Former Worldcom chief Bernard Ebbers was this morning sentenced to 25
years in
federal prison for orchestrating the $11-billion accounting fraud
– the biggest in US history – that helped push the giant
telco into bankruptcy. It’s the toughest for
corporate wrongdoing
in recent memory and legal analysts said it should help the government
negotiate settlements as it prosecutes other cases, reports The New York Times.

The man charged with selling the rest of
Telstra, chief executive Sol Trujillo, met the “vendor” –
Prime Minister John Howard – yesterday amid mounting rural unrest over the
mammoth privatisation, reports The Australian. The NSW Farmers’ Association reported that 80% of voters in
rural and regional NSW opposed the full privatisation of Telstra and
were deeply dissatisfied with services in the bush.

The Fin Review reports that Kerry Packer and Transfield Holdings
have put Australia’s biggest ski resort, Perisher Blue, on the market
in a sale expected to reap $200 million (AAP report here). Also in the AFR, retail giant Woolworths is considering
offloading its $1 billion chain of national distribution centres to
reduce debt, following its acquisition of ALH and supermarkets from
Foodlands Associated.

Petrol prices are expected to hit a record high, thanks to a
power failure shutting down the Kurnell oil refinery and the price
of oil heading back over US$61 a barrel, reports the SMH. Caltex says the nation’s second-largest refinery could be out of
service for at least a week after a high transmission power
cable toppled over during maintenance work on Tuesday night.

And The Agereports that despite all the talk of the importance of renewable energy to
the nation’s future, total renewable generation capacity increased
by only 1% last year.

On Wall Street, US stocks closed higher overnight on news
of a narrower trade gap.The Dow Jones finished up 43.50 points at 10,557 after touching
a three-week high – MarketWatch has a full report here.

Peter Fray

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