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Dec 17, 2000

Government underwritten super funds are going down with Rupert

Rear Window has to offer $100 a day to the best contributor to produce its daily column in the Fin Review these days. Crikey can also do the occasional business gossip column without bribing anyone.

Rear Window has to offer $100 a day to the best contributor to produce its daily column in the Fin Review these days. Crikey can also do the occasional business gossip column without bribing anyone.

Crikey was sneaking a look at the NSW State Super annual report on a plane recently and noticed that the funds invested by the NSW Government on behalf of public servants are very long News Corp. In fact as at June 30 News Corp was State Super’s biggest individual shareholding worth about $1.3 billion. Peter Beattie’s Queensland Investment Corp has a similar sized investment in Rupert’s global media gambling so the two states have collectively dropped almost $1 billion in Rupert over the past few weeks as News Corp has almost halved from its peak earlier this year of $28. It was great on the way up guys but let’s hope you at least took some profits. News was the most obvious media bubble out there for a while.

Crazy subsidies for Holden and Motorola

If ever you needed an example of the rising power of global corporations and the falling power of sovereign and regional governments, just look at the way the Victoria, Federal and WA government have splashed out on behalf of taxpayers subsidising two giant multiinationals in General Motors and Motorola. Alan “the rationalist” Wood wrote a front page story in The Australian this week claiming the total taxpayer contribution to Holden’s $400 million V6 plant in Melbourne is $160 million with $60 million coming from the Vics and $100 million from Canberra just to the plant could satisfy Detroit’s demand for 25 per cent capital returns on its new projects. Both governments have said this is overstated but refuse to reveal the true figures. If the subsidy is that high the government should have said sod-off to GM which has become past masters at playing governments off against each other.

The same goes for Motorola which unveiled a $50 million plant in WA that got $5 million in tax breaks from the Court government and a $15 million gift from the University of WA. Couldn’t this money have been better used backing some local technologies rather than the world’s second biggest manufacturer of mobile phones?

Vizard’s quick million

Isn’t funny many Steve Vizard feeling clever for dumping $1 million worth of Multiemedia options within a week of joining the board a few months back.

Observers at the recent AGM reckon the board were carrying on as if they were running a $4 billion company. People like Jamie Bartels who have options at 80c will know it is but a shadow of its former self with the stock currently trading at 10c.

And the new CEO must be wishing he’d never left Ernst and Young to try his luck with a dot bomb. He’s now been shown the door after leaving $5 million on the table at the accouting outfit. Ouch. Telstra would have been a much better gig to stick with Steve.

Greiner gets his just desserts

Nick “Show me the money” Greiner is another old world director who must be kicking himself for fronting dstore as chairman and now having to explain to 50 rich and powerful investors how they pissed $28 million up against the wall.

Greiner’s name took a dive when he signed up for dstore before quitting as deputy chairman of Coles Myer. It’s called a conflict of interest Nick. Remember, the same thing your mate Solly Lew had at Coles Myer a few years back. How ironic that the dstore business has now passed to Adam Trescowthick, Poppy King’s boyfriend, for just $3 million.

Meanwhile, Tab Fried, the secretive investor who sued Poppy over the money she blew up, is making plenty selling highly priced Southgate apartment in Melbourne built by those honest tax brokers Bruno and Rino Grollo.

Greiner is also underwater as chairman of BMC Media and Crikey is considering a tilt at their board when the next AGM comes along in April. The former NSW Premier is probably regretting calling The Australian’s Nick Hopkins a “fuckwit” at the last meeting. BMC has tumbled from a high of $8 to about 50c over the past eights months, even after gouging their 160 customers with ridiculous 35 per cent commissions.

Robert Whyte’s ComBank bonanza

Here’s a little scoop for you all. Kerry Packer’s mate Robert Whyte is the largest individual shareholder in the Commonwealth Bank with a holding worth almost $150 million at the current price of $32 a share.

This windfall comes from a modest $10 million investment in a CBA options play some three years back that has paid off spectacularly. Macquarie Bank funded Robert into this deal which is now more than a “ten bagger” from the man who made his earlier fortunes in property and then through the Advance Bank funds management business.

The drone man’s bad timing

Poor old Mark Rayner must feel sick looking at the Pasminco share price plunge towards 70c. The chairman who drones the most was buying the stock feebly at $1 and then 90c a couple of months back to try and demonstrate some faith in the world’s biggest lead and zinc producer.

The stock would never have got below $1 if Mark and the boys weren’t sitting on a hedge book that was $400 million out of the money. Who were your advisers boys? They should be sacked. At least finance director Bronwyn Constance has now been shown the door after a fire at their Hobart smelter conspired with production problems at the Century zinc mine in Queensland to send Pasminco shares below 70c for the first time.

Gutnick going broke

So, Joe Gutnick has reclaimed his 15 per cent equity stake in Centaur from Anaconda. But what has happened to the $8 million that was paid. Will Joe hand that back or is it just on deposit.

And why the hell is Joe still flying around in his corporate jet as Centaur slowly goes broke. The $350 million worth of $1 bonds that financed his Cawse nickel project are now trading at about 30c and yielding about 30 per cent. That’s called junk bond. Will Chase Manhattan and its clients become the latest bank to take a hair cut on the wily Joe?

And what about poor old Robert de Crespigny? His outfit Normandy Mining is owed $100 million by Joe’s private companies. Looks like you’re in for a big haircut too Rob. But you’re in good company as Victorian taxpayers lost about $35 million in Joe through Tricontinental’s lost loans to Centaur a few years back. Sadly, Crikey still holds some Centaur shares and has lost about $2500 in them on a $2800 investment.

Maybe we’ll take a bit of revenge by trying to organise a ginger group to throw Joe out of Melbourne Footy Club. No sponsorship money surely equals no chairmanship in these straitened financial times for our footy clubs.

Matho’s Chinese casino for the lads

It seems that Victoria’s pokies king Bruce Mathieson was trying to emerge as a casino mogul in China through a $20 million investment that Sino Securities (20 per cent owned by Bruce) made in a stalled casino hotel/resort project in China that was aiming to attract the “weekend blokes” market.

Jeff Kennett admired Matho for his Chinese connections and he must be a smart operator to have lined up a stake in one of the two venues with a casino licence in gambling mad China.

Unfortunately, the project is embroiled in a legal dispute and Sino’s auditors raise a few concerns about the recoverability of the $20 million.

Given that Bruce has made about $100 million out of Victoria’s mad pokies boom, he won’t be too worried about dropping a few mill in China.

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