RBA refresh. It’s a pity we don’t have the confirmation process for top jobs and positions on key government boards and bodies that the United States does. That way curious decisions, writings and speeches can be examined for signs of partiality or competence (or the lack of it) and their credentials are tested and major career moves and decisions probed. But why this musing? Well, the news yesterday that former Macquarie Bank CEO Allan Moss had been appointed to the Reserve Bank board, replacing former Woolies retailer and Fairfax chair Roger Corbett (now back trying to play saviour to Woolies). Moss actually drove the process that created Macquarie Group from Macquarie Bank, with a nice bit fat cushion of spare capital that helped it through the GFC and out the other side. He’s been gone from Maccas since his retirement in 2008. In that time, one of his two public roles has been as adviser to Evans and Co, a local broker and wealth manager. The second has been also as an adviser to local private equity mob Anchorage Capital — of the dud Dick Smith value-destroying float. (Both advisory roles will have to go now he’s on the RBA board).

Forager Funds’ co-founder Matt Ryan wrote colourfully in October that Dick Smith was “the greatest private equity heist of all time”. Dick Smith’s shares have collapsed in the past three weeks after a nasty profit downgrade (into a loss) and news of $60 million or more in stock write-downs. A company worth more than half a billion on listing (most of that accruing to Anchorage) became a company worth less than $70 million at one stage. The shares fell nearly 7% yesterday to 34 cents and the company was worth around $80 million. It would be fascinating to hear Moss’ views on that deal, private equity, investment banking and how that meshed with the wider economic and the public good. No such questions are needed for the another RBA director, Catherine Tanna, who has been reappointed for another five years, well ahead of her current term expiring in March 2016. — Glenn Dyer

Dud floats of 2015. Well Dick Smith is the dud float of 2015, even if it was floated in 2014. Another class of 2014 to have turned over in 2015 is iSelect (not even US private equity group, Providence had the stomach to go through with a bid for iSelect, running away on Monday). These are top-drawer performers. But we do have a class of 2015 contender and its fresh out of the IPO school — McGrath Ltd, the Sydney-based real estate firm that chose to list as the Sydney and Melbourne property markets cooled dramatically through the strongest selling period of the year, with clearance rates tumbling under 60%, the lowest for three years or more in some areas of both cities. And house prices fell last month in both Sydney and Melbourne, according to the monthly Core Logic RP Data survey. Up to the close yesterday, its shares had fallen just over 17% from the float price of $2.10 on Monday. The recalls the early performance of retailer Myer, which was floated by TPG, the private equity sharks, back in 2009 at $4.10. The shares have yet to get to that level in all these years. — Glenn Dyer

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Vale Anglo American? Another miserable night for resource companies around the world, thanks to further (but smaller) falls in commodity prices, led by oil, gas and iron ore. But the biggest news of all was the shock announcement from the world’s fourth-biggest miner, Anglo American, which it is going to shrink as quickly as possible, cutting staff from 135,000 at the moment to 50,000 after 2017, take write-downs and impairments of at least US$4.7 billion (continuing an unwanted tradition for write-downs that is approaching US$20 billion in the past four years), and closes or sells mines, offices and other facilities.That 85,000 in job cuts is the largest yet announced by a resource company and will probably mean the company will put its various Australian coal and metal mining assets on the market. But the big move was the shock decision to suspend its dividend until at least the end of 2016. That will save US$1 billion and it will cut another US$1 billion in capex (Rio Tinto also announced plans yesterday to cut another US$1 billion in capex next year). That leaves only Rio, BHP and Vale, the big Brazilian miner, paying dividends among the world’s majors.  — Glenn Dyer


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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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