There is all sorts of mayhem in financial markets with soaring oil, tumbling stockmarkets and choked up credit markets. For starters, you’ve got to feel a little sorry for Macquarie Group as it attempts to get the $1.2 billion BrisConnections float away to crystallise more than $100 million in fees in the worst market we’ve seen since 2003.

With Wall Street losing almost 3% overnight to reach a new 2008 low, the All Ords went back below 5300 in morning trade and is now perilously close to breaking the January low triggered by the $8 billion Society Generale trading loss and the March low triggered by the rescue of Bear Stearns.

The $500 million Burrup Fertiliser float has already been pulled due to the WA gas crisis and it is hard to see how Macquarie and friends can raise such big licks of capital when the market is valuing most other infrastructure vehicles like junk.

Put a fork in them, the election is almost done.

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Macquarie Airports hit a low of $2 this morning despite board and auditor claims that its assets are worth more than $5 a share and Macquarie Infrastructure Group got down as a far $2.19, less than half its claimed value. Whilst Macquarie hasn’t had a dud Australian tollroad deal yet, it does seem strange that MIG has refused to back BrisConnections.

And the traffic modelling by consultancy ARUP ( plus a supporting cast including Sinclair Knight Mertz, Access Economics, Spiller Gibbins Swann, UrbisJHD, The Hensher Group, IMIS and Sd+D) is also under scrutiny given that it was ARUP which has now been shown to be very optimistic in its forecasts for the Lane Cove Tunnel.

Meanwhile, in one of those only-in-America moments, General Motors last night plunged 11% to its lowest point since 1955 and Citibank hit a 10 year low, yet shares in Smith & Wesson rocketed 6.65% after the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favour of overturning a handgun ban in Washington DC. Phew, everything should be okay then!

Stocks with a big US exposure are getting particularly hammered and poor old Rupert Murdoch has seen the value of his family’s stake in News Corp fall below $6 billion after the ordinary shares tumbled 4% to a multi-year low of $16.98.

Rupert was for years the richest Australian-born person, but now he’s only worth half a Twiggy Forrest. The Sun King was able to gloat at last year’s AGM that News Corp was briefly the most valuable traditional media company. Today’s its market capitalisation fell to $43.3 billion, less than one-third of Google and well shy of Time Warner at $55 billion and Disney at $63 billion.

This represents dreadful underperformance and it now looks like paying $6 billion for Dow Jones at the top of the market was a big mistake.

As we all ponder Chinese mining raids, listen to Rio Tinto’s plummy chairman Paul Skinner preposterously claim the London-based giant is “as Australian as any other company” at the recent AGM.

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Crikey is an independent Australian-owned and run outfit. It doesn’t enjoy the vast resources of the country’s main media organisations. We take seriously our responsibility to bear witness.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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