AMP Limited (AMP):
National law firm Maurice Blackburn will flag a fourth shareholder class action against embattled -financial services giant AMP today, opening a bidding war for clients by touting a low commission rate. Maurice Blackburn head of class actions Andrew Watson said the firm would take risk on to its own balance sheet, reducing the proposed take by funder ILFP to 12.5 per cent. Four firms — Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, Phi Finney McDonald, Slater and Gordon and Maurice Blackburn — have now announced class action suits against AMP over the plunge in its share price following revelations at the banking royal commission last month that it repeatedly misled the corporate watchdog over deliberately charging financial -advice customers for services they did not receive. Only the first two firms have formally lodged their claims, with Phi Finney going to the Federal Court and Quinn Emanuel to the NSW Supreme Court.
Blue Sky Alternative Investments Ltd (BLA):
Short-seller target Blue Sky Alternative Investments has told the market it has cut the valuations of student accommodation and private equity assets - but the company insists this does not change its much-ballyhooed claim to have $4bn in assets under management. The Brisbane-based fund manager, which is desperately scrabbling for credibility after a scathing attack by US short seller Glaucus Research smashed its share price and sparked a board exodus, said assets it had so far revalued about 25 per cent of its portfolio. Assets revalued “included the entire portfolio of student accommodation (SAC) assets, three private equity assets including Wild Breads, Sunfresh Salads and Foundation Early Learning (for which a sale of the asset has been announced), and a retirement living project in Corinda, Brisbane,” Blue Sky said. It said the revaluations included 12 out of 28 assets where Blue Sky had booked performance fees as of the end of 2017 but had yet to receive any cash, “and as a result of the above reviews, certain SAC assets and private equity assets have reduced in value”. “These asset revaluations are expected to lower Blue Sky’s net profit after tax for the year to 30 June 2018 by approximately $7 million,” it said.
BlueScope Steel Limited (BSL):
BlueScope Steel is forecasting higher earnings than previously anticipated for the six months through June, reflecting the increased profitability of its US steelmaking operations. The company said it expects underlying earnings before interest and tax of around $680 million for the period, which compares to a February estimate of $606m. The company, which is scheduled to report its earnings on August 13, said the lift was mainly tied to a stronger performance at its North Star mill in Ohio, where BlueScope’s margins have widened. Management said its Australian steel products division is also doing “moderately better” than prior expectations, underpinned by higher margins on export coke sales.
Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA):
New Commonwealth Bank chief executive Matt Comyn now has to fill six executive positions at the nation’s largest bank after the -immediate resignation of his chief financial officer Rob Jesudason, who leaves after less than a year in the job. The lender’s finance boss yesterday resigned with immediate effect to join a Cayman Islands-registered blockchain and cryptocurrency group in Hong Kong, making him the latest senior manager to depart the embattled lender. The resignation of Mr Jesudason, who joins Block.one as its chief operating officer and president, comes just over a month after Mr Comyn took over as chief executive from Ian Narev. The sudden exit of Mr Jesudason, who last year was paid $3.2 million, comes at a critical time for the bank, given it is just weeks away from signing off on its end-June annual accounts. At the same time, CBA is facing a wave of regulatory reform, including -operating under tighter capital controls.
FAR Ltd (FAR):
Arbitration hearings are about to start in Paris that could affect Woodside Petroleum’s $US3 billion ($3.97bn) SNE development in Senegal and which have been brought by the field’s ASX-listed FAR. FAR will claim its pre--emptive rights to a stake in the SNE oilfield it discovered in 2014 were trampled by Woodside and US oil major ConocoPhillips, in the $US430 million sale of a 35 per cent stake to Woodside in 2016. It is understood the proceedings are about to start in the International Court of Arbitration, with the imminent appointment of someone to chair the hearings. FAR, which retains a 15 per cent stake in the field, says it was not given timely access to data it needed to make a decision on whether to activate its pre-emptive rights. The appointment of a committee chairman is to be announced as early as today, sources close to the proceedings say, after a long period of haggling between Woodside and FAR (the Melbourne explorer launched its claim in June) over who will run the proceedings.
Healthscope Ltd (HSO):
Australia’s largest superannuation fund AustralianSuper has vowed to fight a rival, higher bid for Healthscope, pitching itself against the interests of the private hospital group’s other investors. Pressure is now on the Paula Dwyer-led Healthscope board to ignite a bidding war for the company after Canadian private equity group Brookfield yesterday launched a $4.35 billion bid for the hospital operator, which trumps a $4.1bn bid a BGH Capital-led consortium made two weeks ago. Complicating the fight for Healthscope is 14.5 per cent shareholder AustralianSuper’s involvement in the BGH -consortium. The super fund agreed not to back any rival proposals, even if they were superior to the private equity group’s offer. It has also signed an exclus-ivity agreement, which means it cannot engage with a rival suitor for a period if the BGH bid is -rejected.
