Press digest australian business news march 28

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Compiled for Reuters by Media Monitors. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. THE AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW (this site)--Leighton Holdings yesterday went into a share trading halt as it evaluated "revisions to previous guidance" after conducting its quarterly reviews. The market is now preparing for another write-down relating to the A$4.1 billion Brisbane Airport project where work is currently continuing around the clock in an effort to meet the scheduled opening of June 30 this year. Page 17.--Reserve Bank of Australia assistant governor Guy Debelle said yesterday, at an investment conference hosted by the Sydney branch of Morgan Stanley, that foreign investors, who currently hold about 75 percent of the total outstanding government debt, tended to be "buy-and-hold investors don't change their mandates in a hurry." This could lead to tighter liquidity, that may impact the Australian financial system as the new liquidity rules come into effect, Mr Debelle added. Page 17.--ConocoPhillips, the large United States oil company, has stated it supports the Woodside Petroleum proposal to create a gas processing site at James Price Point on the West Australian coast in the Kimberley region. Conoco could send gas from its Canning Basin shale gas operations or its Browse Basin fields, said the president of Conoco's Australian operations, Todd Creeger, who will address the Australian Financial Review's National Energy Conference today in Brisbane. Page 19.--Adelaide-based oil and gas exploration and production company Beach Energy, has announced a capital raising targeting A$345 million as its share price has enjoyed a healthy increase recently. "They have obviously outlined a fairly aggressive exploration and development program over the next two or three years so it's unsurprising  they would take advantage of the run in share price  to pre-emptively get some capital in the door," said Ben Wilson of JPMorgan yesterday. Page 21. THE AUSTRALIAN (this site)--Global mineral resources company Rio Tinto is conducting a strategic review of its diamonds division that may lead to its sale. "We have a valuable, high-quality diamonds business but, given its scale, we are reviewing whether we can create more value through a different ownership structure," said Harry Kenyon-Slaney, chief executive of Rio's diamonds and minerals division, yesterday. BHP Billiton indicated last November that it may sell part or all of its diamond operations. Page 35.

--Youth-oriented fashion apparel retailer Glue has announced it may discard brands that utilise discount online channels for sales. "Once a brand gets into the spiral of discounting and just looking for sales, the value of the brand depreciates and we don't want to be involved with brands that will be entering that spiral," said Hilton Seskin, owner of the Glue chain and chairman of the Australian arm of British fashion retailer Topshop. Page 35.--Theft in retail outlets cost the industry A$7.5 billion in 2011, reported the Australian Retailers Association - a 50 percent rise since 2009. Cuts in staff numbers over the last few years have been identified by Myer and David Jones as a tactical error producing frustrated shoppers who are more likely to leave and take merchandise without paying for it. "If there's one thing that stops people stealing, it's when there are people around the store," said Bernie Brookes, chief executive of Myer which has increased staff numbers significantly this year. Page 35.--The joint venture between large specialist investment manager AMP Capital Investors and United States investment house Brookfield Investment Management has been terminated. Brian Delaney, business director of client product and marketing at AMP, said yesterday that the increasing demand for listed global property and infrastructure securities provided an opportunity for the company to "take control of the platform and in the fullness of time to go into more markets." Page 36.

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (this site)--Housing affordability was deteriorating rather than improving, according to home builder Stockland. The company said one factor is that the deposit conversion rate applying to new home sales has gone down. "Often this is due to buyers going through the finance process and getting knocked back even where we assessed them as being able to get finance," said Matthew Quinn, Stockland chief executive, yesterday. Page B1.--In the Federal Court in Melbourne, shopping centre investment specialist Centro and auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) are being sued by investors over the calamitous Centro share price fall of 2007 that followed the discovery that billions of dollars of short-term debt had been classified erroneously as long-term debt. Accountant Paul Belcher, who worked at PwC prior to joining Centro, said the error was not referred to at the September 2007 meeting that reviewed the accounts for final approval. Page B3.--In the Federal Court, 13 councils are claiming misleading or deceptive conduct and negligence by the companies that sold them the constant proportion debt obligations (CPDOs) that collapsed in value during the global financial crisis. Ian Jackman, SC, said the emails sent by Mike Drexler, then an employee of ABN Amro, to Standard & Poor's (S&P) giving information on CPDOs, did not contain deliberate falsehoods but perhaps an innocent mistake or carelessness. S&P gave the products an AAA rating. Page B4.

--BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers has been rated as one of the top 30 chief executives in the world for the second year running by Barron's, a United States business publication. Mr Kloppers was commended over the role BHP plays in providing raw materials to the developing economy of China. Page B5. THE AGE (this site)--South African mining company AngloGold Ashanti has released budget figures showing A$760 million has been allocated to its Australian operations. These include the Sunrise Dam and Tropicana mines in Western Australia as well as further exploration. Gold could reach "well over US$2200 an ounce in coming years," said AngloGold chief executive Mark Cutifani. Page B4.--In a secret exercise, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) determined that the advice given to 64 consumers by financial advisers, that the recipients rated very highly, was rated as much less impressive by ASIC analysts. "The finance industry needs to lift its game," said ASIC commissioner Peter Kell. Page B5.--Shares in farm chemicals group Nufarm closed lower yesterday after the company reported a drop in sales for the first half of the year and noted there were concerns regarding its business in Europe. "Seasonal conditions in Europe are very mixed, and there is increased business risk associated with economic pressures in a number of European countries," said managing director Doug Rathbone. Page B5.--Jetstar Asia, the Qantas Airways-backed low-cost airline based in Singapore, has announced its new chief executive will be Barathan Pasupathi, who worked as the airline's chief financial officer early last decade and has since worked for an airline in Kuwait and an oil company in Singapore. Mr Pasupathi has "first-hand understanding of our business as well as the aviation sector overall," said Dennis Choo, chairman of Jetstar Asia. Page B7.