13/03/2009 - 06:32

Today's Business Headlines

13/03/2009 - 06:32

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Job losses worst for 18 years; NAB boss initiates an evolution; Former mining boom states bereft as GST goes south; Contractor Nash set to buy Minjar gold for $13.6m; Financial wizards feel the heat

Job losses worst for 18 years
The biggest increase in unemployment since the last recession has forced almost 50,000 more people onto the jobless queue, in a sign the labour marker is starting to crumble. The Fin Review

NAB boss initiates an evolution
National Australia Bank has pledged to switch its focus back to its flagship Australian business and wealthy local customers in response to the tough global environment and in an effort to reverse years of disappointing shareholder returns. The Age

Former mining boom states bereft as GST goes south
Western Australia and Queensland - the mining states bearing the brunt of the global resources bust - have had their GST allocations slashed to subsidise NSW and Victoria. The Australian

Contractor Nash set to buy Minjar gold for $13.6m
WA mining contractor Robert Nash is poised to buy the Minjar gold mine near Mt Magnet for $13.4 million from the administrators of the collapsed Monarch Gold Mining. The West

Financial wizards feel the heat
Two high flyers of the sharemarket boom, David Coe and Gordon Fell, face legal action over a series of "unreasonable transactions" over the collapse of Allco Finance Group. Sydney Morning Herald

 

THE WEST AUSTRALIAN:

Page 3: National Australia Bank and BankWest have bowed to pressure and dropped the "disloyalty fees" they were charging their customers to use other banks' ATMs.

Page 4: More than 500 West Australians are losing their jobs everyday, with the global recession pushing the state's unemployment to its highest level in more than three years.

Page 5: WA will lose $186 million at the height of the global financial crisis to bail out cash-strapped NSW and Victoria after cuts to the state's share of GST.

Page 19: Prominent WA businessman John Poynton believes the federal government should stop using cash handouts to fight the global economic crisis and instead let its $60 billion Future Fund invest in key resource projects to help boost the economy.

Business: WA mining contractor Robert Nash is poised to buy the Minjar gold mine near Mt Magnet for $13.4 million from the administrators of the collapsed Monarch Gold Mining.

National Australia Bank has pledged to switch its focus back to its flagship Australian business and wealthy local customers in response to the tough global environment and in an effort to reverse years of disappointing shareholder returns.

WA contractor Macmahon Holdings has slashed 35 jobs after a difficult six months marred by three profit downgrades and gloomy forecasts for its mining business.

Australia's market manipulation laws are confusing, difficult to enforce and outdates, and there is a pressing need for a thorough review of the rules, business law experts say.

Golden West Resources chief, David Rose, the former Rio Tinto executive recruited to spearhead its transition from explorer to producer, has stepped down after less than six months in the job.

BHP Billiton has given the state's embattled nickel sector a shot in the arm after signing a seven-year offtake deal with Western Areas in the strongest indication yet that it sees a future for its WA nickel assets.

Rising loan defaults have forced Timbercorp to more than double its provision for bad and doubtful debts, as analysts warn impairments in the sector could reach 20 per cent of company loan books as the economic downturn continues.

 

THE AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW:

Page 1: The biggest increase in unemployment since the last recession has forced almost 50,000 more people onto the jobless queue, in a sign the labour marker is starting to crumble.

National Australia Bank will overhaul its troubled investment banking arm and direct its attention away from its offshore operations towards Australia under the Watch of its new chief executive, Cameron Clyne.

The Rudd government is seeking to extend its $4 billion joint venture with the Big Four banks beyond lending to commercial property ventures by authorising loans in any area of commercial activity.

Page 3: The federal government will review the basic terms and conditions implied in all consumer contracts as part of an overhaul of consumer laws.

Western Australia and Queensland have complained that the success they enjoyed in the mining boom will slash their share of the national GST revenue pool of $43 billion next financial year, just as the boom ends.

Page 5: A deteriorating labour market and big falls in commodity prices could deliver a further $5 billion blow to the federal budget, economists have warned.

Page 6: The growth of part-time work last year was attributed to workers wanting more flexibility, though now employers are calling the shots.

