11/02/2009 - 06:40

Today's Business Headlines

11/02/2009 - 06:40

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Bond dispute blocks Lynas on $390m Mt Weld project; AWB shares dive after profit halved; BHP in chase for Rio assets; Write-downs push Challenger to 10-year low; Barnett in stand-off with BHP

Today's Business Headlines

Bond dispute blocks Lynas on $390m Mt Weld project
One of WA's biggest new mining developments, the Mt Weld rare earths project, has been thrown into doubt with bondholders which has forced Lynas Corporation to halt construction work after spending more than $200 million. The West

AWB shares dive after profit halved
Shares in AWB collapsed 25 per cent to record lows yesterday as a shock profit downgrade inflicted more damage on the stock than its complicity in the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal. The Australian

BHP in chase for Rio assets
BHP Billiton is understood to have joined Japan's Mitsui and China's Chinalco in the chase for a share of the rich pool of Australian assets Rio Tinto is preparing to sell as it attempts to revive its debt-crunched balance sheet. The Australian

Write-downs push Challenger to 10-year low
The James Packer-backed Challenger Financial Services is expected to report a loss exceeding $100 million for the half year ending December 31, 2008, after confirming mark-to-market losses on its investments of about $225 million after tax. Sydney Morning Herald

Barnett in stand-off with BHP
Colin Barnett and BHP Billiton are in a stand-off over the possibility of the Ravensthorpe nickel plant being dismantled after the company yesterday again refused to rule it out. The West

 

THE WEST AUSTRALIAN:

Page 9: Motorists have been warned to brace for a surge in petrol prices after the former president of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries said yesterday the consortium would cut oil production further if prices remained low.

Page 11: The Rudd government's $42 billion economic stimulus package faces a significant 11th-hour rewrite after crossbench senators issued a shopping list of demands.

Page 12: Colin Barnett and BHP Billiton are in a stand-off over the possibility of the Ravensthorpe nickel plant being dismantled after the company yesterday again refused to rule it out.

Aditya Birla Minerals' Pilbara copper mine became the latest to lay off workers as a result of the economic downturn, sacking 26.

Page 17: Construction union boss Kevin Reynolds will fly to Cuba to celebrate International Workers' Day at an event to be hosted by former dictator Fidel Castro, but it will be local workers who pay for the luxury.

WA barbecue tongs are turning the best sausages in the land after a couple of local butchers took out two national sausage titles in Adelaide at the weekend.

Business: One of WA's biggest new mining developments, the Mt Weld rare earths project, has been thrown into doubt with bondholders which has forced Lynas Corporation to halt construction work after spending more than $200 million.

AWB shares crashed to new lows yesterday after the grain marketer warned its first-half profit could take a 65 per cent haircut on "substantially" weaker than expected operating conditions over the past four months.

JB Hi-Fi shares posted their biggest one-day gain since listing in 2003 yesterday as consumers' preference for in-home entertainment and the Rudd government's $10.4 billion stimulus package helped the retailer lift first-half profit 41 per cent.

Compass Hotel Group yesterday replied to an Australian Stock Exchange query over a slump in its share price by warning it would book up to $80 million in write-downs and impairment charges.

The shorting ban of financial stocks, including Wesfarmers, comes off on March 6 unless of course it is extended.

The Australian Securities Exchange has questioned more than 40 WA companies over the precarious cash position, triggering responses outlining planned capital raisings, job cuts and asset sales.

Plans to throw open the state's superannuation fund to the public have been placed on hold indefinitely after WA Treasury baulked at a $300 million request to shore up the fund's reserves which have been savaged by the rout on the global sharemarkets.

Tumbling nickel prices have all but scuttled Kagara's hopes of selling its billion-dollar Lunge Lizard deposit, with chairman Kim Robinson saying yesterday market conditions meant it could no longer expect to receive a reasonable price.

WA engineering and construction company Forge Group has signed $100 million worth of new contracts, sending it shares soaring.

Billions of dollars are being pumped into construction of facilities for the WA health care sector, which appears to be immune from the development malaise that has hit other major commercial sectors, thanks largely to the ageing population and the need for medical care.

