19/03/2009 - 06:29

Today's Business Headlines

19/03/2009 - 06:29

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$1.6bn hole in budget as alcopops tax fails; World Bank looks to China to counter global gloom; ASIC targets banks over $1bn Storm collapse; Directors told to stand up to executives in pay talks; Nation building funding crisis

Today's Business Headlines

$1.6bn hole in budget as alcopops tax fails
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd faces a $1.6 billion budget hangover, after anti-binge drinking campaigner Steve Fielding joined the coalition in the Senate yesterday to sink the big tax increase on alcopops. The West

World Bank looks to China to counter global gloom
The World Bank has cut its forecast for China's economic growth this year to 6.5 per cent, from 9 per cent last year, but said that the world's third-largest economy was already showing signs of stabilisation. The Fin Review

ASIC targets banks over $1bn Storm collapse
The corporate watchdog will widen its investigation into the $1 billion collapse of the wealth adviser, Storm Financial, to include its financial backers such as Commonwealth Bank, Macquarie Group and Challenger Financial. Sydney Morning Herald

Directors told to stand up to executives in pay talks
Federal government plans to curb payouts to departing chief executives may simply push the base salaries of executives even higher, experts warn, if boards of directors do not stand up to executives in pay negotiations. The West

Nation building funding crisis
The Rudd government's ambitious plans for major economic infrastructure projects are in crisis because of a lack of available financing from the private sector. The Australian

 

THE WEST AUSTRALIAN:

Page 1: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd faces a $1.6 billion budget hangover, after anti-binge drinking campaigner Steve Fielding joined the coalition in the Senate yesterday to sink the big tax increase on alcopops.

Page 5: The Health Department's budget has blown out by up to $230 million this financial year, WA's health chief says.

The public purse has been put under more pressure as TAFE lecturers yesterday endorsed a generous deal for up to 26.5 per cent more pay over there years, or more than twice the national inflation rate.

Page 6: Shareholders have won the right to vote down excessive golden handshakes to fat-cat executives under a federal government move to tackle corporate greed.

Container traffic at Fremantle port has plummeted and trade at regional ports has slowed, prompting warnings of job losses as at least one stevedoring company looks to cut costs.

Harvey Beef will ask workers today to accept the same pay deal they have already rejected, just a week after reducing its 500-string workforce by a third in a bid to stay open.

The International Monetary Fund believes the global economy will shrink this year, with particular problems for rich nations such as Australia.

Page 12: Few Australians have been hit harder by the global financial crisis than the nation's 2.3 million retirees.

Page 13: Investors looking to defy the global economic downturn and increase their cash pile can still do so if they choose their investments wisely, industry experts say.

Page 18: Treasurer Wayne Swan has warned of severe job losses across commercial property projects after effectively giving up getting support from the coalition and key cross-becng senators for the government's special bank for the sector.

Business: Federal government plans to curb payouts to departing chief executives may simply push the base salaries of executives even higher, experts warn, if boards of directors do not stand up to executives in pay negotiations.

It may just be a by-product from zinc and copper mining, but staid, boring lead has emerged as a star performer, with prices for the metal bouncing 90 per cent since December.

Nexus Energy has shelved plans to sell a controlling stake in its flagship Crux liquids project after failing to secure an acceptable price for the Browse Basin asset.

Political pressures cast a new shadow over Rio Tinto's planned $US19.5 billion ($29.5 billion) tie-up with Chinese state-owned Chinalco, knocking its shares down as much as 10 per cent yesterday after the Senate said it would examine foreign investment.

The nature of the relationship between Bruce Drummond and his accountant has emerged as a key issue in the Perth businessman's $4.7 million claim against listed stockbroker Euroz.

The chief of Brunei's $45 billion sovereign wealth fund has been appointed non-executive director of Patersons Securities as part of a board revamp sparked by the Perth broker's expansion.

Royal Dutch Shell has used the global economic downturn as an excuse to demand that contractors tendering for its Prelude floating liquefied natural gas project off WA's North West resubmit their offers.

THE AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW:

Page 1: The World Bank has cut its forecast for China's economic growth this year to 6.5 per cent, from 9 per cent last year, but said that the world's third-largest economy was already showing signs of stabilisation.

The Rudd government will crack down on executive remuneration by slashing the size of golden handshakes for company executives and introducing criminal sanctions for boards that breach the tough rules.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is seeking to wind up collapsed Storm Financial Services amid concerns that former investors have been provided with "fundamentally flawed" information about their prospects for recovering some of their billions of dollars in lost assets.

Page 3: The Rudd government has lost three crucial Senate votes on its policy agenda yesterday and risks a defeat on its controversial industrial relations reforms today as it demands the upper house keep meeting until it breaks a logjam of 10 other bills that remain undecided.

