CSR wins appeal to demerger, BHP Billiton staff told to maintain integrity: Economy Roundup

CSR has won an appeal in the Federal Court in order to hold a shareholder meeting on the proposed demerger of the company’s sugar division from its building products sector.

The full bench of the Federal Court in Sydney said leave to appeal should be granted, and the appeal should be allowed. Shares in the company have jumped by nearly 7% to $1.80 during morning trading.

An original decision blocked the shareholder vote, raising concerns over the company’s ability to pay its asbestos liabilities. However, the new ruling will allow the shareholder vote to go forward.

CSR said in a statement to the Australian Securities and Exchange Commission that the decision is welcome, and that it is pleased the court could provide further clarity on the original judgement.

“The board of CSR will review today’s judgement and will advise the market when it has considered the legal and commercial aspects of the matter further,” the company said. “CSR accepts its responsibilities with respect to asbestos claims and will continue to manage this responsibility conscientiously and ethically.”

“The board accepts that any course of action must appropriately address the concerns of stakeholders with a relevant interest in the asbestos issue.”

Woodside Petroleum has recorded a 7% decline in output during the first quarter of 2010, blaming the poor performance on planned maintenance, the sale of its 51.55% interest in the Otway gas project and a natural drop in production.

“This was partially offset by record quarterly LNG (liquefied natural gas) production from the North West Shelf Venture,” Woodside said in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange.

However, the company has said sales revenue rose 43% to $US1.03 billion, due to improved commodity prices. “The exploration drilling campaign to support Pluto expansion continues to have success with gas found at Noblige and Larsen during the quarter,” Woodside said.

BHP maintains “integrity” during investigation

BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers has reportedly sent a memo to staff expressing “great concern” about the current scandal in Cambodia, and warned them that they must work with integrity.

BusinessDay has reported Kloppers said operations are still at a relatively early stage, but an investigation is indeed underway. ”You should be assured that we will thoroughly and fairly investigate these matters, as we would any other possible breach of law or the code, and take whatever action is appropriate at the conclusion,” he said.

”While matters of this kind are of great concern, they remind us that we must work in a way that is consistent with our code and our charter values. Along with safety, nothing is more critical to our success than working with integrity.”

Finance minister Lindsay Tanner has told the ABC that the Henry Tax Review will provide a “smorgasbord of possibilities”, but has ruled out changes to the GST.

“We’ve ruled out changes to the GST, either increasing the GST or changing its scope, but other than that and the change in the superannuation arrangements… we have got a smorgasbord of possibilities that we’re going to have to consider here,” he said.

“People shouldn’t assume that we are just going to automatically implement whatever the Henry committee tells us.” He also remarked on comments that negative gearing could be affected by the Government’s response.

“Any dramatic change in the overall investment framework could lead to a stampede of people out of property which could lead, therefore, to dramatic drops in prices, which of course you are seeing in other economies around the world,” he said.

Sharemarket opens lower despite strong Wall Street

The Australian sharemarket has opened lower today despite positive results on Wall Street, where solid financial reports from Starbucks and tech giant Microsoft have boosted investor confidence.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 14 points or 0.3% to 4892.5 at 12.00 AEST, while the Australian dollar has also opened lower to US92c.

ANZ shares have lost 0.2% to $25.19, with Commonwealth Bank shares also losing 1% to $58.54. Westpac gained 0.1% to $27.71 as NAB rose 0.2% to $28.40.

CBH Resources has now entered a trading halt during discussions in which the company may resolve uncertainties regarding takeover bids from Nyrstar NV and Toho. It has also cancelled a shareholder meeting scheduled for April 28.

“The company is in discussions which may lead to resolution of uncertainties arising from the proposals received from, respectively, Toho Zinc Co Ltd and Nyrstar NV,” CBH said in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).

“It is expected that an announcement to end the trading halt will be made before the market hopes on Tuesday.”

Gloucester Coal claims no movement on Noble Group deal

Gloucester Coal has said it has not received any documents regarding to a takeover offer from its largest shareholder, Noble Group. On April 6, the Singapore-based company overed $12.60 per share for the remaining stake.

Gloucester said in a statement yesterday it has not received any documentation, and will continue to advise shareholders that no action should be taken in regards to offers as yet.

In the United States, Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein is set to testify before a Senate Committee along with bond trader Fabrice Tourre.

The pair will go up against the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in order to answer questions regarding their involvement in the securitisation of mortgage products and the development, marketing and trading of collateralised debt obligations.

On Wall Street, negative sentiment regarding debt problems in Greece and the Goldman Sachs investigation where offset from strong financial results. Microsoft reported a 53% jump in quarterly profit to $US4.01 billion due to the strength of Windows 7 sales, while Amazon reported first quarter net income of $US299 million.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 9.37 points or 0.08% to 11,134.29.

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