 

THE AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW:

Page 1: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd sought to escalate the pressure on the coalition to back his $42 billion economic rescue plan by using parts of the package to rebuild communities damaged or destroyed by the Victorian bushfires.

Investors, stockbrokers, traders and hedge funds could face tough new fines for spreading false rumours to manipulate company share prices, under proposals being considered by the government's corporate law adviser.

An unprecedented rush by companies to raise equity to shore up balance sheets and pay down debt that can't be refinanced on global markets has spurred a $1 billion fee bonanza for locals underwriters.

Page 3: Economist Ross Garnaut will today step up his attack on Kevin Rudd's emissions trading scheme, arguing the Prime Minister risks sparking a global trade war and costing taxpayers billions of dollars by overcompensating big polluters such as aluminium, cement and steel makers.

Page 4: Colin Barnett has chosen Japan over China as the destination for his first overseas trip as West Australian Premier, revealing his aim is to "smooth over" relations with Japanese business and political leaders.

The Rudd government faces an employer backlash over its plans to reform disability and age discrimination laws.

Page 9: Investment in research and development is forecast to drop nationwide for the first time in a decade, prompting fears that Australia's competitiveness will be compromised for years to come.

Major banks expect borrowing demand from small business to stumble further despite the fall in interest rates and expectation of more rate relief.

Page 11: A record slump in business confidence is fuelling concerns unemployment will accelerate as companies slash borrowing and investment.

 

THE AUSTRALIAN:

Page 1: Kevin Rudd has linked fast-tracking money for public housing and school buildings in fire-ravaged Victorian communities to his politically contentious $42 billion economic stimulus package.

The historic Victorian town of Marysville, which could be barred to residents for weeks while police search for fire victims, is emerging as the tragic heart of Saturday's inferno.

The shire council covering some of the areas hit hardest by the bushfires was warned five years ago that its policy of encouraging people to grow trees near their homes to give the appearance of a forest would lead to disaster.

Page 6: Kevin Rudd yesterday linked fast tracking money for public housing and school buildings in fire-ravaged Victorian communities to the passing of his politically contentious $42 billion economic stimulus package.

Page 8: The Victorian bushfire crisis will cost at least $500 million, with the insurance payouts so large that major companies may have to ask shareholders for money.

Page 9: An estimated 20 new outer-suburban teaching universities will be needed to meet ambitious enrolment targets set by the Bradley review of higher education, according to Monash demographer Bob Birrell.

The legal profession has drawn up a plan that could prevent former judge Marcus Einfeld pocketing a pension of more than $200,000 a year after he was convicted of perverting the course of justice and making false statements in court.

Page 10: Interest rates should be used not only to control inflation but also to prevent future share and house price booms from getting out of control, Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens said last night.

Billionaire Clive Palmer has again become the focus of Queensland government attacks on the conservatives, this time over Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg's use of his corporate helicopter.

Business: BHP Billiton is understood to have joined Japan's Mitsui and China's Chinalco in the chase for a share of the rich pool of Australian assets Rio Tinto is preparing to sell as it attempts to revive its debt-crunched balance sheet.

JB Hi-Fi has shrugged off the threat of economic recession to report a 41 per cent rise in first-half profit, as consumers increasingly consider plasma television sets and video game consoles ''staple'' household items.

Shares in AWB collapsed 25 per cent to record lows yesterday as a shock profit downgrade inflicted more damage on the stock than its complicity in the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal.

The Australian Taxation Office has lost the chance to claw back several hundred million dollars in tax after two separate court cases severely curtailed its ability to target profits made by overseas companies with Australian interests.

Rio Tinto is moving closer to a $US20 billion deal with Chinalco as it tries to fix its debt-laden balance sheet and deal with board problems after chairman designate Jim Leng walked this week.

National Australia Bank executives wanting to bend the ear of new boss Cameron Clyne are scrambling for office space at the bank's new digs in Melbourne's Docklands district.

Better than expected growth in mobile revenues has helped Optus post a flat $143 million third quarter profit, signalling the resilience of the telecoms sector at this stage of the economic downturn.

Lynas Corp will suspend work on its Western Australian rare earths project after bond holders refused to release a $US95 million facility to fund the operation.

 

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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