Today's Business Headlines

21/08/2009 - 06:52

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Wesfarmers flayed despite big profit; Rio resists playing the Hu card; Future Fund stake in Telstra on the block; Union at war over penalties; Super funds face $2bn cut in fees

Today's Business Headlines

Wesfarmers flayed despite big profit
Shares in Wesfarmers plunged yesterday, after the mining, retail, energy, chemical and insurance conglomerate slightly undershot market expectations with a $1.535 billion annual profit and warned of a tough year ahead for its resources division. The Australian

Rio resists playing the Hu card
Rio Tinto has shied away from using the occasion of its June-half profit report - net profit slumped 65 per cent to $US2.45 billion ($A3 billion) - to press China for the release from jail of its Shanghai-based iron ore marketing team. The Age

Future Fund stake in Telstra on the block
Future Fund has taken advantage of a bullish market to sell more than a quarter of its holding in Telstra with the government pension fund yesterday asking investment bank UBS to sell 684 million of its 2 billion shares in the nation's largest telecommunications company. Sydney Morning Herald

Union at war over penalties
Julia Gillard is confronting a growing backlash over the Rudd government's award overhaul after a top union official last night warned of the political consequences of Labor caving in to demands for concessions from the nation's major employers. The Australian

Super funds face $2bn cut in fees
Superannuation funds would be forced to slice up to $2 billion off their annual fees under the Rudd government's push to make the industry more efficient and deliver better service and advice for millions if fund members. The Fin Review

 

 

THE WEST AUSTRALIAN:

Page 1: Seven nurses suspended as part of the salary-packaging scandal engulfing the WA Health Department has been sacked as the department's chief predicted the investigation would run until the end of the year.

Page 4: Australian superannuation funds have started the financial year with a bang but figures show that those in industry funds are out-stripping those with their retirement nest eggs in retail funds.

Page 6: Airline executives have warned that Perth Airport's ambitious plan for a decade-long $3 billion makeover must run to schedule to cater for a raft of major developments moving closer to approval, greatly increasing the demand for fly-in, fly-out workers.

The $50 billion Gorgon gas project hinges in part on a pledge that more than a third of its greenhouse gas emissions will be reburied under Barrow Island.

Page 7: The state government's crackdown on recreational fishing is unravelling with a Liberal MP revealing he will cross the floor to oppose a proposed rise in fees designed to save declining stocks.

Page 9: Leading WA unionist Dave Kelly has been cleared of unfair dismissal allegations after he sacked an organiser in part for calling a colleague and management rude names.

Page 14: The state government has spent $7 million creating more than 140 committees and reviews during its first 10 months in office, despite Premier Colin Barnett pledging to axe 500 redundant advisory boards.

Business: Rebuilding Rio Tinto's relationship with China has emerged as a top priority for the miner, with chief executive Tom Albanese vowing to pursue commercial and non-commercial means of strengthening ties with its biggest customer.

The Future Fund has taken advantage of a bullish market to sell more than a quarter of its holding in Telstra.

Funds giant AMP says it remains on the lookout for acquisitions, formally reviving an expansion strategy that fell dormant after a disastrous foray into the UK.

A mystery buyer has emerged with a 5.14 per cent stake in Integra Mining, sparking speculation of further consolidation in WA's Goldfield's after Avoca Resources secured effective control of Dioro Exploration.

WA-based engineer Clough is on the hunt for acquisitions in the oil and gas services sector, after the sale of its Indonesian coal business, Petrosea, bolstered its cash holdings to $146 million.

Wesfarmers chief executive Richard Goyder yesterday warned that the group could scale back expansion and refurbishment plans for its WA stores after the failure of Premier Colin Barnett's bid to extend weekday trading.

Fertiliser maker the Oswal Goup has pulled out of a $300 joint venture to produce fuel-grade ethanol.

 

THE AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW:

Page 1: Employers fear the Rudd government's push to modernise the century-old award system will extend coverage and greater workplace regulation to whit collar workers such as accountants, solicitors and even stockbrokers.

Wesfarmers managing director Richard Goyder is wary of more shocks to the economy, warning that although consumer confidence is improving from the dire levels of earlier this year, there is still some worrying fragility.

The Future Fund has sold $2.4 billion worth of Telstra shares, or a quarter of its stake, in its first major sell-down since the federal government's full privatisation of the carrier in 2005.

Page 3: Superannuation funds would be forced to slice up to $2 billion off their annual fees under the Rudd government's push to make the industry more efficient and deliver better service and advice for millions if fund members.

