Peter Costello has blundered both politically and economically in his decision to block Shell’s move to increase its stake in Woodside Petroleum from 35 per cent to 56 per cent.

Mrs Crikey is a shareholder in Woodside and lost about $145 dollars yesterday on her very modest 100 shares. As we’re expecting our first child in August, we need all the money we can get so we appreciated Shell giving us an offer in of $14.20 a share.

No one else can offer us that because Shell already has 34.3 per cent of Woodside and is not a seller.

And doesn’t the PM look like a right wally now. He comes out and declares the BHP-Billiton deal a “marvellous merger” when it simply serves to give foreigners majority ownership of BHP and a chief executive who will not even be tax-registered in Australia. Furthermore, BHP is paying a 20 per cent premium to Billiton for a bunch of assets in high risk countries.

BHP didn’t seem to care too much about Woodside when they they sold their 40 per cent stake for about $2.60 a share back in 1990. Why didn’t then Treasurer Paul Keating tell BHP that they weren’t allowed to leave Shell as the controlling shareholder with 40 per cent back then? Because in capitalism you shouldn’t stop someone from buying or selling assets from reputable players, provided they don’t exercise too much market power that could see consumers exploited.

And we also appreciate Costello weakening the dollar like that just as we’re sending off a modest contribution to a Crikey cousin in England going on a cancer walk in the Himalayas and we’re paying out $US200 to renew our certificate for taking credit card payments. Thanks a heap Pauline.

These are just two small examples of where Peter Costello is dead wrong to deny us Woodside shareholders a right to receive this offer from Shell. First and foremost this is a shareholder’s rights issue.

Maybe there is a smart lawyer out there who could get a class action up on the question of damages for 43,000 shareholders who are being arbitrarily denied the right to even receive this bid. The shareholders could well have rejected it, but they at least should have the opportunity to assess it. This decision is a gross abuse of shareholders’ rights in Australia.

There is absolutely nothing stopping Shell from using their existing 34.3 per cent stake to vote off the independent directors and gain defacto control of Woodside without paying a cent for it.

Besides, Woodside’s existing board and management should be sacked for the appalling hedging policy they put in place which sees them selling oil for effectively half price. It has literally cost us shareholders billions and now the government is unilaterally preserving this discredited management team.

It is interesting that Woodside’s chairman Charles Goode is a big Liberal Party fundraiser and Woodside’s lobbyist Gary Gray would appear to have earned his seven figure fee along the way.

Crikey’s position on foreign ownership

Crikey is opposed to the BHP-Billiton deal on the grounds of price and is also concerned about the Singtel takeover of Optus on the grounds that a foreign state should not gain control of sensitive communication assets.

Singapore has a repressive government that stymies free speech, political discussion and has appalling privacy policies. These are legitimate concerns for the government in the Optus takeover because Singtel is 78 per cent owned by the Singapore Government and even ASIO and the Defence department are recommending against the deal.

But Shell is a publicly listed oil company with a good reputation, blemishes such as Nigeria and Brent-Spar aside. It has a 100-year history in Australia, is a good employer and the takeover poses no problems on competition grounds.

How can John Howard insist on the Queen of England remaining the Queen of Australia and a representative of the Church of England becoming our Governor-General whilst taking exception to a Dutch-Anglo oil company increasing its stake in Woodside.

This idea that they will somehow hold back development of the North West Shelf is fanciful. There are six equal partners in the project and they simply would not let a Shell controlled Woodside stand on the hose.

And isn’t it ironic that this retrograde decision comes in the same week the Liberals in Canberra, South Australia and the Northern Territory have signed off on their bail out of the crazy Darwin to Alice Springs railway project.

It really is tragic how the Libs are sprinting to the economic left at the moment. The business and shareholding community will have no alternative but to vote for People Power if they want to get some sensible economic policies on offer.

Finally, this is our foreign ownership list which demonstrate Australia’s appalling foreign ownership record. There are only 44 Australian-owned companies generating more than $200 million a year from exports or offshore operations, yet there are almost 200 foreign owned companies turning over more than $200 million a year in the Australian market. We’ve been comprehensively globalised because of excessive union power, incompetent management, big government, a crap tax system, lack of innovation and wrong national priorities on things such as sport and gambling. Additions or corrections for the list are much appreciated.

