‘Biz-for-sale’ battle breaks out … Green tinge on election year budget? … ACCC may get boycott IR muscle … iPhone deal signals future plans …

Battle for “biz sale” marketplace breaks out

A war has broken out in the “businesses for sale” marketplace, with Seek launching a new website today (Friday) called SeekCommercial.

SeekCommercial takes on BizExchange, launched last year, Trading Post and Fairfax classifieds in chasing the micro-business for sale market.

David Waite, general manager of SeekCommercial, says Seek did a soft launch in December, and used live feedback to change the site before launching to the market today (Friday) with 1200 listings and 85 actual advertisers. “We have 2.4 million unique visitors a month coming to Seek, and 82% tell us they want to own their own business. Gen Xs and Ys want to be entrepreneurial – not be an employee. Plus one of the biggest challenges facing franchisors is to find new business owners.”

Competitor BizExchange says Seek was always focused on the “buy yourself a job” market. “Now they have just taken that a step further with this site,” says Andrew Kent, director of BizExchange, which has 500 listings.

Kent says BizExchange was aware of Seek’s plans and launched a new service aimed at the micro-market last Monday. “It’s war. This whole space has heated up in the last two months,” he says. “You can list your business for sale with us for $100 (if the business has a market value of less than $500,000), Seek for $110, and Trading Post for $99, while Fairfax is offering a bundled product to people.”

SeekCommercial has focused on getting business brokers on board, signing up large business broker Sydney Business Exchange, while BizExchange has forged a relationship with the CPAs.

— Amanda Gome


What’s in the budget?

Business — especially green businesses — could be winners out of the upcoming May federal budget. Prime Minister Howard signaled to The Australian Financial Review that he is considering a multi-billion dollar investment in climate change measures via a clean energy fund aimed at business and consumers before this year’s election.

He suggested that Government would shoulder some of the capital cost of cleaning up existing energy technologies and encouraging new ones, and confirmed the emphasis would be on infrastructure spending rather than tax cuts.

Read our story on entrepreneurs seeing opportunity in climate change and carbon emissions trading

— Jacqui Walker


Business damages changes

Business will be in a stronger position to obtain compensation for losses from secondary boycotts if changes to the Trade Practices Act proposed by the Federal Government, allowing the ACCC to take action on behalf of businesses, become law.

Treasurer Peter Costello yesterday said the new role for the ACCC would help businesses without the time or resources to conduct expensive litigation to recoup losses suffered as a result of secondary boycotts.

A business suffers secondary boycott losses when it is prevented from buying or selling because of pressure, usually in the form of industrial action, exerted on a supplier or customer by a third party.

The Government has tried on several previous occasions to pass the legislation but was always blocked by the Senate. The Government’s current Senate majority means it should have no difficulty passing the legislation into law this time around.

The Treasurer has focused on the law’s application to animal rights groups and environmentalists, rather than its more obvious application to unions, amid commentary that he is trying to use the issue to play wedge politics in an election year.

Law firm Holding Redlich partner David Shaw says the changes will act as a disincentive to activist groups and unions seeking to target business by taking secondary boycott action.

He says the changes could be a sign that the ACCC will be given a more active role in achieving industrial relations outcomes instead of its traditional focus on competition issues.

“Where there is a dispute of this kind, usually everyone just wants to get things back to normal, so they won’t seek damages once it’s over – if all the possible actions had been taken, most of the unions would be broke by now,” he says. “But an independent body like the ACCC won’t be reticent in that way, so we may see more actions.”

— Mike Preston


IT News

Apple has been in a conciliatory mood lately. Cisco Systems and Apple have agreed to share the iPhone brand, settling Cicso’s claim against Apple for trademark infringement. The deal closely follows the resolution of Apple’s decades-long dispute over the right to use the Beatles’ apple name and logo.

The Cisco settlement allows both companies to use the iPhone name and anticipates the companies working together in the future. Apple plans to start selling its combination iPod music player and mobile phone under the iPhone brand in June.

— Jacqui Walker


Small cap wrap

Flight Centre reported a better-than-expected $37 million half-yearly net profit, up 10.1% on the previous corresponding period. The result comes ahead of Wednesday’s shareholder vote on a $1.6 billion management buyout backed by Pacific Equity Partners and has shareholders questioning whether they are ready to sell out.

Software developer Reckon posted a net profit of $8.16 million for the year to 31 December 2006, up 16% on the previous year. And vehicle parts retailer Super Cheap Auto notched up a 51% increase in first half net profit, to $9.05 million, defying a subdued vehicle parts market.

— Mike Preston


Economic round up

 The benchmark ASX/S&P 200 gained 65.3 points on Thursday to close above 6000 for the first time in its history last night, thanks to a credit rating upgrade for the major banks. The banks’ share prices shot up after Standard & Poors upgraded their credit rating from AA-minus to AA. A further 21 points were added to the ASX/S&P 200 on Friday morning to reach 6038.2.

The Reserve Bank Governor’s comments on Wednesday that interest rates are more likely to go up than down helped push the Australian dollar to an intra-day high of US79.22 cents on Thursday; its strongest price since January 24 this year. It fell back to US78.9 cents on Friday morning.


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