PRESS DIGEST-Australian Business News - June 15

Thu Jun 14, 2012 4:54pm 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)

A report released yesterday by The Financial Times newspaper has raised worries about mining giant BHP Billiton's approval of three mega-projects which include the Olympic Dam mine in South Australia, the Port Hedland outer harbour development in Western Australia and the Canadian Jansen potash project. "They may not have the flexibility to say 'we'll wait 12 months before we actually decide," said Tim Schroeders, manager at funds management business Pengana Capital Limited. Page 19.

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Port operator Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) yesterday announced a delay on the development of its A$5 billion-plus T4 coal terminal at the Port of Newcastle, citing a lengthy project estimate and inadequate rail capacities in the Hunter Valley coal industry. "There is clearly more work to be done to ensure that rail and train capacity is better aligned with loader capacity," said Hennie Du Plooy, chief executive of PWCS. Page 19.

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Supermarket giant Woolworths announced yesterday it was putting on hold plans to purchase two takeaway liquor stores in Tasmania and New South Wales in light of the tougher acquisition approval guidelines from competition watchdog the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. "We may revisit them at some point in the future but neither are priorities right now," a spokesman for Woolworths said. Page 20.

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A move by casino operator Echo Entertainment Group to raise A$450million of capital from new investors will be delayed until today as a result of time-zone constraints and dealings with numerous lenders, company advisers revealed. The capital raising is expected to give Echo the flexibility to pursue the international VIP business market while giving it increased leverage against its debt obligations. Page 20.

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

Rod Sims, chairman of competition watchdog the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, said yesterday that future media mergers will be scrutinised closely and on a case by case basis. "In media, the definition of media is really quite broad  I think there are issues there, I think we have concerns about mergers there because of the access to content that allows people to get," Mr Sims said. Page 19.

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American casino proprietor Steve Wynn yesterday invested A$15.1 million in the development of the American version of Australian food franchise Pie Face. "Wynn visited our only store on Broadway, tried a pumpkin pie while his wife Andrea tasted the apple crumble pie; they loved it," said Wayne Homschek, co-founder and chief executive of Pie Face Australia. Mr Wynn is planning to open up to 15 Pie Face cafes in New York. Page 20.

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A study by the Australian Council of Super Investors (ACSI) revealed yesterday that companies which fail to provide a satisfactory reporting level on corporate governance and sustainability risks could be publicly exposed in order to improve disclosure standards. "If you are in the top 100, it could make you pay greater attention to these matters," said ACSI chief executive Ann Byrne. Page 20.

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Investment group Perpetual yesterday brushed off speculation regarding a report suggesting it was bracing itself for an approach from a private equity group. Shares in the company appreciated almost 10 percent with one industry analyst saying "we've already seen one proposal, so who's to say there's not another one in the wings, even if the company hasn't yet been approached". Page 20.

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

A bid to split native title claims for the James Price Point gas hub site have been withdrawn after project developer Woodside Petroleum and the West Australian government threatened to withdraw over A$1 billion in benefits. Long standing differences over the cultural significance of the site were believed to be behind the move for the two native title claims from the Goolarabooloo and Jabir Jabir Kimberley region people. Page B3.

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Chief executive of Sydney Airport, Kerrie Mather, signalled the intent of the airport to increase its role in the tourism sector with the co-operation of Tourism Australia and New South Wales Tourism. The airport was consulting about a new plan to reconfigure the airport that would hopefully open up flights to India and China. "We are halfway through that period of consultation, so we were on track delivering our master plan by 2014," Ms Mather said. Page B3.

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A takeover offer from miner LionGold has been met with caution by shareholders in fellow miner Castlemaine Goldfields due to a bidder's statement released yesterday showing LionGold was still owed around A$16 million from private company Enchante. "We are not concerned at all about access to finance, we do have other avenues of financing as and when required," LionGold chief operating officer, Errol Smart, said yesterday. Page B6.

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A contract transferred from beleaguered building company Reed Construction to a separate company owned by Geoff Reed has concerned creditors. The contract for the Law Courts project was novated to RBG Holdings Group, holding company for the Reed Group. "Law Courts Limited intends to complete the project using the existing resources and contractors on site," a spokesperson for the Law Courts said yesterday. Page B6.

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THE AGE (www.theage.com.au)

Bernie Brooks, chief executive of Australia's biggest department store, Myer, yesterday labelled the retail conditions in the country as nothing short of "a tale of woe". "We are seeing the most difficult time I have encountered in nearly 36 years that I have been involved in retail. I have not seen it as difficult, as consistently difficult, than what it is today," Mr Brookes said. Page B1.

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The hope of any return of capital to the "many thousands of creditors" in Hastie Group were dashed yesterday by administrator PPB Advisory. With the debt bill to banks of more than A$500 million there was little hope for any substantial returns to the other creditors of the failed engineering services company. "They're really normal, ordinary businesses," Ian Carson of PPB Advisory said. Page B1.

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Coles, Woolworths, BHP Billiton, Qantas and Telstra were among 40 Australian companies, including three of the big four banks, applying for new branded domain names, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers revealed yesterday. With applications costing around US$185,000, organisations could have their unique name allocated as early as May 2013, unless a dispute extends the process. Page B3.

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Heavy falls in the sharemarket have resulted in increased takeover speculation for a number of companies. Rumours were rife yesterday that mining magnate Gina Rinehart had increased her holding in Fairfax Media, with Qantas Airways and casino group Echo Entertainment also mentioned as potential takeover targets. A sharp rise in the share price of investment manager Perpetual Investments led to rumours it too was the subject of a takeover, prompting a "please explain" from the Australian Securities Exchange. Page B3.

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