Santos yesterday unveiled a major exploration program for
the Timor Sea in a bid to prove up gas reserves for a multi-billion-dollar
expansion of Australia’s LNG export industry, reportsThe Australian.

And Alinta, seeking to conclude its $9 billion bid for AGL
within two weeks, plans a series of meetings with directors of its 168-year-old
target to overcome their objections to dealing with the upstart Perth-based

Both sides have a different spin as to what Alinta’s market
raid of AGL implies, says Bryan Frith in The Oz.
The Alinta interpretation is that the institutions sold because they aren’t
impressed with AGL’s existing demerger plan,
while AGL thinks it demonstrates that the institutions
consider Alinta overpriced and don’t want to end up with its scrip.

The Financial Review
runs with a report on John Howard’s nuclear solution on its front page, while
John Durie looks at the insurance oligopoly on the paper’s back page: While QBE
“put every kick between the posts” in their latest profit report, says Durie,
IAG’s Michael Hawker had some explaining to do.

Beleaguered construction giant Multiplex yesterday delivered
more alarming news with an admission it had breached various financial ratios
and bank covenants and was working with its bankers, reportsThe SMH. The group’s Wembley Stadium
experience has left investors mulling the possibility of a break-up of its
construction and development divisions.

In The Age, Max
looks at the nasty shocks those taxpayers hoping to avoid paying
capital gains tax on property deals have been getting in the mail. And Josh Gordon writes that, while news that business investment is booming at its fastest pace in almost 20 years
is good, we need to watch for inflation.

In other news, packaging billionaire Dick Pratt and his Visy
Industries group

has won unfettered access to contracts that reveal all Amcor’s
pricing and supply terms for several of its biggest, long-term
customers. And George W Bush faces a full-scale congressional revolt
over a deal allowing
an Arab company to take control of six US
. And the Enron trial continues, with “tough questions, a whiff of witness
intimidation, and one alleged obscenity as the defence strikes back.”

On Wall Street, US
stocks closed
sharply lower Thursday, weighed down by rising bond yields and
concerns about rising interest rates. The Dow Jones closed 67.95 points lower
at 11,069.22.