Tag Archives: company

Jobs in doubt as transport company folds

Updated February 22, 2013 08:00:34

A Tasmanian courier and storage company is expected to stop trading this afternoon after 25 years in the business, with the loss of about 100 jobs.

Road Runners told its workers in Hobart, Devonport and Launceston on Thursday that it had gone into administration.

The company lost a major contract in January and administrator Paul Cook says it has been struggling to pay wages.

Mr Cook was in talks with a potential buyer last night.

The Workplace Relations Minister, David O’Byrne, says he hopes a deal can be secured to protect as many jobs as possible.

Michael Bailey from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry says it is a sign of the times.

“We seem to be taking one step forward in Tasmanian business and two steps back.”

“We’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on that and supporting any of our members that have been caught up in this and clearly it’s a very difficult situation for all people involved.”

Creditors will meet on March 4.

Topics: company-news, devonport-7310, launceston-7250

First posted February 21, 2013 15:15:12

Company denies railway fund pressures


The Federal Group says the cost of topping up a compulsory maintenance fund for the West Coast Wilderness railway played no role in its decision to abandon the tourist attraction.


It has been revealed a so-called “sinking fund’ to cover non-routine upgrades was set up as part of the Federal Group’s 20 year lease of the railway.


The Infrastructure Department says the company was only required to start contributing to the fund halfway through the lease, starting payments a few years ago.


Daniel Hanna from the Federal Group says the cost of the fund did not weigh on the company’s finances.


“In the tens of thousands of dollars each year,” he said.


The company is blaming low passenger numbers and impending capital costs for its decision to stop running the railway in April.


It says there is only about $160,000 left in the fund.

Topics: travel-and-tourism, tourism, rail-transport, queenstown-7467

First posted February 14, 2013 06:12:57

Mine company executive jailed for insider trading


A former mining company executive has been sentenced to jail for using inside information to buy and sell shares.


Calvin Zhu, formerly an executive at Chinese-owned Hanlong Mining, admitted he was a serial inside trader.


He made profits for himself and his associates of more than $1.3 million using inside information relating to planned takeover bids.


At the NSW Supreme Court today, Justice Peter Hall sentenced Zhu to two years and three months in jail, and said he must serve a minimum of 15 months.


Zhu co-operated with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) after its market surveillance team noticed the suspicious trades.


Zhu’s lawyer told the ABC the judge recognised his client’s remorse and passed the appropriate sentence.

Topics: crime, fraud-and-corporate-crime, courts-and-trials, law-crime-and-justice, mining-industry, sydney-2000

First posted February 15, 2013 18:52:31

Future Fund buys shares in shamed tobacco company


The Government’s multi-billion-dollar Future Fund has bought shares in a tobacco company that once commissioned a study outlining the economic benefits of premature deaths.


Documents provided to a Senate committee show the fund increased its tobacco-related shareholdings in the lead up to last October’s announcement that it was reviewing its investment strategy.


The details reveal that in May last year the fund bought shares in Philip Morris (Czech).


In 2001, Philip Morris was forced to apologise for a study commissioned by its international affiliate that found the Czech Republic benefited financially from the early deaths of smokers.


Asked whether the purchase of such shares complied with the fund’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) policy, managing director Mark Burgess told a Senate hearing: “As we’ve said for some time, our ESG policy, we believe, is world’s best practice, but we do review it on a regular basis.”


In October, Mr Burgess raised the prospect of the fund divesting itself of tobacco shareholdings following pressure from health groups and the Greens.


He said the board’s governance committee would consider the fund’s investment in cigarette and tobacco companies, including the cost implications of such a decision.


Greens senator Richard Di Natale says he is extremely disappointed the fund was buying more shares just months before that announcement.


“(These companies) are taking legal action against the Government, companies that are essentially in the business of killing people,” Senator Di Natale told ABC News Online.


“Australians are horrified when they learn that their taxpayer dollars are being invested in companies like Philip Morris (and) British American Tobacco.”


Mr Burgess says it would be wrong to pre-empt the governance committee’s recommendations because it is still considering the fund’s exclusions policy.


“Exclusions is a very clear area that you must determine in a very structured framework and policy because there are many views of that and therefore you must think it through (and) analyse it carefully.


“That’s what our governance committee is currently doing.


“The fund does exclude for example cluster munitions and landmines – it’s a very clear statement in that area.”


The current value of the fund’s shareholding in cigarette and tobacco companies is $221 million, which is down from $231.7 million in October.


It is unclear, however, whether that is due to the sale of shares or a decrease in the number of shares held by the fund.


According to the October figures, the fund was holding $57 million worth of British American Tobacco shares, $48 million in Lorilland shares, almost $46 million in Philip Morris International and $34.6 million worth of Japan Tobacco shares.

Topics: federal-government, business-economics-and-finance, tobacco, smoking

First posted February 12, 2013 12:45:12

Another space company aims to mine asteroids

Posted January 23, 2013 21:46:34

A team of entrepreneurs and engineers in the US have unveiled plans for a space mining company that would tap nearby asteroids for raw materials to fuel satellites and manufacture components in orbit.

Deep Space Industries, based in California, said its inaugural mission is targeted for 2015, when it would send a small hitchhiker spacecraft called Firefly on a six-month expedition to survey an as-yet-unidentified asteroid.

The 25-kilogram satellite, about the size of a laptop computer, would be launched as a secondary payload aboard a commercial rocket carrying a communications satellite or other robotic probe.

About 1,000 small asteroids relatively close to Earth are discovered every year.

Most, if not all, are believed to contain water and gases, such as methane, which can be turned into fuel, as well as metals such as nickel, which can be used in three-dimensional printers to manufacture components, according to David Gump, chief executive of Deep Space Industries.

Mr Gump is a co-founder of three previous space and technology start-ups, including Astrobotic Technology, which is focused on exploration and development of lunar resources.

“There is really nothing in the business plan that Deep Space Industries is pursuing that cannot be done with technology research already accomplished in laboratories across the planet,” said John Mankins, a former NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory manager who is the start-up company’s chief technical officer.

“The technology may not have been used in space for the exact purposes that we propose, but the fundamental technologies are really at hand.”

Deep Space Industries is the second company to unveil plans to mine asteroids.

Last year Planetary Resources, a Washington-based company backed by high-profile investors including Google executives Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, and advisers like filmmaker James Cameron, announced a program that would begin with small, low-cost telescopes to scout for potentially lucrative asteroids.

Reuters

Topics: space-exploration, spacecraft, mining-industry, united-states

Mining company defends link with high school


A mining company has defended its involvement with a high school on the New South Wales Central Coast, amid concerns it is trying to influence the curriculum.


NuCoal has agreed to provide unspecified resources, such as work experience and career advice, at Narara Valley High School.


The teachers’ union is worried the independence of the curriculum might be compromised, but NuCoal’s Marie Roberts says those fears are unfounded


“We’re certainly not about telling them what to teach or even how to teach it, but we are a resource that’s available should they want to make that connection into the real world,” she said.


