Bromance but no earth movement

It all started with some tension over the purchase of some shares in the James Packer-controlled Consolidated Media Holdings.

By · 31 Aug 2012
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31 Aug 2012
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It all started with some tension over the purchase of some shares in the James Packer-controlled Consolidated Media Holdings.

But it appears the early nerves between Packer and his newish major fellow shareholder in the 25 per cent owner of Foxtel, the Seven Group chairman, Kerry Stokes, have blossomed into a fully-fledged bromance.

There was a slight whiff of disappointment in the air yesterday, when some of the expected attendees at the opening of the new headquarters for Seven's earthmoving equipment business WesTrac failed to show up. Among the no-shows at the unveiling of the new $160 million WesTrac facility at Tomago, in the Hunter Valley, were the BHP Billiton chief executive, Marius Kloppers, and the wannabe prime minister Bill Shorten.

But thankfully the part-time Scone resident Packer helped lift spirits when he came to the rescue in his helicopter. "James is a good friend of mine. He lives not far from here, as you know, he's been involved and he's interested in what we do," confided Stokes.

Asked if Packer could follow him from media into earthmoving machines, Stokes said: "No. He was interested in what we're doing here 'cos he thought it was something different."

Cheap chirp

Seems Boart Longyear is on a roll, just as long as you stick to the script followed yesterday by the drilling company's chief executive Craig Kipp.

"It's a pleasure to be here," noted a cleary chirpy Kipp at the start of Boart's half-year profit briefing. "All the metrics in the business are moving in the right direction and it was a very very good six months for us," he said.

Kipp also told the briefing, "We're doing particularly well." In a statement to the market, the Boart boss said: "Overall, we remain very optimistic about the long-term fundamentals for the business and our growth prospects for the industry."

Maintaining his upbeat tenor, Kipp said: "We are extremely well positioned for the future."

Perhaps Kipp was not positive enough. Boart shares plunged 37 per cent after the briefing.

Early drum roll

The part-time blues drummer and APA (aka Australian Pipeline Trust) chief executive Mick McCormack always warned his company's tilt for the Hastings Diversified Utilities Fund was going to be a long slog.

When APA launched its original bid for the pipeline fund last December, McCormack noted how any deal in the gas infrastructure sector had "the gestation period of an elephant".

Nine months on, McCormack's warnings appear to have erred on the conservative side given the HDF board last week approved APA's improved offer, less than half way into the 22-month gestation period of a elephant.

That means, after an initial ACCC scare and the intervention of a rival bidder, APA's increased offer looks home and hosed.

But maybe not quite. Just days after the Quebecois-Australian consortium Pipeline Partners (PPA) failed to match APA's revised offer, there is is speculation the French Canadians (aka Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec) might attempt to cobble together another bid.

Still, McCormack has until October 2013 before the expected birth of his elephant.

Chief takes a rise

The Lend Lease chief, Steve McCann, has soothed concerns over the future location of the group's North American operations. At the end of yesterday's full-year results briefing, the Merrill Lynching analyst Simon Garing asked where Lend Lease saw its Americas business in a couple of years time.

"The immediate answer that sprung to mind was in America, but I probably should answer that differently," responded McCann.

Lend Lease meanwhile disclosed that McCann enjoyed a tidy 14.8 per cent lift in total remuneration to $7.03 million last financial year.

His salary included $1.87 million in base pay, $2.19 million in cash bonuses, $2.15 million in long-term incentives and a $516,000 retention expense resulting from the amortisation of a retention payment from August 2007. The retention payment, worth $2.5 million when it was originally granted, had more than halved, thanks to Lend Lease's drooping share price.

The construction company also disclosed that its former chief operating officer Scott Charlton, who departed on June 30, had his remuneration cut from $2.29 million to $1.78 million for the financial year, including $1.28 million in fixed pay. Charlton should make up for the dip in pay in his new job as the chief executive of Transurban, where he will get $1.87 million of fixed pay and up to $2.8 million of bonuses a year.

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