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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

Company Where What
Amcor US European,NZ,Asian paper
AGL NZ gas assets
AMP UK NZ and Chile.
ANZ NZ and the Grindlays network
Amcor European NZ and US paper and packaging
Aristocrat Global poker machines all over the world
BHP Escondida Canadian diamonds,US copper etc
Boral US bricks,tiles,flyash. Asia plasterboard
Brambles Chep records business etc
BRL Hardy Global wine
Burns Philp US and Europe herbs,spices,yeast
Commonwealth Bank NZ and Asian operations
Computershare UK HK and South African registry businesses
CSR US building products
Faulding US pharmaceuticals
Foster’s Brewing global wine and beer
Goodman Fielder Nth and Sth America food operations.
Honan, Dick global agricultural products
Lend Lease UK US property management, Asian development
Liberman family Global property, banking
Macquarie Bank Asia property development, global trading
Mayne Nickless Indonesia, UK, US hospitals, express freight, security
MIM UK and Argentina Alumbrera mine in Argentina,UK smelting
News Corp Global Media
NAB UK, NZ and US banking
Normandy Mining Global Gold mines and base metal assets
Orica Global Worldwide explosives business.
Pacific Dunlop global Ansell and batteries
Pacifica US car parts
Pasminco US zinc
PBL/Packer Global chemical,publishing,gambling,film production,cinemas.
Qantas Global airline business
QBE Global various insurance operations
Ridley Corp US feedlot operation
Simsmetal UK and Asian scrap metal operations
Spotless global plastics manufacturing
Telstra Global international operations
Visy US paper
Village Roadshow Global cinemas
Washington H Soul Pattinson SE Asian coal pharmaceutical,property and fragrances.
Westfield US,NZ and Malaysia property development and management
Westpac NZ operations
WMC Global aluminium/bauxite operations

