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Premier Investments profit falls 2.4% in first half: Midday roundup

Premier Investments, which owns retail brands such as Just Jeans and Portmans, has recorded a 2.4% decline in first half profit due to difficult trading conditions.

The company announced net profit in the 26 weeks to January 28 was down from $39.4 million to $38.5 million, while earnings in the Just Group, were down 2.3% from the previous corresponding period.

The company owns the Just Jeans, Jay Jays, Jacqui E, Peter Alexander, Portmans, Dotti and Smiggle brands.

"It is encouraging to see these initiatives reap some early success," chief executive Mark McInnes said, referring to plans put in place as part of a strategic review.

"More importantly, we are confident we will see an ongoing positive uptick in the group's performance as we further invest in the business and renew our focus on the business fundamentals."

Solomon Lew attacks RBA

Retail veteran Solomon Lew has attacked the Reserve Bank of mishandling the mining boom, saying it needs to slash interest rates by as much as 75 basis points.

“I really believe the RBA has mishandled the mining boom to the great detriment of the non-mining sector, in particular retail,’’ Lew said while presenting the Premier Investments financial results.

“With great respect, the RBA needs to drop interest rates immediately and I’m not talking about 25 basis points, they need to help stimulate confidence at a time when all of Australia should be booming.”


QR National cuts earnings guidance

QR National has cut its earning guidance, with the company saying it expects to encounter weaker than forecast demand.

The company’s shares have fallen 3.59% to $3.75 this morning.

QR now expects to record full-year underlying earnings before interest and tax within the range of $540-580 million.

"A combination of factors have impacted forecasts and it is appropriate the company update the market with a revised full-year underlying EBIT forecast," QR said in a statement.

"These factors include the ongoing industrial action at BHP Mitsubishi Alliance Queensland mines, less than anticipated customer demand for coal rail transport and recent wet weather which has led to the temporary closure of several systems."

Shares flat after weak offshore lead

The Australian sharemarket has opened flat this morning after weak leads from offshore markets.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 15 points or 0.4% to 4258.8 at 12.00 AEST, while the Australian dollar remained at $US1.04c.

In the United States, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 78 points or 0.6% to 13,046.

Qantas says it should retain right to ground fleet

National carrier Qantas has rejected a Senate committee recommendation that the transport department and the aviation regulator must tick off any proposed grounding of fleet.

A Senate committee report said that Qantas' decision to lock out its workforce last year and ground its fleet was "highly controversial," affecting 35,000 employees and 98,000 travellers.

"The committee is of the view that the repercussions of this on the tourism industry, the Australian economy and Australia's international reputation should not be underestimated."

It recommended that airlines be compelled to submit a "safety case" before any grounding.

But Qantas says the proposal would be time-consuming, impractical and put the public at risk.

Airlines must retain the right to ground a fleet, it said.

Campbell Newman flags Qld could join action against MRRT

Campbell Newman, the man tipped to become Queensland premier this weekend, has flagged the state might join legal action against the mining tax.

Newman, leader of the Liberal National Party, told ABC Radio that his primary objective is "to see any funds raised on resources dug from the soil of Queensland returned to the people of Queensland."

"If they're prepared to see reason on that, then I don't have a problem with it continuing on. Should that be an issue, then Colin here we come, we'll be alongside you," referring to Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett, who has flagged his support for a campaign against the tax.

Andrew Sadauskas

TechCompany editor

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