O'Brien's DIY nightmare

O'Brien's DIY nightmare

It was a masterclass in coming clean as Woolworths boss Grant O'Brien (pictured) finally confirmed the open secret in the market: the Masters hardware chain is costing a little more than Woolies anticipated. After stripping out earnings from its Danks hardware distribution unit, Masters losses this year would come in at $157 million. That's a lot of nails, screws and paint. O'Brien happened to be overseas for the bad news, but we're assured it was on business.

Number's up

Even so, Woolies' move into telcos was short-lived. The dial-in number handed out to dozens of fund managers and stockbroking analysts for the earnings update turned out to be a residential number in the suburbs of Sydney.

Just who happened to be on the other end wasn't picking up last night and the message bank was full. No doubt this was due to Australia's finest retail analysts leaving their level-headed responses at not being able to get onto the conference call.

Silver lining

While Masters' sales had come in substantially short of its targets, one of Woolies' hardware executives, Mark Burrows, managed to find a silver lining. For those who managed to get onto the conference call Burrows said the the Home Timber and Hardware brand - which is supplied by Woolies - has won the much-coveted Roy Morgan Hardware Store of the Year award.

Pulling the plug

It was a big day for Woolies as the retailer finally lost its inner nerd. It officially severed ties with its Dick Smith business after Nick Abboud's private equity play Anchorage Capital posted the remaining paperwork after last year's acquisition of the electronics chain. Within minutes of the deal going through, Woolworths finance director Tom Pockett was reportedly seen sifting wildly through his desk looking for one of those medium-voltage-capacitor-fuses thingies.

Options limited

Whoever prepares the ASX filings at Wilson HTM may not be too popular with senior management. Executives at the stockbroker will have to work that little bit harder to cash in on 2,600,000 share options after a paperwork glitch.

The stockbroker this week discovered the mistake in an Appendix 3B submitted in February, which wrongly said executives would be able to exercise the options at a share price of $0.31866. It should have said the "strike price" would be $0.26886, in line with the offer letters given to staff. Despite the error, Wilson said it would stick with the higher strike price.

On track

Aurizon's fat controller, Lance Hockridge, caught the XPT from his base in Brisbane for a powwow with analysts in Sydney. Apart from announcing another round of cost cutting, Hockridge was quick to offer "commiserations" to those nursing the Blues' narrow loss to Queensland. For investors, the blow of another home defeat was softened by the promise of at least another $230 million in savings.

Clash of titans

Spotted at ANZ Stadium for the State of Origin clash was Manly supporter Tony Abbott and chief cane toad Kevin Rudd. NSW boss Barry O'Farrell was getting privatisation tips from Lazard investment banker John Wylie.

Locked in

Still on sport, CBD may have put a few offside on Wednesday with an item on new Lion boss, Scottish-born Stuart Irvine, choosing a team. Rest assured, your fill-in CBD columnist is a fan of the round ball, too, and has already locked in this year's membership for the Western Sydney Wanderers.

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