Terry Television looks at the Sunday morning business programs.
And the week’s suspects were rounded up. Standard and Poor’s David Blitzer on Nine’s Business Sunday and the ABC’s Inside Business about the News Corp domicile and index presence issue. Business Sunday also did a panel on News Corp that was going nicely until it once again ran out of time.

The program is trying to cram too much into the time allotted and on a major issue like the News domicile, you’d have though that the priority would have been to let it run to get the views from the market.

Ross Greenwood had some reasonable points on the News issue, as did Michael Pascoe who reminded viewers of Seven’s Sunday Sunrise that the key to the deal was the estate planning aspect and the sale of Queensland Newspapers by Murdoch to News Corp.Pascoe pointed out that that particular deal should be stopped by the authorities, because it was so outrageously generous to Murdoch’s personal interests.

But the most sense on the issue came from the Intech man on the Business Sunday panel, Michael Coop, who said that investors could buy whatever overseas coverage or investments they liked.

Demolishing the twin arguments that News was a good proxy for international exposure to investors, and that News going overseas would mean less international exposure in the Australian market, Mr Coop reminded viewers that the international involvement by Australian companies had been falling in recent years, witness the decisions by the AMP and the NAB to withdraw from the UK and US respectively.

He said investors wanting international exposure could buy the foreign shares themselves or buy the foreign share funds if they wanted.
But you can bet that the pro-News gang will continue to trot that one out over the next few months as the arguments rage.
And what did David Blitzer of S&P say. More of the same, transition in months, smoothing and defending the argument that you can’t appear in two indices at once.

Greenwood did point out that a number of Australian companies did appear in both the S&P indices here and the Footsie 100 in the UK ( BHP-Billiton and Brambles), But while interesting, that is not the argument here. Both companies did not want to go into the S&P 500 in the US.

Eric Smith from Vanguard’s Australian office made the very nice point that he regarded News as a US company predominantly anyway because that’s where a majority of its earnings come from.

Crikey. What no one has considered is that News Corp could float News Ltd here and get the best of both worlds. Some cash, exposure in both indices and maybe help meet the coming argument about the foreign ownership of News’ media assets here once the company moves.

And there are plenty of examples. Rupe is confident with 34% of DirecTV in the US and around 80% of Fox Entertainment, and in the UK, sits on around 37% of Bosky (which is in the News books at a written down value of zilch). That’s the easy peasy way and local shareholders should point this out to the great man and his hench people as a doable way out of the argument.

Meanwhile the National Australia Bank’s Graham Kraehe was quizzed by Adam Shand on Business Sunday and you still got the feeling that here was a man on Mogadon who still didn’t understand what had happened to him. Judging by his performance, there’s an awful lot riding on the ability of John Stewart. Oh Dear.

And with three new directors needed and interviews and discussions underway, an announcement is due in the ‘next few months’ I would have thought the need was more pressing for a couple of good, experienced types with banking background to be found, vetted and appointed ASAP.

Several or a few months does not indicate the current reduced board still understands the need for speed on the new NAB directors to show the investors that the issue is being taken seriously.

On Inside Business Alan Kohler quizzed Andrew Mohl about the AMP’s change in fortunes. And shareholders may or may not get some good news in the next three months with a possible capital return.

But Kohler should have made a more direct point that the AMP has been saved really by the flood of liquidity from the US into world markets and the rebound on bourses around the world. They are only now just under levels reached three years ago and its hard to see another year of growth coming in share prices like we’ve seen since March of last year.

Mohl was sensible enough to realise that and use it as a caveat to bat down Kohler’s demand for the AMP to follow Telstra and lay down a policy for returning surplus capital to shareholders. Mohl cautioned that companies like the AMP, while it had surplus capital and non-core assets, it still depended on healthy markets for rising fees and income.

Don’t we all.

Peter Fray

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