Burns Philp & Co has forecast 10% earnings growth from
its snackfoods business this financial year, reports the Financial Review (not online), after strengthening its balance
sheet through last year’s float of Goodman Fielder. So look out, says Alan Jury
on the paper’s front page, boss Graeme Hart is on the prowl with $15 billion in
spending power and many of the attributions of the late Kerry Packer when it
comes to aggressive corporate manoeuvres.

The assumption is that you can’t run a successful Australian
company unless you have one eye on the next takeover opportunity, says the Fin‘s John Durie. Take AMP: Chief
Andrew Mohl is operating what appears to be a superbly run money-making machine
– announcing AMP’s second $750 million capital return in two years – yet everyone wants to know what he will buy
next.

But having overseen AMP’s difficult exit from Britain,
Mohl isn’t likely to make a major investment offshore, says Stephen Bartholomeusz in The Smage. Nor is there much AMP
would want to buy in this market – unless one of the banks
decided to get out of the wealth management space.

Also in The Age,
Max Newnham discusses the downside of the ATO’s new employer
obligations audit program for small business owners.

Under Mohl, AMP has moved to a largely conservative
investment model, making it less geared to reap the records being broken by the
equities market, says Katherine Jimenez in The Australian. But the best measure of AMP’s performance,
says Mohl, is underlying net profit, up 24% to $801 million, because it smooths
out the effect of investment market volatility.

The bloody loss of the battle of Acacia
Ridge will cost Pacific National
upwards of $16 million and signals the start of the endgame in the war over the
national rail freight company, says Matthew Stevens in The Australian.

Meanwhile, Qantas has quietly slashed 600 jobs and warned more will follow – the unions are obviously thrilled – in a bid to slash a further $1.73 billion
from its annual cost base by mid-2008. But despite all this, the result Qantas chief Geoff Dixon delivered
yesterday in the face of a near $500 million increase in fuel costs was nothing
short of remarkable, says Elizabeth Knight in The Sydney Morning Herald.

In other news, Peter Costello is fine about
giving the Big Fella a taxpayer-funded send-off…

After spending all day Tuesday accusing Skilling of duping
investors and analysts about broadband’s collapsing business, Rice faced an
aggressive cross-examination Wednesday from former federal prosecutor Mark
Holscher.

On Wall Street, US
stocks
closed sharply higher Thursday, bolstered by better-than-expected techs results. The Dow Jones closed up 61.71 points at
11,120.68 – a new 4-1/2-year high.

Peter Fray

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