Page 5: A landmark struggle over Labor's "good faith" bargaining laws is set to continue, despite a majority of workers at bionic earmaker Cochlear voting in favour of negotiating a new collective agreement.

Page 12: A surge in imports has raised the risk of a blow-out in the trade deficit, underlining concerns that the economy could contract in the September quarter despite evidence that global conditions are improving.

Page 15: The average woman working full-time earns just 82 cents in the dollar compared with her male counterparts, and has to work until September 1 to earn what her male co-workers pocketed by June 30.

 

THE AUSTRALIAN:

Page 1: Julia Gillard is confronting a growing backlash over the Rudd government's award overhaul after a top union official last night warned of the political consequences of Labor caving in to demands for concessions from the nation's major employers.

Future Fund sold $2.4 billion worth of Telstra shares yesterday as it prepares to diversify its holdings across the board to take advantage of the rebound in world financial markets.

Chinese officials snubbed federal Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson during his visit this week to sign the $50 billion Gorgon LNG deal in yet another sign of the deteriorating relationship between the Rudd government and Beijing.

Page 2: Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson was snubbed by Beijing and failed to meet any senior Chinese ministers during his recent visit to sign a $50 billion LNG agreement, diplomatic sources said yesterday.

The federal government is considering changes to ease the transition to tighter eligibility rules on student financial support.

Page 3: Disgraced former James Hardie directors and executives may escape personally paying any fines imposed yesterday for breaching their duties.

There is no doubt that Westpac's boss Gail Kelly is a powerhouse, but is she more powerful than the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton?

Page 4: Unions have used Labor's workplace laws to secure a landmark victory over bionic earmaker Cochlear, forcing the high profile company into negotiations with unions after an acrimonious three-year dispute.

Former federal Labor treasurer Ralph Willis's controversial stewardship of Cbus will come under heavy scrutiny on Monday when a Victorian Supreme Court case resumes that pits the industry superannuation fund against property developer David Marriner.

It's official: the best-performing super fund over the past five years has been run by investment banker Goldman Sachs JBWere, according to the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, with a 14 per cent annual return.

Page 5: Education Minister Julia Gillard was forced to step in to save the $14.7 billion school building program from bureaucrats who threatened to derail the centrepiece of the federal government's economic stimulus package by delaying payments to schools for projects already under way.

Big business has backed some proposed Coalition changes to the emissions trading scheme but suggested Malcolm Turnbull might have to drop his most dramatic redesign proposal, as it urges the major parties to do a deal and pass the laws to ensure investment certainty.

A Nationals senator has called for regional residents to pay lower tax rates than urban residents in a policy change that would bring the party into conflict with the city-based Liberal Party.

Several premiers are eyeing off a state-based income tax as a means of putting their governments on a more sustainable financial footing.

Business: Yesterday's penalty ruling by judge Ian Gzell won't satisfy the loudest critics of James Hardie, some of whom have been criticising managers and directors appointed after ASIC started its civil penalty action in February 2007.

Shares in Wesfarmers plunged yesterday, after the mining, retail, energy, chemical and insurance conglomerate slightly undershot market expectations with a $1.535 billion annual profit and warned of a tough year ahead for its resources division.

Iron ore giant Rio Tinto remains confident about its long-term relationship with major customer China as it operates at full capacity to meet increasing demand.

Rio Tinto, the world's third-biggest mining company, has turned in its worst ever interim profit performance, with the collapse in global commodity prices wiping more than 50 per cent from its bottom line in the half-year to June 30.

Oil and gas producer Santos has reported a two-thirds drop in first-half profit as lower crude oil prices stripped $450 million from sales.

The competition regulator and federal government appear close to declaring victory in their attempt to force Woolworths and Coles to back down on shopping centre leases that restrict competition in grocery retailing.

Strong premium growth has helped QBE Insurance Group post a 19 per cent jump in first-half profit to $1.01 billion, despite taking a $145 million hit in claims related to the global financial crisis and suffering investment losses on equities.

AMP has flagged it will go to the market to fund any acquisitions to boost its wealth management business as rivals begin to bolster market share in the sector.

Australia's stock and futures exchange operator ASX has reported a 14.3 per cent drop in full-year net profit but says there are grounds for optimism about the year ahead amid a nascent recovery in global markets.

Australian property group Lend Lease has reported a statutory after-tax loss of $653.6 million for the year, down from a net profit of $254.2m in the previous year.

 

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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