02/07/2009 - 06:51

Today's Business Headlines

02/07/2009 - 06:51

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Auditors 'misled' in Great Southern scandal; Unions defy PM's restraint call; China buckles on iron price; Browse gas plant in cost blowout; Shoppers answer the stimulus call

Today's Business Headlines

Auditors 'misled' in Great Southern scandal
The scandal surrounding failed agribusiness Great Southern has broadened to suggestions of insider trading against its former chief executive John Young, as well as management misleading auditors and related-party benefits not being disclosed. The Fin

Unions defy PM's restraint call
Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan yesterday called for wage restraint as the ACTU leadership backed unions seeking above-inflation wage rises from profitable companies, claiming pay rises stabilised economic demand. The Australian

China buckles on iron price
Australia's iron ore miners have won their long-running battle with China's government-owned steel producers after the China Iron & Steel Association backed down from its tough position on price cuts. The Australian

Browse gas plant in cost blowout
The construction of a standalone LNG plant in the Kimberley to process gas from Woodside's Browse fields appears increasingly unlikely, with the cost of the massive project blowing out to $50 billion and discord growing between the project partners. The Australian

Shoppers answer the stimulus call
Retail sales are growing at their strongest rate in almost two years as consumers, buoyed by low interest rates and generous government hand-outs, increase their spending, although a surprise slump in building approvals has raised concerns about prospects for an economic recovery later this year. The Fin

 

 

THE WEST AUSTRALIAN:

Page 4: Unions moved quickly yesterday to test the new industrial relations system, with the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union lodging an application to bargain collectively on behalf of low-paid staff at three top Perth hotels.

The Defence Department plans to spend $60 billion on new weapons systems over the next four years but top bras have been warned to keep their wish list in check to avoid more costly bungles.

Page 5: About 50 unlicensed drivers had their vehicles impounded for 28 days yesterday and employers were caught up in the crackdown under new laws that allow police to confiscate vehicles regardless of who owns them.

Page 10: West Australians cashed up with Federal stimulus cheques have gone on a spending spree in stores and cafes in a further sign shoppers have shrugged off the global recession.

West Australians have lost more on their superannuation than on falling house prices since 2007, with new figures showing super nest eggs had their second successive fall in value.

Union heavyweight Joe McDonald is facing jail or a hefty fine after pleading guilty to trespassing on Perth building sites.

Page 12: A major union has called on BHP Billiton to not force anyone to work at its Leinster mine until it is officially declared safe after many failed to show up for their shift.

Page 13: The State Government's push to move public servants out of expensive central business district office accommodation gathered pace yesterday when the Department of Commerce advertised for space outside the CBD.

Business: Clive Peeters is hoping a move to slash costs, close unprofitable stores and cut its dividend will be enough to see it through the retail turnaround, after a six-month strategic review failed to produce a white knight for the struggling electrical chain.

China's tough-talking steel association has buckled to criticism from its members and the reality of China's economic recovery, signalling it is ready to accept a smaller cut in the benchmark iron ore price than it had previously said was possible.

The Federal government has given further ground in its battle to tighten tax rules on employee share schemes after an outcry from business leaders forced its May Budget announcement.

Diggers and Dealers conference organisers have scored a coup in luring Terry Burgess to the annual mining event in Kalgoorlie-Boulder next month for what will be his first outing as OZ Minerals chief executive.

Suncorp Metway has gone offshore to recruit a top British insurer as its chief executive, an appointment expected to pave the way for the Brisbane-based financial services giant's exit from banking.

Shockwaves created by the fall of Great Southern and Timbercorp have caused even more damage than critics had expected, with early estimates suggesting 2008-09 will go down as the worst year on record for managed investment scheme sales.

The Australian Securities Exchange says directors should be mindful of the message they are sending to shareholders when they trade during so-called blackout periods after new figures suggested the numbers of those breaching company policy are on the rise.

Emergent Resources placed its shares in a trading halt last night on expectations the Mid-West iron ore hopeful was close to securing a Chinese partner for its Beyondie magnetite project.

 

THE AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW:

Page 1: The federal government has bowed to sustained pressure over budget measures to employee share schemes, proposing changes that restore tax concessions for the vast majority of company ownership plans.

