Gerry Harvey has emerged as a surprise potential bidder for the
embattled Myer department stores, signalling a possible tie-up with
a private equity firm to help fund any purchase, reports The Age. Gerry Harvey didn’t go into detail about what plans he would
have for the 61 stores. But he is arguably Australia’s most
successful retailer running a mainly franchise model, says Elizabeth Knight in The SMH. And it would be fascinating to see what he might potentially do
with the Myer brand.

Telecom New Zealand has intensified
negotiations with Optus and junior listed telco SP Telemedia over a
deal worth as much as $850 million to offload its struggling Australian
business, reports The Australian. Optus, which wants to add bulk ahead of a massive overhaul by Telstra
of its fixed line business, is understood to have made an opening bid
of $650 million for AAPT and may have a deal by Christmas.

Chris Corrigan’s Patrick Corp is apparently
still steaming about the leak of Virgin Blue’s surprise $262 million
dividend payment and is preparing to ask the corporate regulator, the
Australian Securities and Investments Commission, to investigate the
matter, says Bryan Frith in The Australian. Before it does, Patrick should take a deep breath because it’s
arguable that Patrick should have made disclosure of the pending
dividend before the leaks occurred.

Gold’s switch in the past few months from being the inverse of
the US dollar to going up with it, is a sign of some big forces at
work in global markets and economies, says Alan Kohler in The Smage. The US dollar is rising at present — along with gold —
because of a short-term arbitrage on cash rates as the Fed
continues to push them towards 4.5%.

This cannot last. American financial assets will have to be
repriced eventually, either directly or through a devaluation of
the currency, or both. And while there is not much doubt that we are in the midst of a
“Santa Claus rally” on Wall Street or that Australian stocks are
generally not expensive, the timing and force of the American
reckoning will be the key to investment markets in 2006.

The Fin Review reports that new CBA chief executive Ralph Norris
has instigated a sweeping review of the bank’s customer service
operations after admitting fee increases and three years of
restructuring had triggered an alarming decline in service levels. Also
in the AFR, Australian companies are finally putting to rest
their reputations as big losers in offshore expansion. Nearly all the
ASX’s top 50 companies now have overseas assets, many of which have
been helping their parents perform well.

On Wall St, US stocks closed sharply higher overnight, after new Federal Open
Market Committee meeting minutes showed some members are worried about
excessive rate tightening. The Dow Jones closed up 51.15 points at 10,871 – MarketWatch has a full report here.