press digest-australian business news - jan 21

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    PRESS DIGEST-Australian Business News - Jan 21
    07:12, Friday, 21 January 2005

    (Compiled for Reuters by Media Monitors)

    (Compiled for Reuters by Media Monitors)

    THE AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW (www.afr.com)

    The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has
    told New Zealand-based forestry products group, Carter Holt
    Harvey it has found no evidence at this stage the
    company engaged in cartel behaviour in the cardboard box market,
    CHH chief executive, Peter Springford, said yesterday. ACCC
    chairman, Graeme Samuel, declined to comment on the continuing
    investigation of the cardboard box market, principally involving
    Visy Industries and Amcor. Page 64.

    --

    Qantas Airways said yesterday that on the basis of
    forward bookings and operations to the end of December, it
    expected to exceed last year's pre-tax earnings of A$964.6
    million. Qantas will report its latest half-year results on
    February 17, but yesterday's announcement saw the share price
    rise A5 cents to A$3.56. Shares in cut-price competitor, Virgin
    Blue, fell another A1 cent to A$1.73 following its warning that
    profit for the year to March 31 would be 10-15 per cent lower
    than last year's. Page 64.

    --

    Most fruit suppliers of processor, SPC Ardmona ,
    support the A$560 million takeover bid from Coca-Cola Amatil
    , Northern Victoria Fruitgrowers Association executive
    director, Ross Wall, said yesterday. SPC Ardmona managing
    director, Nigel Garrard, has been meeting fruit grower
    shareholders this week to support the takeover offer. Suppliers
    and employees hold 26 per cent of SPC Ardmona shares and will
    vote on the takeover on February 3. Page 64.

    --

    Swiss mining house, Xstrata , yesterday extended its
    A$7.4 billion takeover offer for WMC Resources by one month to
    February 28. In the meantime, WMC will report its full-year
    results on February 9, having previously given guidance of a
    headline profit of A$1.3 billion. It was reported yesterday that
    Xstrata had applied to the Foreign Investment Review Board for
    clearance of its proposed takeover, which must finally be
    signed-off by Federal Treasurer, Peter Costello. Page 65.

    --

    Metcash Trading will release its bidder's statement
    today on its A$850 million takeover offer for rival grocery
    wholesaler, Foodland Associated. Metcash shareholders yesterday
    approved a capital reorganisation allowing the company to issue
    new classes of shares to Foodland shareholders, part of a plan by
    Metcash to spin-off Foodland's New Zealand assets if the takeover
    is successful. Page 65.

    --

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

    Veteran exploration company, Santos , yesterday
    announced the biggest oil strike in its 50-year history,
    confirming that its Jeruk discovery, offshore from Surabaya,
    Indonesia, contained 'likely recoverable reserves in excess of
    170 million barrels of oil.' Industry experts said Jeruk drilling
    had not reached full depth and data indicated that the field
    could contain as much as 700 million barrels. Santos is a 50 per
    cent partner in the project. Page 17.

    --

    Analysts are predicting a rationalisation of the discount
    variety market following changes of shareholdings within the
    Miller's Retail group , which this week announced a
    second earnings downgrade in less than seven months. Corporate
    adviser, David Gonski, through Investec Wentworth Private Equity,
    has acquired an eight per cent stake in Miller's. Miller's chief
    executive, Gary Perlstein, has increased his shareholding to the
    same level and the two have agreed to act as one entity on voting
    matters. Page 17.

    --

    Consultants have warned that major mineral processing
    projects in Western Australia (WA) could be jeopardised by a
    shortage of gas on current projections. In a study for the
    federal and WA governments, Sydney-based Sleeman Consulting says
    that gas from existing North West Shelf reserves will be fully
    committed if Japanese customers roll over their contracts beyond 2009.
    The report urges action to encourage timely development of
    further gas reserves. Page 19.

    --

    Metcash Trading will make a submission to the
    Australian Competition and Consumer Commission opposing any
    merger between Foster's Group and wine producer,
    Southcorp , Metcash chief executive, Andrew Reitzer, said
    yesterday. Metcash supplies the national chain of IGA
    supermarkets and Cellarbrations and Cheers liquor outlets. Mr
    Reitzer said Foster's-Southcorp combined would have more than 40
    per cent of the alcoholic beverages market, 'and that's
    unhealthy.' Page 19.

    --

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

    Real estate developer, Multiplex , refused to comment
    yesterday on United Kingdom (UK) reports it was bidding for the
    A$3.7 billion project to redevelop the Elephant & Castle retail
    complex in south London. However, the bid would be consistent
    with the group's declared expansion plans for the UK, confirmed
    as recently as last week. Chief executive, Andrew Roberts, has
    not ruled out dual listing in London and Australia. Page 21.

    --

    The Federal Court declared yesterday that National Exchange,
    the company of sharemarket scammer, David Tweed, breached the
    Corporations Act when it made a massively under-priced offer for
    shares in the Aevum retirement home business. Last October, Mr
    Tweed offered A35 cents for shares in Aevum, formerly a friendly
    society, shortly before they listed at A$1.52. Yesterday,
    National Exchange undertook not to try to enforce acceptances
    from Aevum shareholders who later changed their minds. Page 21.

    --

    Reinsurance Australia Corp (ReAC) shareholders will meet on
    February 24 to vote on a proposed change of name to Calliden
    Group. ReAC was forced to close its books to new business as a
    reinsurer in 2000 after reporting an underwriting loss of A$500
    million. After a successful run-off period and improved
    conditions in the insurance industry, the company is now
    negotiating with the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority
    for a general insurance licence. Page 23.

    --

    THE AGE (www.theage.com.au)

    Network Seven announced yesterday it would launch at
    least one of its high-profile shows for the new season several
    weeks before the start of the television (TV) ratings season.
    Seven has been the only commercial free-to-air TV broadcaster to
    increase its audience in the summer off-season, mostly through
    its intensive coverage of major tennis events. It wants to use
    its improved position to showcase its new program schedule. Page
    14.

    --

    Forest products group, Carter Holt Harvey announced
    a A$402 million annual profit yesterday, but warned that the
    softening housing market and high value of the Australian and New
    Zealand dollars would be key issues for the year ahead. New
    Zealand-based CHH had a net loss of NZ$656 million in the 2003
    year when it slashed the value of its forestry assets because of
    falling product prices. CHH declared an unfranked dividend of NZ4
    cents a share. Page 15.

    --

    Dairy product sales in Australian supermarkets rose 3.8 per
    cent to A$4.6 billion in 2003-04, accounting for more than 13 per
    cent of packaged grocery sales, according to figures released
    yesterday by Dairy Australia. The growth trend was expected to
    continue but at a lower rate, in line with the overall grocery
    market, said Dairy Australia analyst, Peter Wilson. He said dairy
    export volumes between July and September 2004 rose 7.4 per cent
    by volume and 18.2 per cent by value. Page 15.

    --

    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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