Rowe, Rowe, Rowe your boat
Great news for investors looking for better returns: sharemarket superstar Trevor Rowe has been appointed to the advisory board of Islamic funds manager Crescent Wealth.
Rowe, AO, the chairman of former Nicholas Bolton plaything BrisConnections, is a well-known figure in the boardrooms of Australia. Among other things he is executive chairman of Rothschild Australia and chairman of UGL, as well as being a former chairman of the Queensland Investment Corporation and of ASX.
Crescent Wealth managing director Talal Yassine said Rowe had been "appointed for his experience and ability to offer high-level insight and counsel on strategic opportunities".
Based on the performance of the two listed outfits where he is chairman, CBD can think of no one better placed to give advice about investment opportunities - and pitfalls.
Brisbane toll-road operator BrisConnections has been suspended from trade for 2½ months, but units in the company last traded at 40¢ - down just 54 per cent for the year. Meanwhile, UGL shares were changing hands on Thursday at $11.09, down a modest 15.6 per cent over 12 months.
News of Rowe's elevation to guru status made CBD wonder what was going on with BrisConnections.
The answer? Not a lot. Investors seem to be on a road to nowhere. Trade in BrisConnections units was suspended on November 13 so the company could enter a "series of complex negotiations" with lenders.
A syndicate of banks owed about $3 billion had apparently lost patience with the lack of traffic on the road - and therefore revenue for the company. For 2½ long months BrisConnections has said not a word about the state of the negotiations, and that situation wasn't changing when CBD called.
"The board is in discussions with banks about how to go forward with the business," is all BrisConnections spokeswoman Amanda Scanlan would say.
That's no advance on the November announcement.
While the ASX likes suspended companies to regularly inform the market as to what's going on with their predicament, even if they have nothing to report, BrisConnections has chosen not to do so.
Nor has it chosen to lift the suspension, which would allow investors such as Macquarie Group, which holds 45 per cent of units, and Deutsche Bank, which holds 33 per cent, an opportunity to crystallise their loss and wipe their hands of the whole thing.
No restriction applies to debt holders, who have reportedly been flogging off their positions for as little as 35¢ in the dollar.
Rock'n'roll ain't noise pollution but heavy metal sure is bad for you, as Orica has discovered. The mining services company is in trouble with residents around Botany Bay over mercury contamination at its former Port Botany site.
But it was film on the mind of the shareholder who opened up on chairman Peter Duncan over the mercury imbroglio at Thursday's annual meeting.
He asked whether there was "an end in sight" for the company to clean up the mess, saying the situation reminded him of movie classics From Here to Eternity and The NeverEnding Story.
In response, Duncan said some of the environmental issues dated back to World War II and cleaning up the mess would take time.
"They are unfortunately a part of our inheritance," he said. "I think it is going to be quite a number of years before we say that they are completely eliminated.
"I am absolutely convinced that none of them is going to be of a seriously debilitating nature."
Orica's environmental woes weren't the only issue agitating shareholders. Another unhappy shareholder called for fresh blood on the board, describing the existing lot as "faceless cigar-smoking Melbourne Club men".
The board has just one female member, the seemingly ubiquitous Nora Scheinkestel.
"We've since stumbled on a trademark application, submitted four months earlier in August, by [Clive] Palmer's company Mineralogy . . . registering 'World Leadership Alliance - World Economic Council'." - The AFR's Rear Window columnist (and Women's Weekly pin-up) Joe Aston, wrote on Thursday.
"Never heard of the World Leadership Alliance? Palmer is closely involved in the global powwow, which features a troughload of ex-politicians and takes in a couple of other leadership organisations. Indeed, Palmer's company, Mineralogy, registered the trademark back in July."
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