18/03/2009 - 06:31

Today's Business Headlines

18/03/2009 - 06:31

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Credit squeeze – WA seeks federal help to raise $1.3bn; Rio slashed $277m off value of Kwinana HIsmelt project; Euroz client was unaware of Opes danger, court told; Mortgage freeze for the jobless; Axa in $660m capital raising

Credit squeeze - WA seeks federal help to raise $1.3bn
The West Australian government has urged the Commonwealth to help it raise $1.3 billion in long-term debt because investor demand for state bonds has disappeared, in another sign the states face growing difficulties raising funds for critical infrastructure projects. The Fin Review

Rio slashed $277m off value of Kwinana HIsmelt project
Rio Tinto has slashed the book value of its HIsmelt venture in an ominous sign that the troubled pig iron plant in Kwinana may remain shut for longer than originally planned. The West

Euroz client was unaware of Opes danger, court told
The WA millionaire suing listed stockbroker Euroz for $4.7 million over losses in the Opes Prime Stockbroking collapse tried to move his $7.8 million portfolio weeks earlier, a Perth court was told yesterday. The West

Mortgage freeze for the jobless
Home owners who lose their jobs will be thrown a lifeline by the nation's biggest mortgage lender, which yesterday announced interest deferrals of up to 12 months to stop customers falling into arrears and triggering a wave of forced sales. The Australian

Axa in $660m capital raising
Axa Asia Pacific plans to raise up to $660 million from an institutional share placement and an offer of shares to smaller investors, to shore up its balance sheet. Daily Telegraph

 

THE WEST AUSTRALIAN:

Page 3: The company of businessman Warren Anderson has been awarded nearly $15 million by the Supreme Court in compensation for the loss of rare antiques and art destroyed by fire.

Page 4: The senate battle over the federal government's workplace relations changes appears to hinge on the definition of small business.

Unions fear state-owned electricity retailer Synergy is considering sending up to 160 jobs offshore or interstate and may exe another 70 in a bid to cut costs, just weeks before power bills will be increased 25 per cent.

Page 6: China wants its giant export sector excluded from the next treaty on climate change, saying rich nations that buy Chinese goods should bear responsibility for the huge emissions output.

Page 9: The private operator of the state's ageing country freight rail network has threatened to close at least four lines - throwing the grain handling industry into chaos - unless the state partly funds urgent maintenance.

Business: The WA millionaire suing listed stockbroker Euroz for $4.7 million over losses in the Opes Prime Stockbroking collapse tried to move his $7.8 million portfolio weeks earlier, a Perth court was told yesterday.

Telstra shares hit a fresh 12-year low yesterday, falling beneath $3 despite emerging signs of a muted recovery on the financial markets.

Rio Tinto has slashed the book value of its HIsmelt venture in an ominous sign that the troubled pig iron plant in Kwinana may remain shut for longer than originally planned.

The curtains have been drawn on a protracted court battle against former Centaur Mining directors Joe Gutnick, David Trywhitt and Tony Guina, with the trio handing over an estimated $22 million in an out-of-court settlement over claims they allowed the collapsed miner to trade while insolvent.

A select few group of engineering and contracting companies operating in WA have outperformed the sharemarket this year, with some more than doubling from lows plumbed late last year.

Shadow infrastructure minister Alannah MacTiernan has accused the Barnett government of trying to wind back commitments made by the Labor government to free up space at Port Hedland for the Pilbara's fledgling miners.

Commissioning Resolute Mining's processing plant as the Syama project in Mali has started, with full production expected to kick in by May.

Fund manager Axa Asia Pacific will tap its French parent company for at least $350 million from a surprise $660 million fundraising exercise, part of which will be used to pay back a huge chunk of debt owed to its major shareholder.

Alcoa's hopes of owning its own domestic gas supply have received a boost following better-than-expected results from the maiden well at the Warro gas field near Moora.

Perth mining promoter Stephen Miller is poised to secure control of a big coal project in South Africa in his most high-profile venture since being axed as boss of St Barbara in 2004.

Alcoa plans to slash its quarterly dividend by 82 per cent and sell $US1.1 billion ($1.7 billion) worth of shares to plump up its cash cushion amid the recession.

THE AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW:

Page 1: The West Australian government has urged the Commonwealth to help it raise $1.3 billion in long-term debt because investor demand for state bonds has disappeared, in another sign the states face growing difficulties raising funds for critical infrastructure projects.

