press digest-australian business news - jan 25

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    PRESS DIGEST-Australian Business News - Jan 25
    06:48, Tuesday, 25 January 2005

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

    San Miguel Corporation yesterday released its
    bidder's statement for its ongoing attempt to takeover National
    Foods (NatFoods) . The San Miguel statement included a
    promise to retain NatFoods' existing Melbourne headquarters and
    the 150 people who work there if its A$1.78 billion bid for the
    dairy group succeeds. The Philippines-based company also
    indicated that it intended to review its other Australian
    businesses. Page 13.

    --

    Foster's Group has indicated that it intends to keep
    its Beringer business in the United States (US) separate from
    Southcorp's US distribution operations for at least one
    year if its A$3.1 billion takeover bid for the winemaker
    succeeds. It also plans to set up an 'integration office,' to
    try and prevent the merging of Foster's and Southcorp being
    hampered by the complexities involved. Page 13.

    --

    The Federal Government will consider early next week
    expressions of interest from investor and public relations firms
    interested in securing the role of T3 communications adviser,
    with a view to making an appointment by March. The Government
    called for expressions of interest last month and is believed to
    be planning a shortlist of about four firms that will be asked to
    tender to work on the sell-down of the government's Telstra
    stake. Page 13.

    --

    Analysts are expected to modestly upgrade their 2004 profit
    forecasts for Santos after the oil and gas group's
    full-year production figures surpassed market expectations and
    previous management guidance. Strong 2004 oil prices helped
    Santos overcome a large fall in oil production from its Cooper
    Basin operations in South Australia, lifting annual revenue 2.5
    per cent to a record A$1.5 billion and putting the company on
    track to post a profit of A$290 million for the year. Page 13.

    --

    Xstrata Chief Executive, Mick Davis, has conceded
    that the Swiss-based mining group failed to adequately manage
    public relations in the wake of its closure of the Windimurra
    vanadium mine in Western Australia. The closure of the mine, and
    Xstrata's decision to sell the plant without soliciting buyers to
    take over the operation despite strong vanadium prices, was
    strongly criticised by the WA Government, which contributed A$30
    million in nearby infrastructure. Page 14.

    --

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

    Coles Myer is believed to have begun sounding out
    institutional investors on a 'capital management' program that
    could see more than A$1 billion returned to shareholders. Coles
    Myer finance director, Fraser McKenzie, is believed to have
    discussed the possibility of the retailer buying its reset
    preference shares, worth about A$750 million at current prices.
    Page 17.

    --

    Fund manager analyst, ASSIRT, yesterday warned of a possible
    'cultural erosion' at broking house, Goldman Sachs JB Were, as
    the Melbourne-based JB Were is exposed to the corporate culture
    of its Wall Street partner. ASSIRT warned that the longer-term
    effects on the corporate culture of the merger of Goldman, which
    bought a 45 per cent stake in the Australian broking firm in
    2003, and JB Were would take time to become clear. Page 18.

    --

    Macquarie Infrastructure Group's (MIG) right to
    increase charges on its part-owned Canadian toll road without
    government approval is set to be challenged in court again by the
    provincial Government of Ontario. Page 19.

    --

    The shareprice of lead and zinc miner, Zinifex , rose
    10 cents, or almost four per cent, to close at A$2.70 yesterday
    due to a rallying zinc price and expectations of a share buyback.
    Chief executive, Greig Gailey, said the miner was 'seeing
    positive signs across the board with zinc'. Page 19.

    --

    Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)
    commissioner, Ed Willett, revealed that the regulator was
    'investigating allegations of anti-competitive pricing in
    business call packages' offered by Australia's number two
    telecommunications provider, Optus . Page 19.

    --

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

    General Property Trust has dealt another blow to
    Stockland's A$7.24 billion all-scrip takeover bid with a
    revaluation of its retail portfolio lifting the book value of its
    assets by A$584 million. GPT directors told the Australian Stock
    Exchange the revaluation substantiated their belief that the
    'Stockland offer represents an insufficient premium to GPT's net
    tangible assets.' Page 19.

    --

    The Australian dollar rose yesterday, fuelled by rising
    metals prices and sagging confidence in the United States (US)
    dollar. The dollar reached an intra-day high of 77.17 U.S. cents
    before closing at 76.94 U.S. cents, compared to Friday's close of
    75.83 U.S. cents. ANZ Banking Group senior economist, David de
    Garis said iron ore producers seeking price increases had added a
    'bullish tone' to the Australian currency. Page 20.

    --

    Freezing weather in the United States, power shortages in
    China and bullish comments from Brazilian iron ore company, CVRD,
    sent Australian resource stocks into record territory yesterday.
    Constellation Capital Management's George Raftopulos said 2005
    was shaping up as a strong year for resources. Page 21.

    --

    Singapore Transport Minister, Yeo Cheow Tong, told the
    Aviation and Tourism Outlook conference that he was prepared to
    give Australia's Qantas Airways 'whatever they want' if
    Australia was prepared to lift restrictions on Singapore Airlines
    operating on the Sydney-Los Angeles route. Yeo said he
    believed there were few 'remaining limitations' on where Qantas
    could fly to out of Singapore. Page 21.

    --

    Etrade has moved to expand its customer reach through
    a new deal with Internet search engine provider, Yahoo ,
    that allows trading through Yahoo's Australian financial website.
    The initiative is the latest in the online broker's drive to
    broaden its customer base amid an ongoing struggle with fellow
    online broker, Commonwealth Securities. Page 21.

    --

    THE AGE (www.theage.com.au)

    The four traders at the centre of National Australia Bank's
    (NAB) A$360 million foreign currency trading scandal are
    to appear in a Melbourne court today, facing up to 20 charges.
    NAB is hoping the court action will end the scandal, which hit
    the bank just over a year ago. Page 14.

    --

    The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics
    (ABARE) yesterday predicted that Australian wine grape production
    would fall this financial year, but grow more then five per cent
    by 2006-07. ABARE said wine grape production would fall to 1.83
    million tonnes in 2004-05, down three per cent on the record
    harvest of 2003-04. Page 14.

    --

    Less than a month before HHG holds a special
    shareholder meeting to vote on selling its life insurance
    businesses, investors are buying up the company's stock on the
    expectation that the funds management group will be a prime takeover target.
    Investors in Australia yesterday pushed shares
    in HHG, AMP's former British arm, up 4.2 per cent, to A$1.49, a
    record high. Page 14.

    --

    AirAsia Chief Executive, Tony Fernandes, has
    accused Singapore Airlines of double standards in its campaign to
    gain access to Qantas Airways' lucrative Sydney-Los Angeles
    route. Fernandes said AirAsia's 49 per cent owned Indonesian
    subsidiary, AWAIR, had been forced to refund thousands of
    airfares in the past week after being denied its air operator's
    certificate to fly in Singapore. Page 14.
    --

    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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