Australia to scrutinize company disclosures after Newcrest probe

SYDNEY, July 7 Sun Jul 7, 2013 4:01am EDT

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SYDNEY, July 7 (Reuters) - Securities regulators will closely monitor disclosures by Australian-listed firms in the upcoming financial reporting season after claims Newcrest Mining Ltd held one-to-one briefings with a small number of analysts prior to releasing bad news.

"The exercise really is designed to proactively look at the approach the companies and analysts are taking... whether is inadvertent or deliberate," said Cathie Armour, commissioner of the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC).

ASIC has already launched a separate probe into possible breaches of continuous disclosure laws by Newcrest that could take a year or more to complete.

Newcrest on June 7 announced up to $6 billion in writedowns due to cost overruns at some of its gold mines, driving its stock down 14 percent. That added to a 12 percent slide over the previous two sessions after UBS, Credit Suisse, Citi, Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley all downgraded their outlooks on the miner.

The world's third-largest gold producer has launched its own investigation into how it releases market-sensitive information.

Newcrest Chief Executive Greg Robinson has said individual meetings took place with analysts and management between April and June, but that the discussions covered only information previously disclosed to the wider market regarding the performance of the quarter already past.

Between 15 and 20 members of ASIC will take part in the policing exercise, which relies on voluntary participation from the companies involved.

"We are about to enter into the reporting season for Australian companies and this provides us with an opportune time to remind the market about integrity on communications between companies and investors and analysts," Armour said.

Armour declined to discuss ASIC's investigation into Newcrest's disclosure practices apart from saying it "put the spotlight on the more general issue of companies and there briefings of research analysts." (Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Ed Davies)

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