The Financial Review reports today that
Foster’s Group is working on a comprehensive review of its winery operations in
rural Australia in a bid to slash production costs and capitalise on its size
advantage over its rivals, following the $3.7 billion takeover of Southcorp.
Foster’s chief executive Trevor O’Hoy said the review was likely to lead to
some winery sell-offs, but he ruled out the sale of major wine brands.
Meanwhile, in the past month or so, something out of character has happened to
shares in Woolworths, writes Anthony Hughes in The Fin’s Chanticleer column.
Shares in Australia’s leading grocery retailer have underperformed the surging
overall market, as well as arch-rival Coles Myer – despite a feeling
that Woolworths had a pretty good Christmas.

Fees paid by Macquarie Bank’s listed
airport and infrastructure offshoots – among the aggressive investment bank’s
main growth drivers for years – dropped from $250 million to nothing in the
last six months of 2005 in a dismal share market performance, reports The Australian.
Australia’s largest investment bank yesterday admitted it failed to
any performance fees from Macquarie Airports or Macquarie
Communications and Infrastructure Group between 1 July and 31 December,
2005. Elsewhere, Michael Sainsbury reports that Optus has begun shifting its 200,000-plus DSL customers
across to its new copper wire based broadband network in a move that could help
wipe more than $1 billion a year from Telstra’s revenues. The move comes as
chief executive Paul O’Sullivan predicted continuing tough times ahead for the
$30 billion sector in 2006.

And for all the predictable cynicism it
fuelled, last week’s Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate
could prove a signal moment in the international fight against carbon dioxide
emissions, writes Matthew Stevens in The Oz. Because despite the
criticism, the conference actually offered important insights into the changing
attitude of government and industry to climate change, its causes and potential

National Australia Bank will target a
$1 billion deficit in the pension scheme for its British employees with
proposed reforms to its pension model and a one-off 100 million pound ($234 million)
payout, reports The SMH. The bank’s chief of British operations, Lynne Peacock, said yesterday that
deficits threatened the long-term viability of the pension schemes but the
reforms were intended to build “a secure and sustainable footing for the
future.” If the changes are passed,
the bank will make a one-off payment of 100 million pounds across benefit schemes
operated by its three British brands: Clydesdale Bank, Yorkshire Bank and
National Australia Group Europe.

Meanwhile, The Age reports that AGL made a smart
move when it yesterday decided to push the button on its investment in
the Papua New Guinea gas project. Brokers approved of the decision to
convert a
sales agreement into a binding contract and take up a 10% stake from
Oil Search
about 6 months earlier than expected.

On Wall Street, US stocks ended lower overnight, with the Dow Jones falling for a third session in a row, hurt by a
spike in oil prices to their highest level since late September, mixed
banking sector earnings and a new set of broker downgrades.

The Dow industrials backed off a
session low of 10,875, but still ended down 63.55 points at 10,896 – MarketWatch has a full report here.