AMP Limited (AMP):
AMP chief executive Francesco De Ferrari has moved quickly to put his stamp on the embattled wealth group hiring former Credit Suisse colleague Alex Wade to lead advice. In an announcement on Wednesday, after becoming CEO on December 1, Mr De Ferrari said Mr Wade would join the leadership team on January 7. Mr Wade will report to Mr De Ferrari and will “lead the continuing transformation” of AMP’s advice business, the statement said. Most recently Mr Wade was the head of developed and emerging Asia for Credit Suisse Private Banking, overseeing markets including Australia, Japan and India. He takes over from Jack Regan – who hasn’t returned to work following gruelling Hayne royal commission hearings earlier this year - and is retiring from AMP after nearly 20 years. “Alex is a talented leader and strategic thinker, who will bring valued experience and relationships to AMP’s advice business,” Mr De Ferrari said. “The financial advice industry in Australia is in the process of renewal, and AMP and Alex will play a prominent role in driving this change. We firmly believe that financial advice is essential for helping people manage their finances, and plan for retirement.”
CSL Limited (CSL):
Australian biotech giant CSL has revealed its new cell-based influenza vaccine proved move effective than its traditional product during the US flu season, as it flags it is advancing ‘boosters’ to improve the immune response of children and the elderly. CSL’s subsidiary Seqirus will present new data today at its annual research and development briefing in Sydney, which will reveal that its cellbased quadrivalent influenza vaccine (QIVc) was 36.2 per cent more effective than standard egg-based quadrivalent vaccines (QIVe) in preventing influenza-like illnesses during the 2017-2018 flu season in the United States. “The burden of influenza is a global healthcare concern and Seqirus is committed to developing new and potentially better vaccines that help reduce the hundreds of thousands of deaths and severe illness caused every year by influenza,” CSL’s chief scientific officer, Andrew Cuthbertson, said. “Since we acquired the cell-based technology just three years ago, we have increased vaccine production five-fold and introduced cell-derived starting viruses - rather than viruses that have been optimised to grow in eggs. “These innovations together with other major investments into the Holly Springs facility (in North Carolina) will assist us to meet further global demand for the vaccine.”
Lynas Corporation Ltd (LYC):
Australian rare earths producer Lynas says it is surprised by the decision by the Malaysian government to impose a precondition on its operations there, saying it is inconsistent with science and contrary to international best practice. Lynas shares plunged more than 26 per cent when they resumed trading in the wake of the Malaysian report, and the company’s response. Malaysia’s Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate said following a review that Lynas should determine the location of, and build, a permanent disposal facility for water-leached purification residue, which contains radioactive materials. That would need to be built before the renewal of Lynas’s licence in September next year, the ministry said overnight. Lynas said in a statement that the precondition does not follow a process outlined in October, and was inconsistent with the review committee’s recommendation.
Myer Holdings Ltd (MYR):
Myer prepared two wildly different profit forecasts on the same day for the 2015 financial year, with one internal document clinging to a full-year profit of $101 million while another draft report from the finance team warned the profit could be as low as $90 million, a court was told on Wednesday afternoon. Former Myer chief executive Bernie Brookes is reviving evidence today on the Myer forecasts the lead up to its painful profit warning in 2015, and said he could not recall seeing either document that had conflicting profit forecasts for 2015. It was revealed in court that a covenant sensitivity document prepared for the Myer board included a fiscal 2015 profit forecast of $101 million. That report was issued on October 30 2014. However, on the very same day the finance department had put together its own redraft of its forecasts which put the expected profit for 2015 of $95 million but this could be as low as $90 million if certain optimistic savings were excluded. Norman O’Bryan QC, representing Myer shareholders in a class action against Myer, pushed Mr Brookes to explain why the two forecasts, prepared on the same day, were so different and if he had seen either document. Mr Brookes said he couldn’t recall seeing either document. This was at a time when Myer was clinging to its profit forecast for 2015 of around $107 million with Mr Brookes saying the profit would be up on the figure achieved in 2014.
Nine Entertainment Co Holdings Ltd (NEC):
Nine Entertainment has confirmed it has held early talks about the outstanding shares in 2GB’s parent company Macquarie Media, which counts top advertising boss John Singleton as its second biggest shareholder. Mr Singleton owns 32 per cent of the ASX-listed radio company, while the other 54.5 per cent is owned by Fairfax Media, which is merging with Nine in a $4 billion deal. The remaining balance is owned by minority shareholders. “Whilst the Nine-Fairfax merger is due to be implemented on Friday, Nine confirms that it has had some preliminary discussions regarding the outstanding shares in MRN,” Nine said in a brief three sentence statement. “Nine will make a further announcement should these discussions progress to a transaction.” Nine’s merger with Fairfax is expected to be completed on Friday, with the new company to be called Nine.
State Gas Ltd (GAS):
Shares in junior explorer State Gas have rocketed after the company announced a new gas discovery in Queensland. State Gas chairman Tony Bellas said the results from the company’s Nyanda-4 well, south west of Rolleston in Queensland’s Bowen Basin, had “far exceeded” expectations and could be of significance to the gas-hungry east coast energy market. “While we await further analytical results, the initial findings from Nyanda-4 indicate that this is a great outcome for the shareholders of State Gas, the state of Queensland and the Australian east coast gas market,” Mr Bellas said. The market has pounced on the news, with State Gas shares jumping 42.1 per cent to 54c each in early afternoon trade. The company said the latest drilling at Nyanda had intersected more than 60 metres of coals and shales.
TPG Telecom Ltd (TPM):
TPG Telecom has fended off a “second strike” on executive pay with shareholders giving the telco’s board the benefit of the doubt, both with regards to its ongoing fiscal health and the re-election of key board members. The re-election of TPG (TPM) directors Robert Millner and Shane Teoh (son of TPG boss David Teoh) had come under a cloud prior to the annual general meeting, with advocacy group the Australian Shareholders’ Association (ASA) and proxy firm Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) voicing concerns about the independence of Mr Millner and Mr Teoh and the telco’s remuneration report. Mr Millner is the chairman of Washington H Soul Pattinson, which holds a 25 per cent stake in TPG, and has been on the telco’s board for 18 years. According to ASA, as TPG’s second largest shareholder, Mr Millner couldn’t be classified as an independent director. It also pointed to the lack of female directors on TPG’s board, citing the telco as one of only two ASX 100 companies with no female representation at board level.
Trade Me Group Ltd (TME):
New Zealand online auction site Trade Me has received a $2.42 billion indicative takeover proposal from US private equity firm Hellman & Friedman, trumping a $2.40 billion bid from rival Apax Partners two weeks ago. Trade Me, which was onced owned by Fairfax Media, said Hellman & Friedman is offering $NZ6.45 a share in cash, which is subject to some conditions including due diligence. That compares with Apax’s $NZ6.40 a share in cash. “The board has decided that it is in the interests of Trade Me and consistent with its fiduciary obligations to also engage with Hellman & Friedman on the new proposal,” Trade Me said in a one-page statement. Trade Me has told Apax about the rival as the group carries out due diligence on an exclusive basis following its preliminary, non-binding, indicative proposal, which was announced on November 21. “This exclusivity is subject to a ‘fiduciary carve out’ that allows Trade Me to engage with third parties on unsolicited proposals,” Trade Me said. The board notes that there is “no certainty either proposal will result in an offer, or any other.