Press digest australian business news april 4

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Compiled for Reuters by Media Monitors. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. THE AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW (this site)--The days of the corner store are numbered, said grocery, liquor and hardware marketing and distribution company Metcash chief executive Andrew Reitzer yesterday as the company announced profit for the 2012 financial year would drop about 45 percent. Metcash "management is doing a very good job," said UBS analyst Ben Gilbert, "but with Aldi and Costco rolling out stores and Woolies and Coles looking at small format stores it does increase the pressure." Page 13.--Scott Charlton will take over as chief executive of Transurban in July when Chris Lynch departs. Mr Charlton is currently chief operating officer at Lend Lease and was chief financial officer for Leighton Holdings . "I've been involved with infrastructure one way or another since I left university  I've worked on almost every toll road in Australia," said Mr Charlton yesterday, and noted that Transurban's future could include: "building out existing assets, cost cutting or connection networks." Page 13.--QR National could make a request of Fair Work Australia to intervene in a dispute between the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union on the grounds the strikes are causing damage to the business of QR, said Simon Dewberry of Allens Arthur Robinson. The Australian Services Union said continuation of the dispute could cause its members to be stood down. QR chief executive Lance Hockridge could not be drawn on the possibility that his company would act. Page 15.--Extreme weather in Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia contributed to operations, maintenance and construction services business Transfield reducing its guidance for profit in 2012, explained chief executive Peter Goode yesterday. The company has dropped its guidance from A$130-135 million to A$105 million. "Credibility of management's attribution to earnings loss because of rain is in question following consecutive annual downgrades," responded Ben Brownette, an analyst at Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Page 15. THE AUSTRALIAN (this site)--Superannuation funds in Australia could be directed by future governments to reduce their exposure to equities, according to former federal finance minister and current advisor to global investment bank Lazard, Lindsay Tanner. "On any measure, your typical Australian superannuation fund is massively overweight in equities," said Mr Tanner yesterday at a conference on corporate governance. "If governments in the future  are facing extremely unhappy super fund members  there is a risk of some kind of government intervention," he added. Page 21.

--An indicative A$299 million bid for Norton Gold Fields has been made by the largest gold mining company in China, Zijin Mining Group. "It is not a formal offer  but we are confident we can move this along and get this to closure," said Andre Labuschagne, managing director of Norton. Zijin already has a 16.98 percent share in Norton, operator of the Paddington gold mine near Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. Page 22.--Perth-based Aquila Resources executive chairman Tony Poli said yesterday that the sale of the company's stake in the Isaac Plains coal project in Queensland for A$430 million put Aquila in a strong position to develop the multi-user port at Anketell Point in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Obtaining the funding created a "real catalyst" for the China Development Fund to come to the party over finance, and for Aquila to be granted the right to develop the port by the state government, Mr Poli stated. Page 22.--There would be no minimum thresholds imposed on trading in the "dark" equities market, said Australian Securities and Investments Commission deputy chairman Belinda Gibson at a conference in Melbourne yesterday, at least not until more is known about how activity in the dark market is impacting equities trading. Expressing disappointment with the lack of action from the regulator, a spokesman for the Australian Securities Exchange said: "unchecked growth in dark pool activity has the potential to undermine  the lit public market." Page 23.

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (this site)--The Directors' Sentiment Index six-monthly survey released yesterday rated global uncertainty as the major economic challenge facing companies. John Colvin, chief executive of Australian Institute of Company Directors, addressed issues raised by the report and added that if Australia wanted "performance and not conformance" from directors the weight of "700 pieces of legislation making directors personally liable" needed to be lifted. Page B3.--The complex class action in the Federal Court, in which Centro shareholders are attempting to recover losses they suffered when a multi-billion dollar misclassification of debt in the group's financial statements for 2006-07 was made public, continues. Then chief financial officer Romano Nenna said yesterday that he had experienced panic attacks during 2007 while negotiating with a number of banks to refinance the group's debt. Page B3.--In 1990, Iraq defaulted on the A$480 million it owed to the then Australian Wheat Board relating to three years of wheat supplies from over 50,000 farmers. Now a rescheduling of the debt means there will be A$50 million to distribute to the farmers over the next 17 years with about A$4 million to be disbursed this year. Forensic accountants Ferrier Hodgson have the task and partner Greg Meredith reports that they are writing to 52,000 people listed on grower records from 1990. Page B3.

--United States institutional investor Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS) has tabled a resolution for the next annual general meeting of News Corporation calling for the roles of chairman and chief executive, currently both filled by Rupert Murdoch, to be separated. The "lax ethical culture and lack of effective board oversight" demonstrated by the "still emerging scandals" needed to be addressed by an independent chairman, CBIS claimed as it ensured all News Corp shareholders would have the opportunity to vote on its resolution. Page B4. THE AGE (this site)--In response to the Australian government's veto on Chinese company Huawei from tendering for national broadband network work, the Chinese ambassador has called for Chinese companies to be treated the same as those from other nations. "We hope that Huawei and all other companies from China will be able to enjoy fair and equal competition opportunities in Australia, as companies from other countries," said Chen Yuming in Canberra yesterday. Page B1.--"The name OneSteel has  been an impediment in recent years  we have found many investors, particularly overseas, have had perceptions that we were solely a steel company due to the name," said OneSteel chief executive Geoff Plummer yesterday in Melbourne as the company became Arrium Ltd. The change of name was supported by major shareholder AXA while Todd Scott, an analyst with RBS, noted that "half the assets and almost 60 percent of the revenues are still Australasian steel." Page B3.--Mandatory "kill switches" will be required in computer trading platforms that enable high-frequency trading as the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC ) takes steps to prevent a "flash crash" similar to the one that occurred in the United States markets. "These trades now dominate the market," said ASIC deputy chair Belinda Gibson. "That is not, per se, a problem, though it certainly complicates our job of market surveillance," Ms Gibson added. Page B3.--If foreign members of the crew working to lay offshore pipe work for the A$43 billion Gorgon gas project in Western Australia were prevented from working, due to the lack of 417 or 457, visas it could cost the project A$1 million a day, said Richard Hooker, the barrister acting for Swiss contracting company Allseas Construction. In the Federal Court in Perth, Allseas is seeking confirmation from the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship on the status of workers currently in possession of visitors and conference visas. Page B7.