Press digest australian business news march 7

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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)Independent director of News Corp, Rod Eddington, has been urged by the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI), who manages in excess of A$300 billion in super funds, to shake-up the board of News Corp and remove Rupert Murdoch as both chief executive and chairman of the media giant."We just can't keep letting the Murdochs overrule the diametrically opposed interests of other shareholders," Phil Spathis, ACSI's manager of strategy and management said. Page 17.-- Mining companies are looking to employ farmers to monitor coal seam gas wells and do maintenance in order to combat staff shortages. Simon Drury, a south-east Queensland grazier, never expected to work for a coal seam gas company when he signed up for the program offered by Origin Energy and expected to be used by energy giants to arrest the worsening skills crisis."Five years ago I'd never heard of coal seam gas  when the development is done and the dust settles, we will be the ones monitoring the wells," Mr Drury said. Page 18.-- Chinese-owned Yancoal Australia and Gloucester Coal will discuss the composition of the combined A$8 billion company after Gloucester directors unanimously backed the revised Yancoal deal."The board will start with a majority of Yancoal directors," chairman of Gloucester Coal, James MacKenzie, said yesterday. The Hong Kong-based Noble Group, a majority shareholder in Gloucester, said that one of its directors, Will Randall, would be part of the new board. Page 19.-- A fall in borrowing costs on international markets will make it hard for Australian banks to justify a rate increases after the rate fell by as much as half a percent over the last two months. As the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) kept interest rates on hold yesterday, banks warned that funding costs still remained relatively high and a rate rise independent of the RBA was still possible."Pricing is still wide relative to where it was 12 months ago," Commonwealth Bank of Australia head of group funding, Simon Maidment, said yesterday. Page 21.-- THE AUSTRALIAN (this site)Standards of disclosure similar to the Australian Securities Exchange are being mooted by the Financial Services Council (FSC) for the operation of superannuation funds, disclosing salaries of directors and managers in charge of super funds. The FSC, representing super funds including AMP, BT Financial and Perpetual, is looking to pre-empt a similar plan to toughen governance standards by Financial Services Minister Bill Shorten. Page 19.

-- A controversial derivative-based share purchase in casino operator Echo Entertainment by the James Packer run Crown will not result in any immediate action by the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC). After reviewing the purchase by Crown, ASIC determined that the market had been fully informed despite protests by Echo that Crown had built a blocking stake of 10 percent without buying shares on-market."At this stage there is no solid basis to go to the Takeovers Panel," an Echo source said yesterday. Page 19.-- Higher funding costs have resulted in the Bank of Queensland ,BOQ. AX> raising its variable mortgage rate by 10 basis points, despite the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) leaving rates on hold yesterday. In a move that reminds the RBA lower rates might be needed sooner than first thought, the market will be watching Australia and New Zealand Banking Group's first independent interest rate announcement closely this Friday."How the major banks respond is now a big feature of the monetary policy decision-making process," Annette Beacher of TD Securities said yesterday. Page 19.-- The interest of international investors could be dampened by the Federal Government's proposed mining tax, the chairman of Jindal Power and Steel, Naveen Jindal, has cautioned.

The Indian power and steel tycoon also warned that any carbon tax was a "concern for Indian companies". "We're hoping the Australian government will find acceptable solutions to these issues, whether it's on the mining resource rent tax or also the carbon tax," Mr Jindal said at the Australia-India CEO Forum in New Delhi. Page 20.-- THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (this site)In an attempt to rebuild its operations after the brand damage of last year's six week forced grounding of its aircraft, Tiger Airways is widely expected to name Sydney Airport as its second Australian base. In a move that shows the commitment of Singapore Airlines to keep the no-frills carrier in Australia, Tiger will boost its flights to the 60 flights a day it had before the grounding. Coinciding with the increase in flight numbers for Tiger, Singapore Airlines will launch the Singapore to Sydney service of its new long-haul budget offshoot, Scoot. Page B1.-- Allegations outlined in the New South Wales Supreme Court yesterday claim that Vanuatu-based accountant Robert Agius returned millions of dollars to businesses and individuals in a tax fraud scheme he promoted. A plea of not guilty was entered by Sydney accountants Carol Abibadra, Kevin Zerafa, Deborah Judith Jandagi along with Mr Agius to charges of conspiracy to defraud the Commonwealth. Page B3.--

New owners could be named as early as today for Anzac biscuit maker Unibic after its collapse last week. The collapse has been blamed on rising raw material prices and the pricing pressure placed on it by supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths. Administrator Lawler Draper Dillon confirmed yesterday that a contract of sale had been signed by new owners and that the deal would be announced after an independent valuation this week. A spokesman for Coles said they had "bent over backwards to help avoid collapse. Page B3.-- In what is believed to be a first since becoming a major stakeholder in the company, Gina Rinehart met with the senior management of Fairfax Media ,FXJ. AX> at its Sydney offices yesterday. Mrs Rinehart, owner of a 12.6 percent stake in the media company, is believed to have been given a tour of the offices yesterday by Fairfax chief executive Greg Hywood. Speculation as to whether the iron ore and coal magnate would be given a seat on the Fairfax board still continues. Page B4.-- THE AGE (this site)Employees at Westpac Banking Corporation face further job cuts after the bank announced it would cut 119 technology jobs and move them overseas. The latest move to reduce costs and bolster profits follows the bank's axing of 560 positions last month."Restructuring decisions are always difficult and are only made after a thorough review," chief operating officer for Westpac, John Arthur, said yesterday. Page B3.-- Weakness in the economy is being offset by the growth in mining investments, with Westpac Banking Corp chief economist Bill Evans predicting a fifth consecutive year of below-trend growth in 2012. Farm incomes are likely to be at their best in 2011-12 and Mr Evans predicts that the Reserve Bank of Australia will cut interest rates twice more as job losses mount in 2012. "I don't think Australia needs the highest rates in the Western world," Mr Evans said yesterday. Page B3.- - Gas Projects in Queensland and north-west Western Australia are under threat from 40 million tonnes of gas exports a year from North America, Australian mining company Santos said in a presentation to overseas investors this week. Large developments of shale gas in the United States (US) could cut across the plans of Australian gas exporters because of the significantly lower cost base for US shale gas. With export liquefied natural gas pricing based mainly on oil prices, this could mean gas prices being undercut in what is a very lucrative market. Page B4.-- A Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) report expects online retail sales to double over the next five years, to just under 10 percent of sales, as customers take to online shopping for the first time. The report, based on the purchasing behaviour of its credit card customers, revealed that the trend towards online retail would continue to grow rapidly. "Online retail sales knocked 1.3 percentage points off bricks-and-mortar retail's top-line growth in 2011," CBA analyst, Andrew McLennan, said yesterday. Page B5.- -