New Zealand’s richest man, Graeme Hart, has firmly established
his credentials as an asset trader, with his company Burns Philp
being more like a venture-capital fund than a regular industrial
stock, says Elizabeth Knight in The SMH. The Goodman Fielder name will return to the
ranks of blue chip stocks after Burns Philp yesterday announced an
unexpected float of the business, which could value the bread, spread
and dairy group at $2.5 billion, reports The Australian. And if one thinks of Burns Philp, or even Hart’s private
company, Rank Group, as venture capitalists, it’s not all that
surprising, says Knight.

While the shape and prospects of the new-look Goodman will, for
the next little while, be the focus of most attention, the
intriguing question — and a potentially threatening one for
any under performing companies in the region — is what Hart and
Degnan will do with the massive balance sheet capacity the
restructuring will unlock for Burns Philp, says Stephen Bartholomeusz in The Smage. A lazy balance sheet isn’t something one associates with the
pair.


The Fin Review
reports that the federal government has linked future
tax cuts to its ability to tackle rising medical costs, after health
spending surged to a record $6.1 billion, as Australia’s ageing
population spent more time at the doctor and in hospital. Also in the AFR,
Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing will join forces with Deutsche Bank
to list a $1.8 billion infrastructure fund on the ASX before the end of
the year, providing a new rival to Macquarie Bank and Babcock &
Brown in the highly competitive utilities market.

Optus is in talks to buy Richard Branson’s 75
per cent share in their Virgin Mobile joint venture, in a move designed
to boost the telco’s ailing mobiles business, reports The Australian.

And The Age reports that the Macquarie juggernaut rolls on, with acquisitions this
calendar year across the group topping $14.8 billion after
Macquarie Infrastructure Group mopped up the remaining 13.3 per
cent of the Dulles Greenway toll road for $US84.5 million.

On Wall Street, US stocks closed sharply higher overnight, after
investors overcame worries about record-high energy prices to focus on
late-quarter portfolio additions. The
Dow Jones closed up 79.69 points at 10,552, marking the fourth straight
session of gains for the index – MarketWatch has a full report here.

Peter Fray

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