BHP Billiton is set to hit the ground running today as it takes formal control of WMC Resources, reports Barry FitzGerald in the Smage. A series of interim management changes will be made, followed by various employee briefings, but as few as one in 15 of WMC’s 650 white-collar workforce is expected to be offered an ongoing position.

Should BHP have launched its offer earlier and paid less? asks Malcolm Maiden, also in the Smage. BHP won control of WMC with a $7.85-a-share, $9.2 billion bid that is about 80% above WMC’s share price in 2002. A bid of about $6 a share would probably have carried the day in 2002. But that’s a comment made with the benefit of hindsight. BHP could have moved on WMC sooner than it did, and probably should have – but not that early.

Property developer, Mirvac, is expecting the pain in Australia’s housing market to extend well into next financial year and is tipped to unveil a hefty profit downgrade for 2005-06, reports Carolyn Cummins in the Smage. A Mirvac board meeting today is expected to discuss the tough times ahead, and later managing director Greg Paramor is expected to announce a 13% profit downgrade to about $240 million for 2005-06.

The federal government has put the $1 billion-plus sale of Medibank Private back on the agenda following the insurer’s return to profitablitity, reports the Fin Review. According to sources, federal cabinet was recently updated on the “second phase” of a scoping study. Also in the AFR, a showdown is looming on whether to give Singapore Airlines access to the lucrative Australia-US air route, with Qantas, Virgin Blue and the Australian domestic tourism industry all engaged in intense lobbying of a divided federal cabinet.

And after more than a year of criticising foreign banks for irrational pricing in the deposit market, the major banks are hitting back with their own aggressively priced products, reports Lisa Murray in the Smage. The Commonwealth Bank is launching its new online savings account today, which will pay an interest rate of 5.4%, allowing it to compete with the likes of HBOS, ING, Citibank and HSBC.