press digest-australian business news - march 11

  1. 4,756 Posts.
    PRESS DIGEST-Australian Business News - March 11
    06:37, Friday, 11 March 2005

    (Compiled for Reuters by Media Monitors)

    THE AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW (www.afr.com)

    WMC Resources chief executive, Andrew Michelmore,
    said yesterday it was 'a fair assessment' that his board would
    not have recommended BHP Billiton's A$9.2 billion
    takeover offer, with a A$92 million break fee, if it believed
    another party was about to make a competing bid. In the
    sharemarket, however, speculation persisted about a bid from
    rival miner, Rio Tinto . WMC's share price rose 3
    cents to A$8.02, compared with BHP's offer of A$7.85. Page 62.

    --

    Foster's Group chief executive, Trevor O'Hoy, met
    Victorian Premier, Steve Bracks, yesterday to discuss the
    beverages company's A$3.1 billion takeover bid for wine producer,
    Southcorp . Sources said the talks were of a general
    nature, but Mr Bracks was 'broadly supportive' of the bid, which
    would see one of the world's biggest beer and wine companies
    based in Melbourne if it succeeds. Page 62.

    --

    Telstra chief executive, Ziggy Switkowski, said the
    company would spend A$210 million in the next 15 months on new
    technology to upgrade its broadband network. Page 63.

    --

    Grocery wholesaler Metcash Trading , and its takeover
    target, Foodland Associated , a wholesale/retail group,
    appeared to be moving towards discussion of a merger yesterday.
    After briefing institutional investors, Metcash chief executive,
    Andrew Reitzer, said shareholders were keen to see the situation
    resolved by discussion. Foodland chief executive, Trevor Coates,
    said that Metcash would be considered, along with any other
    bidders, if it wanted to conduct due diligence. Page 63.

    --

    Philippines food and beverage group San Miguel Corp ,
    has extended its takeover offer for dairy producer National Foods
    , by a month to April 15, prompting renewed speculation
    that it will increase the bid. San Miguel has offered A$5.90 a
    share, while New Zealand dairy co-operative Fonterra has offered
    A$6 a share, rising to A$6.20 if it succeeds in securing 90 per
    cent of National Foods. Page 64.

    --

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

    Richard Goyder, who will take over as chief executive of
    industrial conglomerate Wesfarmers in July says that
    Australia's chronic infrastructure bottlenecks are starting to
    worry commodity buyers in Europe. Mr Goyder said the shortage of
    rail and port capacity was dampening export growth and causing
    concern about the reliability of delivery schedules. He said
    there were 'all sorts of reasons' for the problems. Page 17.

    --

    Outgoing British Airways chief executive Rod
    Eddington will join the board of mining company Rio Tinto on
    September 1 after he leaves the airline. Eddington also plans to
    take up a number of non-executive roles when he returns to
    Australia early next year. Page 18.

    --

    Toll roads operator Transurban Group said yesterday
    it would not raise its takeover offer for Hills Motorway
    , despite its rejection by the Hills board. Transurban
    managing director Kim Edwards said he was confident of gaining
    majority shareholder support and the independent valuation of
    Hills by KPMG was 'seriously flawed.' Page 19.

    --

    Sydney businessman Trevor Kennedy has lost his fourth and
    final legal bid to stop the Australian Securities and Investments
    Commission (ASIC) investigating whether he shared ownership of
    A$26 million worth of shares in printing company, Offset Alpine,
    through a secret Swiss bank account. Page 19.

    --

    Telecommunications sector leader Telstra yesterday announced
    a new five-year contract with Fone Zone, its biggest third-party
    mobile phone dealer. The agreement ends a A$35-per-customer
    administration fee previously paid to dealers and reduces
    trailing commissions, but gives the dealer more money to pursue
    new customers and re-sign existing ones. Dealers generate A$500
    million worth of business a year. Page 19.

    --

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

    Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)
    chairman, Graeme Samuel, has again called for a strong regulatory
    regime to stop established players in the telecommunications
    sector, such as Telstra, from engaging in 'sabotage' to kill off
    competition. Mr Samuel expressed particular concern about signs
    of 'non-price discrimination' as rivals sought access to
    Telstra's network to set up their own broadband infrastructure.
    Page 21.

    --

    The Australian dollar strengthened further yesterday on news
    that unemployment in February was maintained at a 28-year low of
    5.1 per cent. The Australian Bureau of Statistics said that
    20,000 more people found jobs during the month, giving further
    weight to expectations of another rise in official interest rates
    next month. The Australian dollar reached 79.8 U.S. cents before
    closing at 79.62 cents. Page 22.

    --

    Fears of another profit downgrade by budget airline Virgin
    Blue were heightened yesterday when the company said it
    could not 'quantify reliably' its profit outlook beyond March 31.
    Interim chairman, David Ryan, warned in a statement that
    'difficult market conditions, including high fuel prices and
    excess capacity may persist.' The airline's shareprice closed 4
    cents lower at A$1.94, still above the A$1.90 takeover price
    being offered by Patrick Corp . Page 23.

    --

    Excel Coal's shareprice rose 7.4 percent yesterday
    after it announced a Queensland infrastructure joint venture with
    BHP Mitsui Coal <8031.T> through its subsidiary, Millennium Coal.
    Excel, Australia's largest independent coal producer, also
    announced it was increasing its stake in Millennium from 51 per
    cent to 77 per cent. Page 23.

    --

    The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) has
    rejected claims that its proposed new capital rules will
    disadvantage Australian banks. Page 23.

    --

    THE AGE (www.theage.com.au)

    Investors continued to bet on a new takeover offer for WMC
    Resources yesterday, pushing up the shareprice by 3 cents to
    A$8.02, which is 17 cents above this week's cash offer from BHP
    Billiton, which values WMC at A$9.2 billion. The latest line of
    speculation was that Swiss miner, Xstrata , having been
    outbid by BHP, could let its offer lapse on March 24, then return
    to the contest in a joint venture with uranium groups. Page B1.

    --

    Macquarie Airports' (MAp) Rome Airport had a 14.9
    per cent increase in earnings after interest, tax and
    depreciation, to A$424.4 million, in 2004, the company revealed
    yesterday. Rome contributed 17 per cent of overall MAp revenue,
    compared with 24 per cent for Brussels and 47 per cent for
    Sydney. MAp chief executive, Kerrie Mather, said solid traffic
    growth continued, with passenger numbers for January up 10.8 per
    cent. Page B2.

    --

    Formal negotiation of a bilateral free trade agreement with
    China is expected to start soon, following talks in Beijing this
    week between trade ministers of the two countries on the scope of
    negotiations. Prime Minister John Howard will make an official
    visit to China next month. Page B2.

    --

    Rival grain marketers, AWB and GrainCorp ,
    yesterday called for massive government and private investment to
    remove rail and port bottlenecks, and allow for increased
    agricultural exports. AWB managing director, Andrew Lindberg,
    said the infrastructure situation was affecting international
    competitiveness 'and the very viability of our rural
    communities.' GrainCorp said that in New South Wales 'many rail
    lines are almost unusable.' Page B3.
    --

    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
 
arrow-down-2 Created with Sketch. arrow-down-2 Created with Sketch.