Retail sales are growing at their strongest rate in almost two years as consumers, buoyed by low interest rates and generous government hand-outs, increase their spending, although a surprise slump in building approvals has raised concerns about prospects for an economic recovery later this year.

The scandal surrounding failed agribusiness Great Southern has broadened to suggestions of insider trading against its former chief executive John Young, as well as management misleading auditors and related-party benefits not being disclosed.

Federal and state governments are today expected to agree on new streamlined approval processes for major infrastructure and housing developments aimed at speeding up the roll-out of projects to keep the economy afloat over the next 18 months.

Page 3: Household insulation installers are scrambling to meet demand as the federal government's $4 billion ceiling insulation program heats up.

Page 4: The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre has accepted enforcable undertakings from two banks, Barclays Bank and Mega International Commercial Bank Co, in the first enforcement action of anti-money laundering laws since being given sweeping new powers in December 2006.

Page 5: Treasury officials are understood to have expressed doubts about an ambitious plan being pushed by small lenders to reinvigorate competition in the banking sector, warning the government that it will be risky to implement.

Page 7: Remuneration and tax advisers have backed the government's changes to employee share schemes but said many plans would need to be redesigned to comply with the details of the yet to be seen final legislation.

The Australian Securities Exchange has warned that one-third of directors' sharemarket trades occur during blackout periods - those times between the end of the financial year and the announcement of company results - and have called for compulsory disclosure to prevent insider trading.

The final employee share scheme framework announced yesterday is not very different from the scheme that was in place before the government changed it in thebudget in May.

Page 8: The first day of the Rudd government's new industrial regime has been marked by luxury hotel workers trying to drag their employers to the bargaining table and the postal union deciding to hold a strike ballot in coming weeks.

It is back to the old days of centralised wage-fixing as Julia Gillard delivered her baby.

Trade unions see the Rudd government's new workplace regulator as an instituion of "enormous economic significance" that will play an increasing role in labour market policy beyond its regulatory role.

Page 11: The federal government has ignored defence industry calls for greater investment certainty by dumping a traditional 10-year weapons and equipment wish list.

The federal government has named six broadband impoverished locations that will be the first to tap its $250 million fund for the national broadband network (NBN) in regional areas.

Page 12: Investment in the managed investment scheme (MIS) market has plummeted to $270 million from $1.1 billion last year, after the collapse of the industry's two biggest players.

Page 17: Retailers David Jones and Myer are scrounging for stock to sell during year-end clearance sales after significantly reducing inventories over the past 12 months and underestimating the strength of demand as consumer sentiment recovers.

Consumer electronics retailer Clive Peeters is forecasting a return to profitability in 2010 depsite failing in its quest to raise much-needed capital and abandoning talks with potential suitors.

The slowdown in the growth of the $1.9 billion online advertsiing market this year has not stopped Ten Network from predicting its internet division would post double-digit ad revenue growth over the next 12 months.

Managed investment scheme operator TFS Corp said it was attracting institutional investment for the first time after the collapse of Great Southern and Timbercorp.

The response to Rio Tinto's $US15.2 billion ($19 billion) rights issue will be known tomorrow, with market observers anticipating a strong take-up for the deeply discounted stock.

 

THE AUSTRALIAN:

Page 1: Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan yesterday called for wage restraint as the ACTU leadership backed unions seeking above-inflation wage rises from profitable companies, claiming pay rises stabilised economic demand.

Three Sydney hotel housekeepers have become the first workers to apply for improved wages and condition at the new industrial relations umpire, Fair Work Australia.

Australia's iron ore miners have won their long-running battle with China's government-owned steel producers after the China Iron & Steel Association backed down from its tough position on price cuts.

Page 2: The Rudd government's new $60 billion defence capability plan will create 5000 jobs and fund 110 major equipment projects, led by the F35 joint strike fighter, new navy helicopters and early planning for the next-generation submarine.

Page 4: The claim by ACTU president Sharan Burrow that higher real wages will boost demand repeats an argument pressed by labour economists throughout the late 1970s until it was destroyed by the wages explosion of 1981 which ultimately cost 300,000 workers their jobs.

