It's all change at Arrium as Smedley decides to call it a day

The clock is winding down on the corporate career of a leading figure in corporate Australia for the past two decades, after Peter Smedley announced he will step down as chairman of Arrium in 12 months' time.

The clock is winding down on the corporate career of a leading figure in corporate Australia for the past two decades, after Peter Smedley announced he will step down as chairman of Arrium in 12 months' time.

Mr Smedley has chaired the company since it was founded and spun out of BHP a decade ago.

His looming retirement will bring the curtain down on one of the longest careers at senior levels in corporate Australia, a career which spanned from Shell Oil to financial services via Colonial Ltd and one-time transport major Mayne Nickless which morphed into Symbion Health before being bought by Primary Healthcare, and beyond.

Mr Smedley, dubbed "pacman" for his relentless appetite for acquisitions, mergers and reorganisations, also chaired Spotless Group as it battled with suitors before being taken private. He also held a range of non-corporate positions.

There were hits and misses along the way, although some of the misses were well hidden from public view, for example the lengthy indigestion Commonwealth Bank faced after its $9.1 billion acquisition of Colonial in 2000.

At Arrium, Mr Smedley has just settled new chief executive Andrew Roberts into the job. Mr Roberts replaced outgoing chief executive Geoff Plummer.

The change of chief executives means the Arrium board can now begin the process of selecting a new chairman.

Stepping down with Mr Smedley is another founding director, Dean Pritchard, a former chief executive of Baulderstone Hornibrook.

The pair will exit just as the fortunes of Arrium are turning up, notwithstanding the continued drag from its steel division.

At Monday's annual meeting the company flagged continued difficult trading conditions in steel, as it continues to try to lift iron ore sales but with destocking weighing on the performance of parts of its mine supplies unit.

In the December half, domestic and international steel markets remained "generally weak" with gross earnings of the division, as measured by earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, steady with the second half of the previous financial year. However the second half is expected to benefit from higher volumes coupled with ongoing moves to cut costs, shareholders were told at the meeting.

In the year to June, Arrium posted a net loss of $695 million following asset write-downs and restructuring costs of $961 million.

One bright spot is its iron ore unit, where December half sales are planned at 6 million tonnes. Full-year sales are forecast at 12 million tonnes, with the loaded cash price of $49 a tonne.

The company told shareholders Arrium would continue to assess opportunities to lift sales further and utilise the full 13 million-tonne capacity of Whyalla Port.

September quarter shipments totalled 3.13 million tonnes, up 0.4 million tonnes from the June quarter, and double the level of a year ago. The sale price in the quarter was $US113 a tonne, up $US9 from the June quarter.

In the mine supplies unit, demand for grinding products remained strong, it said.

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