NSW Teachers Federation president Maurie Mulheron says he plans to meet teachers and parents at the school to discuss concerns that the company might have too much influence.


“We would want to see some guarantee that is not the case,” he said.


No direct funding arrangement is in place at this stage.

Topics: public-schools, schools, education, mining-industry, nsw, narara-2250

Coal freight company accused of pay deal bribes


The union representing rail workers has threatened to take legal action against Pacific National Coal, accusing them of bribing workers to avoid strikes.


Pacific National Coal and the Rail, Tram and Bus Union have been locked in a pay dispute for more than 12 months.


The company has taken the unusual step of offering to guarantee a 4 per cent pay rise to individual workers who promise not to undertake industrial action.


The union’s national secretary Bob Nanva says that is discrimination, and a breach of the Fair Work Act.


“This is an unprecedented and disgraceful attempt to bribe our workers,” he said.


“This is an attempt to bribe and bully the workforce into not exercising their legal right to strike.


“Every member who participated in the ballot has a legal right to take protected action and this is an attempt by Pacific National to subvert what is a legal process.


The union is seeking a 9 per cent pay increase.


However, Pacific National is warning that its current offer will be reduced to 3 per cent if an agreement is not reached.


And it will be cut further if the dispute continues for another month.


The company says it has held many meetings with the union, but it was now apparent that the bargaining process had been exhausted.


In a statement, Pacific National says it has been approached by a number of employees who want to accept the four percent deal.

Topics: unions, industrial-relations, coal, newcastle-2300, port-kembla-2505

Coal freight company accused of pay deal bribes

Posted January 30, 2013 12:47:30

The union representing rail workers has threatened to take legal action against Pacific National Coal, accusing them of bribing workers to avoid strikes.

Pacific National Coal and the Rail, Tram and Bus Union have been locked in a pay dispute for more than 12 months.

The company has taken the unusual step of offering to guarantee a 4 per cent pay rise to individual workers who promise not to undertake industrial action.

The union’s national secretary Bob Nanva says that is discrimination, and a breach of the Fair Work Act.

“This is an unprecedented and disgraceful attempt to bribe our workers,” he said.

“This is an attempt to bribe and bully the workforce into not exercising their legal right to strike.

“Every member who participated in the ballot has a legal right to take protected action and this is an attempt by Pacific National to subvert what is a legal process.

The union is seeking a 9 per cent pay increase.

However, Pacific National is warning that its current offer will be reduced to 3 per cent if an agreement is not reached.

And it will be cut further if the dispute continues for another month.

The company says it has held many meetings with the union, but it was now apparent that the bargaining process had been exhausted.

In a statement, Pacific National says it has been approached by a number of employees who want to accept the four percent deal.

Topics: unions, industrial-relations, coal, newcastle-2300, port-kembla-2505

Another space company aims to mine asteroids


A team of entrepreneurs and engineers in the US have unveiled plans for a space mining company that would tap nearby asteroids for raw materials to fuel satellites and manufacture components in orbit.


Deep Space Industries, based in California, said its inaugural mission is targeted for 2015, when it would send a small hitchhiker spacecraft called Firefly on a six-month expedition to survey an as-yet-unidentified asteroid.


The 25-kilogram satellite, about the size of a laptop computer, would be launched as a secondary payload aboard a commercial rocket carrying a communications satellite or other robotic probe.


About 1,000 small asteroids relatively close to Earth are discovered every year.


Most, if not all, are believed to contain water and gases, such as methane, which can be turned into fuel, as well as metals such as nickel, which can be used in three-dimensional printers to manufacture components, according to David Gump, chief executive of Deep Space Industries.


Mr Gump is a co-founder of three previous space and technology start-ups, including Astrobotic Technology, which is focused on exploration and development of lunar resources.


“There is really nothing in the business plan that Deep Space Industries is pursuing that cannot be done with technology research already accomplished in laboratories across the planet,” said John Mankins, a former NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory manager who is the start-up company’s chief technical officer.


“The technology may not have been used in space for the exact purposes that we propose, but the fundamental technologies are really at hand.”


Deep Space Industries is the second company to unveil plans to mine asteroids.


Last year Planetary Resources, a Washington-based company backed by high-profile investors including Google executives Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, and advisers like filmmaker James Cameron, announced a program that would begin with small, low-cost telescopes to scout for potentially lucrative asteroids.


Reuters

Topics: space-exploration, spacecraft, mining-industry, united-states

Glock parts company with Marussia

Andrew Benson Chief F1 writer German Timo Glock will not race for Marussia this year after he and the team “agreed to part company with immediate effect”.


The German, 30, has raced for Marussia since their debut in 2010 as Virgin. Team boss John Booth said “commercial” considerations were behind the move.


“Glock first raced in F1 with Jordan in 2004. After a year in Champ Cars in the US, in which he won the rookie of the year award, and two in GP2, including winning the title in 2007, he returned to F1 in 2008 with Toyota.


“In two seasons with the Japanese giant Glock’s best results were second places in Hungary 2008 and Singapore in 2009.


“Toyota’s departure at a late hour meant he was struggling to find a drive for 2010 and he joined Marussia hoping to help them build up into a respectable midfield team. But it has been a financial struggle and now that fight has led to the team having to let Glock go to help them survive.”

“Tough economic conditions prevail and the commercial landscape is difficult for everyone,” Booth added.


Glock earned a salary; Marussia need a driver who brings sponsorship.


Marussia did not say in their statement who would be replacing Glock. They have already confirmed the English novice Max Chilton in one of the seats.


Brazilians Bruno Senna, who raced for Williams last year, and novice Luis Razia have been linked to the team.


Booth said: “Timo is a fantastic driver and he has been a very popular member of the team.


“Our team was founded on the principle of benefiting from proven experience while also providing opportunities for young emerging talent to progress to the pinnacle of motorsport.


“Thus far, this philosophy has also been reflected in our commercial model.


“The ongoing challenges facing the industry mean that we have had to take steps to secure our long-term future.


“Tough economic conditions prevail and the commercial landscape is difficult for everyone, Formula 1 teams included.


“We would like to thank Timo for working with us to reach this decision, especially as he had a valid contract, and also for the contribution he has made to our team.”

Timo Glock hits the tyre wall Watch Glock’s harrowing crash for Toyota in Japan during 2009


Glock, who is expected to race in the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) this year, said: “I have had three excellent years with the Marussia F1 Team, during which I had the chance to actively participate in building and developing the team in its endeavours to succeed within the Formula 1 World Championship.


“I would like to wish the team good luck in navigating this next period and thank everyone for the great times we shared and the support I have received.


“Although it is not the path I expected to be taking, I am in fact very excited about what the future holds in terms of my own career and I hope to comment on that very soon.”

Cruise company probe after revellers left high and dry

Updated January 04, 2013 09:48:15

A Sydney cruise company is still accepting bookings despite leaving people stranded at Darling Harbour on New Year’s Eve.