Link Administration Holdings Limited (LNK):
Link Group has outlined a worst case scenario revenue impact from measures announced in last week's federal budget, even though it expects the figure to come in lower. The Sydney-based company told the ASX on Tuesday that its preliminary assessment suggested a $55 million hit to annual revenue. A string of announcements in last week's budget saw investors punish Link's shares last week, particularly as the company said it expected a "material impact" on the number of fund members it administers. But the company was last week unable to quantify the net revenue effect.
Noni B Limited (NBL):
Noni B boss Scott Evans is angling to have a constructive and strategic relationship with shopping centre landlords over the contentious issue of skyrocketing rents at a time when the retail sector is struggling, and will speak for nearly 1400 stores after unveiling a deal to buy the core assets of rival Specialty Fashion Group. Following yesterday’s deal that will see Noni B pay $31 million for Millers, Katies, Crossroads, Autograph and Rivers, it will emerge as one of the biggest shopping centre tenants in Australia in terms of store numbers, giving it a stronger whip hand over landlords as it -negotiates rent. Specialty Fashion chairwoman Anne McDonald warned her shareholders in November that the retailer would be forced to slash its store network to 700, from 1000-plus outlets, as the business buckled under growing losses, a fall in consumer spending and pressure on shopping centre rents.
Ruralco Holdings Ltd (RHL):
Agribusiness Ruralco has lifted first-half profit 29 per cent to $16.1 million despite tough trading conditions in the live export business. Net profit for the six months to March 31 rose on the back of stronger performances by its rural services, water services and financial services units, but underlying gross profit from its live export business slipped 86 per cent. “It is pleasing to see the benefits of the diversification strategy at play with the group able to cycle the tough trading conditions in live export and declining earnings from livestock agency activity as cattle prices continue to soften,” chief executive Travis Dillon said.
Santos Ltd (STO):
The Santos takeover battle is heating up with the news that one of its major shareholders, ENN, is likely to join forces with Harbour Energy in its bid for the Australian company. ENN will enter a trading halt in Shanghai today, after talks between the company and the Hong Kong-based Harbour Energy, which has bid for Santos at $US4.98 a share. An offer at that price values Santos at around $US13.5 billion. In a brief announcement, ENN said it plans to fold its 10.07 per cent stake in Santos into a special purpose vehicle set up by Harbour to buy Santos.
Telstra Corporation Ltd (TLS):
Telstra’s latest financial update has prompted a dramatic response from Citi analyst David Kaynes who says that the incumbent telco needs to consider asset sales. Telstra on Monday flagged that its full-year earnings are going to land in the bottom end of the forecast range of $10.1 billion to $10.6 billion, warning shareholders that there may be more pain ahead. According to Mr Kaynes, the guidance shows that Telstra’s core earnings are shrinking at a much faster rate and it’s time for the telco’s management to make some tough decisions. “We see limited scope for revenue growth in core businesses and Telstra could instead consider more aggressive cost-cutting and asset sales,” he told clients in a note. “The acceleration in the core business decline means that we no longer believe Telstra can generate sufficient earnings to maintain a 22c dividend in both FY19 & FY20 without breaching the upper limits of the payout ratios in its capital management framework.” Citi has cut Telstra’s target price by 13 per cent to $2.70 a share and net profit after tax (NPAT) forecasts by -5-6 per cent.
Woodside Petroleum Limited (WPL):
Chevron Australia managing director Nigel Hearne has called for industry and government to work to link Western Australia’s four big LNG projects and vast offshore gas resources through a big new pipeline to ensure they are developed efficiently with existing infrastructure. He said a multi-user pipeline running from Woodside and BHP’s remote Scarborough field to Woodside’s Burrup Peninsula LNG hub and linking into big fields in between in which Chevron has interest could be a better way to develop the region than Woodside’s current plans. In a call for more collaboration in the region, which is dominated by Chevron and Woodside Petroleum-run plants, Mr Hearne said a multi-user pipeline running from Woodside and BHP’s remote Scarborough field to Woodside’s Burrup Peninsula LNG hub and linking into big fields in between in which Chevron has interest could be a better way to develop the region than Woodside’s current plans.