Moving heaven and earth for sake of friendship

IT ALL started with some tension over the purchase of some shares in the James Packer-controlled Consolidated Media Holdings.

IT ALL started with some tension over the purchase of some shares in the James Packer-controlled Consolidated Media Holdings.

But it appears the early nerves between Packer and his newish major fellow shareholder in the 25 per cent owner of Foxtel, Seven Group chairman Kerry Stokes, have blossomed into a fully fledged bromance.

There was a slight whiff of disappointment in the air yesterday when some of the expected attendees at the opening of the new headquarters for Seven's earthmoving equipment business WesTrac failed to show up. Among the no-shows at the unveiling of the new $160 million WesTrac facility in Tomago in the Hunter Valley were BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers and wannabe prime minister Bill Shorten.

But, thankfully, the part-time Scone resident Packer helped lift spirits when he came to the rescue in his helicopter. "James is a good friend of mine," Stokes confided. "He lives not far from here, as you know, he's been involved and he's interested in what we do."

Asked if Packer could follow him from media into earthmoving machines, Stokes said: "No. He was interested in what we're doing here because he thought it was something different."

Pride, then a fall

SEEMS Boart Longyear is on a roll, just as long as you stick to the script followed yesterday by the drilling company's chief executive, Craig Kipp.

"It's a pleasure to be here," noted a chirpy Kipp at the start of Boart's half-year profit briefing. "All the metrics in the business are moving in the right direction and it was a very, very good six months for us."

Kipp also told the briefing: "We're doing particularly well." In a statement to the market, he added: "Overall, we remain very optimistic about the long-term fundamentals for the business and our growth prospects for the industry."

Maintaining his upbeat tenor, Kipp said: "We are extremely well positioned for the future."

Perhaps Kipp was not positive enough. Boart shares plunged 37 per cent after the briefing.

Jumbo drum roll

PART-TIME blues drummer and APA (aka Australian Pipeline Trust) chief executive Mick McCormack always warned that his company's tilt for the Hastings Diversified Utilities Fund was going to be a long slog.

When APA launched its original bid for the pipeline fund last December, McCormack noted how any deal in the gas infrastructure sector had "the gestation period of an elephant". A deal, he warned, would be like waiting for a baby elephant to appear.

Nine months on, McCormack's warnings appear to have erred on the conservative side given the HDF board last week approved APA's improved offer, less than halfway into the 22-month gestation period of a elephant. That means, after an initial ACCC scare and the intervention of a rival bidder, APA's increased offer looks home and hosed.

But maybe not quite yet. Just days after the Quebecois-Australian consortium Pipeline Partners (PPA) failed to match APA's revised offer, there is speculation the French Canadians (aka Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec) might attempt to cobble together another bid.

Still, McCormack has until October 2013 before the expected birth of his elephant.

Location, location

LEND Lease chief Steve McCann has helped soothe concerns over the future location of the group's North American operations.

At the end of yesterday's full-year results briefing, Merrill Lynch analyst Simon Garing asked where Lend Lease saw its American business in a couple of years.

"The immediate answer that sprang to mind was in America, but I probably should answer that differently," McCann responded.

Lend Lease, meanwhile, disclosed that McCann enjoyed a tidy 14.8 per cent lift in total remuneration to $7.03 million last financial year.

His salary included $1.87 million in base pay, $2.19 million in cash bonuses, $2.15 million in long-term incentives and a $516,000 retention expense resulting from the amortisation of a retention payment from August 2007. The retention payment, worth $2.5 million when it was originally granted, had more than halved in value, thanks to Lend Lease's drooping share price.

The construction company also disclosed that its former chief operating officer, Scott Charlton, who departed on June 30, saw his remuneration drop from $2.29 million to $1.78 million for the financial year, including $1.28 million in fixed pay.

Charlton should

make up for the slight dip in pay in his new job as chief executive of Transurban, where he will get $1.875 million of fixed pay and up to $2.8 million of bonuses a year.

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