Business has secured a major victory, says the Financial Review (not online), with the federal
government yesterday announcing it has set up a high-powered committee to make
recommendations on cutting back onerous regulation as part of its changes to IR
laws. This overdue attack on red tape is not just some clever trick to boost
the bottom line for corporations, says the paper’s editorial. Everyone
benefits. Because, as World Bank findings stated last year, countries with the
highest regulation have the lowest levels of labour productivity.

Also in the Fin,
the news that one of Australia’s
wealthiest men, John Gandel, has ended his shopping centre management venture
with the Commonwealth Bank after just three years, to diversify into areas like
water irrigation and private equity investment.

Apple Computer, the darling of Silicon Valley and the US
sharemarket, has been clobbered by investors, says Garry Barker in The Age – disappointed its
fourth-quarter results didn’t soar like an eagle, as analysts had predicted,
simply setting all-time records. Apple shares tumbled 11% in New York on Tuesday after
the company announced a 384% rise in fourth-quarter net profit, year on
year, and 68% growth in revenue to $US3.7 billion for the quarter – the
best results in the company’s history.

Nothing satisfies those
people on Wall Street, says Jerry Knight in The Washington Post. Apple makes four times as much money as last year,
then blows away the competition with the hot new video iPod – and Apple stock
tanks. The market is looking so desperately for reasons to buy
stocks that it’s become an exercise in self-defeating frustration. No
good news – or even no news at all – is automatically considered bad news. Lack
of motivation to buy becomes lack of inhibition about selling.

Rupert Murdoch has come out swinging, says Lisa Murray
in The Sydney Morning Herald, the angry mogul telling journalists at a
Rome press conference that News Corp’s extension of its controversial
“poison pill” scheme
without seeking shareholder approval was “totally legal.” His comments
follow a Delaware court’s decision to refuse the group of Australian,
European and US
investors who are suing the company, over what they believe is a broken
promise, an early trial date, and to hear News
Corp’s motion to dismiss the litigation. And though the action of this
group of institutional investors is well-intentioned, says Bryan Frith in The Australian, this latest turn of events shows it’s also ill-considered.

Meanwhile, disturbing weaknesses in the governance structures of the
burgeoning superannuation industry have been highlighted in the
results of research on the listed trust sector commissioned by the
Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, says Stephen
Batholomeusz in The Smage. And though the research has its
limitations, it comes at a time when massive
expansion of the sector is generating increasing scrutiny and questioning of
the validity of some models.

The Ten Network’s reputation
as the market darling of the television industry is under threat from a
lacklustre advertising market and a declining appetite for reality TV, says Lisa Murray in The Smage. The network often dubbed the “most profitable” in Australia,
failed to meet investor expectations yesterday when it announced a net
profit for the year to August 31 of just over $100 million. To make matters worse, chairman
Nick Falloon warned that the advertising market had softened since
September – shares slumped 18¢ to $3.31.

Australian mining moguls are preparing for another bout against Swiss giant Xstrata, says Elizabeth Knight in The Sydney Morning Herald,
which, having recently acquired a 20% stake in Canadian nickel
miner Falconbridge for $A2.3 billion, is determined to have a seat at
the table in what is a
continuing rationalisation of the world resources industry – one that’s
increasingly dominated by a handful of goliaths including Rio Tinto and
BHP
Billiton.

In other news The West Australian reports that the return of a $500,000 container of WA rock lobster to
Fremantle from the US,
after the discovery of possible decomposition, has triggered a new outbreak of
hostility among fiercely competitive local processors amid fears the incident could damage the reputation of
WA’s $300 million export industry. Meanwhile in The Australian, Richard Gluyas reports that the euphoria surrounding CSL’s
anti-cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil disappeared yesterday, as
investors stripped 5% from the stock.

And James Chessell, in the SMH, reports that Computershare’s acquisitive chief executive, Chris Morris,
is poised to enter the world of financial public relations in yet another
attempt to expand his company beyond its traditional low-growth share registry
business – he’s understood to be in talks with European-based former executives of communication group Financial Dynamics
about setting up a financial public relations firm in the region.

On Wall Street,

US stocks dropped after disappointing results sent the technology sector
lower and inflation anxiety shook up the broader market. All three major
indices closed at five-month lows, with the The Dow Jones closing
down 36.26 points at 10,216.91. MarketWatch has the full report here.

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