The Department of Fair Trading has launched an investigation.

The Castle Hill company Eve Harbour Cruises promised a night to remember for up to $450 a ticket.

But as the midnight fireworks came and went, about 150 people realised the charter boat MV Eve was not going to arrive.

The company’s director, Allen Yousif, has blamed mechanical difficulties and says he has avoided calls from customers because of angry comments directed towards him on social media.

The assistant commissioner of Fair Trading, Robert Vellar, says that is not good enough.

“He has continued to take deposits and money for trips, knowing full well that the trips won’t be able to be made,” he said.

The department has warned people not to deal with the company.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, community-and-society, sydney-2000, castle-hill-2154

First posted January 04, 2013 07:53:35

Losses deepen at laundry company

7 December 2012 Last updated at 09:19 GMT folded tablecloths Fishers is more than 100 years old and has 700 workers at a number of different sites Cupar-based Fishers Group has reported bigger losses in its latest accounts from £1.8m in 2010 to £3.5m last year.

The company which rents out textiles to hotels and restaurants and launders them said it had faced “unprecedented challenges” which were mostly down to rising textile costs.

Turnover at the group rose by £2.5m to more than £32m.

Fishers Group which employs more than 700 people said its key markets “remained extremely challenging”.

It said although its healthcare and garments business remained flat the hospitality sector grew by 11%.

Founded in 1900, Fishers has six plants in Scotland and the North East of England.

Company audit standards ‘disappointing’

Posted December 04, 2012 11:03:43

The corporate watchdog has slammed the audit industry, saying almost a fifth of reports were deficient.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission conducted an 18-month audit of auditors, and described the results as “disappointing”.

ASIC found, of the 20 companies it inspected, 18 per cent of the 602 audit areas reviewed did not perform all the procedures necessary to reasonably ensure that the financial report being audited was not materially misstated.

The watchdog says that is significantly worse than the 14 per cent it recorded in its investigation during the previous 18 months.

ASIC’s chairman, Greg Medcraft, says the results simply are not good enough for an industry relied on by everyone else involved in financial markets or corporate transactions.

“Auditors are gatekeepers that play a critical role in ensuring that Australian investors can be confident and informed,” he noted in the report.”

“These results are disappointing. Audit firms need to increase their efforts to improve audit quality and the consistency of audit execution.”

ASIC says auditors need to obtain more evidence of companies’ financial position, exercise a higher degree of scepticism about information provided by the audited company, and reduce their reliance on the work of other auditors and experts.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, accounting, corporate-governance, regulation, australia

KP Nuts sold to German company

 KP Nuts packet KP Nuts is being sold along with the Hula Hoops and McCoy’s snack brands to Intersnack The company that makes KP Nuts, Hula Hoops and McCoy’s crisps has been sold to a German firm for a reported £500m.


The business, which is the UK’s second largest snack maker, was sold by United Biscuits, which also owns the McVitie’s and Jacob’s brands.


It employs about 1,500 people at sites in Middlesex, Leicestershire, South Yorkshire and County Durham.


KP Snacks will come under the ownership of Intersnack, which makes Pom-Bear crisps and Penn State pretzels.


The deal, which also includes the Skips and Brannigans snack brands, is expected to be finalised next year.


United Biscuits, which was bought by private equity firms Blackstone and PAI Partners in 2006, will keep those brands that are made in its biscuit factories, including Mini Cheddars and Twiglets.


The executive chairman of Intersnack, Maarten Leerdam, said the company appreciated the “significance of acquiring a part of British heritage”.


A statement from United Biscuits said the UK’s snack market was the largest and most innovative in Europe.

Rosella food company goes into receivership

Updated December 03, 2012 17:58:39

The Australian food manufacturer which owns the Rosella brand has gone into receivership.

As well as the Sydney-based Rosella, Gourmet Food Holdings owns New Zealand-based Pitango, and Waterwheel which operates in Dandenong in Victoria.

Receivers Ferrier Hodgson say Gourmet Food Holdings’s secured creditor had lent the company support for an extended period while trying to find a buyer for the company.

However, a buyer could not be found and the receivers say they will urgently review the company’s operations.

“The receivers will be undertaking an urgent assessment of the financial position of the group,” said Ferrier Hodgson partner Steve Sherman.

“We will be engaging in discussions with key stakeholders, including employees, customers and suppliers to determine whether operations can be continued.”

The receivership comes after the secured creditor had appointed voluntary administrators last Friday.

Ferrier Hodgson says an expressions-of-interest campaign will be launched in the next 24 to 48 hours to try and identify potential buyers for the company.

The receivers say the company employs 275 people, split between 159 company staff and 116 contractors.

Gourmet Food’s Rosella plant in Sydney employs 110 people, Waterwheel in Dandenong has 140 staff, and Pitango in New Zealand employs 25 workers.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union’s Tim Ayres says workers at Rosella’s Seven Hills plant in Sydney only found out about the situation this morning.

He says the union has been assured by the administrator that it will try to protect jobs and sell the business as a going concern.

“These people are totally taken by surprise at the developments today and are only being briefed as we speak about the circumstances that the company finds itself in,” he said.

“People are very concerned leading up to Christmas with the prospect of job losses, but not a single person has lost their job today and people will not lose their jobs during the course of this week.

“This is absolutely about trading through and making sure that all of those jobs are protected.”

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, company-news, food-and-beverage, australia, melbourne-3000, vic, nsw, sydney-2000

First posted December 03, 2012 12:37:39

HP investor sues company for handling of 2 deals

San Francisco: A Hewlett-Packard shareholder has filed a lawsuit alleging the troubled technology company’s top executives misled investors about two key acquisitions that have caused billions of dollars in losses.

The complaint filed on Monday in a San Francisco federal court comes after Hewlett-Packard Co. stunned Wall Street last week with its own allegations of accounting shenanigans at Autonomy, a business software maker it acquired for $10 billion last year.

The lawsuit filed by shareholder Allen Nicolow alleges HP management concealed the problems at Autonomy and another recent acquisition, Electronic Data Services, in an attempt to boost HP’s stock price.

The stock has lost more than half its value so far this year.

Article continues below

HP, which is based in Palo Alto, California, declined to comment on the suit.

Reckitt to buy vitamin company Schiff for $1.4b

New York: Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC said on Wednesday that is acquiring vitamin and nutrition supplement maker Schiff Nutrition International Inc for $1.4 billion, topping an earlier bid by Bayer AG.

The British consumer goods company said the deal will build on its health care business in the US, where it already sells brands such as Muxinex, Delsym and Durex. Schiff products include Tiger’s Milk nutrition bars and Airborne immune system health supplements.

Reckitt first made the $42 per-share offer earlier this month only weeks after Bayer offered $34 dollars per share for the Salt Lake City-based company. The German drugmaker later said it did not want to engage in a bidding war for the company.

Schiff’s board has approved the deal and urges stockholders to tender their shares. The offer expires December 14.

