Several major institutional investors in Telstra have called on the
prime minister to intervene to wind back allegedly excessive regulation
of the telco, which they claim is weighing upon the share price and
could affect the prospects for the $26 billion float of the
government’s remaining shareholding, reports The Fin Review.
The big fund managers, believed to include Investors Mutual and 452
Capital, wrote to Mr Howard last week calling for “appropriate”
regulation in the interests of all Telstra shareholders.

Toll Holdings has made last-minute concessions
to the competition regulator in an attempt to win approval for its
hostile $4 billion-plus takeover bid for Patrick, reports The Australian. And unless it has badly misread the smoke
signals, Toll has now ensured that the ACCC won’t oppose its bid, which means the issue should now come
down to price, says Bryan Frith in The Australian. Toll is proposing a round of asset and business sales to ease concerns
that a merger would give it a stranglehold on rail freight between
Perth and the eastern states, Bass Strait shipping and the delivery of
motor vehicles from manufacturers to the car yards.

John Fletcher probably doesn’t pay much attention to the private
hospital business, but as the Coles Myer board considered its options
yesterday for the 61 Myer department stores, Fletcher might just have
raised an eyebrow at the sale of five rather unattractive hospitals
forced from the Ramsay Health Care stable by the competition regulator,
says Michael Evans in The SMH’s Xchange column. Analysts described the $88 million sale as “exceptional” for the “dregs” of a
much bigger buyout of Affinity Health.

Also in the AFR, a stronger outlook for metals prices has led
the federal government’s chief commodities forecaster to raise its
expectations for export earnings this year by a further 3% to
more than $120 billion, justifying hopes that economic growth will pick
up after a slow start for the financial year.

On Wall Street, US stocks were mixed overnight as a legal setback for
Merck and a looming Federal Reserve meeting drew some attention away
from a flurry of corporate deals. The Dow Jones finished down 10.81 at 10,767 – MarketWatch has a full report here.

Peter Fray

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