CBD

A lesser spotted generous vulture

A lesser spotted generous vulture

It isn't often that private equity, and its kin, can be accused of generosity when it comes to offloading its investments on to the unsuspecting public.

So we think the vulture funds that own Nine Entertainment should get kudos for selling the media group at a multiple of less than twice last year's net profit.

Yes, you heard it correctly. The company, valued at almost $2 billion prior to its float on Friday morning, made a net profit of $1.187 billion for 2012-13.

Not bad when you consider revenues were just $1.27 billion.

But before everyone gets excited, CBD must admit the number requires a few adjustments for one-off items such as the $1.348 billion "net gain on restructure" that may have improved the bottom line a little.

Other items of interest in Nine's accounts last year include the $10 million rise in short-term remuneration to senior management to $18.7 million, and the $13.3 million loss generated by ACP Magazines before its sale to Bauer Media. We are sure the Bauers consider it $525 million well spent.

Clifford's on topic

The HR Nicholls Society - industrial relations advocates championing the cause of working men with yachts - got a very topical speaker for its 2013 annual dinner on Thursday night: Qantas chairman Leigh Clifford.

The fact that he was due to speak hours after Qantas announced 1000 workers will be sacrificed next year - for the economic good of the airline, of course - adds extra bite to the society's intro for the former Rio Tinto chief.

"Mr Clifford has argued vociferously of the need to reform the Fair Work Act, saying it is preventing companies from achieving desperately needed productivity improvements, and this is a unique opportunity for our members and supporters to hear Mr Clifford."

Who needs IR reforms when you've got a meat cleaver?

Big cheese

Bega has taken the cheese wars to new heights, delivering an A4-size slab of cheddar to journos covering the sizzling three-way battle for Warrnambool Cheese & Butter.

The cheese was encased in black wax, with the front page of Bega's bidder's statement for Warrnambool printed on top.

The brain behind the caper was Bega's adviser David Williams, from Kidder Williams.

He had them made up in September when the bidder's statement went out. "I had them in the fridge at work and thought we'd better get them out before Christmas," says Williams.

Williams also sent the blocks of cow curd to his counterparts advising the rival bidders - Lazard's John Wylie, who is advising Murray Goulburn, and Rothschild's Sam Prentice, who is on board with Saputo.

Williams denies Bega is signalling its intent to trump rival offers by converting its cash and scrip bid to a cash and cheese offer, despite the obvious cost synergies.

Just in case Bega changes its mind, Warrnambool had 3890 shareholders as of August, meaning Bega would have to stump up four tonnes of the stuff.

Soul survivor

At last, some good news for Impulse Airlines founder Gerry McGowan. It emerged on Thursday that Soul Patts has bailed out the serial entrepreneur's current plaything, CBD Energy.

High debt and lumpy cash flow has had CBD Energy on the brink for months, in part due to interest rates of 15 per cent on a large tranche of its debt.

Now, Soul Patts has bought $5.4 million of its convertible notes at a discount, while restructuring the terms, including cutting the interest rate to 9.75 per cent.

It is lending another $6.5 million at the same rate.

Maybe there's a lesson there for a former CBD Energy partner, the debt-challenged Nathan Tinkler. Losses on a property development with Tinkler contributed to a $40.4 million loss for CBD Energy's 2011-12 financial year.

Got a tip? ckruger@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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