Page 5: The West Australian government admitted yesterday it would be unable to raise a planned $1.3 billion of long-term debt to fund its infrastructure program.

Page 15: A defensive Mark Rowsthorn has dismissed criticism that Asciano destroyed shareholder value with a lengthy and convoluted asset sale process, saying timing was not as important as finding the right solution to the company's debt problem.

Upmarket retailer David Jones will cut deeper into costs this half in anticipation of a steep fall in sales, after incurring its first decline in core department store earnings since 2001.

Suppliers to China who make products for sale in Kmart's 183 stores in Australia have been hit with punishing new trade terms by the Coles Group buying office as it tries to improve profits at the discount department store chain.

 

THE AUSTRALIAN:

Page 1: The Rudd government's ambitious plans for major economic infrastructure projects are in crisis because of a lack of available financing from the private sector.

The developer of one of the first projects likely to apply to the federal Government's $4 billion
"Rudd Bank" scheme is struggling to find buyers for more than 80 apartments priced at between $1 million and $3.9 million.

Shareholders of major companies will be given veto rights over massive golden handshakes for retiring executives under a Rudd government crackdown on corporate excess.

Page 2: A manager with one of the nation's leading construction firms has alleged that up to 15 beer-drinking unionists surrounded him, called him a dog and hurled expletives as part of a campaign to pressure him into giving their jobs back.

The Senate will investigate foreign governments buying up Australian assets after independent senator Nick Xenophon joined Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce and Greens leader Bob Brown in voicing concerns about Chinalco's grab for a bigger share of Rio Tinto.

Whack. The Rudd government just got sideswiped - again - by the global financial crisis. This time, the target was its big economic infrastructure plans.

Property experts said yesterday John B. Fairfax's flagship family property could be worth as much as $60 million on the open market if it went to sale.

Page 3: The Australian Federal Police is unable to fulfil its national security commitments after losing more than 200 staff in redundancies, undermining assertions to parliament this week by Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus.

Page 4: The Rudd government faces the defeat of its workplace legislation today unless Julia Gillard agrees to last-minute changes to Labor's unfair dismissal policy to appease crossbench senators.

Claiming to offer "petrodollars at your fingertips", Dubai-backed financier Meridian Capital Enterprises says it is funding Australian high-rise projects worth billions of dollars.

The economic outlook is worse than at any time since the 1990 recession; however, the big interest rate cuts and budget spending packages may enable the economy to avoid the depths of that downturn.

Page 5: The Rudd government will be forced to hand back $300 million to distillers after the Senate voted down the 70 per cent tax increase on alcopops last night in the culmination of another chaotic performance from the opposition.

Judges will be given discretion not to jail journalists who refuse to divulge their sources under new laws to be introduced today by federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland.

Business: Australia has received another blow in its efforts to avoid a major economic downturn after the World Bank cut growth forecasts for China, the nation's largest trading partner, by 1 percentage point to 6.5 per cent.

Retail department store group David Jones has reported a $73 million fall in sales for the first half of the financial year, and warns investors to expect further declines through to the end of 2009-10.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission last night applied to have beleaguered planning group Storm Financial put into liquidation, cutting off the founders' attempts to regain control.

The federal government's move to clamp down on controversial golden handshakes for top executives could have the perverse effect of reducing transparency and inflating the fixed component of salary packages.

The Takeovers Panel's clear message to the board of Gloucester Coal in particular, and company boards in general, is that if you are going to involve your company in a change-of-control transaction then it cannot be structured to lock out other potentially interested parties.

Rio Tinto shares suffered their biggest drop this year as political opposition to the $US19.5 billion ($29.5 billion) Chinalco deal grew, Jan du Plessis was named chairman designate of the miner, and Goldman Sachs JBWere told clients to sell the stock.

The head of Australia's largest gold producer has warned the government that its plan to tackle carbon emissions will lead to a pullback in exploration and expansion in the mining industry.

Fairfax Media's metropolitan mastheads will take over responsibility for its key online classified brands as part of a move to more closely integrate the group's print and internet advertising revenue models.

ANZ's $13 billion asset finance subsidiary Esanda will become a division of the bank, enabling debenture holders that fund half the business to switch to term deposits and get the benefit of the federal government guarantee.

The mining sector, already suffering from the global downturn, is facing a greater risk of fraud.

The Bank of Japan will increase its monthly government bond purchases from banks to spur lending and prevent the recession from deepening.

A price war between liquefied natural gas and coal could lead to the temporary closure of coal mines, according to leading energy consultants, because of a surge in shipments of the gas from the Middle East into Europe and North America.

Some of the billions of dollars the US government paid to bail out American International Group will benefit hedge funds that bet on a falling housing market, according to informed sources and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

By most measures, 2008 was a terrible year for home builder Hovnanian Enterprises.

 

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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