Broker out in the cold as big freeze hits home

WINTER is coming, the characters in fantasy epic Game of Thrones say to one another, shuddering in horror at the frigid terrors ahead.

WINTER is coming, the characters in fantasy epic Game of Thrones say to one another, shuddering in horror at the frigid terrors ahead.

But for Michael Manford and his crew at Perth-based broker Patersons Securities, winter is already here and he doesn't want to hazard a guess as to when the frost will lift from the land.

The broker's latest financial report, filed with the corporate watchdog on Friday, show the rivers of commerce have frozen, choking off revenue and sending the company into loss.

For the year to the end of June, Patersons' revenue fell 28 per cent, to $106 million, and the company's overall result dived from a profit of $5.9 million to a loss of about $5.1 million.

"When your revenue drops by 28 per cent, it's always tough," executive chairman Manford told CBD. The stockmarket veteran compared the situation to the big freeze in 1991, when the market hit trouble after recovering from the 1987 crash.

"The second turndown means you get a bit of investor uncertainty," he said.

As investors bunkered down and shunned the equities market, Patersons' funds management income held up pretty well, falling just $900,000 from $14.2 million to $13.3 million.

But brokerage revenue dropped dramatically, plunging from $79.5 million to $56.5 million.

And the lack of equity-raising activity in the marketplace choked that revenue from $51.8 million to $34.8 million.

Manford said the markets would eventually turn, but in the meantime the company would continue pruning costs.

"I think they will, but whether that occurs in the next three or six months or over the next couple of years remains to be seen."

Patersons' shareholders, about three-quarters of whom are staff, are also feeling the pinch: no dividend has been declared.

And top brass, including Manford, have been put on half rations. Total remuneration of key management fell from $10.1 million to $4.89 million.

Bag makes waves

IT MUST have been itchy.

But if Woolworths' government relations manager Simon Berger was uncomfortable the weekend before last as he strode on to a stage dressed in a chaff bag, it's doubtful yesterday was much better.

According to a post on his public Facebook page, since published on Twitter, Berger was master of ceremonies at the Sydney University Liberal Club dinner featuring vaudeville entertainer Alan Jones.

A Liberal Party source said Berger's costume was part of a skit designed to make fun of Jones, who last year infamously Jones claims jokingly suggested Prime Minister Julia Gillard be stuffed in a chaff bag and thrown out to sea.

Berger, a former staffer to federal Liberal frontbencher Brendan Nelson, also reportedly sang a couple of songs mocking the Parrot.

Jones, for his part, signed what's described as a "chaff bag jacket" CBD is unsure if this is the same item worn on stage that Berger donated to be auctioned on the night. (Jones won the auction.)

And that's probably where matters would have ended, if the 2GB tyrant hadn't decided to ramp his already elevated obnoxiousness level up to 11 by telling the audience Gillard's recently deceased father "died of shame" because of her repeated lies.

Yesterday, with public outrage in full swing, Woolworths had joined a parade of companies pulling their ads from the dinosaur disc jockey's breakfast show, and was insisting Berger's star turn had nothing to do with it.

It wasn't enough for an angry online mob, which continues to keep up pressure on Woolies.

Their chosen method of retribution? Ice-cream. On its Facebook page, Woolworths has been asking punters to name a new ice-cream flavour, and yesterday "Sack Berger" was emerging among the suggestions.

CBD asked the supermarket titan if they would adopt the somewhat cruel moniker, but has yet to hear back from Woolworths spinner, and former Tony Abbott staffer, Claire Kimball.

Nor could CBD get in touch with Berger, whose LinkedIn profile declares that he is open to contact on a range of topics including "getting back in touch", "new ventures" and "career opportunities".

Stragglers shorten

THE index of indolence issued by the ASX yesterday as it suspended stocks that had failed to file full-year accounts by close of business on Friday was shorter than usual.

It seems the never-ending bear market has already cleared out a lot of the stragglers.

As BusinessDay reports today, this year's job lot include John Trimble's brothel landlord Planet Platinum and former deputy prime minister Mark Vaile's CBD Energy. Also catching CBD's eye on the schedule of shame was Chilean miner Condor Blanco, which listed just last February in a deal that saw tens of thousands in fees paid to chief corporate officer Andrew Mortimer's boutique corporate advisory Superstructure International.

Condor is still finalising information relating to its Chilean subsidiaries, but hopes to file the annual report this week, the company told the ASX.

Fellow entry on the exchange's tablet of tardiness GoConnect said it was also waiting on auditors.

Last year the IP TV company tangled with the ATO in a $180,000 legal stoush, and it's also been fighting running court battles with former employees.

And then there's ATM company GRG. Hopefully it's better at dispensing cash than it is at sending paperwork to the ASX.

While it has yet to give a reason, GRG may be a little distracted because it is in the middle of buying a US company three times its size, funded by a $25 million loan from an Asian private equity outfit.

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