FINANCEHome loans riseHousing loans rose to an eight-month high in December, helped by NSW stimulus and interest rate cuts in November and December. The number of loans granted to build or buy houses and apartments rose 2.3 per cent to 48,453, the highest since May, the Bureau of Statistics said. In NSW, home loans rose 6.1 per cent, just behind Queensland where they were up 6.9 per cent for the month, seasonally adjusted.TAKEOVERSUCL holds firmUCL Resources says it plans to reject a $24.4 million takeover bid by major shareholder and fellow junior mineral explorer Minemakers. Minemakers holds a 13.1 per cent stake and the two are partners in the Sandpiper marine phosphate project in Namibia.EARNINGSHills back in profitThe maker of the Hills hoist clothes line, Hills Holdings, has returned to profitability and forecast modest earnings improvements. Hills posted a first-half profit of $15 million after a $41.6 million loss for the same period last year. A fully franked interim dividend of 5? a share was declared.ENVIRONMENTCardno contractEnvironmental services company Cardno has won a $22 million contract to help provide infrastructure upgrades at several Rio Tinto iron ore mines in Western Australia.DAVID JONESGoddard to retireDepartment store chain David Jones says Stephen Goddard will retire as finance director later this year, to be replaced by Brad Soller.COAL SEAM GASWestSide gets offerWestSide Corporation has received a non-binding takeover bid that values the coal seam gas producer at $165 million. WestSide said the offer of 65? a share was indicative and highly conditional. It is assessing its options.MININGFortescue optionFortescue Metals has secured an exclusive option to mine Iron Ore Holdings' Iron Valley and adjacent tenements in Western Australia's Pilbara region. Iron Ore Holdings said it had signed a binding memorandum of understanding with Fortescue that gave the miner an exclusive option for a non-refundable $25 million cash payment.FISHERIESIllness hits stocksTummy trouble among its yellowtail kingfish population will hurt Clean Seas Tuna's full-year results. The South Australian fish farmer says its cost-cutting exercises are paying dividends and should result in a smaller half-year loss than last year. The first-half results will show a pre-tax loss 40 to 50 per cent smaller than the $13.3 million deficit recorded in the first half of 2010-11. The chief executive, Craig Foster, said bad weather had created health problems for its caged yellowtail kingfish population and this would affect full-year results. The fish have enteritis, an infection of the intestine.
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