Press digest australian business news march 8

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March 8 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)-- Andrew Reitzer, chief executive of Metcash, yesterday said the grocery wholesaler was facing its toughest year of trading in his 14 years as chief executive. "This is a tough business and we're in a market against two giants that have somewhere close to 80 percent market share and there's no place for nice guys and there's no time," Mr Reitzer added. Page 27.-- Gail Kelly, chief executive of Westpac Banking Corporation, yesterday said home owners should prepare for lenders to raise mortgage rates given that funding costs for banks remained high and new regulations forced banks to withhold more capital. Ms Kelly, who also attended a luncheon to mark International Women's Day, added that "the biggest cost pressures are from pricing of term deposits". Page 29.-- Gas producers Santos and AGL Energy yesterday played down concerns that their operations could be hamstrung by new regulations for coal seam gas exploration in New South Wales. Michael Fraser, chief executive of AGL, described community concern about the industry as "unwarranted". "I think it's important that the government does set out a clear pathway that will give the community confidence that if coal seam gas projects are going to be developed in there area there isn't going to be damage to productive aquifers," he added. Page 32.-- Copper producer OZ Minerals yesterday rebuffed speculation that it may attempt to acquire the 80 percent of gold and copper producer Sandfire Resources not under its control. Analysts have earmarked Sandfire as a takeover target because of its DeGrussa copper-gold venture in Western Australia, which has projected revenues of A$4.2 billion over seven years. "We are not worried about ownerships or necessarily operating if we can find the right asset so we are open to the various terms," Terry Burgess, chief executive of OZ Minerals, said. Page 32. THE AUSTRALIAN (this site)

-- The S&P/ASX 200 Index plunged 1.5 percent to 4143.7 points yesterday as investors remained wary of a potential sovereign default in Greece. The stockmarket has gone down in value by A$35 billion over the last week, with a total of A$18 billion lost yesterday. "The potential for an unintended political outcome in Europe remains high," Mark Burgess, chief investment officer at investment manager Threadneedle Investments, said. Page 19.-- Australia's economy may be experiencing an unprecedented level of capital and mining expenditure, but observers yesterday noted that mining stocks were continuing to struggle under the spectre of the high Australian dollar and increasing costs. "Yes there's a boom on, that's manifesting itself more in capital expenditure for future growth  but are we seeing the immediate effect? No we're not, for at least a couple of years," Tim Schroeders from fund manager Pengana Capital said. Page 19.-- Billionaire James Packer yesterday met with institutional investors for the first time since Crown Ltd announced its move on rival casino group Echo Entertainment. The meeting was reportedly requested by fund manager Perpetual, which owns 8 percent in Echo, operator of The Star casino in New South Wales, and 10 percent in Crown. Mr Packer and Perpetual, however, declined to comment on the meeting. Page 19.-- Gail Kelly, chief executive of Westpac Banking Corporation, yesterday revealed at a function honouring International Women's Day that she became a more vocal advocate of women in executive positions because her decision not to be outspoken was problematic. "Because I did not go out and talk about it (the need to promote more women) it was being negatively perceived, which was personally damaging for me potentially and also not good for the organisation," Ms Kelly added. Page 19. --

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (this site)--Commonwealth Bank of Australia yesterday abandoned a campaign offering almost 100,000 online banking customers to increase their credit card limits after the Australian Securities and Investments Commission said the offer was misleading. The regulator's ruling is believed to act as a warning to the banking industry, which has been encouraging customers to opt in to receive invitations before new legislations come into effect later this year to prevent unwanted offers to raise limits. Page B1.-- Economic forecaster Deloitte Access Economics yesterday published a new report that predicts sales volumes in the retail sector to grow by 1.2 percent in the 2011-12 financial year and 2.6 percent the following financial year. While the figures are noticeably below the levels experienced by retailers before the global financial crisis, they represent a recovery for an industry that has struggled in the last two years. "Department stores have been losing sales to other forms of retail," David Rumbens, partner at Access Economics, said. Page B3.

-- According to data from the Australian Institute of Company Directors, the amount of women on top-200 listed company boards has grown to 13.8 percent from 11.2 percent in 2011, although one-third of companies in the ASX 200 as of June last year did not have any female representation at all. The revelation comes after Australia and New Zealand Banking Group established a partnership with the Chief Executive Women advocacy group to encourage women in Australia to take on more leadership roles. Page B3.-- The New South Wales District Court yesterday ruled that three directors of the failed Australian Capital Reserve property group, the fund-raising division of developer Estate Property Group, have been sentenced to a two-year correction order to be served in the community. The directors were have found to have lied about the consolidated group's financial status in a prospectus 8 years ago, which allowed them to raise A$132 million from investors. Page B3. THE AGE (this site)-- Sam Walsh, chief executive of global miner Rio Tinto , yesterday said Africa could emerge as a target for Australian iron ore after demand in Asia begins to wane over the next 15 years. "Our analysis shows that when you get into the period 2020 to 2030 China will start to flatten off," Mr Walsh said. He added that the African continent would "industrialise and urbanise as we've seen elsewhere and they'll need steel domestically to build the high-rises". Page B3.-- The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has told pay television network Foxtel that it cannot sign exclusive deals to purchase internet protocol television rights from KidsCo, 13th Street, ESPN, Sky News and the Disney Channel. The request is another step in the competition regulator's approvals process for Foxtel's proposed A$1.9 billion merger with rival Austar United Communications. Page B4.-- Shares in packaging group Amcor gained A14 cents to close at A$6.94 yesterday after investors welcomed the company's move to spent A$238 million to acquire rival group Aperio. The takeover will see Amcor control approximately 60 percent of the local flexibles packaging market and will increase Amcor's revenue from its flexibles division to roughly A$1.2 billion. However, some observers have raised concerns that the move will result in less competition and job redundancies. Page B4.-- The chief executive of Telstra, David Thodey, yesterday said he was happy that the telecommunications group had finalised negotiations with NBN Co, the government-owned company responsible for rolling out the national broadband network. Under the terms of the agreement, Telstra will receive cash flows for the next 30 years for the use of its infrastructure, while additional payments will be made every time a copper phone line is disconnected and replaced by optic-fibre. Page B4.