A better effort by Business Sunday on the Nine Network yesterday
today than the previous week (even though it was watched by more than 204,000
people, many of whom were tuning in early for the Mark Latham profile on the
Sunday program).

And, after some technical hitches, Michael Pascoe
finally went to air on Seven’s Sunday Sunrise with a follow up of last week’s
scoopette (nicely acknowledged by Alan Kohler in this
Saturday column
in The Age and The SMH) on how Rupert
Murdoch is actually protected from takeover by the clumsy ‘grandfathering’ of
his interest in News Corp.

Pascoe got around to speaking to the
representatives of the Spanish family that has bought the Adelaide
Review
and been knocked back by the Foreign Investment Review Board from
starting daily newspapers in Adelaide and Brisbane by FIRB, cities where
Murdoch’s News Ltd has a monopoly.

And Pascoe had a nice story on a
grossly underperforming tiny property trust from the Challenger group of
companies, 25% owned by Kerry Packer, and featuring the Lowy family as smaller
shareholders and the $33 million man, Chris Cuffe. Read the transcript here.

Intriguing
how Chris Cuffe and the lads at Challenger continue to take the fees for
managing what is essentially an almost empty building on the Pacific Highway in
Sydney’s St Leonards. They were more worried about sorting out Challenger’s
messy businesses to safeguard the Packer holding, and make it more interesting
for people like the Lowys to invest in.

Bugger the small investors. But then that was always the big flaw
in Bill Ireland’s model of basing an annuity stream on property, one
that the Packers continued to back past its useby date.

APRA
had to step in and held a gun to the company’s lead (figuratively) and
forced the Packers to either clean it up or lose money.
Business Sunday had a collection of little picture stories and an interview.

A
look at why the Zurich Insurance group is in trouble with APRA over
some financial re-insurance arrangements in its general business a few
years ago was billed as a “Business Sunday Investigation”. Far from it.
We still don’t know the nature of the arrangements and what they were
supposed to do and why APRA doesn’t like them. There is no suggestion
of another HIH situation (where there were financial re-insurance
arrangements within the FAI group which were not what they were
supposed to be). But no explanation of why and also why Zurich
CEO, John Butler has gone. Most curious.

Ali Moore also used an
interview with HIH liquidator, Tony McGrath to discuss re-insurance,
and also the Pan Pharmaceuticals situation. A once over warmed-up look
at the Greek economy was the main report in the second half hour, while
Ross Greenwood did a nice story on Simsmetal and the scrap steel boom.

ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel was the interview on Business Sunday, and on Inside Business
on the ABC, with the main topic the Woolworths, Bruce Mathieson bid for
Australian Leisure and Hospitality. Samuel’s interviews were the second
on both programs in just over a month, and with an appearance on Sunday Sunrise, he’s moving towards an Al Fels frequency alert in the media ‘tart’ stakes.

Nothing
much out of the interviews because it is early days, but the ACCC will
give the ALH situation a close look. A quiet chuckle went round the
room when Samuel told Ali Moore (whose hair on Sunday was much
different to the pre-recorded interview) that Roger Corbett from
Woolies rang him to inform the Commission and that Roger was always
helpful and co-operative.

Gee, is it only a year since Roger went on the now dead ABC Business
Breakfast to bag the ACCC? And Mr Samuel turned round and gave him a
swift kick to straightened the Woolies boss up to the point where he
know admits those comments were the biggest mistake of his business
life.

But both Alan Kohler and Ali Moore should remember recent
retailing history and the way the ACCC oversaw the break-up of
Franklins, the number three retailer, when Dairy Farm of Hong Kong sold
out of Australia. Woolies, Coles, Metcash, Pick n’ Pay of South Africa
and Foodland of Perth all got to pick up some assets.

In liquor,
ALH is number three liquor retailer, according to most figures behind
Coles and Woolies. From what Samuel said in both interviews, the
Commission will look at regional and local markets and competition in
those areas to see if there is a need for divestment. Victoria could be
of interest.

Inside Business also did a story on the bid
and reaction to it, but it’s a pity that the program and its staff
still have not seen the statement from ALE Property group, the trust
that owns the ‘land bank’ under all the pubs that ALH owns.

Otherwise
how could the ABC story say that the Breakfast Creek Hotel in Brisbane
is in the sights of Woolies and Mathieson. According to the ALE
statement (as detailed in Crikey’s sealed section on Friday) the
Breakfast Creek, Young and Jackson’s in Melbourne and the Sail and
Anchor in Perth may all revert to CUB which would become ALE’s tennant,
in the event of control of ALH changing.

And likewise the
property land bank line, with the property held by ALE. While ALH has
the rights to develop the leased premises, subject to ALE “being kept
whole”.

And “in considering any development proposal by ALH, ALE
and ALH must act reasonably to achieve commercial outcomes that are
acceptable to both.”

That gives Woolies and Bruce a chance to do
their deals, but it also gives ALE right of refusal over the assignment
of leases held by ALH to third parties.

Despite claims from the Woolies advisers, the ALE statement is a warning that its rights will have to be considered in any deal Inside Business also had a story on the nudie juice business linking up with Signature Brands and Ian Duffell. Last Sunday Business Sunday
had a similar story, before the link up between the two companies was
announced on Monday, a sort of before and after look at the same story.

Peter Fray

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