Article continues below

Shares of Schiff increased 4 cents to close at $41.90. Its shares are up nearly 81 per cent since late October, before the bidding for the company began.

Company denies exploration plans will impact marine life

Posted November 24, 2012 13:35:55

Bight Petroleum has rejected claims its plan to explore for oil and gas off the coast of South Australia’s Kangaroo Island will impact on marine life.

Environmentalists want the Federal Government to stop the company from doing seismic surveys.

Bight Petroleum wants to explore for the resources about 100 kilometres from the island next year, using a 100-metre long ship to perform three dimensional surveys.

The Greens have moved twice in the Senate for the exploration licence to be cancelled, but both motions were defeated.

The surveys are planned for early next year.

The company’s chief operating officer Iain MacDougall says there is no documented evidence seismic testing harms marine life.

“We are as concerned as anyone about the environment, and Australia has a very, very robust regulatory regime, one of the most robust in the world,” he said.

The Member for Finniss and Kangaroo Island resident, Michael Pengilly, says he believes enough protections are in place.

“I think we need to bring balance into this, you need to have things to drive the economy forward sensibly and oil and gas search is one of those,” he said.

But Greens Senator Penny Wright says the testing will emit a loud pulse underwater, which could be damaging to marine life.

“We know particularly that whales rely on sound to communicate and seismic surveys can destroy their hearing,” she said.

“It can also cause organ damage… It can also change their behaviour which disrupts their feeding and their breeding patterns.”

Topics: environment, business-economics-and-finance, industry, oil-and-gas, adelaide-5000, port-lincoln-5606

Car rental company investigated

 By Jon Douglas and Joe Kent You & Yours, BBC Radio 4  The vehicle rental firm has been accused of being slow to hand over motorists’ deposits A major UK rental company – A1 National Car and Van Rental Ltd – is being investigated following claims that it failed to return customers’ deposits.


Trading standards officers told BBC Radio 4′s You & Yours programme that they are seeking a court order against the Leicestershire-based business.


This would force the company’s owner to treat customers fairly or face a potential fine or imprisonment.


A1 says it has made all necessary refunds and is unaware of other issues.

‘Angry’

The company, which has been trading online as A1 National Van Hire, offers cars, vans and minibus rentals all over the UK.


Motorists have been attracted by prices and the promise to pick up and drop off vehicles for free.


Yet some customers say that they have ended up effectively being charged far more than they ever imagined.


Mark Worrall, from Birmingham, hired a van in August to help him move house. He said he paid a deposit of £250, which he was supposed to get back once the vehicle was returned undamaged.


“The company has not returned the deposit, even though they said on the telephone I was due the full deposit back,” he said.


“I feel rather angry a company like this can treat people in the way that they have done, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.”

‘Excessive’

More than 300 complaints about the company have been received by trading standards officers.


They are concerned not just about delayed or disappearing deposits, but what they call “excessive penalties” for vans brought back late. They have also expressed worries about terms and conditions which allow the company to cancel a booking, yet impose charges on consumers who try to do the same.


Officers say some customers have suddenly had money taken from their bank accounts weeks or months after hiring a vehicle.


Keith Regan, from Leicestershire Trading Standards, told You & Yours that they had secured a promise from A1′s sole director, Hammond Kumar, that things would improve.


“Mr Kumar signed an undertaking and agreed to amend some of these specific unfair trading practices, making sure he returns deposits on time and that the website would be amended. That did not happen so we are now actively seeking a court order,” he said.


If successful, the court order would personally bind Mr Kumar and the limited company to comply with its terms or face a possible fine and/or imprisonment.


A1 National Van Hire ignored a request for an interview but, in an email to You & Yours, a spokesman claimed the business lost more than £500,000 due to customers damaging vehicles and that an insurance fraud cost it another £600,000 last year.


Some customers who paid deposits by credit or debit card have managed to get refunds from their banks.


“At the end of the day it is simple,” said Mr Regan. “You return people’s money when you said you would and you start to trade fairly.”

You can hear a report on this on You & Yours on BBC Radio 4 via the BBC iPlayer.

Chinese company wins Ord Stage Two tender

Updated November 20, 2012 19:20:06

A Chinese company, Shanghai Zhongfu, has been confirmed as the preferred developer of Ord stage two in WA’s north.

The West Australian Government says the company, trading as Kimberley Agricultural Investment, will develop 15,000 hectares.

It says Zhongfu plans to invest up to $700 million over six years to establish the sugar industry in Kununurra.

The company is keen to build a $250 million sugar mill and harvest sugar cane.

The Regional Development Minister, Brendon Grylls, says it aims to produce four million tonnes of cane a year.

He says the scale of the development is one reason Zhongfu was chosen.

“I think for me and the cabinet the scale, the size of the investment, it’s a $700-million dollar investment into agricultural development,” he said.

“Western Australia is one of the most prosperous places in the world based on our partners in the international community to develop our mining sector.

“We simply want to drive that partnership into new areas of the economy.”

Speaking through an interpreter, the CEO JinZhong Yin says opportunities will be created.

“If our vision is realised, there will be significant investment made in northern Australia and opportunities for the people of this area,” he said.

“I’m pleased to say that the project will create many jobs for local people.

“However, international expertise will be sought for technical aspects such as the design and construction of the world class sugar mill.”

Mr Grylls says the project will drive investment and jobs.

“Their intention is not for the Chinese to do the farming,” he said.

“The intention after constructing the farms is to essentially sub-lease that land out and local farmers and others will have the opportunity to come in and essentially grow the sugar on a contract basis.”

The Premier Colin Barnett says it is an important step towards diversifying WA’s economy.

“I think it will be the forerunner of more overseas investment, particularly from China, into the agricultural industry,” he said.

The federal Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, is in Perth today and has welcomed the decision.

“We support foreign investment provided it’s clearly in Australia’s national interest,” he said.

“And, one of the points that’s been in made in favour of this particular foreign investment, is that it’s not actually selling the farm, it’s building the farm.”

The Wilderness Society’s Peter Robertson says he is alarmed by the development.

“We’re obviously concerned about the environmental impacts of trying to impose broad scale agriculture in northern Australia because we know that it comes at an enormous environmental cost and more often than not it fails,” he said.

“But we’re also obviously concerned about some of the specifics in relation to the amount of money that’s been expended and whether the public can expect any real return from it.”

Ord Stage Two is a $300 million plus taxpayer-funded program which is part of a state and federal government plan meant to create a northern food bowl.

Mr Robertson says the move amounts to pork-barrelling.

“We know that the National Party in particular sees the seat of Kimberley as one that it can hope to win at the next election,” he said.

“And, pouring $300-million of taxpayers money into this development in the east Kimberley could easily be seen as a massive pork-barrelling exercise by the National Party in the lead-up to the coming state election.”

The state Opposition Leader Mark McGowan says he has no problems with foreign investment in the area but the terms of the agreement mean taxpayers will not see the benefits.

