Gains in
its funds management business and a sharp improvement in costs powered
Westpac to a record $2.8 billion annual net profit, reports The Australian.
Amid a relatively subdued bank profit season, CEO David Morgan hit all
the right notes with with a very strong result coupled with much higher
than expected shareholder returns arising from total concentration on
his core business, says John Durie in The Fin Review.

But sadly no one was focusing last night
on the numbers – only the fact that the result was accidentally given to
analysts on Tuesday night and the shares had to be suspended
yesterday ahead of an early formal announcement last night, says Elizabeth Knight in The SMH. In the long term this is not meaningful to Westpac but it’s a
situation that should make management think again about how
information is communicated to the market.

The four big banks are now in pretty good shape to deal
with a tougher environment, says Stephen Bartholomeusz in The Age. All of them have substantially improved
their productivity, all have extraordinarily clean loan portfolios,
and all of them have been through significant change programs as
they re-staff and invest in their physical presence to leverage
their advantages over aspiring rivals.

Multiplex investors face another round of potential profit
downgrades, the fourth since February, after the board warned of a
possible cost overrun of £25 million ($59 million) on the
Wembley Stadium in London, reports The SMH. While initial sharemarket reaction yesterday was positive, as
analysts took the revelation to be a worst-case scenario, today
could be a different story as the news sinks in.

Foster’s Group is set to sell one of its California wineries to
renowned film director Francis Ford Coppola’s wine outfit, reports The Age. The brewing giant announced yesterday it had struck an agreement to sell
its Geyserville winery to The Coppola Companies for an undisclosed

And The Australian reports that Coles Myer is soliciting interest from
developers for its flagship building in Melbourne’s Bourke St,
estimated to be worth about $300 million, raising the prospect that the
site will be sold separately to the Myer department store business.

On Wall Street, US stocks ended higher overnight after broad gains
in the technology sector took the Nasdaq Composite Index (up 30.26
points to 2,144) to its highest level in a month, with some investors
viewing October’s sell-off as an
opportunity to pick up attractively valued shares. The Dow Jones closed
up 65.96 points to 10,472 – MarketWatch has a full report here.