The chance of another deep interest rate cut next month is receding as the Reserve Bank of Australia indicates it wants to maintain scope to further stimulate the economy should conditions deteriorate sharply.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has warned his ministers to scale back their spending plans in the lead-up to the May budget while signalling his intent to make infrastructure building a centrepiece of the economic statement.

Page 3: The Maritime Union of Australia is encouraging members to take leave, including unpaid sabbaticals, to help avoid job losses as new figures show freight volumes at the country's biggest ports are shrinking rapidly.

Page 4: Business groups urged the federal coalition last night to reverse its decision to vote against the government's $30 billion commercial property venture amid new signs it will struggle to pass the Senate.

Page 5: The number of companies going broke increased 38 per cent in January compared with the same period last year and accountants warned of a wave of small business failures.

Page 9: An impasse over small business exemptions from unfair dismissal laws threatens to delay the Rudd government's workplace relations reforms, despite a deal between Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard and the cross-bench senators to secure backing for the bulk of the Fair Work Bill.

THE AUSTRALIAN:

Page 1: Home owners who lose their jobs will be thrown a lifeline by the nation's biggest mortgage lender, which yesterday announced interest deferrals of up to 12 months to stop customers falling into arrears and triggering a wave of forced sales.

John B. Fairfax - the largest shareholder of Fairfax Media and one of the bluebloods of Australian business - has taken out a mortgage on his family's landmark estate on Sydney Harbour as the global financial crisis takes its toll on the market value of the company that bears his name.

Malcolm Turnbull has linked emissions trading to thousands of feared job losses in Queensland, claiming three Townsville metal smelters will close, the state's coal industry will face a "carbon bill" of $2.4 billion over five years and even green jobs will be threatened by the Rudd Government's scheme.

Page 2: The Reserve Bank is holding off further interest rate cuts until there is a sharp worsening in the economic outlook.

Rio Tinto executive and former Alcan boss Dick Evans stands to reap $US11 million ($16.6 million) in salary and bonuses this year, although he is leaving the company next month and other executives are deferring their bonuses.

Trade Minister Simon Crean has increased pressure on China to allow more Australian investment into its country as the Government deliberates on whether to approve Rio Tinto's $29.5 billion deal with Chinalco.

Page 4: Julia Gillard's attempt to woo independent senators with seven concessions to her industrial relations laws, including tightening right of entry and access to employee records, has failed, with senators insisting they will fight for a change in the definition of a small business.

Page 6: The Liberal National Party's spending on the Queensland election campaign is more than twice that of the ALP, backed by a $7 million war chest that is allowing the conservatives to blitz Labor with saturation television advertising in the final week.

Business: Rio Tinto has given a grim assessment of near-term prospects, boosting arguments for a $US19.5 billion ($29.6 billion) Chinalco tie-up as it flags continued negative impacts on profits and cites dependence on Chinese iron ore sales as a major concern.

Some Wall Street firms are looking for ways to sidestep tough new federal caps on compensation.

Commonwealth Bank chief executive Ralph Norris refused to rule out job cuts at the bank, as he warned that the toughest period for the domestic economy still lay ahead.

Rio Tinto has named Jan du Plessis as its new chairman, to replace Paul Skinner.

Axa Asia Pacific Holdings has flagged it is looking for expansion opportunities after joining the rush of financial institutions to raise capital by tapping shareholders for up to $890 million.

The Ten Network's owner, CanWest Global Communications, has denied reports that the debt-riddled Canadian media conglomerate has started to informally peddle the network to local institutions.

Australian-made goods will suffer under a carbon trading scheme, burdened by costs that countries with nuclear power will not incur, says the head of the nation's peak nuclear agency.

The leaders of President Barack Obama's auto task force are focused on restructuring General Motors and Chrysler outside of bankruptcy court, despite suggestions from some experts that a Chapter 11 filing would be the best way to revamp their troubled operations.

Hearst is abandoning the print edition of its Seattle Post Intelligencer newspaper and rolling the dice on a bold experiment: overhauling a big-city daily to a winnowed, online-only operation.

Looking for a cash cushion as the aluminium market weakens, Alcoa is to slash its dividend 82 per cent to US3c a share and offer $US1.1 billion ($1.6 billion) in stock and convertible notes.

 

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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