Foster’s Group has attempted to ease any anxiety about its
recent $3.7 billion purchase of Southcorp, revealing it not only
was “well ahead” in integrating the business but also saw major
savings in bringing its wine and beer operations under one
umbrella, reports The SMH.

Foster’s marathon strategic briefing of investors and
analysts in Sydney yesterday provided an extraordinarily detailed
insight into the depth and complexity of the operational issues the
group faces, says Stephen Bartholomeusz in The Age. They were shown a company embarking on that massive and complex
integration while at the same time seeking to rehabilitate
Southcorp’s stressed core brands, create a new global supply chain
to support its portfolio and sit the combined wine operations and
its CUB beverages business on a radical new model within
Australia. While the integration savings are assured, the outcome of the
new structure, management and management philosophy will take some
time to be tested, says Elizabeth Knight in The SMH. If successful, Trevor O’Hoy will leave a positive legacy with
Foster’s and a lesson for Australian management in general.

The Australian reports that senior executives of Kerry Packer’s private
company Consolidated Press Holdings warned Mr Packer’s poker-playing
buddy Ben Tilley not to take a fee from HIH for a deal that would have
delivered Mr Packer vast property holdings from the insurance company
just days before its collapse. CPH operations general manager Garry Sladden
told the fraud trial of Brad Cooper that the proposal was a “shonky deal” because of the quality of the properties and
the haste with which HIH wanted to deal.

It’s difficult not to be cynical about the
Coopers Brewery directors’ role in the attempt to prevent Lion Nathan
from acquiring the South Australian brewer, thereby denying
shareholders the right to consider Lion Nathan’s announced $352 million
bid, says Bryan Frith in The Australian. Yesterday, the Coopers board called an extraordinary shareholders
meeting to consider changes to the constitution to
remove Lion Nathan’s existing pre-emptive rights on share sales and to
prevent it from owning Coopers shares.

The Fin Review
reports that federal Industry Minister Ian
Macfarlane has launched an attack on the Labor state governments
following revelations they will strip an estimated $5 billion in
dividends and taxes from their energy, water and port utilities this
year. Also in the AFR, Stockbroker BBY has become the first
Australian financial institution to be punished for breaching tough new
rules to separate analysts’ research and a firm’s advisory roles, after
being caught for promoting the shares of a corporate client.

On Wall Street, US stocks closed at their worst levels in nearly three
months overnight, as the intensifying Hurricane Rita triggered economic
concerns for investors already worried about the prospect of higher
interest rates. The Dow finished down 103.49 points at 10,378 – MarketWatch has a full report here.

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Peter Fray
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