The front page of the Financial
Review has a photo of pink shirt-clad fallen entrepreneur Brad Cooper being led away from
court yesterday after being found guilty on 13 counts of bribery and extracting
money in the last days of HIH Insurance. ASIC took a big gamble and won, says
the paper, securing Cooper’s conviction on the evidence of Bill Howard – HIH’s
former chief general manager of finance who accepted the $120,000 of bribes –
after offering him a generous deal.
Brad Cooper is “an old-fashioned chancer,” says the Fin‘s
Andrew Main, with an awesome
ability to spin a tale. What makes him a corporate bogeyman is that he
turned corporate logic inside out and made a great deal of money by
and bamboozling HIH founder Ray Williams and his executives with a
of shameless and baseless demands for money,” at a time when HIH
were already starting to feel the pinch.
The Fin also leads
with the story of AGL’s chase for growth,
the paper reporting that the Australian Gas Light Company will free up a $2
billion war chest for acquisitions as part of a demerger of its energy and
infrastructure operations designed to lift its sharemarket rating. And judging
by AGL’s 4.4% share-price rally, says
Chanticleer’s Anthony Hughes, the shift to a more efficient capital structure
couldn’t have happened soon enough.
AGL was already
considering the possibility of a demerger, says Bryan Frith in The Australian.
In fact, it had been under consideration for more than 12 months. But, before
Southern Hydro loomed on the scene, AGL had
been focused on simply taking pieces of the company and putting them into a
separate infrastructure company. The Southern Hydro opportunity changed the
landscape. It was such a great complementary fit for AGL,
bringing with it a range of significant benefits that it became a must have. It
adds more than 40% to AGL’s power generating
capacity and, importantly, diversifies the power generation portfolio by adding
11 hydro-electric plants and one wind power plant, to its existing interests in
coal and gas-fired power plants, at the same time creating a better
geographical spread across core markets.
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It’s a brave board and management that breaks up a $7
billion company with a reasonable amount of logic to its portfolio of
businesses to create two businesses of half that size, says Stephen Bartholomeusz in The Smage – particularly when the
sector is still consolidating. But by demerging its businesses, and hoping
their appeal to different sets of investors will lead to them being valued
quite differently, AGL is pursuing the
classic objective of demergers: the release of value disguised or depressed by
the corporate structure and the creation of investor and management focus.
Meanwhile, not since the heyday of the Franklin River have
so many mainlanders followed a meeting of the Tasmanian cabinet with such
trepidation, says Matthew Stevens in The Oz. Yesterday, Paul Lennon and
his ministers gathered in Hobart to
discuss, among other things, the immediate future of British online betting
exchange Betfair. To the fear and loathing of almost anyone big in the
Australian racing game, except potential joint-venture partners Kerry and Jamie
Packer, Lennon appears set on issuing Betfair a licence to operate. And it could be public as early as
Thursday or Friday this week. The odds, at this stage, are with Betfair.
In the Herald Sun,
Terry McCrann has seized the opportunity on Melbourne Cup Day to pen an “an open letter” to
Tabcorp CEO Matthew Slatter. Around $140 million will be bet in TABs across Australia
on the big race alone, says McCrann – around a quarter of a billion dollars on
the meeting in total. “Of which, since your takeover of
the NSW TAB, around 80-85% will be going through Tabcorp tills.” Meanwhile,
you have endorsed the mindset that it’d be “confusing” to have two signals
beaming into a TAB or pub. But wouldn’t you want more days that send $200
million or so through your tills – of which you keep $30 million gross? For
costs, then your shareholders, for racing and the state?
And in The Age, Tim
Harcourt says that the Melbourne Cup, while a great Australian sporting tradition, is also an
international event, and is symbolic of Australia’s increasing engagement with
the global economy. “The mounting yards at Flemington are indeed a trade venue
and the bookies great negotiators in their own right. In fact, the Melbourne
Cup is an international trade event in more ways than one.”
On Wall Street, US
stocks closed higher, lifted by late-month portfolio additions and merger news,
including a hostile $US9.2 billion bid from Canada’s
Barrick Gold for Placer Dome. The Dow Jones rose 37.3 points to 10,440.07,
after earlier rallying more than 80 clicks higher. MarketWatch has the full report here.