07/01/2009 - 06:42

Today's Business Headlines

07/01/2009 - 06:42

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ASIC probes 'missing millions'; Banks pocketing rate cuts - business; Funds fear they may be sold short; Leighton slashes earnings forecast; Cloud on car sales

Today's Business Headlines

ASIC probes 'missing millions'
One of Western Australia's best-known stockbrokers and the former chairman of the Perth Stock Exchange, Terry Hogan, has shut down his broking firm following the unexplained departure of a senior member of the firm and an investigation into the alleged disappearance of millions of dollars of a client's money. The Australian

Banks pocketing rate cuts - business
Business has accused the banks of failing to play their part in combating the effects of the financial crisis, saying they had withheld almost half of the interest rate cut made by the Reserve Bank and were partly to blame for confidence plunging to a record low. The West

Funds fear they may be sold short
Groups representing hundreds of fund management companies in Australia, the US and Britain have mounted a united front against potential new short-selling rules that, they say, could unfairly punish their industry. The Age

Leighton slashes earnings forecast
Leighton Holdings says operating profits (before write-downs) would now rise 8 per cent for the year, after conceding its Leighton Properties arm could struggle to break even. Sydney Morning Herald

Cloud on car sales
Australia's car industry faces a sales downturn this year that could hit 15 per cent, making the sector a barometer of the country's economic health. Herald Sun

 

THE WEST AUSTRALIAN:

Page 1: Business has accused the banks of failing to play their part in combating the effects of the financial crisis, saying they had withheld almost half of the interest rate cut made by the Reserve Bank and were partly to blame for confidence plunging to a record low.

New and used car sellers have taken a battering in WA, with new car sales down nearly 15 per cent last month and the price of new and used cars falling by a similar amount.

Page 4: The WA Police Union claims the state government has gagged its departments from commenting publicly on their submissions to Treasury in which they outline how they will cut spending by 3 per cent.

Page 5: The Corruption and Crime Commission's bid to have the Supreme Court resolve its stand-off with the watchdog's Parliamentary Inspector could fail at the first legal hurdle, one of the nation's leading constitutional experts warned yesterday.

Local Government Minister John Castrilli will suspend Cockburn City Council unless mayor Stephen Lee heeds a final state government demand to resign.

Page 6: Extreme incentives, ranging from new cars to boats, whitegoods and massive cash-back bonuses, have crept back into the property market as developers attempt to entice nervous buyers to open their wallets.

Page 7: Demand for recyclable materials has crashed and facilities across Perth are scrambling to find markets for used paper, glass and aluminium cans.

Business: US energy group Apache is to develop a major new gas supply for WA consumers, last night giving the green light for its $800 million Devil Creek project in the North West.

Groups representing thousands of fund managers in Australia, the US and the UK, have mounted a united front against potential new short-selling rules that, they say, could unfairly punish their industry.

Leighton Holdings has offered a stark reminder that the financial nightmare of 2008 will continue well into this year for many of Australia's biggest companies.

Uranium junior Extract Resources has warned shareholders that a bid to sack its chairman, Robert Buchan, could hand effective control of the group to its biggest shareholder, Kalahari Minerals.

 

THE AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW:

Page 1: The financial crisis has smashed a dream run of double-digit growth for Leighton Holdings after the group yesterday revealed it would take a $170 million hit on its stakes in various toll roads and other listed investments.

Federal government agencies increased their fees and charges to more than $2 billion last year in a move that shored up the budget surplus while imposing higher costs on business and consumers.

The car industry has entered 2009 in its worst shape for nearly two decades, as businesses cut back on vehicle purchases in the face of the softening economy.

Page 3: Private health insurers are expected to ask the Rudd government to sign off on the biggest premium increases in years as the industry struggles with the combined effects of rapidly growing health costs, the financial crisis and the government's controversial changes to the Medicare levy surcharge.

Hotel and serviced apartment revenues dropped nearly 3 per cent in the September quarter as corporate and leisure travellers scaled back spending.

Page 5: Environment Minister Peter Garrett's claims that he had imposed a tough new operating condition on Gunn's planned $2.2 billion pulp mill were undermined yesterday when it emerged the company itself had requested the provision.

Page 7: Debt factoring firms already experiencing a boom in business are predicting more upside in the new year, as banks continue to ration credit and businesses seel to bolster static cash flows.

Mergers and acquisitions activity is set for a sluggish start this year after activity fell 34 per cent in 2008 after five years of continuous growth, according to leading M&A advisers.

Page 8: US president-elect Barack Obama is facing a challenging timetable to get congressional approval for a $US775 billion ($1.08 trillion) two-year economic stimulus package by the end of this month.

Page 9: US policymakers are stepping up their push for the biggest overhaul of financial regulation since the Great Depression after the $US50 billion Madoff scandal again exposed the inadequacies of America's top corporate cop, the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Page 12: The directors of manganese miner OM Holdings have been accused by major shareholder Consolidated Minerals of seeking to change the company's constitution by stealth to advance their own self-interest.

 

THE AUSTRALIAN:

One of Western Australia's best-known stockbrokers and the former chairman of the Perth Stock Exchange, Terry Hogan, has shut down his broking firm following the unexplained departure of a senior member of the firm and an investigation into the alleged disappearance of millions of dollars of a client's money.

Page 2: International defence contractor Boeing with be allowed to discriminate against employees whose nationalities do not meet US security laws.

Page 3: A principal sacked from an Islamic school in Brisbane after banning the national anthem from being played at assembly will return to Malaysia after reaching a confidential settlement with her employer.

Business: Australia's biggest listed construction group, Leighton Holdings, shocked shareholders yesterday by slashing its net profit forecasts for the six months to December 31 by 60 per cent.

Prosecutors have asked that disgraced financier Bernard Madoff be gaoled after he and his wife sent watches, jewellery, and other valuables to his brother, his sons and a couple in Florida last month that the government said were worth more than $1.4 million.

The Australian sharemarket reversed direction yesterday, rising strongly on the back of surging commodity prices.

Babcock & Brown is lobbying its financial backers to approve an intricate debt-for-equity swap in a final bid to secure the future of the troubled investment bank.

 

 

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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