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Alcoa to raise or fold in high-stakes game

IS Robert Champion de Crespigny a better poker player than Hugh Morgan? Shareholders in Normandy Mining have sat back and watched the stock soar from $1.25 to $2 as the patrician in Adelaide extracted a top-dollar takeover tab from Newmont Mining. Meanwhile, the “arbs”, who pushed WMC up to a peak $10.25, headed for the hills after bid suitor Alcoa abruptly got up from the table.

Having rejected an $11 billion bid approach from Alcoa last year, Morgan is left beating the drum for his “demerger” of WMC into one component holding the 40 per cent stake in Alcoa World Alumina & Chemicals, and another the minerals and fertiliser assets. Major institutions are cool on the idea. Small investors do not understand it. WMC sold its gold business just as some folk were showing mild renewed interest in the metal.

In fairness, de Crespigny had the benefit of AngloGold throwing its hat into the ring, creating “price tension”, as they call it these days, forcing a higher offer from Newmont.

Alcoa might well return to sweeten the pot with more chips for WMC, but there are other bets in the market. The whole resource sector has moved up 15 per cent while nobody was looking. Brokers Macquarie believe there is another 20-30 per cent upside to come on the back of a synchronised global recovery late this year and in 2003. They still like Rio Tinto and MIM as the way to play the story.

SOUTH Koreans who get crook from being drunk may soon be covered by workers’ compensation. The government says office workers who get legless at after-hours drinking bouts with clients should have any illness caused treated as an “industrial accident”. Staff suffering job-induced hepatitis, stress, depression or double vision will be eligible for national health insurance payments from next month.

The corporate culture encourages drinking bouts to foster team spirit. South Koreans sink an average annual 85.6 litres of alcohol a head – and what a head. Johnnie Walker Black label is the white-collar drug of choice.

Across the water in Japan, their Tokyo counterparts can be seen in the Ginza any night staggering home. Senior Japanese stockbrokers are reputed to have a life span not long past 55.

It is fortunate Australians are such an abstemious lot.

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