NSW Government blocks Hunter Valley mine project, Shares down: Economy Roundup

The New South Wales Government has said it will not allow construction of an open-cut mine in the Hunter Valley to go ahead.

Premier Kristina Keneally has said the Bickham Coal Project will be blocked, but critics have said the project could have produced coal for the next 25 years.

“This decision gives the state’s thoroughbred industry the increased certainty it needs to continue to harness the dynamic global market – of which it is a leader,” Keneally said in a statement.

“We will not jeopardise the growth of this important Australian export industry… Furthermore, this mine is simply not compatible with the unique rural characteristics of this locality, including the horse-breeding industry.”

Additionally, planning minister Tony Kelly said the decision was based on information from the Independent Planning Assessment Commission.

“The decision not to proceed with the project follows several years of strategic and independent studies of the potential impacts of coal mining in the Upper Hunter Shire,” he said.

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola Amatil has reconfirmed its earnings guidance for the first half the year, saying cost-cutting has helped balance the weaker retail market.

“It is too early to assess what impact the cumulative effect of the interest rate increases and a less certain global economic outlook will have on consumer confidence and spending in the second half of 2010,” CCA group managing director Terry Davis said in a statement.

The company, which is 30% owned by Coca-Cola, has said expected positive volumes growth in the first half even with slower consumer movement. Additionally, the company said its Pacific Beverages joint venture helped grow company market share.

Healthscope has said it has received a takeover proposal from a private equity firm offering $5.50 for all of the company’s issued capital.

“The Healthscope board has not formed a view with respect to the proposal and recommends shareholders take no action at this time,” the company said in the statement.

“Healthscope will make a further announcement in due course.”

Shares open 1% lower following weak global markets

The Australian sharemarket has opened 1% lower today, offsetting significant gains over the past week, due to a fall in stock markets overseas and weak results from commodity markets.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 44 points or 0.95% to 4608.6 at 12.10 AEST, while the Australian dollar also opened slightly lower to US89c.

ANZ shares fell 1.9% to $22.84, as Commonwealth Bank shares also declined 1.9% to $53.88. Westpac shares lost 1.3% to $24.94 as NAB fell 2.1% to $25.41.

In the mining sector, Gindalbie Metals has secured $175 million through key components of a capital raising to help fund the construction of a $2 billion Karara iron ore mine in Western Australia.

The company said it is looking to raise between $175 million and $206.4 million, depending on the update of a share purchase plan, while it has already raised $111.8 million through a conditional share placement.

“Depending on the amount raised in the SPP, the AnSteel placement will be adjusted to allow AnSteel to remain a 36.12% shareholder in Gindalbie,” the company said in a statement.

“As a result, the placement to AnSteel may be adjusted from $63.2 million up to $74.6 million.”

Meanwhile, Macarthur Coal has scrapped a $1.21 billion takeover bid for smaller rival company Gloucester Coal. In a statement to the ASX, the company said the current bid cannot survive in its current format.

The announcement comes after Gloucester shareholder Noble Group dismissed resuming a deal last month.

Goldman Sachs JBWere, the Australian office of Goldman Sachs Group, could face legal action due to allegations of misleading and deceptive conduct.

It is understood the company could be a part of a $15 million legal case from Slater & Gordon. It is understood to be accused of involving “buy below the market” option contracts.

Slater & Gordon practice group leader Van Moulis told AAP that clients said they were sold buy-below-the-market contracts as a buffer against a sudden downturn, “But when the crunch came clients were locked into buying shares in blue chip companies at prices well above their market value”.

“Our clients allege GSJBW failed to explain that if the market moved against them they would be required to buy the shares at above the market or settle the difference in cash.”

New investigation to probe Wall Street banks

Meanwhile, in the United States, prosecutors may conduct an investigation of six major Wall Street banks including Citigroup and JPMorgan to determine if they misled investors.

In conjunction with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the investigation would focus on mortgage-bond deals. It is understood the investigation is in an early stage, and might not even lead to criminal charges.

It comes as the US Government is investigating Goldman Sachs for alleged fraudulent activities that led to the financial crisis.

Also in the US, the number of workers filing for jobless benefits fell only by a small margin last week to 444,000 in the seven days to May 8, according to the Labor Department.

“The labour market is clearly improving, but it has a long, long way to go before it gets to any semblance of normalcy,” chief US economist at Deutsche Bank Securities Joseph LaVorgna told Reuters.

On Wall Street, investors weren’t happy with the news, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 113.96 points or 1.05% to 10,782.95.

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