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PRESS DIGEST-Australian Business News - Feb 22

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 21 Feb 2013 20:00 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)

Origin Energy yesterday announced it would not launch a capital raising to fund the A${esc.dollar}24.7 billion Australia-Pacific liquefied natural gas project in Queensland. Grant King, managing director of the energy group, said its BBB credit rating from Standard & Poor's still enabled it to fund the venture with its existing cash and debt facilities. Page 13.

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Analysts have warned that the infrastructure, utilities and telecommunications sectors will be hurt the most if the United States Federal Reserve begins to unwind its economic stimulus package earlier than expected. The concerns were stoked by the release of minutes from the central bank's January meeting, which showed many officials inside the Federal Reserve were uneasy about the scale and risk of the asset purchasing scheme. Page 13.

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Fairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood yesterday announced that the media conglomerate's MyCareer and Drive classifieds divisions were under review to reveal "what contribution they make" to the business. The assessment is a component of the group's Fairfax of the Future cost-cutting strategy, which the company is accelerating to enable its newspapers to better cope with the effects of the internet and mobile devices. Page 15.

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John Redmond, the new chief executive of Echo Entertainment Group, yesterday expressed confidence that the New South Wales government would not grant a second casino licence for Sydney. Mr Redmond said such a decision, one which rival casino operator Crown Ltd has been lobbying for, would fragment the sector and threaten returns. Page 15.

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Peter Coleman, chief executive of Woodside Petroleum , yesterday said the company would divest its business in the Gulf of Mexico to concentrate on improving its foothold in the Mediterranean, while also considering a possible move into the Canadian market. The oil and gas operator was not a "distressed seller" despite failing to establish "a material position in the Gulf of Mexico", Mr Coleman insisted. Page 16.

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Listed funds manager Treasury Group yesterday predicted that more growth opportunities would be created by an increasing number of unhappy analysts and fund managers looking to establish their own boutique funds. The company posted a A${esc.dollar}6 million net profit for the first half of 2012-13 and will pay a full franked interim dividend of A17 cents, 21 percent more compared to the half prior. Page 18.

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Mike Wilkins, chief executive of Insurance Australia Group , yesterday said the insurer could pay a special dividend in the future as the company focuses on increasing growth this financial year. The comment came after the group's net profit nearly tripled to A${esc.dollar}461 million for the first half of 2012-13. Page 19.

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

Greg Hywood, chief executive of Fairfax Media, yesterday announced the radio and newspaper group would not embark on more asset sales following a 39 percent drop in interim profit to A${esc.dollar}83 million. Mr Hywood said the company would continue to find cost savings. Page 21.

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Qantas Airways yesterday announced a 164 percent jump in net profit to A${esc.dollar}111 million and underlying pre-tax profit of A${esc.dollar}223 million for the first half of 2012-13. The carrier projected capacity to grow by 7 percent over the current half. Transport Workers Union national secretary Tony Sheldon said a A${esc.dollar}125 million one-off payment from Boeing for the late delivery of its 787 Dreamliner aircraft was the only reason Qantas posted a profit, and warned that the company was still in dire straits. Page 21.

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Marius Kloppers, the outgoing chief executive of BHP Billiton, will receive A${esc.dollar}95 million of shares in the company when he departs at the start of October. Mr Kloppers said one of the hallmarks of his time in the job was the "more productive relationship between buyers and sellers in the iron ore business, at the same time as giving sellers  a fairer price for their product". Page 21.

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Origin Energy yesterday announced that its Australia-Pacific liquefied natural gas plant in Queensland's Gladstone had suffered a A${esc.dollar}1.65 billion cost overrun. The energy firm blamed investors' growing interest in liquefied natural gas from the United States for it not finding a buyer for a A${esc.dollar}3 billion stake in the venture. Origin also announced that it would be firing 850 workers this year, mostly in Brisbane and Melbourne. Page 21.

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Paul Flynn, the new managing director of Whitehaven Coal , yesterday said he hoped his relationship with former billionaire Nathan Tinkler would help resolve tensions within the company that culminated in an attempt to spill the board last year. Mr Flynn replaces Tony Haggarty, who will leave his post on March 25 after four and a half years. Page 22.

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Iluka yesterday announced it would cut 200 jobs from its Victorian and West Australian operations as a result of a soft market environment, which was typified by the company's 33 percent drop in yearly profit to A${esc.dollar}363.2 million. The mineral sands producer will also reduce its capital expenditure to around A${esc.dollar}100 million from A${esc.dollar}167 million over the coming financial year. Page 22.

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

Echo Entertainment Group yesterday announced a 5.3 percent drop in interim net profit to A${esc.dollar}66.5 million, after the casino operator spent A${esc.dollar}870 million renovating The Star in Sydney. The group announced that revenue at The Star was 15 percent higher for the first half of 2012-13, although the performance of its non-gaming, VIP and tables divisions were disappointing. Page B2.

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Qantas Airways yesterday announced it will purchase new planes and upgrade its fleet of Airbus A330s in its ongoing battle with rival carrier Virgin Australia. Qantas plans to use the large aircraft on Australia's main transcontinental route, which chief executive Alan Joyce said would "leapfrog anything the competitors are doing". Page B3.

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Brambles yesterday announced a 26 percent increase in first-half profit to A${esc.dollar}232 million after securing new clients in the United States. The company, which is the world's largest supplier of pallets, enjoyed a 23 percent increase in operating profits for its Americas division, while operating profits for its operations in Africa, Europe and the Middle East rose by 11 percent on a constant currency basis. Page B6.

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John Allan, managing director of Sensis, yesterday said Australians would get better service from call centre operators in India and the Philippines because "they have better technology and innovation". The directories business, owned by telecommunications giant Telstra, made 648 staff redundant yesterday and will move 391 customer service roles overseas. Page B6.

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THE AGE (www.theage.com.au)

Diversified financial services group AMP yesterday unveiled a 2.3 percent increase in net profit for the 2012 calendar year to A${esc.dollar}704 million. Strong performances from its self-managed super fund administration, superannuation and financial planning divisions underpinned the result. The company's integration of AXA, which it purchased in 2011, is also six months ahead of schedule. Page B4.

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Goodman Group yesterday announced it would continue broadening its operations in the United States and Brazil while growing its joint venture funds. The company posted a A${esc.dollar}266 million operating profit for the first half of 2012-13 with a statutory profit of A${esc.dollar}155 million after calculating in property revaluations in its British division. Page B8.

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