“$311-million for no money back, for giving the land away in effect, plus no food for West Australian households, or cheaper food for West Australian households, to me isn’t the right priority,” he said.

East Kimberley shire CEO Gary Gaffney has given his full support.

“Local government will work pro-actively to ensure that the development goes forward,” he said.

“Any planning and building requirements; we’ll work to ensure they’re handled in a very professional and on-time manner as this is an important development for all of Australia.”

Before the project can go ahead, the proponent has to reach an agreement with traditional owners, who will get 675 hectares of land.

Topics: agricultural-crops, government-and-politics, business-economics-and-finance, kununurra-6743, perth-6000

First posted November 20, 2012 13:19:55

Cable attacks company ‘tax abuse’

 Vince Cable: “It is completely unacceptable when there is systematic abuse taking place”

Business Secretary Vince Cable has condemned corporate tax avoidance as “completely unacceptable”, saying there are “appalling stories of abuse”.


He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show UK authorities should do more to stop it.


However, he said that tackling the issue required international agreement as well as domestic action.


His comments came after executives from Starbucks, Google and Amazon were grilled by MPs, although the firms say they operate within the tax rules.


The executives were questioned earlier this month by the Public Accounts Committee about how they used favourable European tax jurisdictions for their UK businesses.


Starbucks, for example, has made a taxable profit only once in its 15 years of operating in the UK. As a consequence, the company is thought to have paid just £8.6m in corporation tax over the period.


During the hearing with MPs, Starbucks admitted the Dutch government had granted a special tax deal on its European headquarters, which receives royalty payments from its UK business.

‘Intensive investigation’

Mr Cable told Andrew Marr: “The best off in society have got to contribute more, and that includes companies.”

Amazon’s Andrew Cecil was condemned by MPs for failing to answer questions


He acknowledged that smaller companies, many of which face competitive pressures from the major firms, will be angered by the situation.


“There’s nothing more galling to small and medium-sized enterprises when they are paying (tax), and others are dodging it,” Mr Cable said. “Our own tax authorities have got to be very tough on things like royalty payments, which is where a lot of the subterfuge takes place.”


However, he said that finding a solution was difficult, especially as the UK had to make itself attractive to inward investors. “The big question is whether you can get wider (international) agreement,” he said.


As companies are using favourable tax jurisdictions overseas there needs to “a combination of action at the international level as well as beef up our own capacity to deal with it”.


Mr Cable said: “It is quite difficult to drill down to what the problems are. Starbucks claims they are actually making losses in the UK. I don’t know whether they are not but you would need some pretty intensive investigation by the Inland Revenue to establish what exactly is going on, whether their transfer prices and their royalties are being fiddled or not.”


All the companies under fire over the amount of corporation tax paid said that they operated within the tax rules and regulations and have done nothing wrong.

Company fined for unfair dismissal after pay query

Posted November 16, 2012 10:41:14

The operators of a Perth business have been fined nearly $16,000 for sacking a 16-year-old boy because his mother queried his pay.

The Federal Magistrates Court in Perth ruled Willetton company West Coast Propellers breached the teenager’s workplace rights.

He was hired in November 2010 and told he would be paid $5.32 an hour.

The boy’s mother contacted the Fair Work Infoline and received advice that the pay rate should be more than $7 an hour.

Topics: industrial-relations, perth-6000, willetton-6155

Holden confident parts company will reopen soon

Updated November 06, 2012 09:14:49

Good news for Autodom

Holden is confident that car parts manufacturer Autodom will reopen its doors within 24 hours.

The company went into administration at the weekend, after closing its two Victorian plants indefinitely last week.

Holden says it has guaranteed part of Autodom’s debt to ensure 400 workers keep their jobs and parts supplies are maintained.

The car giant does not expect all of Autodom’s managers to keep their current roles.

A receiver will be announced later this morning.

Topics: automotive, unions, melbourne-3000, dandenong-south-3175, gisborne-3437

First posted November 06, 2012 08:43:54

Car parts company back in business

Updated November 07, 2012 11:22:31

Car parts supplier Autodom has reopened its doors in Melbourne after being placed into receivership yesterday.

The union has addressed workers at Autodom’s Dandenong South factory for the first time since they were stood down last week.

Four hundred workers from South Australia and Victoria face an uncertain future while receiver McGrathNichol examines the firm’s ongoing viability.

An industry-led guarantee of Autodom’s debt has ensured parts supplies for the major car makers and workers jobs for now.

The receivers say the company is now being prepared for sale.

It supplies bumper bars and brake parts to the big car makers.

The 200 workers at subsidiary Dair in Dandenong South and Gisborne have been told to report for work today.

Assistant state secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) Leigh Diehm says workers are concerned about their future.

“There’s a hell of a lot on the line,” he said.

“We’ve got families, mums and dads that both work out here, so their whole wage comes from this particular site and the other two sites across Australia.”

Some aiAutomotive employees in Adelaide were called back to work yesterday with the rest of the workforce to resume work today.

Topics: automotive, dandenong-south-3175, gisborne-3437

First posted November 07, 2012 08:16:01

Talks continue on future of car parts company

Updated November 02, 2012 10:52:31

Ford may have to shut down production next week if car parts manufacturer Dair cannot be saved.

It supplies bumper bars and brake parts to the big car makers.

The company indefinitely closed its sites in Victoria and Adelaide yesterday, leaving 400 workers with an uncertain future.

Parent company Autodom, through its subsidiary Dair, has more than 200 workers at Dandenong South and Gisborne in Victoria and there are more in Adelaide.

The company is blaming a downturn in the number of vehicles being built since the global financial crisis.

Ford says it has been in talks with the company and is disappointed by the decision.

Toyota is also supplied by Dair, but company spokeswoman, Beck Angel, says the carmaker is confident it will have enough parts to continue production in the medium term.

“We have been working very closely with [parent company] Autodom as it’s attempted to restructure its business,” she said.

“That does include offering financial support to assist them.

“We’ll continue to work closely with our supplier to ensure there’s as little as possible impact for Toyota.”

Autodom chief executive officer Calvin Stead is hopeful the business can be saved and says talks are continuing.

“This is not a stunt. This is a last-ditch effort to try and get to a negotiated outcome that this business has a future going forward,” he told ABC local radio.

“But I’m not going to be ofshored or sent elsewhere.”

Topics: unions, automotive, dandenong-south-3175, gisborne-3437

First posted November 02, 2012 10:50:10

Renewable energy: Pakistani company to market Canadian Solar’s modules

 Canadian Solar was founded in Ontario, Canada in 2001. Today, it operates across three continents, delivering solar modules to over 50 countries. PHOTO: SOLAR THERMAL MAGAZINE


KARACHI: Renewable energy is drawing unprecedented investment from companies that have so far been involved in traditional businesses like textiles and hospitality.


Nizam Energy – a subsidiary of H Nizam Din and Sons, which has run multiple businesses since 1869 – announced its decision to enter into a strategic partnership with Canadian Solar at a press briefing on Monday. Canadian Solar is one of the world’s largest solar module manufacturers, with revenues touching $1.9 billion in 2011.


