PRESS DIGEST-Australian Business News - June 27

Sun Jun 26, 2011 4:35pm EDT

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)

Car manufacturer Holden has put the Federal Government on notice, warning that it could be forced to abandon its Australian operations after the Government cut green car assistance programs in this year's budget. "We cut a deal with the prime minister of the country...back in '08...It certainly worries a multinational parent when sovereign risk begins to be something that is bandied about in terms of doing business in Australia," Mike Devereux, managing director and chairman of General Motors Holden, said yesterday.  Page 1.

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Global miner BHP Billiton is set to finish its A$9.53 billion share buyback scheme six months earlier than anticipated.  The speed of the buyback has led analysts to predict the miner could return more capital to shareholders later in the year when the company releases its full-year results.  Andrew Hines, analyst at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, predicts BHP will have a debt gearing of approximately 14 percent by the end of the financial year.  Page 14.

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Despite consumer sentiment in the economy being widely acknowledged as less than spectacular, DuluxGroup has managed to post a A$48.7 million half-year net profit after tax.  "During the GFC [global financial crisis], when people went from full-time to part-time work, sales during the week actually went up," the paint retailer's chief executive, Patrick Houlihan, said.  DuluxGroup shares are trading at approximately A$2.90, after listing at A$2.50 last year.  Page 14.

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An insider has confirmed that Chinese stakeholders in the Oakajee Port and Rail project are prepared to save the troubled project, once the West Australian government terminates its contract with the joint venture that now has the rights to build the development.  "Until they are given a clear signal that they are legally able and welcome, there's no formal proposal ready to go," the insider said.  The suspension of work at Sinosteel's Weld Range iron ore site last week put the Oakajee project at risk, with the Chinese group concerned about delays at the port's development.  Page 15.

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

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has received a four-star rating in the latest worldwide survey of anti-trust organisations by the Global Competition Review, placing it just below the world's leading competition bodies.  However, the review noted that outgoing chairman Graeme Samuel's "very strong personality" has led to him dominating public perceptions of the commission, and urged the ACCC to allow other commissioners to increase their public profile.  Page 21.

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John Sevior, wealth manager Perpetual's well-regarded stock picker, yesterday said he was a "50-50 chance" to return to the company following his six-month sabbatical.  Mr Sevior announced that he was taking an extended period of leave last month.  Mr Sevior said he did not believe a decision to depart Perpetual would lead to a repeat of 2002, when the departure of senior portfolio manager Peter Morgan prompted Perpetual clients to withdraw A$2 billion in mandates from the company.  Page 21.

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A stand-off between local brewer Foster's Group and South African group SABMiller is emerging after Foster's rejection of a A$9.5 billion takeover bid last week.  Although SABMiller chief executive Graham Mackay said he wanted to hold talks with Foster's over the potential deal, Foster's has been emphatic in rejecting the A$4.90 a share bid as underpriced, while SABMiller has defended the price as attractive, noting that its own share price has fallen since the announcement of the offer.  Page 22.

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A survey of small businesses has found that they are reducing their usual end of financial year expenditure due to uncertainty about the economic outlook.  The survey, commissioned by Telstra Business and the Council of Australian Small Business, found that of the companies that normally undertake pre-June 30 spending, 55 percent intend to cut back this year by an average 15 percent.  Page 23.

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

David Thodey, chief executive of Telstra , yesterday attempted to calm the fears of investors in the telecommunications giant by indicating the company could increase its yearly 28 cents dividend.  Telstra signed a deal with the Government last week that guarantees A$9 billion in post-tax cash flow over the next thirty to forty years.  "For the first time in this company's history, we have real [options] going forward,"  Mr Thodey said.  Page B1.

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The latest yearly report from the Bank for International Settlements has ranked Australia's major institutions as some of the most profitable banks on the planet.  According to the study, Australia's major banks earned the equivalent of  1.14 percent of their total assets in pre-tax profit, well above institutions in the United States (1.02) and nearly four times as profitable as banks in Germany and Britain.  The results counter comments from Ralph Norris, chief executive of Commonwealth Bank of Australia , who said Australian lenders were not "excessively" profitable.  Page B1.

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Commonwealth Bank of Australia has made a bid to capture more of the home loan market, by lowering the interest rate on its "no fee" mortgage offering to 7.11 percent.  The move comes after National Australia Bank's success in luring customers with its "break-up" campaign, where the lender offered to pay customers the cost of transferring their loan.  Page B3.

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The number of dwellings built each year in New South Wales cannot keep up with the state's population growth, according to observers.  Research from the Bureau of Statistics has revealed that only 27,655 new houses were built in New South Wales for 2010, while Victoria constructed 50,700 houses last year despite having a smaller population.  Analysts note that the housing shortage is likely to put upward pressure on housing prices and rents.  Page B3.

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THE AGE (www.theage.com.au)

Ant Keogh, the director of the "Flashbeer" and "Big Ad" advertisements for Carlton Draught, has won another Gold Lion award at the yearly Cannes advertising event.  The executive creative director at Clemenger BBDO in Melbourne won the award for his "slow motion" ad, where men are filmed drinking beer in slow motion while an altered Puccini song plays in the background.  Agency Leo Burnett also won a Gold Lion, while four Australian agencies in Sydney won a Bronze award.  Page B1.

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Telstra's submission to the Federal Government's tender for a fibre-to-the-node broadband network in 2008 did not contain any proposals for small and medium sized enterprises, according to documents published yesterday under the Freedom of Information Act.  The release of the papers comes after Telstra signed an agreement with the Government, three years after it was blocked from tendering from the smaller scale project.  Page B3.

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Meat and Livestock Australia, the chief body for Australia's livestock sector, has been criticised by the editor of Australian Meat News, who described the organisation as "unworkable."  The comments come as the group struggles to deal with the fallout from a Four Corners story that broadcast the torture and inhumane slaughter of Australian cattle in Indonesian abattoirs, leading to the eventual ban of all live cattle exports to the country.  Page B3.

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Australian Securities Exchange listed drug manufacturer Acrux could be set to earn a slice of a market worth US$75 million to US$100 million if European authorities approve the company's new treatment for dogs.  The Committee for Medicinal Products for Veterinary Use is currently assessing Acrux's Recuvyra, a cream for dogs that aims to reduce