Australian Companies Generating More Than $200M Overseas

AmcorUSEuropean,NZ,Asian paper
AGLNZgas assets
AMPUKNZ and Chile.
ANZNZand the Grindlays network
AmcorEuropeanNZ and US paper and packaging
AristocratGlobalpoker machines all over the world
BHPEscondidaCanadian diamonds,US copper etc
BoralUSbricks,tiles,flyash. Asia plasterboard
BramblesCheprecords business etc
BRL HardyGlobalwine
Burns PhilpUS and Europeherbs,spices,yeast
Commonwealth BankNZ and Asianoperations
ComputershareUKHK and South African registry businesses
CSRUSbuilding products
Foster’s Brewingglobalwine and beer
Goodman FielderNth and Sth Americafood operations.
Honan, Dickglobalagricultural products
Lend LeaseUKUS property management, Asian development
Liberman familyGlobalproperty, banking
Macquarie BankAsiaproperty development, global trading
Mayne NicklessIndonesia, UK, UShospitals, express freight, security
MIMUK and ArgentinaAlumbrera mine in Argentina,UK smelting
News CorpGlobalMedia
NABUK, NZ and USbanking
Normandy MiningGlobalGold mines and base metal assets
OricaGlobalWorldwide explosives business.
Pacific DunlopglobalAnsell and batteries
PacificaUScar parts
PBL/PackerGlobalchemical,publishing,gambling,film production,cinemas.
QantasGlobalairline business
QBEGlobalvarious insurance operations
Ridley CorpUSfeedlot operation
SimsmetalUK and Asianscrap metal operations
Spotlessglobalplastics manufacturing
TelstraGlobalinternational operations
Village RoadshowGlobalcinemas
Washington H Soul PattinsonSE Asian coalpharmaceutical,property and fragrances.
WestfieldUS,NZ and Malaysiaproperty development and management
WMCGlobalaluminium/bauxite operations

