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One way or another it’s planes in the news

WHAT a week it has been for Ansett. The airline’s corporate crash two weeks ago was somewhat overshadowed by the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Since Ansett ceased trading under the burden of crippling debt it has been cut loose by its parent company Air New Zealand and lost its administrator. PricewaterhouseCoopers was initially appointed the airlines administrator but was forced to resign under pressure from the ACTU and other unions. It appears PwC also did some work for Air New Zealand and the unions were arguing that it had a conflict of interest. PwC was replaced by fellow global accounting giant Andersen. That firm is currently undergoing a global corporate makeover, changing its name from Arthur Andersen to Andersen. Its appointment to the Ansett job has given it a very public opportunity to show off its new name.

AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister John Howard promised that the Australian Government would pay at least part of the entitlements for the Ansett Airline and inflight catering staff that could become unemployed following the airline’s collapse. He also intimated that the New Zealand Government would receive the bill. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is also investigating whether or not Ansett was trading while insolvent.

This is sure to cause some concerns to Air New Zealand’s board members across the Tasman. If ASIC proves an insolvent trading case they could become personally liable for its debts – particularly those massive amounts accrued from employee entitlements.

ON the regional scene, Ansett subsidiary Skywest is back in the air and gradually returning to a full flight schedule thanks to a $3.5 million bale out by the Federal Government. The WA Government has also chopped $5 million from its regional development budget to promote regional tourism.

Regional tour operators have been hard hit by the demise of Ansett. It has been nearly impossible to get flights to some WA regional locations with Qantas flights heavily booked.

AND while the dust was settling from the Ansett collapse, another major Australian company also fell. Base metals miner Pasminco payed the price for punting on the global economy and betting that the Australian dollar would not go below 65 US¢. Falls in commodity prices also hurt the lead and zinc miner.

MOBILE phone users around Australia have finally received the ability to take their mobile phone number with them if they change carriers. The introduction of mobile number portability gives users more options. Porting, as its known will allow customers to change to another mobile phone carrier and have their number transferred within hours. They will not have to contact the service provider they want to change from and an existing contract will not prevent porting. However, if a customer “ports” mid contract they will either have to pay out the remainder of the contract or face the cost of a contract termination fee.

CABLE & Telelcoms Limited has cautiously welcomed this week’s takeover offer by New Tel Limited. Suspended from trading since late last year and struggling with litigation during the first half of this year, a legacy of its diamond exploring past, Cable & Telecoms is keen for a chance to advance its 80 per cent interest in interactive television company Total Television Limited. New Tel’s current core business is in telephony and data services.

THE WA Government was accused in Parliament of benefiting from the discharge licensing system while failing to adequately regulate discharges into Cockburn Sound.

TRANSFIELD Macmahon Contracting, has been awarded a $53.2 million civil construction Government contract for the $200 million Jervoise Bay marine engineering and fabrication facility South of Fremantle.

This facility is planned to be operating by mid-2002 and is hoped to become a major fabrication, assembly and maintenance centre for the oil and gas industry, feeding off the international trend towards modular construction of infrastructure.

FLEETWOOD Corporation Limited has complemented its recent contract win to provide transportable rental accommodation and common use property for the Alice Springs Darwin Railway Project, with a new announcement, this time the $2 million acquisition of Alice Springs-based Territory Transportables. Fleetwood, which has funded the acquisition from cash reserves, also has plans to establish a Darwin operation, in anticipation of planned natural gas industry developments for the region.

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