CBD

Downgraded but not downcast

Downgraded but not downcast

When is a downgrade not a downgrade? When it's a "solid result in line with market expectations", of course.

On Monday developer Lend Lease said it reckoned the construction market has "softened", sending its share price down 7.5 per cent.

Nonetheless, chief executive Steve McCann appeared chuffed.

"It is pleasing to be on track to deliver a solid result in line with market expectations in a tough market environment," he said.

The company reckons it will have no trouble making up the difference from other divisions. And analysts came to McCann's party late in the day, with JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley issuing fresh "buy" reports.

No doubt McCann's sunny disposition would be even further improved if top-tier accounting company PwC, said to be looking for new digs, would call up and book in as anchor tenant for the proposed third tower at Lend Lease's multibillion-dollar Barangaroo South development.

Quest for NZ gold

It's gold, gold, gold for Australia with former Sydney Olympics bid boss Rod McGeoch set to seize control of New Zealand's airwaves.

McGeoch, who spearheaded Sydney's winning 2000 games bid, and other investors are set to take over MediaWorks, which owns radio stations and the TV3 and Channel 4 television networks.

However, the history of the Kiwi media group, which collapsed on Monday, is littered with the corpses of Aussie business types.

Australian private equity outfit Ironbridge paid $NZ740 million to privatise MediaWorks in 2007, loading it up with debt.

The structure didn't survive the GFC, leaving banks, including Australia's Westpac, locked in argument with Ironbridge about refinancing the stricken company.

Also a loser was the Ten Network, which last year foolishly laid out large amounts of money to import TV3 "star" Paul Henry to host its ill-fated breakfast show.

However, there is one Australian winner in the saga: KordaMentha, which has picked up the gig as receiver.

Power struggles

Could control of troubled electricity and gas retailer EnergyAustralia move from Hong Kong to the Cayman Islands?

CBD hears talk that Hong Kong's China Light and Power, which owns EnergyAustralia, is considering a trade sale, possibly to Alinta Energy.

The Alinta business was taken over by its lender, private equity group TPG, in 2011. It's now owned by Alinta Holdings, which gives its address as Ugland House, in the Caymans capital, George Town.

A China Light and Power spokeswoman said the company's position on floating EnergyAustralia remained the same as last year, when it canned the idea due to "operational imperatives and [the] general economic environment".

But she was less emphatic about a trade sale. "We have consistently said that we do not rule out any options but we have no current plans on a trade sale," she said.

If control does pass to TPG, decision-making power won't make the trip all the way to the Caymans. TPG's Asia Pacific boss, Steve Schneider, who is on the Alinta board, lives right there on Hong Kong island.

Mystery money

It seems Sydney Institute boss and Fairfax Media columnist Gerard Henderson is rather less keen on answering questions than he is on asking them.

Last Wednesday, CBD sent Henderson a list of questions about the institute's 2012 financial accounts, which were filed (overdue) that day. CBD was keen to know the source, or sources, of $859,000, described in the accounts as "contributions received". Not from members, clearly - the accounts show "membership subscriptions" brought in just $82,677.

So who are these mysterious contributors? And how many members does the institute have, anyway? Readers may be unsurprised to learn that Henderson has yet to say.

Got a tip?

bbutler@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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