The curse strikes again. Elizabeth Nosworthy, aka the Black Widow, is involved in her first corporate fatality with junior telco Commander Communications being placed in receivership by its bankers. The prospects don’t look good with administrator, Max Donnelly, noting that “it appears the bank’s debt will not be paid from the sale of the assets [and] the banks will suffer a substantial deficiency and therefore there’s no chance of creditors getting a dividend. Hence shareholders will not have any likelihood of a return.” Meanwhile, Commander’s 30,000 small and medium business clients as well as numerous government departments, face a nervous wait.

Nosworthy has been the non-executive chair of Commander for more than five years, during which time the company embarked on the destructive acquisition of Volante, as well as a series of other bungles. While Commander is the first company to succumb to the Widow’s bite, several others are in intensive care, as the Widow Index continues to show:

The Black Widow Index (as at 9 August 2008):

Company

Role

Share price performance since 1 July 2007

Commander Communications

Chairperson

Down 100%

Babcock & Brown

Dep. Chairperson

Down 77%

GPT

Director

Down 66%

Ventracor

Director

Down 74%

Black widow Index performance aggregate

Down 79%

China to overtake US as largest manufacturer. China is set to overtake the US next year as the world’s largest producer of manufactured goods, four years earlier than expected, as a result of the rapidly weakening US economy. The great leap is revealed in forecasts for the Financial Times by Global Insight, a US economics consultancy. According to the estimates, next year China will account for 17 per cent of manufacturing value-added output of $11,783bn and the US will make 16 per cent. Last year the US was still easily in the top slot and accounted for a fifth of the total. China was second with 13.2 per cent.

John Engler, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, a Washington-based trade group, played down the effect of the projections. It was “inevitable” that China would take over on account of its size, he said. “This should be a wholesome development for the US, for it promises both political stability for the world’s largest country and continuing opportunities for the US to export to, and invest in, the world’s fastest-growing economy.” — Financial Times

Hasbro learns to spell b-o-t-c-h. For much of the past year, Hasbro has been on a tear. Its stock is up 50% since January. And thanks to everything from its roaring Transformers line to its cuddly Littlest Pet Shop franchise, the toymaker posted a record $330 million profit in 2007, on sales of $3.8 billion.

But Hasbro goofed with how it handled Scrabulous, a digital knockoff of its Scrabble board game on Facebook. The Pawtucket (R.I.) manufacturer not only stood idle as Scrabulous drew a half-million daily players to the social networking site over the past year. On July 30, after suing the two Indian brothers behind it and forcing them to pull it down, Hasbro put up a clunky, slower replacement. The result: howls of protest from the audience it was hoping to attract. “Hasbro just got greedy,” fumes Rhonda Talbot, a Los Angeles Scrabulous fan. “If they weren’t clever enough to create a Scrabulous, they don’t deserve the players.” — BusinessWeek

Farewell and Goode riddance. As the dogs start barking for the head of ANZ chairman Charles Goode, the spotlight is shifting to who will be his successor. Speculation is mounting that David Crawford, a former Westpac director, might be tapped if Goode opts to retire or is voted off the board at the next election in December.

Goode has left himself in a Catch 22 situation. If he decides not to run for re-election at the end of the year, it will be seen as defeat on his part and his 17 years of service will be tainted. If he decides to battle it out, he faces the danger that some institutional investors, including 452 Capital, and corporate governance bodies recommend their members vote against him. — Adele Ferguson, The Australian

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.

 

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW