ABC Learning fiasco still a fiasco. The latest ASX announcement made by ABC Learning won’t do anything to allay the concerns of shareholders and the market about its management. With the earnings results promised two weeks ago, ABC yesterday announced:

ABC Learning centres continues to finalise its full financial year results and expects to release full statutory audited accounts with its Appendix 4E prior to the end of September 2008. The company believes that the concurrent release of the audited accounts and the Appendix 4E will eliminate any further speculation and uncertainty.

While profits may be in short supply, clearly optimism is not. Compounding the “speculation and uncertainty” is the departure of one of the five new non-executive directors.

Mr Frank Ford, one of the proposed appointees, has advised that he no longer wishes to proceed with the appointment. It is anticipated that the remaining appointments will now take place at some time after the Company’s results have been released.

That’s right. Mr Ford quit before he began. Maybe he doesn’t share the optimism of the current management. — Thomas Hunter

Octaviar now officially a goner. Creditors of Octaviar Ltd., owed A$1 billion ($802 million), agreed last night to appoint a voluntary administrator for the financial services company, the Australian Financial Review reported.

Creditors, including the Premium Income Fund, OPI Pacific Finance and Challenger Financial Services Group Ltd., had little choice given a group of noteholders owed A$348 million by 2011 argued in Queensland Supreme Court that the company needed to be wound up, the newspaper reported.

Under a winding-up, Octaviar’s assets would be sold off piecemeal, the newspaper said. Under voluntary administration, directors can remain in their jobs and assets can be sold off more gradually, the Review said. — Bloomberg

Time to aim high on climate change. The latest report on climate change by the economics professor Ross Garnaut is the most disheartening government report I’ve read. It tells us how hugely destructive climate change is likely to be, but doubts that the world’s governments will be able to agree on effective action to halt it. Now you know why economics is called the dismal science.

Garnaut quotes an authoritative American study of the consequences if nothing is done to fight climate change and average temperatures rise by 5 or 6 degrees by the end of this century. Such a change would be “catastrophic”, posing “almost inconceivable challenges as human society struggled to adapt”. “The collapse and chaos associated with extreme climate change futures would destabilise virtually every aspect of modern life,” the study concluded.

Among the destruction would be the extinction of more than half the world’s species. The Great Barrier Reef and other coral formations would almost certainly be killed and much Australian farmland rendered useless. — Ross Gittins, Sydney Morning Herald

Two years on, Indonesian city still mired by disaster. Mud tourism is about the only thing that is flourishing in Porong, a suburb of Surabaya that two years ago became a disaster zone when hot volcanic mud began spewing from the site of a gas exploration well.

Today, the inland sea of mud is twice the size of Central Park in New York. Enough mud to fill 40 Olympic-sized swimming pools spews out every day and has already displaced 50,000 people and submerged homes, factories and schools.

The local economy has been devastated by the disaster, although, there are a few minor exceptions like a local pharmacy that has seen sales soar as people seek treatment for allergies. The stench of sulfur hangs in the air from the grey, watery mud, although the authorities say it is not a health hazard. — International Herald Tribune

Peter Fray

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