July 24, 2011 / 8:40 PM / 6 years ago

PRESS DIGEST-Australian Business News - July 25

8 Min Read

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)

Media analysts have speculated that a rival may bid for regional pay television provider Austar after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said Foxtel's A$1.9 billion takeover would represent "a substantial lessening of competition."  Although Foxtel chief executive Kim Williams said the regulator's statement was "not a decision but part of a review process", industry analysts believe the deal would need to be significantly altered to proceed.  Page 14.

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Qantas Airways subsidiary Jetstar Airways is still well-placed to launch the first budget Japanese carrier, a joint venture with Japan Airlines (JAL) , despite recent moves from competitors.  AirAsia of Malaysia and All Nippon Airways last week launched a competitor in the Japanese domestic market, AirAsia Japan.  "Jetstar and JAL have been working on this for a long time and AirAsia have just responded to what they've heard," one source said.  Page 14.

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Plans for Woodside Petroleum's Sunrise development in the Timor Sea were dealt a blow last week when Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) announced it would invest in the rival Abadi project, headed by Indonesian firm Inpex .  Work on the West Australian oil and gas company's Sunrise project has been halted due to a disagreement with the East Timorese government.  Analysts said Shell, a joint venture partner in Sunrise, may be looking for other regional opportunities.  Page 15.

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The Australian Agricultural Company revealed on Friday that it had signed an agreement with coal miner Xstrata to sell the 17,000 hectare Meteor Downs cattle station for A$21.6 million.  The beef producer will use the proceeds to pay down debt, buy a new abattoir and extend existing grazing leases.  "The major significance is it's the first property sale of our three-year strategy," said David Farley, the firm's chief executive.  Page 15.

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

The election of Ian Narev as Commonwealth Bank of Australia's new chief executive last week was seen as a sign the lender may look overseas for further growth opportunities. "The board may view the status quo as no longer sufficient in a low-growth domestic environment, and it may be looking at Mr Narev to drive additional avenues of growth," analysts UBS said.  Mr Narev was formerly head of Asian strategy for law firm McKinsey & Co.  Page 21.

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Webjet will expand its service to include hotel bookings as it looks to take advantage of a high Australian dollar and surging appetite for overseas travel.  The online travel booking service recently signed a deal with Hotel Club which gives it access to 70,000 hotels worldwide.  "We need to make sure we take part in what we see is a very attractive market in which we are under-represented," Webjet's new managing director, John Guscic, said.  Page 21.

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A delegation headed by former Victorian premier Steve Bracks will visit the Middle East in October to continue talks about a free trade agreement and promote the Australian automotive exports. Australian-based companies, particularly Toyota and General Motors Holden , are the main car exporters to the Gulf States.  "We want to reinforce the reliance on our market and talk about the prospects for expansion," Mr Bracks said.  Page 21.

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Market analysts are expecting a rash of downgrades when the full-year reporting season begins today.  According to a JPMorgan poll of market watchers, 64 percent of reporting companies could issue a surprise report, with 38 percent of those likely to be lower than expected.  "The coming profit reporting season...risks significant profit downgrades as the market slowly recognises the reality in Main Street," a Macquarie Equities report said.  Page 21.

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

Flights between Los Angeles and New York are expected to be cut from Qantas Airways' schedule as the airline reviews its international routes. Despite falling revenue from its international operations, industry sources did not believe the cuts would be too drastic.  Flights from Australia to India and Argentina were considered vulnerable, although a Qantas spokesperson said "no decisions have been taken about individual routes."  Page B3.

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A proposal from bricks-and-mortar retailers to lower the goods and services tax threshold from A$1000 to A$500 on overseas purchases made online would do little to revive flagging sales, industry figures said yesterday.  Auction website eBay and payments business PayPal said a minority of purchases made online exceeded A$500.  The Institute of Chartered Accountants' tax counsel, Yasser El-Ansary, said lowering the threshold "would result in very little change by consumers."  Page B3.

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Documents filed with the United Nations' World Intellectual Property Organisation reveal that BHP Billiton sought legal action earlier this year over an online scam.  "Internet users are led to believe they have entered into employment contracts with ," the United Nations' Dennis Foster said.  The fraudsters used the domain name "bhp-plc.com" in what the mining giant believes was an attempt to gain personal data from the victims.  Page B4.

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Supermarket giant Woolworths' A$1 billion foray into big-box hardware retailing, Masters, will sub-let the café space at its stores, differentiating it slightly from its main rival Bunnings.  Stores such as the Wesfarmers-owned Bunnings and Ikea offer food at their stores as a means of luring and retaining customers.  Woolworths plans to open 150 stores nationwide within the next five years, and hopes to open the first store this year.  Page 5.

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THE AGE (www.theage.com.au)

Telecommunications giant Telstra announced last week it would increase copper wire line rental later this year by an average of $2 per month due to "the rising cost of our own business inputs like labour, petrol and copper."  Revenue from Telstra's fixed line service was A$5.8 billion last year, an 8 percent year-on-year decline.  Under the deal with NBN Co, the company rolling out the national broadband network, the incumbent telco will be paid to decommission copper wire services.  Page B3.

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A survey by market researchers DBM Consultants has found that most business customers rate Australia's four major banks equally.  The survey found that 71 percent of small business owners were satisfied with the performance of their bank, while independents such as Bendigo Bank and Bank of Queensland had an 82 percent satisfaction rating.  DBM's John Hinchy said customers rated regional lenders associated with big banks the same as the major bank.  Page B5.

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The quarterly Business Outlook report from analysts Access Economics has forecast growth to remain between 3.1 and 3.5 percent for the coming years, driven by mining and related industries.  However, the report said there was no need to adjust the official interest rate, because "most of Australia's growth engines are misfiring."  Access director Chris Richardson said mining investment would spur growth despite weakness in other sectors.  Page 5.

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Next week's Diggers & Dealers event in Western Australia's Kalgoorlie will be an opportunity for up-and-coming resources ventures to attract investors.  Rex Minerals is this week expected to announce a resource upgrade at the South Australian Hillside development, which already estimates 1.2 million tonnes of copper and 1.1 million ounces of gold.  Interest from stockbrokers last week prompted speculation that Rex could be a takeover target for OZ Minerals .  Page B7.

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Sydney Newsroom +61-2 9373 1816; sydney.newsroom@allreleases.net

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