Nizam Energy will act as a distributor of Canadian Solar’s products in Pakistan, besides providing training and undertaking capacity building of certified installers and engineers in the country.


“We want to create awareness about substandard and uncertified solar products currently available in Pakistan. They lead to a loss of confidence in solar energy products. We are going to offer quality products at competitive prices backed by Canadian Solar’s warranties,” said Nizam Energy Director Usman Ahmed.


Replying to a question, Ahmed cited the example of a farmer he met during his recent visit to Sukkur. “He spends Rs150,000 a month to run his diesel-powered tube-well. In contrast, our tube-well’s one-time cost is Rs1.2 million. It means he can recover his investment in just eight months if he decides to buy our product.”


Speaking to The Express Tribune, Ahmed said a solar-powered light emitting diode (LED) manufactured by Canadian Solar and distributed by Nizam Energy would cost Rs700, significantly higher than the price of a normal bulb. “However, it is a one-time expense. The LED is going to last 50,000 hours at least,” he said, suggesting that the Rs700 LED would not need a replacement for up to six years.


Ahmed said the per-watt cost of solar energy was roughly $4 four years ago. “But prices have crashed since then. This is the best time for Pakistanis to invest in solar energy as much as possible,” he claimed, given that solar power can now be produced at a cost of 84 cents per watt.


Speaking on the occasion, Canadian Solar’s Global Emerging Markets Director Bob Zhang said his company operates in 50 countries and was among the top five global solar module suppliers in 2011. Canadian Solar shipped 1.34 gigawatts (GW) of solar equipment in 2011. Its supplies for the current year are expected to be 1.8GW.


To date, Canadian Solar has established seven wholly-owned manufacturing subsidiaries in China, with a module capacity of 2.05GW in 2011. In the last 10 years, Canadian Solar has deployed over 3GW of solar modules in over 50 counties. In 2011, one of the world’s largest solar farms in Germany was deployed with 148 megawatts of Canadian Solar modules.


Published in The Express Tribune, November 13th, 2012.

Sausage company warns on profits

 Devro said the increased cost of raw materials and adverse currency movements had hit profits Sausage skin maker Devro has announced its profits this year will be lower than it originally had expected.


The Moodiesburn-based group said “in common with many input costs to the food industry, raw material prices have continued to rise and this trend is expected into next year”.


It also said adverse currency movements and delays in commissioning new factories had affected its earnings.


However, the group said profits would still be ahead of last year.


Devro said it continued to grow “across a wide range of markets, notably in Japan, Europe and the Americas, with sales of the premium Select range continuing the momentum of the first half”.


Devro employs 2,000 people in four locations worldwide.


As well as its base in Scotland, the company manufactures in the Czech Republic, the United States and Australia.

UAE company becomes first to offer media tablets for rent

Dubai: Why carry media tablets when you can rent it in the UAE for cheap.

The UAE-based Fam-Tech’s subsidiary Login Tablets has become the world’s first to offer pre-paid tablet rental system to give allow people to access the internet and multimedia applications without purchasing any device.

“The system enables the end users to unlock software restrictions with time and content credit codes granting access to preloaded premium content from the server. When time or credit is depleted, access to the systems content and connectivity is restricted and only accessible via an additional top up,” said Hydar Al Bedaery, project manager at Fam-Tech.

“We have received many inquires from large organisation and governmental body who have expressed their interest on using Login Tablets solution not in the UAE only, but across Europe, Middle East and Asia as well”. Al Bedaery added.

Article continues below

The company has tied up with six five-star hotels in the UAE and set to sign deals with Saudi Arabia and Malaysian companies at Gitex yesterday to give access to these countries.

Al Bedaery said that if a customer buys a pre-paid access card for Dh100, the end user will be able to use it for one full year wherever the Login Tablets are available across the world.

“We are in talks with many hotels across the UAE and will be expanding further to other sectors in near future,” he said.

US cable company looks to sell broadband unit

New York: Cablevision Systems Corp. is exploring a sale of its Bresnan Broadband Holdings LLC unit after acquiring the northwestern US cable system in 2010, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The sale discussions are preliminary and no investment banks have been hired to advise on a deal yet, the person said, who asked not to be named because negotiations are private.

Cablevision, the fifth-largest US cable company by subscribers, bought Bresnan from Providence Equity Partners Inc. in December 2010 for $1.37 billion (Dh5.03 billion), giving it access to states, including Colorado, Montana and Wyoming. The company may be looking to sell as it spends more money on New York-area systems to increase customers’ broadband speeds and after several cable companies, including Knology Inc. and WaveDivision Holdings LLC, have found private buyers this year.

Potential suitors for Bresnan include Time Warner Cable Inc., Suddenlink Communications and Charter Communications Inc., the person said. Charter’s chief executive officer Tom Rutledge was Cablevision’s former chief operating officer.

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The Wall Street Journal earlier reported the company was weighing a sale of Bresnan.

Charlie Schueler, a spokesman for the Bethpage, New York-based company, said on Friday it was Cablevision’s policy “not to comment on rumours or speculation.”

Cablevision’s shares closed up 1.1 per cent to $16.91 in New York trading on Friday, taking its gain for the year to 19 per cent.

Best-selling author Pratchett sets up TV production company

London:Sir Terry Pratchett has launched an independent TV production company, Narrativia, with exclusive global multimedia rights to the author’s bestselling works.

Narrativia will produce TV adaptations of some of Pratchett’s best-known novels, including a four-part series based on his 1990s comedy ‘Good Omens’.

The London-based production firm will be led by managing director Rod Brown alongside Pratchett’s daughter and fellow writer, Rhianna Pratchett, and his business manager, Rob Wilkins.

Pratchett said: “This is an exciting and natural development for me and my works, and I look forward to working closely with the team to develop new stories in areas other than just print and ebooks and, of course, seeing my first big-screen project come to fruition.”

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Narrativia is in the process of producing a 13-part series set in Ankh Morpork, the fictional city from Pratchett’s Discworld novels, named ‘The Watch’, after the city’s police force.

‘Good Omens’ will be co-written by Monty Python star Terry Jones and Gavin Scott, whose credits include ‘The Mists of Avalon’ and ‘Legend of Earthsea’. ‘The Watch’ will be written by Guy Burt, whose credits include ‘The Borgias’ and ‘The Bletchley Circle’.

Pratchett’s move to launch his own production company follows a successful series of Sky1 adaptations of his Discworld novels ‘Hogfather’, ‘The Colour of Magic’ and ‘Going Postal’.

These were produced by independent producer, ‘The Mob’, which is also adapting a fourth Discworld novel, ‘Unseen Academicals’, for Sky next year.

— Guardian News and Media Ltd.

French and German governments must reduce their stakes in defence company EADS

London: The French and German governments must reduce their stakes in defense company EADS NV for the UK to allow a proposed merger with BAE Systems PLC to go ahead, Britain’s defense secretary warned on Sunday.

