Today's Business Headlines

17/03/2009 - 06:33

Asciano sell-off plan as debts bite deeper; Big Rio holder damns sell-out; Brains behind new Macquarie model; Miner puts 5000 jobs on the line; China spree puts heat on foreign investment rules

Today's Business Headlines

Asciano sell-off plan as debts bite deeper
Debt-ridden Asciano has revealed that either the whole of the national ports and rail group or its key assets are up for grabs. The West

Big Rio holder damns sell-out
One of Rio Tinto's largest Australian shareholders has given a damning assessment of the miner's $US19.5 billion ($29.5 billion) deal with Chinalco, saying it hands too much control to China. The Australian

Brains behind new Macquarie model
Macquarie Group has set up a crack lending group under investment banking wunderkind Ben Brazil to spend a chunk of the $13 billion raised over the past three months from the sovereign guarantee. Sydney Morning Herald

Miner puts 5000 jobs on the line
Mining company Xstrata has threatened to axe 1,000 coalmining jobs if the federal government goes ahead with its emissions trading scheme. The Age

China spree puts heat on foreign investment rules
The Rudd government is under mounting pressure to provide more transparency of foreign investment regulation, with a panel of experts calling for better disclosure and a Senate committee planning an inquiry into the power and influence of sovereign wealth funds. The Fin Review

 

THE WEST AUSTRALIAN:

Page 4: Big business has warned of new skills shortages if the federal government does not increase migration promptly when the economy rebounds.

WA resources companies have provided a rare ray of light amid the economic gloom, with new figures revealing spending on oil and gas exploration surged towards the end of last year.

Page 5: First-homebuyer activity is cranking into top gear as inflated grants handed out jumped 17 per cent last month and more than 40 per cent over the past year.

Page 6: WA's main grain-handling body has asked farmers to use their own trucks to help harvest to port as frustration with the dilapidated rail network reached a new high yesterday.

Page 10: The Rudd government has failed to make headway with independent senators standing in the way of its workplace relations changes in a dispute over protections for small business.

Investors in failed fuel technology company Firepower have been dealt another blow after the NSW government moved to force businessman Warren Anderson's private company into liquidation over a $42,000 land tax debt.

Business: Debt-ridden Asciano has revealed that either the whole of the national ports and rail group or its key assets are up for grabs.

A major Australian shareholder yesterday joined the criticism of Chinese aluminium maker Chinalco's $US19.5 billion ($29.8 billion) investment in Rio Tinto as the federal government confirmed it had extended its review of the deal.

Atlas Iron has taken the unconventional step of striking new offtake deals that can move with the spot price and will expose both it and its Chinese customers more fully to changing market conditions.

Speculation is mounting about the future of WA's Ellendale diamond mine in the Kimberley as its UK-listed parent, Gem Diamonds, confronts a cash squeeze amid weaker prices for the precious stones.

A senior OPEC official last night challenged the US and other industrialised countries to clean up the global economic mess he says they have caused.

THE AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW:

Page 1: The Rudd government is under mounting pressure to provide more transparency of foreign investment regulation, with a panel of experts calling for better disclosure and a Senate committee planning an inquiry into the power and influence of sovereign wealth funds.

Big business is demanding a commonwealth takeover payroll taxes under a wide-ranging tax reform program aimed at slashing compliance costs for major companies and avoiding more job cuts.

Page 3: Business groups have attacked the federal government's decision to cut 18,000 skilled migrant places, a move which is also likely to strip nearly $500 million from the budget bottom-line over the next four years.

Institutional investors have proposed that executive pay be capped and amounts above a predetermined annual limit be paid as shares that do not vest for five years.

Page 5: Western Australia's fiscal position has deteriorated so rapidly since the end of the commodities boom that its budget could slide into deficit, placing the state's AAA credit rating at further risk, according to Treasurer Troy Buswell.

The Barnett government is aiming to axe 500 West Australian public service jobs through a program of voluntary redundancies, in a move aimed at slashing a wages bill growing at an annual rate of 15 per cent.

Page 6: A push by employer groups for zero or negligible wage rises will be hotly contested by the ACTU in the 2009 minimum wage determination.

Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard has struck a deal with Family First Senator Steve Fielding to rating laws blocking unions from accessing non-members' employee records, as part of a last-minute push to get its industrial relations reforms through a hostile Senate.

THE AUSTRALIAN:

Page 1: US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke expects economic recovery in the US next year, but has warned that the biggest risk to an upturn is whether there is sufficient political will to mend the financial system.

The mayors of three of the nation's biggest mining cities have demanded Kevin Rudd delay introducing carbon emissions trading, warning it will smash jobs and seriously damage key regional areas.

One of Rio Tinto's largest Australian shareholders has given a damning assessment of the miner's $US19.5 billion ($29.5 billion) deal with Chinalco, saying it hands too much control to China.

Julia Gillard has rebuffed a demand by independent crossbench senators to increase the definition of a small business to 20 employees, saying the Government has a mandate to enact the unfair dismissal policy it took to the 2007 election.

Page 2: The Foreign Investment Review Board is a small and secretive agency buried within Treasury that gives little away about how it decides whether investments are in the national interest or not.

Brett McCarthy, the new editor of The West Australian newspaper, has promised to get out and win back disillusioned readers after five troubled years for The West under the stewardship of the erratic Paul Armstrong.

Page 3: They were the symbols of conspicuous consumption. Sought-after cars with six-figure price tags - a must-have for a cashed-up executive in boom times.

Page 4: Australian ports are facing a shake-up, with a collapse in cargo volumes sparked by the global financial crisis forcing unions and stevedores into negotiations over lay-offs.

A lift in lending to both companies and households is contributing to hopes for a thaw in the economic freeze.

Complaints that the Rudd Government's workplace laws would hand unions a new power to inspect wage records were a "big beat-up" because the right existed under the Coalition, a senior union official said yesterday.

Business: Opposition to Rio Tinto's $US19.5 billion ($29.5 billion) tie-up with Chinalco escalated yesterday, with the nation's biggest listed fund manager saying the move delivered too much control to China and was loaded with potential conflicts of interest.

Storm Financial will most likely be liquidated after administrators deemed it in the best interests of creditors who are collectively owed $78 million by the collapsed financial planning firm.

Debt-laden infrastructure group Asciano is considering buyout offers for all of its assets after a plan to sell a half-stake in its coal haulage division failed to attract sufficient interest.

As 3,000 blue and yellow balloons launched into the grey Brussels sky, Europe's financial leaders popped corks on 9-litre champagne bottles. It was January 1, 1999, and the euro had just been born.

Arrow Energy has let its offer for coal seam gas explorer Pure Energy lapse but is giving no clues as to whether it will sell its existing shares into BG Group's competing $1 billion cash offer.

The Royal Bank of Scotland will end its involvement in project financing and infrastructure funding in Australia as the troubled parent bank shores up its damaged balance sheet.

The cheap trans-Pacific fares that accompanied V Australia's arrival show no signs of abating, with Delta Air Lines yesterday launching another round of cut price offerings.

Australian banks -- which are carrying more than $10 billion of provisions for bad loans on their books -- can no longer ignore the need to become active players in the secondary market for distressed debt, according to a report.

Troubled insurer American International Group, now 80 per cent-owned by US taxpayers, spent the weekend deflecting criticism of government funds being funnelled to various banks and used to pay employee bonuses at the business unit that almost sank the company.

 

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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