Packer Snr moves and shakes up the market

KERRY Packer seems to be relishing his return to the helm of Publishing and Broadcasting Limited, last week making a decisive play to raise funds for CPH Investments by selling its 14.9 per cent stake in John Fairfax Holdings. Last Thursday night, with James Packer in London still pondering the One.Tel debacle, Consolidated Press Holdings sold its shares in Fairfax for $4. The shock sale raised $436 million for CPH, which will be put to clearing debts and reinvestments.

Shares in John Fairfax Holdings fell this week as the market took Packer’s lead and sold out of the newspaper and online business. The share price dropped to $3.88, its lowest level since April, 12 cents lower than the $4 mark at which Packer offloaded his stake. Analysts believe Mr Packer is conceding defeat on any chance of overcoming the cross-media ownership laws that prevent him from owning both television and major newspaper operations in the same city.

Others have speculated that he is building a war chest for a run on either Jupiter or Burswood Casinos. Just last week WA’s own media magnate Kerry Stokes embarked on an ambitious cross media plan. He invested $65 million in a joint venture deal with Pacific Publications to launch a series of magazines targeted at women, entertainment, youth and lifestyle markets.

AFTER winning last-minute concessions on carbon sinks, Australia has joined 178 countries in signing the controversial Kyoto Protocol, the world’s first binding treaty to fight global warming. The treaty was earlier under threat, with Australia, Japan, Canada and Russia refusing to come to the table on the deal, but their consent to the treaty has seen the protocol turned into a workable treaty that will come into effect next year. As a further sign of commit-ment to the cause, delegates also pledged $812.52 million a year to help poor countries cope with climate change. The treaty has left the US isolated in its opposition. Despite contributing about 25 per cent of the world’s emissions it still maintains that signing the Kyoto Protocol would threaten its competitiveness.

CONSTRUCTION and engin-eering company Thiess has won the $20 million civil construction contract for the fourth liquefied natural gas train, part of the North West Shelf gas processing expansion. The contract will involve the construction of concrete found-ations and underground electrical services for the train and will require the services of an additional 160 site workers. And though it is all systems go at the Burrup Peninsula, long-term expansion of the project is now in doubt with the announcement that three of the NWS joint venturers have turned their attention to a Russian LNG plant.

Shell, which has a one sixth stake in the NWS venture, along with Mitsui and Mitsubishi, which jointly hold a one sixth stake, have approved a $17.5 billion LNG on the Russian Far East Island of Sakhalin. The annoucement follows Shell’s failed takeover bid of Woodside Petroleum, another partner in the NWS venture, and casts a shadow on the local venture’s future export prospects in Asia. The Sakhalin plant is targeted to supply Japan, South Korea and Taiwan – three markets that the NWS venture had earmarked for expansion into after 2005.

WA’s $200 million-a-year salt industry set for a shake-up with Dampier Salt poised to become the world’s largest salt exporter. Dampier Salt has announced plans to buy a three million-tonnes-per-year salt field, in Port Hedland, from Cargill Australia, a wholly owned subsidiary of privately owned US-based Cargill Inc. This no doubt will be a blessing for Port Hedland residents who will no longer have to contend with Cargill’s American-style road rules. It was company policy that vehicles on the Cargill’s site were driven on the right hand side of the road.

THE State’s public relations industry can also expect changes, with online solutions consultancy Chrome Global announcing plans to add RHK Public Relations to its stable. Chrome Global’s announce-ment comes just five weeks after it bought Professional Public Relations (WA).

The RHK acquisition, which is subject to shareholder approval, involves Chrome buying RHK from Australasia’s biggest PR group, Professional Public Relations Pty Ltd. The move will provide Chrome with another revenue stream and access to RHK’s blue-chip client list, which includes several resource sector businesses.

SUPERFISH Ian Thorpe has repeated his Olympic gold-medal winning performance at the Swimming World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan. The 18-year-old won two gold medals, breaking his world 400m freestyle record and anchoring the 4x100m freestyle team just 40 minutes later. It was the 14th world-record Thorpe has set and the fourth time he has broken his own 400m record.

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