Philip Hammond said Britain would veto the mega-merger of the aeronautics and defense companies if this requirement wasn’t satisfied.

“It is not, I think, necessary to have no French or German government interest in the company,” Hammond told the BBC in an interview. “It is necessary to reduce that stake below the level at which it can control or direct the way the company acts.”

The deal would create a global aerospace and defense company with combined sales of more than €70 billion ($90.3 billion) and more than 220,000 employees.

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“We want to see this company . prospering as a commercial business focused on doing the things that are right for the business, not being beholden to or controlled by any one government,” Hammond added.

EADS, the parent of aircraft maker Airbus, is jointly French and German owned, though it is incorporated in the Netherlands.

The French government owns 15 per cent and French media company Lagardere has 7.5 per cent. Germany’s government does not have direct stakes in EADS, but has influence through auto maker Daimler, which holds a 22.5 per cent stake.

The firms have until Wednesday to say whether they want to continue with the talks.

On Friday, 45 British lawmakers wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron, warning that the proposed merger would hand control of much of the British defense industry to a company that would not safeguard the country’s interests.

EADS, one of Europe’s biggest companies, is also parent to helicopter maker Eurocopter, satellite builder Astrium and defense electronics contractor Cassidian.

The proposed merger is fraught with difficulties, not least because France and Germany have been fighting for an equal say in EADS.

Airbus and EADS have long been rivals to US-based Boeing Co. in civil and defense aviation. The proposed deal is a clear shot at catching up to Boeing’s defense business — and passing it.

French and German governments must reduce their stakes in defence company EADS

London: The French and German governments must reduce their stakes in defense company EADS NV for the UK to allow a proposed merger with BAE Systems PLC to go ahead, Britain’s defense secretary warned on Sunday.


Philip Hammond said Britain would veto the mega-merger of the aeronautics and defense companies if this requirement wasn’t satisfied.


“It is not, I think, necessary to have no French or German government interest in the company,” Hammond told the BBC in an interview. “It is necessary to reduce that stake below the level at which it can control or direct the way the company acts.”


The deal would create a global aerospace and defense company with combined sales of more than €70 billion ($90.3 billion) and more than 220,000 employees.


Article continues below


“We want to see this company . prospering as a commercial business focused on doing the things that are right for the business, not being beholden to or controlled by any one government,” Hammond added.


EADS, the parent of aircraft maker Airbus, is jointly French and German owned, though it is incorporated in the Netherlands.


The French government owns 15 per cent and French media company Lagardere has 7.5 per cent. Germany’s government does not have direct stakes in EADS, but has influence through auto maker Daimler, which holds a 22.5 per cent stake.


The firms have until Wednesday to say whether they want to continue with the talks.


On Friday, 45 British lawmakers wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron, warning that the proposed merger would hand control of much of the British defense industry to a company that would not safeguard the country’s interests.


EADS, one of Europe’s biggest companies, is also parent to helicopter maker Eurocopter, satellite builder Astrium and defense electronics contractor Cassidian.


The proposed merger is fraught with difficulties, not least because France and Germany have been fighting for an equal say in EADS.


Airbus and EADS have long been rivals to US-based Boeing Co. in civil and defense aviation. The proposed deal is a clear shot at catching up to Boeing’s defense business — and passing it.


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Harvard Business School selects Pakistani company for case study

KARACHI: The world’s most prestigious business school in the United States, Harvard Business School (HBS) has selected a Pakistani company, K&N’s, as a case study, according to a statement on Monday.

HBS faculty members select companies from around the world for a written account of a company focusing on strategic business issues, of interest to a global audience, which are then used for classroom discussions. HBS case studies are world renowned and not only used by HBS faculty but also by majority of leading business schools and universities around the world for teaching, it said.

Khalil Sattar, chief executive of K&N’s, said that it is not only a great honour for the company but also for Pakistani business community and the nation.“We faced different challenges but remained focused and committed to our motive, a single minded objective of providing better nutrition for health and happiness to the nation. This credit also goes to all employees of K&N’s,” he said.

K&N’s is greatly honoured with this achievement, as for any company, becoming a HBS case study is a great honour, he said. While felicitating K&N’s, Pakistan Poultry Association (PPA) said that it is proud to have its founding member featured as a HBS case study as it is the only company from Pakistan to have been chosen by HBS to write the case study and use it in its executive education programmes.

This is also a great achievement as a very positive image of Pakistan will be reflected through the K&N’s case study reading and discussions by thought-leaders and key decision makers from the global food and agribusiness industry, and university students alike, around the world. The PPA recommended to the Punjab government and the government of Pakistan to honour K&N’s on this milestone achievement.

Power company takes action against officers

FESCO punish­es staff for failur­e to meet recove­ry target. In the Sargodha circle, show-cause notices were issued to three executive engineers and 15 SDOs. In addition to these, warning was given to five SDOs. PHOTO: ARIF SOOMRO/EXPRESS

FAISALABAD: Applying a carrot and stick approach, the Faisalabad Electric Supply Company (Fesco) has suspended a sub-divisional officer (SDO) and given show-cause notices to six executive engineers and 31 SDOs for their failure to achieve the recovery target and curb line losses in Sargodha and Jhang.

Fesco Chief Executive Officer Engineer Iftikhar Ahmad took the action during a visit to the Sargodha and Jhang circles. He held meetings with officers to discuss how to improve the collection of bills.

In the Sargodha circle, show-cause notices were issued to three executive engineers and 15 SDOs. In addition to these, warning was given to five SDOs.

In Jhang, one SDO was suspended for poor performance while show-cause notices were given to three executive engineers and 16 SDOs.

Speaking at the meetings, Ahmad said a system of accountability had been introduced, which gave punishment and reward simultaneously. He asked the company employees to improve their efficiency in order to facilitate the consumers.

“They must adopt consumer-friendly approach as well as ensure uninterrupted and continuous power supply in their areas.”

He asked junior engineers to keep maintenance register and distribution transformer register at the sub-divisional level.

He also asked the staff, particularly SDOs, to keep their mobile phones on, enabling the consumers to lodge complaints with ease.

He expressed the hope that the national targets could be achieved by playing collective as well as individual roles in the best interest of the country.

A campaign is under way and will continue until the recovery of all dues from the defaulters. The recovered amount will be spent on new electrification schemes, upgrading of grids and other works.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 29th, 2012.

National clearing company to collect CGT under new tax regime

Tax applic­able to indivi­dual invest­ors, broker­s and corpor­ate entiti­es. There will not be any CGT for gains realised on securities with the holding period of over one year. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: The National Clearing Company of Pakistan Limited (NCCPL) will now compute and collect capital gains tax (CGT) on behalf of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) under the newly developed CGT system, which became effective on Thursday.

Addressing a press conference at the Karachi Stock Exchange building, NCCPL CEO Muhammad Lukman said that the new CGT regime will provide investors with ease of calculation and hassle-free preparation for filing income tax returns, as they will now be exempted from the record maintenance requirement.

