Transfield 'sensitive' to slowdown

Shareholders in Transfield Services were bracing themselves on Monday for an earnings downgrade following downgrades by other mine services operators such as UGL, WorleyParsons and the smaller Coffey International last week.

Shareholders in Transfield Services were bracing themselves on Monday for an earnings downgrade following downgrades by other mine services operators such as UGL, WorleyParsons and the smaller Coffey International last week.

Transfield is to hold an "investor day" on Tuesday, with securities analysts to be briefed on the company's strategy.

At a recent Macquarie Securities presentation, the new managing director, Graeme Hunt, said the company was not immune to market trends.

Mr Hunt made it clear that a "significant proportion of earnings are deliverable in the fourth quarter", with the company "sensitive" to market conditions, which left the door open to a downgrade.

As a result, Transfield was finalising another round of cost cuts as it battled tough market conditions.

The potential for a further $25 million in cost cutting was indicated, which could result in "one-off" costs this financial year.

"Cost-down pressure at clients is a threat - and an opportunity," said Mr Hunt.

Work had begun on outsourcing a range of back-office functions, he said, with implementation this quarter, and "further organisational streamlining, improving efficiency and effectiveness" was under way.

While the share price of some mine service outfits such as WorleyParsons have bounced following their recent earnings revisions, investors in Transfield remained on the backfoot Monday ahead of the anticipated downgrade.

Its shares tumbled 20 per cent last week, on the back the downgrades in the sector and as investor sentiment soured due to concerns over slowing Chinese demand.

It closed trading Monday down 2ยข at $1.27.5, a long-term low.

As earnings pressure has mounted on the company, outstanding short positions in its shares have risen to 11.6 million shares, up from 4.5 million in February, according to the most recent ASIC data.

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