Mining giant BHP-Billiton has dropped its demands for a higher iron ore
price in the face of a relentless campaign by Chinese steel mills and
bureaucrats, reports The Australian .
The “humiliating” backdown also heads off a possible diplomatic spat
with China on the eve of Prime Minister John Howard’s visit to Beijing
next week to discuss a free trade agreement. The Australian ’s Bryan Frith
says extracting a higher price was always going to be an uphill task
for BHP-Billiton and it was surprising they were holding out for
more.

In the Financial Review
Colleen Ryan also noted that the BHP-Billiton backdown is good news for
Howard on the eve of his visit to Beijing, but the question now, says
Ryan is: “Will Beijing back down on its plan to introduce licensing for
iron ore importers?” A system that would see the number of iron
ore imports in China reduced by 80% from 500 to 100. In Chanticleer
John Durie says: “The Chinese played the game superbly with a cacophony
of sound and political threats loud enough to with the battle” – or
could someone in Canberra have had a quiet word with Chip Goodyear
suggesting he back off a touch? We may never know.

The AFR also reports
that in an effort to increase national productivity and
competitiveness, the federal government may offer the states financial
incentives to help streamline business regulations. Areas to be
targeted include infrastructure regulation, occupational health and
safety laws, development planning controls and consumer protection
standards.

Meanwhile, The Australian
reports that Telstra’s ambitious consumer and marketing chief (and
would-be CEO), David Moffatt has said he would save $100 million if the
“booming” Big Pond internet business – currently controlled by Justin
Milne – was moved into his division.

Former James Hardie CEO, Peter Macdonald has topped up his
controversial $8.8 million resignation payout yesterday by converting
100,000 options into shares, reports the SMH .
With Macdonald paying Hardie $3.18 a share, at yesterday’s closing
share price of $6.08, he would have made an instant paper profit of
$290,000.

The SMH’s Elizabeth Knight
says its no surprise that Amcor’s share price took a battering
following the resignation of star chief executive Russell Jones late
last year – “the many negatives about this company make the market
predisposed to sell” – but whether this sentiment justified
remains to be seen says Knight.

From The Wall Street Journal
comes the news that Apple’s profits have increased more than sixfold as
revenue jumped 70% on strong iPod sales. If you dont have access to WSJ
a similar story is available in the SMH .

And on Wall Street itself on Wednesday, US stocks closed down as expectations
of a spring rally turned into concerns of a spring economic slowdown,
says The Street .

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