cent increase in net profit to A$7.5 million
    in the first half. Managing director, Barry Saunders, said the
    discount retailer had been heavily focused on steady organic
    growth and was not holding any talks with rivals about merger
    possibilities. Mr Saunders said The Reject Shop planned to
    increase store number by around 10 per cent annually, taking it
    to approximately 160 outlets in five years. Page 15.

    --


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

    BHP Billiton yesterday reported a more than doubling
    of interim profit to a record A$3.58 billion, but warned that
    global demand for commodities was set to outstrip supply again
    this year with miners unable to lift production fast enough.
    Chief executive, Chip Goodyear, said the resources company was
    now targeting expansion of its operations in new regions such as
    Russia and India to capitalise on buoyant demand. Mr Goodyear
    also confirmed that BHP had secured a 120 per cent prise rise
    covering three-quarters of its 2005-06 coking coal contracts.
    Page 25.

    --

    Singapore Transport Minister, Yeo Cheow Tong, yesterday
    indicated that the Singapore Government would be prepared to
    accept a phased introduction of an open-skies agreement with
    Australia, but wanted Sydney Airport included in any agreement
    allowing its national carrier, Singapore Airlines , to
    fly between Australia and the United States. Mr Yeo said he
    wanted Australia to produce a road map that would spell out a
    time frame for an open-skies agreement. Page 27.

    --

    Waste Management New Zealand yesterday indicated
    that it was looking at ways of expanding its operations in
    Australia as it seeks to lift its proportion of earnings sourced
    from Australia to 25 per cent. The company, which is listed on
    both the Australian and New Zealand stock exchanges, yesterday
    reported a net profit of A$23.6 million for the 2004 calendar
    year, up 38 per cent on 2003. WMNZ acquired dry waste businesses
    in Victoria, a waste removal business and a landfill and waste
    transfer station in South Australia during 2004. Page 27.

    --

    More than 12 million Santos shares were traded
    yesterday as investors reacted badly to the company's revised
    reserves estimates. Santos' share price closed down A80 cents at
    A$8.85, its biggest fall in more than 15 years. Santos announced
    on Tuesday, after the end of the day's trading, that it had cut
    its estimated oil reserves and production from the
    Exeter/Mutineer field by 40 per cent to 61 million barrels and
    its share of yearly production from the field by 46 per cent to
    19 million barrels. Page 28.

    --

    The office of the Timor Sea Designated Authority (TSDA)
    yesterday confirmed that production from the A$3.3 billion Bayu
    Undan gas recycling project in the Timor Sea, in which the only
    Australian partner is Santos, would be shut down in April for
    planned remedial action on production facilities. The outage
    could last up to a month and affect two-to-three shipments of
    condensate. TSDA said the work would include a number of changes
    associated with the tie-back of the Bayu-to-Darwin pipeline.
    Page 28.

    --


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

    General Property Trust is just days away from
    revealing an alternative ownership structure designed to thwart
    the A$7.5 billion takeover bid by Stockland and appease
    its investors at Lend Lease and Westfield . GPT
    is expected to internalise its management either by replacing
    Lend Lease as the manager of the trust, which would require the
    approval of GPT's other unit holders, or offering a deal to buy
    its management rights from Lend Lease, which would required
    approval from Lend Lease's shareholders. GPT is also expected to
    announce a new major acquisition to ensure long-term growth.
    Page 23.

    --

    Mirvac yesterday warned investors that the year
    ahead would remain challenging for the property development and
    construction group's residential operations. Mirvac, which
    merged with James Fielding Group last year, said it had achieved
    a 5.1 per cent rise in net profit to A$123 million for the
    December half. Managing director, Greg Paramor, said the company
    would shift its focus towards developing non-residential sectors
    in a bid to use commercial and retail development to offset
    flagging residential development spending. Page 23.

    --

    Macquarie Airports yesterday announced that it had
    acquired a 'strategic' 11.3 per cent stake in Copenhagen Airports
    for A$282 million, its second major European investment in three
    months. However, investors expressed concern that the passive
    stake ran counter to MAp's traditional strategy of having a more
    direct influence over the management of its airport investments.
    MAp's shareprice closed down A11 cents at A$3.35. Page 25.

    --

    Federal Transport Minister, John Anderson, yesterday down
    played reports that an agreement may be made to grant Singapore
    Airlines access to the Sydney-Los Angeles route. The Federal
    Government is facing vocal resistance from a number of its own
    members to any deal allowing Singapore Airlines to compete on the
    route, which is currently dominated by Australia's Qantas Airways
    . Mr Anderson said no decision on access would be made
    until he had 'detailed discussions with key stakeholders
    including Qantas.' Page 25.

    --


    THE AGE (www.theage.com.au)

    Tabcorp has revealed plans for a A$1.55 billion
    casino, resort and theme park complex in Singapore. In what will
    be the A$9.2 billion gambling group's first offshore move,
    Tabcorp will have to contend with bids from Las Vegas casinos,
    MGM Mirage, Kerzner International and Wynn Resorts. Chief
    executive, Matthew Slatter, said Tabcorp was determined to make
    Singapore its base in the Asian region due to its 'stable
    political environment, high standards of corporate governance and
    its status as a hub in Asia.' Page B2.

    --

    Leighton Holdings yesterday announced a 20 per cent
    increase in interim profit to A$90.9 million and forecast a
    full-year profit of at least A$180 million as the group's work in
    hand rose to a record A$15 billion. The good result comes
    despite Leighton last year being forced to make A$110 million in
    writedowns on its Spencer Street Station and Sydney Hilton Hotel
    projects. Directors announced an interim dividend of A20
    cents-a-share, franked at 50 per cent, compared with A18 cents
    fully franked last year. 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]))
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    (c) Reuters Limited 2005
    REUTER NEWS SERVICE
 
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