Belltower gonged off by Government

THE State Government claims the Belltower we had to have is a white elephant because it lost $84,000 between April 10 and June 30. The Government blames its predecessor’s decision to allow free access to the belltower for the loss. Tower attendance is well below the 4,200 people a day required for it to break even.

WESFARMERS’ bid for Howard Smith has provoked a rash of gushing editorial in the financial pages around Australia, including comparisons of managing director Michael Chaney with the chairman of General Electric, Jack Welch.

Markets also reacted positively to the $2.2 billion bid, launching Wesfarmers shares into record territory beyond the $26 mark.

MEANWHILE, Telstra shares are headed in the opposite direction in reaction to a surprise profit warning from the telco giant.

Following Telstra chief executive Ziggy Switkowki’s announcement, investors sheared almost 15 per cent off Telstra’s market value, with more than 250 million shares changing hands in just three days.

WA Supreme Court Justice Neville Owen has been called up to head the Federal Royal Commission in the collapse of HIH Insurance, and while the media speculate on details of the insurer’s business, there’s renewed focus on directors’ responsibilities in these corporate meltdowns.

ON the airwaves, the war over breakfast has heated up again with the release of the survey four ratings results.

Survey leader Mix 94.5 and 96fm both lost more than 2 per cent of the market in breakfast, pushing 96fm back to third place behind PMFM. The youth demographic has expressed some dissatisfaction with the commercial radio format, delivering a big swing to Triple J in both the 18-24 and 25-39 age groups.

Mix 94.5 and PMFM managing director Gary Roberts said the survey three results were an all-time record for the station so there was bound to be some sort of downward adjustment.

“Zara, Troy and Bernie have gone up every survey and Shannon’s number three and we’re pretty happy with that,” Mr Roberts said.

WHILE continuing to drill the Courbine-1A well in offshore Mauritania, Woodside has had more good news to tell at home, announcing it had sold its first crude oil from the Legendre project north of the Burrup Peninsula. The 630,000 barrels, sold to Shell International Eastern Trading Company, will be refined in eastern Australia. The company has also intersected more gas in its 55 per cent Otway Basin venture with Origin Energy and UK company, CalEnergy Gas, reporting a 240 metre gross column in the Geographe-1 well.

NEWS from the Timor Gap treaty negotiations in Darwin this week has revealed that Woodside and Phillips Petroleum are nervous about the stages at which gas sales will be evaluated and ownership transferred. Both companies also are keen for arrangements to be clarified sooner rather than later for the Greater Sunrise project, which is only partly within the Indonesian-negotiated Zone of Cooperation.

BLAKE Dawson Waldron lawyers explained to Petroz shareholders the terms of a Petroz share buy-back, designed to facilitate the trade of shares not included in Phillips Petroleum’s and Agip’s combined 96.85 per cent stake. Lack of trading has adversely affected shares in Petroz, whose headquarters was moved from Brisbane to Perth earlier this year after a Phillips sweep of the board. Petroz has paid up to 70 cents for its shares since the buy-back began earlier this month. The shares have traded as low as 25 cents in the past year. Meanwhile Carpathian Resources, a Perth-based oil and gas explorer with interests in central Europe, has traded between 19 and 30 cents in its debut week on the ASX.

CARNARVON Petroleum reported a test flow rate of 326 barrels of oil per day from its WB-N2 well in central Thailand, while Haddington International upgraded its Bald Hill tantalite reserves to 1.14 million tonnes, at 472 parts per million, and held its AGM.

In a deal which saw media-shy entrepreneur Michael Boyd acquire 90 million shares and be elected to the board, Quadrant Australia has acquired the Boyd company Bareena Holdings, which has an 18 per cent stake in US satellite company Iridium holdings.

Iridium was recently written up in an Australian business magazine as Mr Boyd’s least successful venture.

DOWN south, Amberley Estate announced that Palandri Wines associate, Margaret River Wine Production, had defaulted on its $25 million purchase agreement.

Palandri executives reportedly remain keen to keep the deal alive, but Amberley said it would be looking at the legal ramifications of the failure to complete the deal.

“No matter which spin they might seek to put upon it, that deal is over,” Amberley managing director Eddie Price said.

He said that if Palandri brought a new deal to the table, Amberley’s directors would be obliged to consider .

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