KERRY Stokes' Seven West Media last night warned that full-year earnings could be up to $45 million below market expectations, thanks to weaker than expected advertising markets.
Until yesterday, Seven West had been bravely holding the line on its forecast that advertising conditions would improve in the final quarter.
The revelation throws another bone to Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens not that he needed one for a drop in interest rates to give some much-needed stimulus to the non-resources sectors.
Insider was told that the late release of the warning, that earnings before interest and tax this year are likely to land between $460 million and $470 million, was due to the tyranny of distance (the board was meeting in Perth) rather than an attempt to take the sting out of bad news by announcing it after most brokers had shut-up shop ahead of today's Anzac Day holiday.
Seven West's announcement is likely to hit the share prices of most media stocks when trading resumes tomorrow, given that it reckoned the insipid advertising demand was across all areas of its business television, magazines and newspapers.
After all, Seven has a TV market share slightly north of 40 per cent, so if the absence of advertisers is not driven by boredom with one too many repeats of How I Met Your Mother, the tough conditions will be exacerbated at competitors Nine Entertainment (already fighting with debt vultures) and billionaire's playground Ten Network Holdings.
According to Bloomberg figures, the consensus analyst estimates for Seven West's EBIT this financial year were $504 million before last night's statement. That is already a hefty drop from last year's $550 million.
Apex's Midas touch-up
WESTERN Australia's favourite billionaire, Andrew Forrest, has applied his Midas touch to Apex Minerals, turning it into a multibillion-dollar company overnight
Sort of. While Forrest's private company has committed to taking options that would give him 20 per cent of Apex if exercised, it was the company's one for 100 share consolidation to cut its issued capital from a dizzying 16.6 billion shares that tricked Bloomberg's computers yesterday.
The technology managed to change the share price from 0.2? to 20?, but multiplied it into a market worth of $3.14 billion. A day earlier, Salomon Smith Barney handled a line of 500 million Apex shares for the grand total of a $1.3 million deal.
Still, maybe there is now some hope for investors in Renison Consolidated, which really ought to live up to its name and cut its shares on issue from the existing absurd levels of 20 billion shares surely the ASX record? The market worth of the company, these days chasing gold in Queensland, coal in New South Wales, is $20 million Bloomberg could turn that into $2 billion in a snap, fellas.
Busy Corbett keeps mum
IF RESERVE Bank board member Roger Corbett wasn't busy enough this week working out how far to lower interest rates, he and the rest of the board at US retail giant Wal-Mart Stores now have to deal with a bribery scandal that has sliced $US10 billion off the company's value.
Corbett, who also happens to chair Insider's paymaster, Fairfax Media, is understandably keeping mum on allegations that executives in Wal-Mart's Mexican offshoot fuelled their new store program with $US24 million in bribes to secure building permits. Wal-Mart de Mexico, 69 per cent owned by the US group, is separately listed in Mexico.
The bigger problem for Wal-Mart would seem to be that it carried out its own internal investigation and is being accused of burying the results neither removing those responsible nor telling police and other authorities until The New York Times published its investigation this week.
Corbett only joined the board in 2006, whereas the questionable payments seem to have occurred in 2005 and earlier. Another Australian, one-time Coca-Cola chief Doug Daft, joined the retailer in 2005.
The fall in the share price has already cost Corbett $US34,000 from his $US700,000 stake, while Daft is nearly $US90,000 down on his near-$US2 million investment.
The man likely to be in focus is their fellow director, H. Lee Scott jnr, who was Wal-Mart's president and chief executive from 2000 to 2009 and is alleged to have known of the bribe claims.
The litigious nature of shareholders in the US could also mean that directors face a class action if the share price falls are sustained or if this derails Wal-Mart's other international expansion aims.
The timing is exquisite, too, coming only a week after the release of Wal-Mart's proxy materials for its June 1 annual meeting where, as usual, the whole board faces re-election.
Jacka goes over the top
JACKA Resources named for Albert Jacka, Gallipoli hero and the first Australian winner of a Victoria Cross has launched a successful assault on its best ever price this week.
Although it suffered a small retreat of 0.5? yesterday, it peaked at 23? on Monday not just its best price level, but its $56 million market worth was easily the biggest value placed on the company since its 2010 listing.
The Africa-oriented oil and gas explorer has benefited from being run by executives from the successful Hardman Resources and some positive recent broker research. DJ Carmichael's Edwin Bulseco called it the most undervalued African explorer on the local market, and thinks the price ought to go to 51?. Paterson Securities' Alexis Clark opted for a more conservative 35?.
SPEAKING of strained connections with Anzac Day, recently listed Ambassador Oil and Gas' "loyalty" offer of 47.35 million options, at 0.3?, fell only 3.14 million short.
Underwriter Peloton Capital has handballed the $9420 bill to Melbourne property group Pellicano's funds management arm.
And the Gallipoli connection? Ambassador chairman David Shaw is a former Essendon premiership player and president whose beloved Bombers take on the Pies today in their traditional Anzac Day match.
Seven West's announcement is likely to hit the share prices of most media stocks when trading resumes tomorrow.