The Toll-Patrick circus descended further into farce
yesterday, says John Durie in the Financial
Review
(not online), with Toll Holdings formally serving notice on Patrick,
wanting to recall management of the Port Links business back into Pacific
National. The business, which operated rail lines into Patrick’s ports, was
part of the freight Australia operations acquired last year and is now an
integral part of Chris Corrigan’s plans to build a rival freight forwarding
operation to Paul Little’s at Toll.

Meanwhile, Patrick Corp boss Chris Corrigan will front the media
today
for the first time since Toll launched its hostile $4.6 billion bid in
late August. And let’s hope he has some actual reasons why
shareholders should reject the offer, as well as a longer-term
picture on Patrick’s port assets, says Colin Kruger in The Sydney Morning Herald.

And from one business stoush to another, information from a
newly disclosed memo has revealed that while Liberty chief John Malone
outwardly supported News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch in 2002 in his bid for US
satellite broadcaster DirecTV, his Australian lawyers were secretly planning to
challenge for control of News Corporation, reports Neil Chenoweth in the Fin (not online).

The Takeovers Panel is again in difficulties over the
Austral Coal takeover saga, says Bryan
Frith
in The Australian – this time over
the length of time it is taking on a hearing. Ironically, the very government body designed to keep the
courts out of takeover battles has gone to Federal Court seeking an extension
for its review of the Glencore trading in Austal, says Durie. It’s
difficult to understand why it ran out of time, says Frith, and now, it may lose the power to
make a declaration of unacceptable circumstances.

And to the Coopers saga, The
Oz
‘s Matthew Stephens sees similarities between US
President George W Bush and Lion Nathan boss Rob Murray: both
insist they are in a war for the long haul, he says, but unfortunately for the
Coopers family, Murray
actually means it. He’s instructed the strike force leading his $352 million
bid for the independent South Australian Coopers Brewery to be patient and opportunistic.

Qantas’s plans to hive off a large chunk of its
international operations to its low-cost Jetstar franchise are well advanced,
reports Scott Rochfort in The Sydney Morning Herald, with
the airline looking to launch Jetstar flights from Australia to South-East
Asia, China and possibly Japan in the second half of next year. Like the
domestic Jetstar, the new carrier is expected to take
over the less profitable international routes.

Meanwhile, a new syndrome has hit financial markets, says Lisa Murray in the SMH – “Macquarie
fatigue.” When the investment bank isn’t announcing billion-dollar deals, it’s
being touted as a potential bidder. Which might explain why the market darling
shed 4.5% yesterday, says Marc Moncrief in The Age – amid rumours of another acquisition, analysts warned
some investors were becoming nervous over the bank’s aggressive
style. The drop steepened a three-week slide that has chopped nearly 20% from
the share price.

And despite the major role the National Competition Policy has
played in remarkable economic growth since its adoption a decade
ago, the NCP has been reviewed by the government and is
about to change, says Stephen Bartholomeusz in The Smage. But the combination of
an over-arching set of pro-competitive principles, incentives for the states to
tackle difficult issues and institutional arrangements to monitor and prod
governments into action has been sufficiently successful that it should require
compelling arguments to abandon it.

On Wall Street, US stocks ended higher Monday, after Altria
surged on a favourable court ruling and General Motors rallied on the back of a
union deal to cut health-care costs. This helped temper concern over a new
storm threatening the Gulf of Mexico that sent crude-oil
prices to their highest level since 3 October. The Dow Jones closed at its best
level in two weeks, up 60.76 points, or 0.6%, at 10,348. MarketWatch has the
full report here.

Peter Fray

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