The new tax regime will be applicable to individual investors, brokers and corporate entities. However, mutual funds, banking companies, non-banking finance companies, insurance companies, Modarabas, and foreign institutional investors will not be covered under the regime.

After setting off capital losses against capital gains in a financial year, CGT will be computed at the rate of 10% for securities with holding period of less than six months. If the holding period is more than six months, and less than one year, the applicable CGT rate will be 8%. There will not be any CGT for gains realised on securities with the holding period of over one year. Also, capital losses in one financial year will not be carried over to the subsequent financial year.

The first report showing details of CGT computation for trades/transactions executed and settled between April 24 and June 30 have been disseminated to market participants, which will enable them to verify the same.

The net amount of CGT for this period will be collected on September 18, whereas details of the computation from July onwards will be provided to market participants by end of September.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 14th, 2012.

Power company targets big defaulters

FESCO launch­es campai­gn to recove­r outsta­nding Rs43m. The company has stopped power supply to these defaulters and is regularly monitoring them. PHOTO: FILE

FAISALABAD: The Faisalabad Electric Supply Company (Fesco) has launched a fresh campaign to recover power dues from big defaulters with each of them having to pay Rs500,000 and above.

Making the announcement in a statement on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the company said a wider drive was initiated earlier, on the directives of Ministry of Water and Power and under direct supervision of Fesco CEO Iftikhar Ahmad, in a bid to recover entire dues from chronic defaulters.

The campaign targeted both small and big consumers, who owed Rs50,000 and above, with total outstanding amount estimated at Rs136 million. “This campaign produced positive results and now action has been specifically started against big fish.”

According to the spokesman, 24 major defaulters, mainly comprising industrial units, have been identified in the new campaign as they have to pay Rs500,000 or above. Their total liability stood at Rs43.738 million.

The company has stopped power supply to these defaulters and is regularly monitoring them. It says if anyone is found supplying electricity to them, their power connection will also be cut off.

On the other hand, engineers and other officers of the company are contacting the defaulters with a request to settle the accounts. The officers have been given the target to recover maximum amount in the next two months. Details of defaulters have been placed on the company’s website.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2012.

No interference: Public servants may be disbarred from company boards

Rules being framed to improv­e govern­ance in troubl­ed state enterp­rises.  SECP will finalise the rules by the end of December ILLUSTRATION: JAMAL KHURSHID

ISLAMABAD: 

Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) Chairman Mohammad Ali has said federal ministers and politicians cannot be appointed on boards of public sector enterprises under proposed draft regulations.


Addressing a press conference here on Friday, Ali expressed the hope that the rules, aimed at improving governance in bleeding public sector enterprises and regulating their day-to-day affairs, would be finalised in a few months.


He also highlighted the progress the country made in the Global Competitiveness Index, where on the pillar of regulation of securities exchanges the country was upgraded 15 notches to 55th position. However, overall, Pakistan was placed among bottom 20 countries of the world.


The process to finalise the rules is painfully slow, particularly at a time when state units like Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Pakistan Steel Mills and Pakistan Railways are suffering billions of rupees worth of losses.


Ali said at present a task force is working on the draft rules and after that the SECP will finalise the rules by the end of December. The rules will be issued after taking input from the finance ministry and evaluation by the law ministry.


Under the rules, contrary to the existing practice, the performance of boards of companies will be monitored on an annual basis. The regulations will be applied to both listed and non-listed public sector companies.


Ali pointed out that there would be fit and proper criteria for appointment of board members, which would include their financial integrity, industry experience and no criminal record. There will also be a maximum limit on bureaucrats sitting on various boards.


If this proposal is passed by the law ministry, it will close the door on bureaucrats, who have been found unnecessarily calling board meetings to mint money.


The SECP has formulated draft regulations that have been principally based on the code of corporate governance. These regulations have been designed in
view of the distinct governance challenges faced by public sector corporations in the country. The inefficiency of such companies
is choking the economy and draining fiscal resources, necessitating the need for restructuring of their operations, according to the SECP.


Measures to improve governance in state corporations include reforms in board composition by including a certain number of independent non-executive directors in the boards and ensuring continuity in the tenure of board members.


They also include separating roles of chairman and chief executive, forming specialised board committees, training and capacity-building of board members, strengthening internal control mechanism and augmenting disclosure and transparency requirements.


Demutualisation of stock exchanges


Ali disclosed that after becoming limited companies, a significant chunk of shares of stock markets would be listed in the equity markets. Rest of the shares will be sold to strategic investors. Stock market brokers have already obtained 40% shares.


He said the SECP had suggested to the three stock markets to consider the possibility of merger before going to strategic investors. At least, Islamabad and Lahore stock markets could merge, which would strengthen their balance sheets and reduce costs, he said.


However, Ali made it clear that the SECP would have no role in the merger decision and it would be up to the management of bourses to decide.


Published in The Express Tribune, September 8th, 2012.

Apple is most valuable company ever at $623b

Apple’s stock began a steady rise late last week and hit a new high of $665.15 a share.  Apple’s stock began a steady rise late last week and hit a new high of $665.15 a share. PHOTO: APPLE


NEW YORK: Apple on Monday dethroned longtime rival Microsoft as the most valuable company in history based on the value of its stock, which climbed to around $623.51 billion.


Apple’s stock began a steady rise late last week and hit a new high of $665.15 a share when the Nasdaq exchange closed amid rumors the tech giant is poised to release new versions of iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV devices.


Apple shares inched up further in after-hours trading.


Apple topped the record of nearly $619 billion set by software titan Microsoft in 1999, during the famed dot-com boom years.


“The record set today will continue to add positive sentiment to the stock, especially as we get closer to the end of the year,” said Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael James.


“More portfolio managers are going to need to have an Apple.”


Apple shares began a rapid ascent on Friday after Jefferies investment bank analyst Peter Misek predicted the stock will hit $900 and predicted that the arrival of the iPhone 5 “will be the biggest handset launch in history.”


Jefferies reasoned that Apple is positioned to take a significant portion of the profit to be generated by hot trends in smartphones, tablet computers, and gadgets linking to the Internet on latest-generation 4G networks.


The Internet has been abuzz with unconfirmed reports that Apple will introduce a new iPhone, perhaps with a larger screen, at a press event in September.


The Cupertino, California-based company is also believed to be readying a smaller version of its market-ruling iPad, and a revamped Apple TV box, referred to unofficially as “iTV,” that routes video or programming to televisions.


“We believe the iTV is in full production,” Misek said.


The surge in Apple’s stock price demonstrated that investors are confident that the next generation of gadgets from the culture-changing company will impress anew, according to James.


“Expectations that there is going to be an upcoming products cycle with iPad-mini, the new iPhone, and further penetration into China; all of these have people expecting good things to come in the short term from Apple,” James said.


Investors also see promise in hot new Apple gadgets hitting the market in time for year-end holiday shopping, when the company’s products typically shine.