Rio's warm and fuzzy gathering

Rio's warm and fuzzy gathering

It seems not even $13 billion of write-downs can dislodge the genteel facade erected by Rio Tinto shareholders.

The gargantuan write-down - a couple of billion more than the $11 billion federal budget deficit for this year that Deloitte Access Economics predicts Wayne Swan will unveil on Tuesday - cost Rio chief executive Tom Albanese his job and sparked angry scenes at the company's London AGM last month.

But Sydneysiders who turned out for the Australian edition of the dual-listed miner's AGM on Thursday were much more forgiving.

"We had such a wonderful AGM today, all our shareholders were so polite, so considerate, I really enjoyed today's meeting," Rio chairman Jan du Plessis said later.

"I always say chairmen are never supposed to enjoy an AGM, but in fact today was really nice. It was fun, the people were respectful and things were just fine."

The love affair seems mutual. Earlier in the meeting, a shareholder had said to du Plessis that he was the "politest" chairman he had ever come across.

The race is on

Miniature motor sport mogul Bernie Ecclestone wants to get a float of the formula one empire away on the Singapore exchange by October, but there are a couple of flies in the $10 billion ointment pot.

They would be Victorian Premier Denis Napthine and the state's Tourism Minister Louise Asher, who have yet to come to the table to begin negotiations over a new contract to stage the loss-making race in Melbourne.

The deal runs out in 2015, but in March, Australian Grand Prix chairman Ron Walker said he was confident of striking a new accord.

"The government wants to get on with it and Bernie wants to get on with it," chairman Walker told Fairfax Media.

"They are going to float the company and he [Bernie] likes to have all the contracts done, and it will be at a rate that suits the [Victorian] Treasury."

That was two months ago. While Walker seemed sure the state government was keen to quickly strike a deal, CBD isn't quite so sure.

With the cost of the race on the nose - especially the formerly secret licence fee paid to F1, which hit $34.2 million this year - and the float fast approaching, delay could be the government's friend. This week, Asher confirmed to CBD that talks had yet to start. "When the government commences negotiations on the future of the grand prix, its retention will be considered in terms of the event's capacity to reduce costs and to offer value for money," she said.

Ecclestone snubbed the Melbourne race in March and isn't due back in the country until September, in the lead-up to the Singapore Grand Prix. That's cutting it awfully fine.

In the picture

The eagle eyes of CBD's ever-vigilant spies have been working overtime, this time spotting the English Football League chairman Greg Clarke and former head of Lend Lease standing behind the man of the moment, Sir Alex Ferguson, as the stalwart Manchester United manager announced his retirement.

British-born Clarke has a long association with the world game - he lost £500,000 while chairman of Leicester City when the club went into administration in 2002. He then came down under to Lend Lease, which he ran until 2009, but he never kicked the roundball habit.

While he tried to embrace the concept of the Sherrin, he was sometimes seen at various watering holes watching the rugger or EPL.

Hit and miss

This week's prize for press release most tenuously linked to a pop cultural event goes to Jackie Behrend, of PPR, and client Bart Mead, of Propell National Valuers, for an effort on Thursday warning the return of Nine's reno show The Block to TV next week could cut property values. Botched DIY renovations are apparently a turn-off for home buyers. Who knew?

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