Press digest australian business news may 8

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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)Investors yesterday experienced the largest one-day fall on Australian bourse this year, with the S&P/ASX 200 Index closing 2.16 percent down at 4301.3 points. The stockmarket's woes were echoed in the exchange rate, which dropped as low as US$1.011 after reaching a high of US$1.0281 in the previous day's trade. The downturn was triggered by fears over the Euro zone, following Francois Hollande's election as the French President and polls in Greece that showed a significant fall in support for its two major parties. Page 15.-- Ross McEwan yesterday announced that he would be leaving Commonwealth Bank of Australia to take a position at Royal Bank of Scotland in England. The former retail boss was a member of the bank's executive committee and was a candidate to replace Ralph Norris when he retired as chief executive last year, although the position was filled by Ian Narev. "His leadership of retail banking services has led to all-time highs in customer satisfaction, a strong performance for shareholders and a high level of people engagement," Mr Narev said. Page 15.-- The managing director of discount retailer Kmart, Guy Russo, yesterday declared that Australians were paying unnecessarily high prices because retailers' business models were antiquidated and defective. "I've only been in this space a few years but maybe the retail model a lot of retailers are working with is outdated  the word 'sale' has been destroyed - they're not sales, they're retailers trying to drive customers in every week to one particular area," Mr Russo, a former chief executive at fast food giant McDonald's, said. Page 17.-- The operator of the Airport Link road in Brisbane, Brisconnections, is expected to give drivers incentives to use the struggling tollroad which is now set to open two months behind schedule. Observers say the postponed launch will cost Leighton Holdings, whose John Holland and Thiess contractors are constructing the tollroad, approximately A$1 million a day in penalties. Page 17.-- THE AUSTRALIAN (this site)

Economists have raised doubts that the Federal Government's budget tonight will offer much respite from the current downward trend impacting the economic environment, with the latest monthly business survey from National Australia Bank showing a drop in trading conditions, profitability and export volumes last month. "Mining continued to outperform all other industries, while manufacturing conditions remained worryingly low," the authors of the survey said. Page 19.-- David Murray, former head of Commonwealth Bank of Australia and the Federal Government's Future Fund, urged members of the bank's board to acquire financial services giant American Express (Amex) during the global financial crisis. Commonwealth Bank of Australia has a capitalisation of A$82.9 billion today, compared with Amex's A$68 billion. Had Commonwealth Bank pursued with what would have been at the time a A$60 billion merger, observers say the deal would have proved highly profitable. Page 19.-- Global miner BHP Billiton yesterday announced that it had acquired 40 percent of oil and gas producer Woodside Petroleum's Banambu Deep venture, an exploration drill in the Carnarvon Basin gas fields in Western Australia. The move leaves Woodside with a 25 percent holding in the WA-389-P permit, with oil and gas explorer Cue Energy owning the remaining 35 percent. Page 20.--

Orica yesterday surprised the market after it announced a 4 percent drop in net profit to A$253.3 million for the six months to the end of March. Analysts had predicted the explosives manufacturer would report around A$245 million in net profit for the period. Orica added that it was still on target to surpass last year's A$642 million profit, although that figure was dependent on factors such as the global economy and plant output. Page 20.-- THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (this site)Australian lenders have abandoned a push to have Saturday afternoons and Sundays included under the definition of normal working hours, indicating that they are not prepared to pursue further industrial relations reform while the sector is experiencing redundancies. Commonwealth Bank of Australia yesterday revealed that it would cut 100 mortgage-related jobs in response to a decrease in requirements for loans. Page B1.-- An independent inquiry commissioned by the Federal Government has rejected calls for a new safety net for investors that lose their money at the hands of misconduct from their financial advisers. Governance expert Richard St John was asked in 2010 to inquire into a statutory compensation scheme for victims of grave crimes. The final report, however, said a compensation program could be "possibly counterproductive" and was "inappropriate". Page B3.

-- The vice-president of Japan's upper house, Masayuki Naoshima, has announced that his country will look to reduce its reliance on nuclear power by acquiring more Australia's coal and gas assets. "Australia is one of the most important countries for Japan in terms of natural resources supply," Mr Naoshima said. "After the earthquake, our demand for [liquefied natural gas] and coal have increased," he added. Page B3.-- Dustin Kehoe, analyst at market intelligence firm IDC, yesterday said that while the makers of the Blackberry smartphone, Research In Motion, were losing market share in Australia, the battle was "not over until its over". Blackberry controlled 9 percent of the Australian smartphone sector at its height in 2009, a share which plummeted to 5.7 percent last year. "When you are moving from email to applications, Blackberry has not been the winner  applications are becoming more important than email," Mr Kehoe added. Page B3.-- THE AGE (this site)John Neal, the incoming head of QBE Insurance, is preparing to moving the A$16 billion insurer from its old headquarters in Sydney when he takes up his role in August. The company has reportedly told leasing agents to search for up to 20,000 square metres of office space in the "core" of Sydney that can be occupied within the next three years. QBE's move decisions by Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac Banking Corporation and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group in recent years to relocate their head offices. Page B3.-- Citigroup Global Markets analysts have calculated that listed miners New Hope Coal and Whitehaven Coal would be the most impacted should the Federal Government announce any cuts to the diesel fuel rebate in tonight's federal budget. Diesel is used by miners for generating power in remote areas and for transport on private roads, with the government set to receive up to A$2 billion if it scrapped the scheme entirely. Page B5.-- Minerals producer and explorer Ivanhoe Australia is continuing to search for a foundation stakeholder, with the company reportedly considering the partial sale of its four Cloncurry assets in Queensland. "The initial and best concept would have been that one party came in and bought 15 to 25 percent of all the projects, all four of those projects," Peter Reeve, chief executive of Ivanhoe, said. Page B5.