Toot, toot, Greek wreck ahead? Another day, another crisis, and perhaps the first default. We lemmings are all still alive, the cliff hasn’t claimed anyone, and Greece missed the deadline of 8am today for that 1.55 billion euro repayment to the International Monetary Fund. That means the eurozone-funded portion of Greece’s 245 billion euro rescue deal officially expired as midnight Tuesday passed in Brussels without a deal to extend the program. In Washington the IMF said that Greece was now in arrears. This puts Greece among just a few countries to have missed an IMF repayment, a group that includes Afghanistan, Haiti and Zimbabwe.
Greece tried to win more time with a third bailout request of 29 billion euros (which would have merely enabled the country to borrow what it owes over the next two years. Talk about asset recycling!). But that’s not to say there won’t be another act or two in the drama before Sunday’s final scene in the current production, the national referendum. Eurozone finance ministers are due to have a phone meeting at 7.30pm today to discuss the acting in yesterday’s production. The European Central Bank’s Council also has a phone hook-up to discuss whether Greek banks should be given more money, or whether they are so close to being insolvent that no more emergency money can be advanced. It is hard to see the ECB doing anything but repeating their decision of last Sunday and refusing to advance any more funds. And here’s something funny — up to last Friday the Greek sharemarket was up 2.8% for the June quarter and was one of the best-performing in Europe and indeed much of the world (our market fell more than 7% and rest of Europe was down as well, as was much of the US market). Those gains of course wouldn’t have lasted (there had been consistent selling earlier in June). Now some US websites are touting huge gains to be made in buying Greek shares — but fellas, first you’ve got to have an open market. — Glenn Dyer
Calling all ambulance chasers. If Slater and Gordon were a different company or based in the US, it would be out and about trying to drum up disgruntled shareholders by organising a class action over its $1.3 billion UK adventure. But seeing SGH is the story — and it can’t very well litigate against itself for misreporting revenues from its UK business for the past three years — this leaves the likes of Maurice Blackburn. Will it take on a rival? And what about the chief financier for the ambulance chasers, IMF Bentham, the litigation financing group? Would they be out and about, chequebook at the ready, eyes glued on the $1 billion-plus collapse in Slater and Gordon’s market value since the latest round of queries emerged about the UK deal and the company’s auditors, Pitcher Partners? IMF Bentham announced yesterday it was chasing a possible $60 million (30 million pound) claim in Hong Kong’s courts. There are a couple of lessons here for SGH shareholders as they contemplate the 50%-plus plunge in the price of the law firm’s shares in the past 10 days or so of trading. The first is that independent directors are useless in some cases (but not all cases). Half of Slater and Gordon’s board is made up of independent directors — four in all, including the chair. That hasn’t stopped this debacle from emerging, and then taking control and trashing the share price. — Glenn Dyer
IOOF’s timely reminder. Oh, and there’s also a reminder of the futility of depending on independent directors at IOOF. Five of the six board members are listed as independent, including the chair. But are they? IOOF is basically the creation of the takeover of Australian Wealth Management back in 2009. Two of the six are listed as being non-executive, but joined the board after the Australian Wealth Management takeover, while CEO Chris Kelaher was made CEO after that merger. So three of the six directors are linked to Australian Wealth Management, which remains a major part of IOOF. Does that make the two directors who came from AWM truly independent? IOOF rose a touch yesterday to $8.99. Slater and Gordon shares lost another 5.8% yesterday to $3.56. Over the 2014-15 year, IOOF shares rose 55 cents, of just over 5%. But Slater and Gordon shares lost considerable ground (because of the sell-off of the past week or so), dropping from $4.97 a year ago to yesterday’s close — a fall of $1.41 or more than 28%. By the way, Qantas was the best-performed share on the ASX 200 in 2014-15 with a gain of 150%, and mid-tier iron ore miner, Arrium, was the worst with an 80% fall. Both have boards full of independent directors. — Glenn Dyer