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

Company Where What
ABB Swiss engineering,Redbank power station
ABN Amro Dutch investment banking and funds management
Accor French Manages dozens of Australian hotels
Acer Taiwan computer hardware
ACI US glass
Adidas German sports goods and clothes
AES US Victorian and Queensland power stations
AIG US Insurance
Air New Zealand NZ 50% of Ansett
Airbus Industrie European aircraft
Alcan Canada Gove alumnium plant
Alcoa US aluminium and bauxite joint venture with WMC
Allianz German joint venture with HIH Insurance
American Express US card services
Anglo America South African bought Acacia and Shell coal assets
AOL-Time Warner US internet,magazines,film production,theme parks
Astra Zeneca UK pharmaceuticals
Axa French 51% of National Mutual
Babcock & Brown Global bought AIDC
Bass Group UK various hotels
BAT UK tobacco
Baulderstone Hornibrook German construction
Bechtel US family company power and construction
Billiton South African QNI nickel business
Boeing US aircraft
Bosch German electrical and car parts
Bridgestone US tyres
Brierley Investments NZ retail,James Hardie and Wills
Bristol Myers Squibb US pharmaceuticals
British Airways UK stake in Qantas
British Telecom UK various telco investments
Cable & Wireless UK 51% of CW Optus
Cadbury Schweppes UK confectionary and drinks
Campbell Soup US control of Arnotts
Canwest Canadian controls Ten network
Capital Group US funds management
Cargill US various agribusiness investments
Carter Holt Harvey US/NZ forestry
CED US bought cable company Metal Manufactures
CGEA French transport,water
Chase Manhattan-JP Morgan US investment banking
Chevron US oil and gas
Chemcor US chemicals
Cisco Systems US software and telco systems
CITIC Chinese Portland aluminium smelter,beef
Citigroup US banking and financial services
CMS US 50% of Loy Yang A power station
Coca Cola Company US control of Coca Cola Amatil
CS First Boston Swiss-US investment banking
Daimler-Chrysler US/German cars and trucks
Dairy Farm HK Franklins
DBS Land Singapore control Australand and Walker Corp
Dell Computers US computers
Deutsche Bank German investment banking
Diageo UK drinks and spirits
DRD South African gold mining
Dresdner German banking
Du Pont US chemicals and textiles
Duke Energy US gas pipelines
Edison Mission US owns Loy Yang B power station
EDS US Commonwealth Bank IT contract
Electrolux Swedish white goods
Erricson Swedish telecommunication products
Exide US PacDun’s battery business
Exxon-Mobil US oil and gas
Fisher & Paykel NZ white goods
Fletcher Challenge NZ construction,forestry
Fluor Daniel US engineering,plant management
Ford US car manufacturing
Fuji Japanese cameras, film, Subaru
Fujitsu Japanese electrical products, cars
General Electric US card processing
General Motors US car manufacturing
Gillette US shavers
Glaxo-Wellcome/Smithkline Beecham UK pharmaceuticals
Glencore Swiss various mining projects
Goodyear US tyres
GPU US Vic energy distribution
Granda UK Seven Network stake,production
Grand Hotel Group Malaysian various hotels
Guiness Peat Group UK corporate raiders
Hagermeyer Dutch Bought Pacific Dunlop’s electrical distribution business.
Hanson UK coal and bought Pioneer
Hawker de Havilland UK aircraft, defence, heavy engineering
Heinz US food,Weight Watchers
Hewlett Packard US computers
Hilton Corp US Jupiters casinos and various hotels
Hochtief control Leighton Holdings
Hoechst German chemicals,food
Homestake US Kalgoorlie super pit
HSBC Hong Kong banking and broking
Huntsman US mormons,chemicals
Hutchison HK telecommunications
Hyundai Korean cars
IBM US computers,IT
Illinois Tool Works US Bought Siddons Ramset
Independent Newspapers Irish newspapers,radio,outdoor advertising
Itochu Japanese mining,energy and engineering
ING Dutch investment banking,insurance
Johnson & Johnson US personal products
Kelloggs US cereals.
Kodak US film and cameras
KPN Dutch bought TNT
Kumugai Gumi Japanese hotels and property
Kwok family Singapore/HK property
Li Ka Shing Hong Kong bought SA power industry and Victoria’s Powercor.
Lion Nathan Japanese brewing
Lucent US backbone for web and mobile,bought JNA.
LVMH French leather goods and drinks
Malaysia Mining Corp Malaysia mining but no more Ashton
Marriott US hotels
Mars US chocolates, pet food
Marubeni Japanese aluminium and mining
Mazda Australia Japanese cars and bikes
McDonalds US fast food
MCI-Worldcom US telecommunications,Ozemail
Merck Sharpe Dohme US pharmaceuticals
Merrill Lynch US stockbroking
Metro Cash & Carry Sth African controls Davids Holdings
Microsoft US software, NineMSN
Mitsubishi Japanese car manufacturing
Mitsui Japanese iron ore through Robe River
Motorola US stake in ERG,telecommunications
National Express UK Vic public transport
National Power UK Vic power station
NEC Japanese Computers
Nestle Swiss former PacDun assets and various other food
Nippon Steel Japanese iron ore through Robe River
Nokia Norway mobile phones
Norske Skog Norway Bought Fletcher Paper
Norwich Union UK financial services
NRG US power stations
Nufarm NZ chemicals
Obayishi Japanese tollroads
Ong Beng Seng Singapore hotels,retail
Oracle US IT industries
Orlando French wine
MPH Singapore Av Jennings home builder
Mr CK Ow Singapore Stamford hotel chain
Panasonic Japanese electrical goods
Parmalat Italian dairy industry
Pearson UK Grundy TV production,financial information.
Pfizer US pharmaceuticals/viagra
Philip Morris US food and tobacco
Phillips Dutch Polygram, electricals
Phillips Petroleum US oil, bidding for Petroz
Placer Dome US gold mining operations
P&O UK stevedoring,ports,cold storage, resorts.
Primus Telecommunications US telecommunications
Principal Group US BT funds management
Ricket & Coleman US pharmaceuticals
Rio Tinto UK Comalco,North and various other mining assets
Roche Swiss pharmaceuticals
Rothmans South African tobacco
Royal-Sun Alliance UK insurance
Rugby Plc UK controls concrete giant Adelaide Brighton
Salomon Smith Barney US investment banking
San Miguel Phillipines beverages (20% of Coca Cola Amatil)
SBC Swiss investment banking
Service Corp International US death industry
Shell Dutch-UK oil,coal and gas
Siemens German electricals and engineering
Singapore Govt Singapore telecommunications,energy
Singapore Power Singapore Bought Vic power transmission assets
Spudman US bought PacDun pastry businesses
Sony Japanese music,electricals
Starwood US hotels
Sumitomo Japanese iron ore through Robe River
Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux French Pacific Waste Management
Telecom NZ NZ AAPT
Texas Utilities US Vic gas and electricity assets
Thakral family Singapore/HK hotel chain
Thames Water UK water
Toronto Dominion Canadian discount broking and banking
Toyota Japanese car manufacturing
Unilever Dutch-UK detergents and ice cream
UnitedGlobalCom US control of pay-TV group Austar
Utilicorp US controls United Energy plus other energy assets
Visa US credit cards
Virgin UK airlines, mobiles, music
Vivendi French Victorian public transport,publishing,water
Vodafone UK mobile phone business
Volvo Swedish cars
Weyerhaeuser US bought $300m of CSR’s timber businesses
Yamaha Japanese pianos,motorbikes
Yu Feng Taiwan 17 shopping centres

Peter Fray

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