PRESS DIGEST-Australian Business News – Sept 29

Compiled for Reuters by Media Monitors. Reuters has not
verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.


–The managing director of agricultural chemicals group
Nufarm (NUF.AX: ), Doug Rathbone, yesterday confirmed that a
strategic review of the company would consider the positions of
all senior executives and the board. The company yesterday
reported its first negative result in more than a decade,
recording a full-year net loss of A$22.7 million. Reduced
demand for its glyphosate product, along with inventory value
write-downs and tax losses on the company’s Brazilian
operation, contributed to the result. Page 49.

–Robin Levison, chief executive of mining equipment
supplier Industrea (IDL.AX: ), yesterday confirmed that it would
consider bidding for rival supplier Valley Longwall, which is
being sold by private equity group Catalyst Investment
Managers. However, Mr Levison said Industrea did not see
Valley as a “must-have,” and would only bid at an attractive
price. Catalyst purchased Valley in 2007 for A$250 million.
Page 49.

–A United States court yesterday ordered mining company
BHP Billiton (BHP.AX: )(BLT.L: ) to hand over documents to takeover
target Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (POT.TO: ) after Potash
last week accused BHP of “false and misleading statements.” The
Canadian group has accused BHP of attempting to influence the
views of investors towards Potash by strategically timing the
announcement of a plan to build a US$10 billion potash project.
Page 49.

–Coal seam gas exploration group Dart Energy (DTE.AX: )
yesterday announced that it would acquire rival and partner
Apollo Gas (AZO.AX: ) in a friendly share-based takeover valued
at A$145 million. Managing director Simon Potter indicated
that further Australian acquisitions would be considered, and
that the company was also examining a possible initial public
offering for its international assets. Page 52.


–The Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) yesterday
confirmed that it had started talks with global rivals on
“possible business combinations,” as it seeks to prepare for
the introduction of competing exchanges next year. The ASX
released the statement confirming the potential alliance
discussions following a rally in its share price over the past
week, but said that “none of those discussions has resulted in
a disclosable transaction proposal.” Page 35.

–Shan Shanghua, secretary general of the China Iron and
Steel Association, yesterday criticised the Federal
Government’s proposed minerals resource rent tax, saying,
“Chinese steelmakers will not be able to accept rising costs
from the Australian iron ore mining tax.” Resources Minister
Martin Ferguson rejected claims that the tax would increase the
cost of iron ore for buyers, saying that prices would “continue
to be set on global markets in accordance with the supply and
demand environment.” Page 35.

–Italian group Amplifon (AMPF.MI: ) has acquired local
hearing-aid distribution network National Hearing Care (NHC)
for A$460 million from private equity groups Crescent Capital
Partners and Macquarie Group (MQG.AX: ). NHC chief executive
Paul Mirabelle yesterday said that the company would make “a
significant contribution” to Amplifon through its focus on the
growing Asia-Pacific market. Page 37.

–Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management and Capgemini
yesterday released their fifth Annual Asia-Pacific Wealth
report, finding that the number of high net worth individuals
(HNWI) in Australia grew 34 percent to 173,600. HNWIs are
defined as people with US$1 million or more in assets available
for investment. The report places Australia third in the
region for the number of HNWIs behind China and Japan. Page


–The Forbes Global CEO Conference in Sydney yesterday
heard that the emergence of economic superpowers in Asia is set
to strengthen demand for commodities and push up food prices
sharply. Andrew Forrest, chief executive of mining company
Fortescue Metals Group (FMG.AX: ), said food and energy prices
were tightly linked, and that the Federal Government’s plan to
impose a mining tax would restrict the global availability of
higher quality Australian coal. Page B1.

–Peter Couper, the former chief financial officer of
collapsed electronic payments group Bill Express, yesterday
appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court to face 10 criminal
charges. The charges, brought by the Australian Securities and
Investments Commission, follow a two-year inquiry into the
A$250 million collapse, and include allegations that Mr Couper
falsified the company’s books and gave misleading information
to an auditor. Page B3.

–Broking firm RBS (RBS.L: ) yesterday said that improved
business credit levels are expected to soon emerge, with
Australian business lending growth to reach double-digit levels
by 2012. Analysts say banks are already attempting to position
themselves for a recovery in lending to small and medium-sized
enterprises, with increased advertising and improved customer
service. However, ratings agency Standard & Poor’s said new
global banking rules may restrict small business access to
credit, affecting their credit ratings. Page B4.

–Furniture and electronics retailer Harvey Norman (HVN.AX: )
yesterday published its annual report. The report revealed
that chief executive Katie Page’s total salary had increased
from A$1.31 million to A$1.54 million, more than double that of
her husband, chairman Gerry Harvey, whose cash and non-cash
salary fell from A$1.042 million to A$738,072. Page B4.


–The National Tax & Accountants Association (NTAA) will
today launch the NTAA Financial Planners Association, in a bid
to gain a greater share of the lucrative self-managed
superannuation fund advisory business. Page B1.

–The Federal Government yesterday welcomed a new global
deal that will see the International Monetary Fund conduct
five-yearly stress tests on the world’s 25 largest financial
systems, and may see the organisation back in Australia next
year. A spokesperson for Treasurer Wayne Swan said Australian
banks are “well capitalised and well managed after years of
strong supervision.” The Australian Prudential Regulation
Authority last year conducted its own stress tests on local
banks. Page B7.

–Credit information group Veda Advantage yesterday said
that 2.1 million Australians, or 17 percent of the population,
had difficulty meeting credit repayments this month. The
latest report from Veda is an improvement from its March
survey, which found 19 percent of Australians were struggling
with bills. However, the improvement is likely to be reversed,
with the Reserve Bank of Australia expected to increase
interest rates as soon as next month. Page B7.

–Mark Cutifani, chief executive of gold mining company
AngloGold (ANGJ.J: ), yesterday gave partial support to recent
comments from BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers on
the need for a price on carbon emissions. However, Mr Cutifani
said that “it is way too early” to set up a carbon price, and
called on Prime Minister Julia Gillard to fulfil an election
promise to not impose a carbon price during this term of
government. Pg B9. —

PRESS DIGEST-Australian Business News – Sept 29