Press digest australian business news jan 23

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Compiled for Reuters by Media Monitors. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. THE AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW (this site)Retailers Myer and David Jones have made stronger than anticipated progress in clearing stock and reducing their inventories amid weak spending over the holiday period and the coolest summer in half a century. "Our ability to maximise the new intake for season's launch is a consequence of the successful and well managed execution of our inventory reduction plans throughout the first half of 2012," Sacha Laing, group executive fashion and beauty at David Jones, said. Page 14.-- Woolworths, the largest liquor retailer in Australia, has contradicted figures from the sector claiming that beer sales are stagnant. "Beer is far from dead.... It is not in decline at Woolworths. It is in growth," Steve Donohue, general manager of merchandising at Woolworths Liquor, said. Mr Donohue added that data from researcher Nielsen had not acquired sales figures from Woolworths' Dan Murphy's liquor outlets, while some independent stores were also excluded. Page 14.-- Orbis Investment Management, the largest shareholder in PaperlinX, has called on the chief executive of the paper merchant firm, Toby Marchant, to concentrate on reviving the company. Simon Mawhinny, analyst at the investment group, added that Orbis management would meet with PaperlinX after its interim result next month to discuss the possible sale of the paper manufacturer's holdings in Europe. Page 14.-- Jim Walker, chief executive of mining equipment firm WesTrac , yesterday said he was confident the company would broker a deal with United States manufacturing giant Caterpillar to allow the former to sell Bucyrus machinery in China and Australia. "We'll come out when we've got it all down, but we're not sort of rushing one way or another... We're still saying it will happen in the first quarter," Mr Walker said. Page 15.-- THE AUSTRALIAN (this site)Global miner BHP Billiton's attempt to build its shale gas operations in the United States have run into problems, with a downturn in the region's gas futures resulting in widespread downgrades to earnings and price projections. Around 36 percent has been wiped off the value of United States natural gas futures since Michael Yeager, head of BHP's petroleum division, justified US$20 billion of acquisitions to investors last year. Page 23.

-- Fund managers and analysts have predicted media conglomerate Fairfax Media will fire more staff as media companies continue to struggle against cyclical and structural turmoil in their industry. "Costs are easy to get out of newspapers.... You just keep sacking people, reducing the size of the newspaper and upping the cover price and squeezing it a bit harder," Roger Colman, media analyst at broker CCZ Equities, said. Page 23.-- APN News & Media has acquired a 25 percent holding in online start-up Friendorse, a neighbourhood-based online recommendations platform for local companies. "Part of APN's strategy for our regional publishing businesses is to provide more services and useful local information relating directly to those communities," Matt Crockett, chief development officer at the media group, said. Page 23.-- The quarterly Business Outlook report from economic forecasters Deloitte Access Economics has warned that the finance sector in Australia is facing a tougher environment than any other industry this year, due to the debt crisis in Europe and softening demand for credit. "It has finally sunk in that weak credit growth may be the new normal," the paper said. The report added that the strength of the Australian dollar and climbing interest rates were problematic for local education providers, tourism operators and manufacturers. Page 23.--

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (this site)Supermarket chain Coles is set to utilise Australia Day by spruiking a number of exclusive products for the public holiday. Biscuit maker Arnott's has produced an Australia-shaped iteration of its Shapes savoury biscuit range, while tomato sauce manufacturer MasterFoods will be selling a blue bottle of its sauce as opposed to the traditional red. The retailer has also secured a limited exclusive deal to sell a blend of tea from Twinings that was devised by former prime minister Kevin Rudd. Page B1.-- The global chief executive of online auction website eBay , John Donahoe, yesterday said Australian shoppers were easy targets for well-known retailers in the United States. "The Australian consumers are very open to imports and they're looking for brands.... They're now reaching consumers on the eBay platform without having to have assets residence in the country," Mr Donahoe said. Page B2.-- Retired tennis star Pat Rafter yesterday said he would not be able to endorse a company or brand without being honest. "With Bonds, I wear the stuff. I'm not a bloke who would or could endorse something like Versace. It's not me," the former United States Open champion said. Mr Rafter was hired last year by Mantra Hotels, Resorts and Apartments, which has resulted in a 36 percent boost to the company's website traffic and an additional A$200,000 in revenue during this year's Australian Open. Page B2.

-- A study by Beyond Blue has found that accountants were the least likely profession to have undergone mental health training, with respondents adding that they believed the industry was poorly positioned to cope with depression in the workplace. The depression awareness group has partnered with the Australian Institute of Chartered Accountants industry body, with plans to create a website detailing tales of anxiety disorder in the workplace. Page B3.-- THE AGE (this site)Marine services provider Mermaid Marine and its United States business partner have been sued for more than A$23 million in damages by two oil sector staffers who drifted for more than 200 kilometres in open waters during a tropical storm. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs were among 10 employees who were forced to flee a "liftboat" owned by Trinity Liftboat Services last September when a storm arrived. The workers also claim that the Mermaid Vigilance failed to help evacuate the supply rig, leaving the workers to survive on their own. Page B16.-- Free-to-air digital networks, online services like telecommunications giant Telstra's T-Box, piracy and a range of DVD rental services have intensified competition for bricks-and-mortar movie stories. Analysts have predicted the competition will force Franchise Entertainment Group (FEG), owner of the Video Ezy and Blockbuster chains, to close up to 200 outlets within the next couple of years. Paul Uniacke, founder of FEG, said his company's decision to move towards vending machines and kiosks was "future proofing". Page B17.-- The Reserve Bank of Australia has warned that Australia will need to prepare for substantial changes to its labour structure in order to fully benefit from the mining boom. The comments were made by Philip Lowe, incoming deputy governor of the central bank, and published last week before the release of disappointing unemployment figures. "These adjustments can be very difficult for those involved, including the owners of the existing capital in the industries not growing strongly," Dr Lowe and co-author Jonathan Kearns said. Page B17.-- Leighton Telecommunications is under pressure to find clients for its undersea bandwidth cable, after telco giant Telstra International signed a long-term agreement to use Huawei Technologies' Australia Singapore Submarine Cable (ASSC-1). Telstra is the first carrier to sign up to ASSC-1, with construction scheduled to be finished by late next year. "The current that exists on that particular segment has been in the water for a number of years, it is heading towards the end of its  life," Jim Clarke from Telstra International said. Page B18.--

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