Another day, another raft of issues surrounding Macquarie Bank. First,
we had reports that Macquarie Airports and Macquarie
Communications Infrastructure Group would pay no performance fees for
the second half of last year, something The Australian celebrated by leading with it in its business section this morning.
The Australian also led its business section
yesterday with Macquarie missing out on any T3 work, continuing its
negative campaign against the bank as revenge for the defamation action
it’s running against the paper for its Walkley-winning coverage of Macquarie’s extraordinary Allstate Exploration dealings around the Beaconsfield Gold project in Tasmania.
There were plenty of other issues for the Millionaires Factory to deal with yesterday. Firstly, Macquarie Country Wide trust announced
it was ploughing another $360 million into US-based property firm First
Washington, lifting its stake to 75% and continuing a phenomenal global
Then there were rumours that Macquarie Bank is circling Britain’s largest water company, Thames Water. The Daily Telegraph in the UK reported the following:
Macquarie is believed to be trying to sell its investment in
South East Water to leave it free to join the Thames bidding and avoid breaking
official rules which prevent a company owning more than one water business.
Talk about turning over assets. Macquarie only bought South
East Water for $1 billion in October 2003. Now they want to
participate in an estimated $20 billion purchase of Thames Water, which
is owned by German utility RWE, the former parent of German
construction company Hochtief which owns 51% of Leighton Holdings,
Macquarie’s regular tollroad partner.
Moving right along, we had more reports today about the dealings of
Macquarie Equities in Pacific Brands after last Friday’s belated and
controversial profit downgrade. The Smagefocused
on Macquarie being the biggest seller of the stock after the call
went through from PacBrands investor relations boss Katherine Cooper to
an unnamed Macquarie Equities analyst at 11.30am last Thursday.
However, The Australian was more supportive, pointing out that
Macquarie was also the biggest buyer of the stock and the ASX doesn’t
appear to be going anywhere with its inquiry.
The question of analyst independence also arose in The AFR this
morning, which highlighted a scathing Macquarie Bank analysis of Telstra
released just two days after it was left off the Federal Government’s
T3 selling panel. The report was titled “A millennium of
underperformance,” and predicted Telstra shares would be down at $3.75
within 12 months. Coincidence? Maybe.
Finally, The AFR also reported that Macquarie was running
ruler over the Australian operations of South African life insurer
PrefSure, which just goes to show that at any point in time, our
biggest investment bank is running the ruler over dozens of potential
investments. How anyone can keep up with all this activity is hard to
comprehend. The market sent Macquarie Bank shares up $1.34 to $71
yesterday but they retreated 45c this morning in a weaker market.