There was the traditional knock on the door, a voice intoned '' all rise'' and judge Geoffrey Giudice walked on to the podium at the old Australian Industrial Relations Commission hearing room. Thus he began his role as the new president of Fair Work Australia shortly after 9am yesterday.

The quality of the government's $14.7 billion schools spending program would have been higher if the states had better prepared infrastructure programs and if the federal government had greater trust in the abilities of state governments and local school councils, economists say.

The Rudd government has reversed key elements of its crackdown on employee share schemes in a further series of major concessions to business and unions.

Page 5: An end of financial year rush has caused a meltdown of the Commonwealth Bank's internet banking system, with thousands of customers unable to check their balances and many unable to process transactions.

Hopes that a revival in housing construction would lift the economy out of recession later this year have been dented by a massive fall in the number of new apartment blocks being approved by local councils, while the number of private houses being built also fell in May.

Australia has 100 million fewer sheep than 20 years ago -- and many farmers could not be happier to see the end of their reliance on wool.

Two international banking companies have been found to have significantly breached Australia's laws against money laundering and terrorism financing.

Page 6: The head of Australia's largest newspaper company, John Hartigan, has delivered an optimistic verdict on the future of journalism, arguing that Australian newspapers are holding up well compared with their counterparts in Britain and the US.

West Australian Premier Colin Barnett will today tell state and territory leaders that the axing of the Aboriginal work-for-the-dole program and new ventures in northern Australia will create unprecedented opportunities to get young Aborigines properly trained and working.

COAG is today expected to approve a $100 million plan to create a subsidised TAFE training place for all workers retrenched during the recession.

Tasmanian taxpayers will spend $32 million to bring the state's rail network back into public ownership in a deal aimed at preventing the system's dismemberment by troubled owners Asciano.

Page 7: Retailers are gearing up for a run on digital radios after many metropolitan radio stations began digital broadcasting yesterday.

Business: Australia's iron ore miners have won their long-running battle with China's government-owned steel producers after the China Iron & Steel Association backed down from its tough position on price cuts.

The construction of a standalone LNG plant in the Kimberley to process gas from Woodside's Browse fields appears increasingly unlikely, with the cost of the massive project blowing out to $50 billion and discord growing between the project partners.

The break-up of Suncorp is expected to be fast-tracked, with its new chief executive, Patrick Snowball, likely to focus on the more profitable insurance business.

Former British Army man Patrick Snowball is about to bring military-style precision to the direction of Suncorp, the embattled diversified financial services group.

For the second time in two years, US private equity fund Trust Company of the West has lost in an effort to pinch a future in the Queensland coal seam methane business.

Rio Tinto has defended the integrity and commercial nous of China's state-owned firms, saying the government should view them as an opportunity rather than a threat.

BP and its Chinese partner secured access to Iraq's biggest oilfield yesterday in a televised auction that descended into near-farce.

Dynasty Metals has terminated a $5 million share deal after its Chinese suitor tried to alter the plan and push for an 80 per cent stake in the junior's explorer's iron ore project.

The nation's four major banks have retained their treasured AA rating, with credit rating agency Standard & Poor's declaring that the economic downturn is likely to have only a '' benign'' impact on the domestic economy.

Former Fairfax Media chief executive David Kirk said yesterday he had no issues'' with his successor Brian McCarthy or the Fairfax board after taking his first corporate role since suddenly departing the media group seven months ago.

ANZ is reportedly negotiating to buy Royal Bank of Scotland operations in at least five Asian countries, as rival bidder Standard Chartered concentrates on RBS assets in China and India.

Two years into a campaign to crack down on Australian company directors trading in their own stock in the lead-up to profit announcements, ASX Ltd has identified eight clear breaches of the rule in the March quarter.

The Rudd government has named six broadband-deprived areas as the first recipients of its $250 million cash injection to kickstart the $43 billion national broadband network in rural areas.

Controversial former Telstra chief Sol Trujillo has left the country, but his legacy lives on. Unfortunately, it is at the expense of people's jobs.

Private sector jobs in the US fell 473,000 in June, according to a national employment report published by payroll giant Automatic Data Processing and consultancy Macroeconomic Advisers yesterday.

 

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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