BRIEFS

RATINGS

RATINGS

Macquarie on watch

Fitch Ratings has placed Macquarie Group Limited and its local subsidiaries on rating watch negative for their long-term issuer default ratings and viability ratings. The move stems from Fitch's review of global banks and follows the announcement of a similar review of Australia's four major banks.

TAX RULING

Hardie awaits

James Hardie Industries has requested a trading halt in its shares today pending a High Court ruling on whether the Australian Taxation Office will be granted special leave to appeal in a $368 million capital gains tax dispute. The case, which the Full Federal Court decided in the company's favour last year, relates to a 1998 corporate restructure. The outcome will affect the cash flow of the company and the asbestos compensation trust it funds.

FINANCE

FlexiGroup ahead

FlexiGroup, a financer of rental consumer equipment, says it expects similar gains for the full year after first-half net profit rose 13 per cent. The net profit for the six months to December 31 was $28.2 million and the company reaffirmed its guidance for profit growth of between 12 and 15 per cent for this financial year.

CONSTRUCTION

Contract to Clough

Clough has won its second contract in a week for Chevron's Wheatstone liquefied natural gas project, this time valued at $400 million. The construction and engineering firm was awarded the contract by Bechtel to design and build the Wheatstone product loading facility and tug berths near Onslow, Western Australia.

ALUMINIUM

Effort to save jobs

Governments and unions say they will work to try to keep Alcoa's aluminium smelter running at Point Henry in Victoria to save 600 jobs. Alcoa said this week it would review the viability of the smelter in Geelong because it had become unprofitable.

COAL

Thiess wins deal

Leighton Holdings subsidiary Thiess has won a $180 million contract for civil earthworks at BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance's Caval Ridge coalmine in Queensland.

RATES

BoQ holds steady

Bank of Queensland says it will keep its standard variable home loan rates steady, in line with this week's decision by the Reserve Bank. Interest rates will be kept steady regardless of movements by other banks, BoQ said.

MEXICO

Slim loses pensions

Billionaire Carlos Slim's Grupo Financiero Inbursa SAB is being stripped of 10.9 billion pesos ($856.8 million) worth of pension accounts by Mexican regulators. Data from industry regulator Consar shows the fund recorded an average return of 7.31 per cent compared with the 11.51 per cent gain for all pensions.

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