22/12/2011 - 15:46

Season's greetings for all you market watchers

22/12/2011 - 15:46

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We’re a bunch of worriers who can’t take our eyes off the proverbial car crashes that keep on happening in Western Australia.

That is the conclusion to be drawn from a review of the most widely read articles on www.wabusinessnews.com.au.

The topic that most consistently attracted large numbers of readers during 2011 was the weakness in the residential property sector.

Out of our top 30 articles for the year, 11 related to the weakness in either residential property values, or residential construction, or sales activity.

This level of interest presumably reflects the direct financial stake that most of our readers have in residential property – as home owners, as property investors, and in many cases as workers in the industry, as either agents or on the construction side.

Intriguingly, most of our readers also have a direct financial stake in the stockmarket, which also had a weak year, but that topic did not seem to attract the same level of reader interest.

Another topic that attracted many readers was the saga surrounding Luke Saraceni and his Raine Square development in the city, which is to become the new head office of Bankwest.

The Commonwealth Bank – Bankwest’s parent – took control of the project in January, and has proceeded to seize control of multiple assets formerly owned by Mr Saraceni and his business partner Hossean Pourzard.

But the story is by no means over, with Mr Saraceni pursuing legal action.

Another saga that attracted readers was the continuing battle over Burrup Fertilisers, which has pitted Pankaj and Radhika Oswal against the ANZ Bank and the Oswals’ former business partner Yara International.

Continuing the gloom theme, the setbacks that hit the Oakajee port project in the Mid West, the collapse of Perth hotel owner Compass, and data showing that company collapses hit record levels, were also among our top stories for the year.

On a much more positive note, a theme that attracted our readers was the changing of the guard at two of the state’s best known companies.

In May, Woodside announced that Peter Coleman would succeed Don Voelte as the company’s chief executive.

There was no surprise that Mr Voelte was leaving; that had been signalled well in advance, as a good succession plan should.

The focus was on whether an internal candidate like Kevin Gallagher or Rob Cole would land the job, or if an outsider would take the reins.

The board opted for the long-serving Exxon executive Mr Coleman, who has brought a more measured, cautious approach to the role after seven years of rapid expansion under the colourful and brash Mr Voelte.

Fortescue Metals Group had also signalled its plans for a management succession well in advance.

The main question was who would succeed company founder Andrew Forrest as managing director.

There was also some speculation over whether Mr Forrest would stay on the board of directors, particularly in light of the legal battle he is fighting with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, which could see him banned as a company director.

In the end, former Thiess executive Nev Power was selected for the role over other candidates, believed to include former WorleyParsons executive Peter Meurs.

Mr Forrest hasn’t gone far – he has taken over from Herb Elliott as the company’s chairman, ensuring he will continue to be a major presence at the company.

It wasn’t just the big corporate news that attracted our readers. Two quirky articles were among the most popular for the year.

Our readers were intrigued by the identity of eight Italian restaurants in Perth that were officially awarded an authenticity and quality stamp of approval by the Italian government.

And our readers were fascinated by the success of Perth company Jammbox, which developed the Discovr iPhone app – it achieved number one download status in the entertainment category in the United States in June.

That final story was also a heartening example of the innovation and entrepreneurship that continues to emerge in WA, which at time seems consumed by mining and resources.

It will be interesting to see what news draws the attention of readers next year as we enter 2012 with so much volatility.

On that note, all of us would like to wish our readers the best for the festive season and hope for a prosperous new year.

We will be offline for the next few weeks. Look for our emails and website news to resume on January 9.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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