Foreign Companies Generating More Than $200m In Australia Each Year

ABBSwissengineering,Redbank power station
ABN AmroDutchinvestment banking and funds management
AccorFrenchManages dozens of Australian hotels
AcerTaiwancomputer hardware
AdidasGermansports goods and clothes
AESUSVictorian and Queensland power stations
Air New ZealandNZ50% of Ansett
Airbus IndustrieEuropeanaircraft
AlcanCanadaGove alumnium plant
AlcoaUSaluminium and bauxite joint venture with WMC
AllianzGermanjoint venture with HIH Insurance
American ExpressUScard services
Anglo AmericaSouth Africanbought Acacia and Shell coal assets
AOL-Time WarnerUSinternet,magazines,film production,theme parks
Astra ZenecaUKpharmaceuticals
AxaFrench51% of National Mutual
Babcock & BrownGlobalbought AIDC
Bass GroupUKvarious hotels
Baulderstone HornibrookGermanconstruction
BechtelUS family companypower and construction
BillitonSouth AfricanQNI nickel business
BoschGermanelectrical and car parts
Brierley InvestmentsNZretail,James Hardie and Wills
Bristol Myers SquibbUSpharmaceuticals
British AirwaysUKstake in Qantas
British TelecomUKvarious telco investments
Cable & WirelessUK51% of CW Optus
Cadbury SchweppesUKconfectionary and drinks
Campbell SoupUScontrol of Arnotts
CanwestCanadiancontrols Ten network
Capital GroupUSfunds management
CargillUSvarious agribusiness investments
Carter Holt HarveyUS/NZforestry
CEDUSbought cable company Metal Manufactures
Chase Manhattan-JP MorganUSinvestment banking
ChevronUSoil and gas
Cisco SystemsUSsoftware and telco systems
CITICChinesePortland aluminium smelter,beef
CitigroupUSbanking and financial services
CMSUS50% of Loy Yang A power station
Coca Cola CompanyUScontrol of Coca Cola Amatil
CS First BostonSwiss-USinvestment banking
Daimler-ChryslerUS/Germancars and trucks
Dairy FarmHKFranklins
DBS LandSingaporecontrol Australand and Walker Corp
Dell ComputersUScomputers
Deutsche BankGermaninvestment banking
DiageoUKdrinks and spirits
DRDSouth Africangold mining
Du PontUSchemicals and textiles
Duke EnergyUSgas pipelines
Edison MissionUSowns Loy Yang B power station
EDSUSCommonwealth Bank IT contract
ElectroluxSwedishwhite goods
ErricsonSwedishtelecommunication products
ExideUSPacDun’s battery business
Exxon-MobilUSoil and gas
Fisher & PaykelNZwhite goods
Fletcher ChallengeNZconstruction,forestry
Fluor DanielUSengineering,plant management
FordUScar manufacturing
FujiJapanesecameras, film, Subaru
FujitsuJapaneseelectrical products, cars
General ElectricUScard processing
General MotorsUScar manufacturing
Glaxo-Wellcome/Smithkline BeechamUKpharmaceuticals
GlencoreSwissvarious mining projects
GPUUSVic energy distribution
GrandaUKSeven Network stake,production
Grand Hotel GroupMalaysianvarious hotels
Guiness Peat GroupUKcorporate raiders
HagermeyerDutchBought Pacific Dunlop’s electrical distribution business.
HansonUKcoal and bought Pioneer
Hawker de HavillandUKaircraft, defence, heavy engineering
HeinzUSfood,Weight Watchers
Hewlett PackardUScomputers
Hilton CorpUSJupiters casinos and various hotels
Hochtiefcontrol Leighton Holdings
HomestakeUSKalgoorlie super pit
HSBCHong Kongbanking and broking
Illinois Tool WorksUSBought Siddons Ramset
Independent NewspapersIrishnewspapers,radio,outdoor advertising
ItochuJapanesemining,energy and engineering
INGDutchinvestment banking,insurance
Johnson & JohnsonUSpersonal products
KodakUSfilm and cameras
KPNDutchbought TNT
Kumugai GumiJapanesehotels and property
Kwok familySingapore/HKproperty
Li Ka ShingHong Kongbought SA power industry and Victoria’s Powercor.
Lion NathanJapanesebrewing
LucentUSbackbone for web and mobile,bought JNA.
LVMHFrenchleather goods and drinks
Malaysia Mining CorpMalaysiamining but no more Ashton
MarsUSchocolates, pet food
MarubeniJapanesealuminium and mining
Mazda AustraliaJapanesecars and bikes
McDonaldsUSfast food
Merck Sharpe DohmeUSpharmaceuticals
Merrill LynchUSstockbroking
Metro Cash & CarrySth Africancontrols Davids Holdings
MicrosoftUSsoftware, NineMSN
MitsubishiJapanesecar manufacturing
MitsuiJapaneseiron ore through Robe River
MotorolaUSstake in ERG,telecommunications
National ExpressUKVic public transport
National PowerUKVic power station
NestleSwissformer PacDun assets and various other food
Nippon SteelJapaneseiron ore through Robe River
NokiaNorwaymobile phones
Norske SkogNorwayBought Fletcher Paper
Norwich UnionUKfinancial services
NRGUSpower stations
Ong Beng SengSingaporehotels,retail
OracleUSIT industries
MPHSingaporeAv Jennings home builder
Mr CK OwSingaporeStamford hotel chain
PanasonicJapaneseelectrical goods
ParmalatItaliandairy industry
PearsonUKGrundy TV production,financial information.
Philip MorrisUSfood and tobacco
PhillipsDutchPolygram, electricals
Phillips PetroleumUSoil, bidding for Petroz
Placer DomeUSgold mining operations
P&OUKstevedoring,ports,cold storage, resorts.
Primus TelecommunicationsUStelecommunications
Principal GroupUSBT funds management
Ricket & ColemanUSpharmaceuticals
Rio TintoUKComalco,North and various other mining assets
RothmansSouth Africantobacco
Royal-Sun AllianceUKinsurance
Rugby PlcUKcontrols concrete giant Adelaide Brighton
Salomon Smith BarneyUSinvestment banking
San MiguelPhillipinesbeverages (20% of Coca Cola Amatil)
SBCSwissinvestment banking
Service Corp InternationalUSdeath industry
ShellDutch-UKoil,coal and gas
SiemensGermanelectricals and engineering
Singapore GovtSingaporetelecommunications,energy
Singapore PowerSingaporeBought Vic power transmission assets
SpudmanUSbought PacDun pastry businesses
SumitomoJapaneseiron ore through Robe River
Suez Lyonnaise des EauxFrenchPacific Waste Management
Texas UtilitiesUSVic gas and electricity assets
Thakral familySingapore/HKhotel chain
Thames WaterUKwater
Toronto DominionCanadiandiscount broking and banking
ToyotaJapanesecar manufacturing
UnileverDutch-UKdetergents and ice cream
UnitedGlobalComUScontrol of pay-TV group Austar
UtilicorpUScontrols United Energy plus other energy assets
VisaUScredit cards
VirginUKairlines, mobiles, music
VivendiFrenchVictorian public transport,publishing,water
VodafoneUKmobile phone business
WeyerhaeuserUSbought $300m of CSR’s timber businesses
Yu FengTaiwan17 shopping centres

Peter Fray

Support journalism that makes things better, not worse.

Rupert Murdoch had never had a US president in his pocket before Donald Trump landed there in 2016.

This week, we explored the relationship between the two men and why Murdoch should be held to account for the making of Trump.

Where do you start with dismantling the media empire that delivered us a phenomenon like Trump?

Here’s one thing you can do: Support the journalism that makes things better, not worse.

Subscribe to Crikey today with the promo code MADEMEN and get 50% off an annual membership.

Hurry, 48 hours only.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey