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PRESS DIGEST-Australian Business News - Feb 11

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Sun, 10 Feb 2013 19:56 GMT
Author: Reuters
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Compiled for Reuters by Media Monitors. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.

THE AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW (www.afr.com)

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has been engaged by National Australia Bank (NAB) to perform a review of the bank's cost base as part of the bank's strategy to reduce outlays and increase profits, according to industry observers. BCG will also be expected to identify any underperforming sections or operations within the bank. "Cost management" would be central theme when the bank releases its update on "strategic priorities", said NAB chief executive Cameron Clyne last week. Page 15.

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Investment management company Perpetual took out the top spot in the survey of 137 Australian share fund managers compiled in financial adviser Mercer's review of 2012. The wholesale ethical investment fund run by Perpetual's Nathan Parkin rated in first place with the wholesale share-plus fund run by Paul Skamvougeras taking third. Page 15.

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Wealth management firms JBWere and AMP Capital are both majority owned by National Australia Bank and both are predicting investors will depart cash and term deposits and return to equities as the share market is now taking off. Brokerage revenue was up 25 percent during the last quarter, compared to the same period the year prior, stated Paul Heath, head of JBWere. Craig Cleary said AMP advisers were finding clients expressing an increased interest in equities, property and infrastructure. Page 15.

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Coffey International, a company providing services consultancy with expertise in geosciences, international development and project management, is expected to deliver a first-half profit of around A${esc.dollar}14.5 million at today's results presentation, according to market analysts. This compares to A${esc.dollar}5.7 million for the same period last year. Managing director John Douglas said last year's strategic refocus from mining into oil and gas had been an important and timely change for the group. Page 17.

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Last week Bendigo and Adelaide Bank raised A${esc.dollar}850 million with an issue of residential mortgage-backed securities and this was the least expensive money the bank has raised since the global financial crisis, said the bank's chief of capital Will Rayner. With cheaper finance becoming available, smaller home lenders should be able to compete more effectively against the big four banks. Securitisation markets have "continued to improve in recent months" stated the Reserve Bank of Australia on Friday in its monetary policy statement. Page 18.

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Westpac Banking Corporation has increased the percentage of its mortgage holders in flood-affected Queensland that also insure through the bank from 21.6 percent to 26.1 percent over the last three years, according to data from market researcher Roy Morgan. The increase was a result of successful cross-selling combined with some insurers departing the flood-prone areas, said Jim Glossat of the bank's wealth management division BT Financial Group. Page 19.

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THE AUSTRALIAN (www.theaustralian.news.com.au)

Consolidated Media Holdings (CPH), James Packer's private company, last year lifted its net profit to A${esc.dollar}179.3 million, up from A${esc.dollar}119.7 million the year prior and almost double 2010's A${esc.dollar}74.4 million. CPH has now finished a major restructure during which non-core assets, such as financial services and media, had been divested, said Michael Johnston, the company's executive director. Page 19.

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Hardware group Bunnings has registered a company in New Zealand with the name Masters Home Improvement Limited, with a Bunnings spokeswoman claiming yesterday that the registration was to protect intellectual property. Woolworths has claimed Bunnings is running a "dirty tricks campaign" that includes buying land to prevent its use by Woolworths for its Australian Masters outlets and pressuring suppliers into not selling to the Masters business. Page 19.

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Hastings Funds Management, an A${esc.dollar}8 billion infrastructure fund manager, is looking to benefit from weaknesses in European economies by acquiring motorways, airports and seaports throughout the zone. The impact of Basel III obligations will cause various banks to offload some of their investments, providing opportunities for his company, said Hastings chief executive Andrew Day. Page 19.

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Clive Palmer's resources exploration and development company Mineralogy and its Chinese joint venture partner Citic Pacific have abandoned attempts a mediation and will meet in the Western Australian (WA) Supreme Court on Wednesday. Under consideration will be a royalty dispute related to the US${esc.dollar}8 billion Sino Iron magnetite joint venture in the Pilbara region of WA, with Mr Palmer saying that the disagreement was: "A clash of cultures  in China  they don't have the rule of law". Page 20.

-- Stockbroking firm Wilson HTM is considering taking the takeover attempt from corporate investor Mariner Corp to the Takeovers Panel following Mariner's extension of its offer to shareholders on Friday, said Wilson chief Andrew Coppin. Mr Coppin said the change was indicative of below-market behaviour, similar to David Tweed's modus operandi, where personal approaches were made to shareholders offering them less than the true value of their shareholdings. Page 21.

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Chris Roberts, chief executive of Cochlear, Australia's hearing implant manufacturer, yesterday expressed criticism of the Fair Work laws created by Australia's Labor Federal Government. "Jobs have already gone overseas because of these regulations," Dr Roberts said, adding that Cochlear planned to keep its manufacturing operations in Australia as part of its strategy to compete with Swiss company Sonova. Page 21.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (www.smh.com.au)

Patrick Keane, outgoing Chief Justice of the Federal Court, said as he prepares to move to the High Court, that during his tenure, the Federal Court staff, both justices and administrative, had been "heroic" as they did more with less. The budget had fallen from A${esc.dollar}93.5 million in 2010 to A${esc.dollar}89.7 million in 2011 then climbed to A${esc.dollar}90.2 million for 2012 and during this time the workload of the court rose by 20 percent, according to Chief Justice Keane. Page B1.

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Sales of ready-to-drink products, known as alcopops, for Diageo Australia dropped by 1 percent during the December half after four years of flat-lining, reported Tim Salt, managing director for the company's Australian operations. Diageo was looking at innovations, such as a pre-mix of Bundaberg Rum with a soft drink currently being trialled in Queensland, and would not use discounting to increase market share, added Mr Salt. Page B3.

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THE AGE (www.theage.com.au)

Japan Airlines (JAL) has entered discussions with Brisbane Airport over resuming direct services between Brisbane and Tokyo. Last year visitor numbers from Japan rose by 5 percent, reaching 352,000, a figure still much lower than the record 800,000 reached in 1997. JAL reduced services when it entered bankruptcy protection in 2010 but has been expanding its network since relisting last year on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Page B3.

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China, a country of increasing affluence where each year at least 30,000 babies were born with profound hearing difficulties, presented a "huge opportunity" said hearing implant company cochlear chief executive Chris Roberts yesterday. The company was aiming to grow via innovation, not merger or acquisition, added Dr Roberts, following up on last week's announcement of a A${esc.dollar}77.7 million first-half profit. Page B4.

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