Quote of the day, Woodside's way

Martin Luther King had a dream. Winston Churchill had blood, sweat and tears. Ronald Reagan declared it was morning again in America. Marie Curie pioneered the study of radioactivity. Vincent van Gogh cut off his ear.

Martin Luther King had a dream. Winston Churchill had blood, sweat and tears. Ronald Reagan declared it was morning again in America. Marie Curie pioneered the study of radioactivity. Vincent van Gogh cut off his ear.

What do all these immortals share in common? They have been privileged enough to share space with two even greater leaders, Woodside executives Peter Coleman and Vince Santostefano, on giant banners dominating the foyer of the gas producer's headquarters in Perth.

Each enormous placard features an inspirational quote designed, no doubt, to provoke Woodside's employees to ever higher peaks of achievement. For example, Curie's poster quotes her as saying: "The way of progress is neither swift nor easy." That's something those working on Woodside's gargantuan Browse project, or its pantagruelian Sunrise field, would already know.

There are murmurs abroad that Browse, Australia's second-biggest LNG project (after the ginormous Gorgon) might not go ahead, while Sunrise has long been mired in disputes with the East Timorese government.

The North Korean-style display apparently formed part something called the Woodside Compass, a little blue book of maxims to live by that includes such catchy aphorisms as: "We make and execute decisions in line with our business priorities and our values." On Saturday, alas, the banners came down, leaving Woodside's worker ants to struggle on as best they can without the inspirational words of their glorious, yet modest, leaders to inspire and correct them.

Flight fright

During Senate estimates hearings last week, the competition czar Rod Sims was asked by the Victorian Liberal Senator Scott Ryan if new laws against unfair contract terms have had any impact yet. Ryan was particularly interested to know if the ACCC had turned its eagle eye to refunds by large airlines.

It turns out that airlines' ticketing policies are not a major area of focus. This is unfortunate because one of CBD's colleagues is still reeling from the news that it would cost $667.11 to redeem a Qantas voucher worth $475. Yes, $667.11 on top of the fare paid.

The problem is that the ticket was originally booked in the spouse's name. Here's how one of chief Qantas pilot Alan Joyce's helpful staff broke it down: a $65 change fee, plus a $40 local service fee, plus an $80 name-change fee, plus $482.11 to upgrade the original saver-fare to a fare that can be changed. No. No unfairness here.

Glory, hallelujah

It's not just the Australian Federal Police who have taken a shine to Perth Glory's owner Tony Sage.

Readers may recall that the boys in blue dropped in to Sage's Perth offices for a cup of tea and a bikkie before Christmas as part of an acronym soup operation involving ASIC, the ATO and the ACCC.

A raid of a different kind on Thursday probably presented more welcome news: an unknown party piled into the market to snap up more than 5 million shares, worth about $1.1 million, in Sage's Cape Lambert Resources.

The unexpected buying spree, believed to be run through Commsec's institutional desk, sent shares in the mining explorer skyrocketing, climbing from 23¢ to touch a dizzying peak of 27¢.

Alas, the stock has since fallen back, closing on Monday at 22.5¢.

Gold diggers

The veteran company director Sue Thomas has quit the board of the mining explorer Inca Minerals and sold down her stake in the company after the rest of the board refused to let her load up on shares at a steep discount to the market price.

Inca stock usually changes hands for 2¢ or 3¢, but the announcement of very positive drilling results at its Chanape project in Peru on February 6 pushed the asking price up to as much as 17¢.

At the AGM on the same day, shareholders unsurprisingly approved the issue of up to 50 million new shares, of which Thomas was entitled to buy up to 20 million. After the meeting Thomas asked the company to issue her the 20 million shares - at 5.44¢ each.

CBD goes to the dryly magnificent statement the company secretary Justin Walawski issued to the exchange the next day: "The board did not agree to Ms Thomas's request and noted that, with the company's share price trading as high as 17¢ and closing at 14¢ on February 6, 2013, it was not in the interests of shareholders to do so.

"Ms Thomas has today notified the company she has resigned as a director of the company."

Thomas, who also sits on the boards of Clearview and Grant Thornton, also sold 13.5 million of her 40.3 million shares, reaping $1.68 million.

CBD would hesitate to call this a dummy spit, but the pacifier has definitely exited the mouth.

Inca's managing director Ross Brown didn't want to expand on the circumstances surrounding Thomas's departure beyond saying that "the board decided not to take up her offer; we thought the best thing for the company was to turn her down".

However, he did let on that the Chanape result was "exciting", even if a lot more work is needed to stand it up.

"We think we have a copper-gold deposit," he said.

Got a tip?

bbutler@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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