Former boom state Western Australia and one-time manufacturing powerhouse Victoria have suffered the greatest increases in unemployment rates.

Page 8: Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard has insisted that reforms to unfair dismissal laws are part of the government's workplace relations mandate and dismissed suggestions the reforms would deter employers from hiring staff.

 

THE AUSTRALIAN:

Page 1: Western Australia and Queensland -- the mining states bearing the brunt of the global resources bust -- have had their GST allocations slashed to subsidise NSW and Victoria.

Malcolm Turnbull has moved to force a showdown with Labor over its new industrial relations laws as the nation's unemployment rate recorded its biggest jump since the 1991 recession.

The Rudd Government's $30 billion fund to bail out foreign lenders wanting to quit property ventures has been widened, raising fears taxpayers could be lumped with bad debts.

Former treasurer Peter Costello has emphatically defended John Howard's economic legacy, insisting that the former prime minister's 2007 election campaign slogan, "go for growth", has been vindicated by the global recession.

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull looks set to emerge from his long court case over HIH Insurance with his former employer, the Goldman Sachs merchant bank, making a confidential settlement on his behalf.

Page 2: The richest person in Australia is not a Packer or a Lowy but a former schoolteacher living in a farmhouse in the regional NSW town of Scone.

Page 4: The Obama administration has proposed that developed nations dramatically increase their commitment to the International Monetary Fund, increasing the IMF's lending war chest for struggling economies to as much as $US1 trillion ($1.5 trillion).

Retail companies employing hundreds of thousands of workers have demanded the Rudd Government delay its overhaul of award conditions by 12 months, warning that the revamp would force up costs and cost jobs.

Page 5: The boom states are starting to bear the brunt of job-shedding, with Western Australia tipping nearly 11,000 workers on to the dole queue last month.

The Rudd Government is struggling to establish a credible parliamentary inquiry into its emissions trading scheme, outraging would-be participants by giving them less than a week to prepare a submission on 489-pages of complex legislation.

Victoria has slumped perilously close to posting a deficit with the latest government accounts revealing a surplus of $46 million.

Page 6: The Queensland Greens have struck an extraordinary preferences deal that will give Labor a boost in 14 must-win seats and help Labor defector Ronan Lee in his bid to become the state's first elected Greens MP.

Child-safety advocates have accused the Bligh Government of abandoning abused children to a life of dysfunction by allowing them to be left in hotel rooms and caravan parks, watched over by private companies that profit from their care.

Business: National Australia Bank has joined ANZ in slashing its dividend by 25 per cent, as new chief executive Cameron Clyne put its international aspirations on hold and restructured its senior management and the troubled institutional division.

Troubled listed property trust GPT may have to pay Melbourne's retailing dynasty, the Besen family, up to $600 million under a put option that gives the family the right to offload its half-share in Melbourne shopping centre Highpoint to the trust.

Restructuring and senior management changes are under way in institutional divisions of three of the nation's four major banks, as toxic assets, rising bad debts and souring business strategies take their toll.

Mass layoffs and uncertainty have slashed Australia's skilled mining job vacancies.

Mining giant BHP Billiton will fund Western Areas nickel expansion plans with a $45 million injection into the minnow on the back of an offtake agreement between the two.

The troubled Canadian majority owner of television's Ten Network, CanWest Global Communications, has been granted a three-week reprieve by its bankers despite admitting it cannot make a $US30 million ($46.7 million) interest payment due by the weekend.

Businesses and individuals can expect insurance premiums to increase in the next 12 months, as insurers face volatile markets and an economic slowdown that wiped 11 per cent off net profits in the December half, a survey warns.

Business is exasperated that the federal government's draft emissions trading bill doesn't have more detail on transitional assistance, particularly for trade-exposed sectors, according to a climate change expert.

BT Group has frozen the pay of its entire 100,000-strong British workforce - but has yet to decide whether senior executives will get their bonuses.

China's industrial production growth has slowed to walking pace, down to 3.8 per cent in the first two months of 2009, year on year, compared with 15.4 per cent growth in the same period of last year.

The tumbling financial markets are dragging down the life insurance industry, an important cog in the US economy, as mounting losses weaken the companies' capital and erode investor confidence.

 

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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