ACCC approves Foxtel, Austar transaction: Midday roundup

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has approved the $2 billion takeover deal between Foxtel and Austar.

Shares in Austar rose 2.5% to $1.51 this morning after the news was announced.

The corporate watchdog said it would approve the deal after accepting court-enforceable undertakings from Foxtel. These will ban Foxtel buying exclusive internet protocol TV rights for TV shows and movies, while Foxtel is also banned from exclusively buying any movies delivered on a video-on-demand transactional basis.

“By reducing content exclusivity, the undertakings will lower barriers to entry and promote new and effective competition in metropolitan and regional telecommunications and subscription television markets,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.

“Taking into account the undertaking which has been offered by Foxtel, the ACCC is satisfied that the proposed acquisition is unlikely to substantially lessen competition.”

The ACCC also said the court-enforceable undertakings would be for eight years.

“The proposed undertaking has been offered by Foxtel to address the harm to competition which is likely to arise as a result of the proposed acquisition,” Sims said.

“However, it is not intended to resolve competition or structural issues that may already exist in the relevant markets and are unrelated to the proposed acquisition.”

Job ads at three-year high

The number of job ads on the internet or in newspapers has reached a three-year high, according to the latest figures from ANZ.

The total number of ads rose 1% in March, following a 3.3% rise in February and a 7.5% rise in January.

“The trend in total advertising points toward a modest recovery in employment growth and an unemployment rate remaining below 5.5% through 2012, despite potential divergences between regions and industries,” ANZ economist Warren Hogan said in a statement.

PM claims rate cuts more likely with a surplus

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said it will be easier for the Reserve Bank to slash interest rates when the government is operating a surplus.

“Australian businesses, many of them doing it tough because of the strong Australian dollar, have said to me that they would like to see an interest rate cut,” she said this morning, according to AAP.

“So that’s one reason for returning the budget to surplus.”

“A great way of sending a signal of confidence about our economy to the world is returning the budget to surplus and we will.”

Shares fall after weak offshore results

The Australian sharemarket has opened lower this morning after a weak night on offshore markets.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 was down 27 points or 0.6% to 4291.9 at 12.00 AEST, while the Australian dollar was at $US1.03c.

In the United States, stocks fell on news showing a slowdown in hiring. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 130 points or 1%.

Construction still in the red

The national construction sector has now been in the red for almost two straight years with the latest Australian Industry Group (AIG) Australian Performance of Construction Index, up just 0.6 points to 36.2 in March.

Readings below 50 indicate a contraction in activity.

Poor demand and subdued conditions, particularly in the residential and commercial construction sub-sectors, continued in the month with house building falling to its lowest level in six months. Reduced workloads saw employment levels remain in negative territory and the new orders sub-index has now been contracting for 22 months.

“Large parts of the national construction industry remained stuck in the doldrums,” said AIG director of public policy, Peter Burn.

“Very weak conditions continue in the house and apartment building and commercial construction sectors and this is flowing on to a cross-section of service and manufacturing businesses.”

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