The Border Watch : April 29th 2014
Business Packer hoping movie deal is a home run LOS ANGELES: James Packer’s Hollywood production company has won a bidding war for the movie rights to the story behind Los Angeles Dodgers star Yasiel Puig’s dramatic escape from Cuba to the US. film. Packer will executive produce the The deal is the latest win for the Australian casino mogul, who has emerged as one of Hollywood’s most powerful players after teaming with filmmaker Brett Ratner to form production company RatPac Entertainment. Puig, who played for the Dodgers in the team’s recent Sydney games, has become one of baseball’s highest-profile stars, with his big bat electrifying crowds but off-the-field antics causing unwanted headlines. Puig’s dramatic defection from his home in Cuba to the US, detailed in a recent Los Angeles magazine article by journalist Jesse Katz titled Escape From Cuba: Yasiel Puig’s Untold Journey to the Dodgers, was pounced on by Hollywood producers. It was RatPac which secured the rights. The story follows Puig, accompanied by “a boxer, a pinup girl and a Santeria priest”, as he escapes his home with the assistance of Mexican drug cartels but is held captive for three weeks when the agreed $US250,000 fee isn’t paid. As is often necessary in Spotless plans $1b market return SYDNEY: The $1 billion return of cleaning and catering services firm Spotless to the share market is set to be the largest listing in nearly four years. The May listing is also the latest example of private equity buying underperforming companies and returning them to public hands at a much higher price. After fewer than two years in the hands of Pacific Equity Partners, Spotless plans to sell 51 per cent of its shares for up to $1 billion, valuing the company at nearly $2 billion. That makes it the most valuable public offering since the $4.6 billion privatisation of QR National in November 2010. Pacific Equity Partners bought control of Spotless in August 2012 for $720 million and in the past 19 months has sold two of its divisions, cut costs and reorganised its structure. Before it was taken private by Pacific, Spotless had been a stock market stalwart for more than half a century. In its prospectus released yesterday, Spotless forecast a net loss of $41 million in the current financial year – due to costs related to its restructure – increasing to a profit of $135 million in the next year. AAP Swinging for the fences: James Packer is on track to become one of Hollywood’s most powerful players. Picture: AAP Hollywood, the story has a happy ending – Puig went on to sign a seven-year, $US42 million deal with the Dodgers in 2012. Packer’s Hollywood venture has also been a success, with RatPac’s first investment, the space adventure film Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, earning $US716 million in worldwide box office receipts and scoring seven Oscar wins. RatPac has also signed a deal to fund films by Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B. in Brief Qantas says Modern Family a success MELBOURNE: Qantas says its backing of global TV hit Modern Family’s Australian adventure was a success that will attract more American tourists. About 9.6 million Americans tuned in last week to watch the episode filmed in Australia. There was a 25 per cent spike in US visitors to its website in the days after, which was expected to lead to more bookings, Qantas said. Qantas heavily backed the exercise financially, including flying the cast and crew from LA in February, which has attracted some criticism given its financial woes and looming job cuts. The flying kangaroo emblem was seen throughout the episode. Transurban plans $850m upgrade AAP Banks linked to illegal land grabs Oxfam report connects big four to illegal logging and child labour SYDNEY: Some of Australia’s biggest banks are reviewing their lending activities in developing countries in the wake of a report linking them to companies accused of illegal land grabs. Oxfam Australia has accused the big four banks – Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, National Australia Bank and ANZ – of backing companies that have contributed to illegal logging, forced evictions, food shortages and child labour. “From PNG and Cambodia to Indonesia and Brazil, our banks have backed companies accused of forcing people from their land,” Oxfam Australia chief executive Helen Szoke said. Australian Responsible Investors Association chief executive Simon O’Connor said the report highlighted the risks for Australian companies investing in developing countries. “These allegations, whether proven or not, companies mentioned in the report but emphasised their commitment to ethical lending practices. Westpac said it had severed ties with customers that did not meet its ethical guidelines in the past “From PNG and Cambodia to Indonesia and Brazil, our banks have backed companies accused of forcing people from their land.” contain lessons for corporate Australia as to precisely the nature of this new risk landscape and how challenging these risks are to manage,” he said. The banks would not comment on their relationships with and would do so again if necessary. “We would continue that same practice if we felt we were representing companies or people that weren’t living up to those standards.” ANZ spokesman Stephen Ries said half of the companies linked to it by the report were not customers of the bank and it had reviewed its relationship with others in light of the allegations. The Commonwealth Bank also said it would review its practices in response to the report, while a NAB spokesman said the bank assessed social and environmental risks before lending to a customer. The Oxfam report found NAB had lent more than $200 million to Asian palm oil giant Wilmar, which has been linked to land grabs and was named the world’s least environmentally friendly company by Newsweek. AAP Business conditions good but confidence waning SYDNEY: Business confidence among small and mediumsized firms is waning despite business conditions rising to a four-year high. Small and medium-sized enterprise confidence fell for the first time in more than a year in the March quarter, according to National 10 - The Border Watch, Tuesday, April 29, 2014 Australia Bank’s quarterly survey. Although confidence remained positive overall, optimism was down across all states, the report said. “This reflects an unwinding of some of the exuberance that firms exhibited in response to the federal election, a depreciation of the Australian dollar and very low interest rates,” the report said. “Property, construction and business/financial services firms remain among the most optimistic, reflecting the good performance of property markets in 2013.” Despite the fall in confidence, actual business conditions improved, lifting to their highest level since mid-2010, the report said. Employment conditions picked up slightly but remained weak. MELBOURNE: Toll roads operator Transurban will pay for an $850 million upgrade of parts of Melbourne’s congested tollway network. Transurban said yesterday it had reached an inprinciple agreement with the Victorian government to widen the western section of Melbourne’s CityLink, the Bolte Bridge-West Gate Freeway interchange and Tullamarine Freeway. The upgrade, which involves 33km of new lanes, will lift traffic capacity on the roads by 30 per cent. Pfizer shows interest in merger with rival LONDON: US drugs giant Pfizer has confirmed its interest in forming a multibillion dollar merger with British rival AstraZeneca, adding that an informal approach made in January had been rebuffed. “Pfizer Inc confirms that it previously submitted a preliminary, non-binding indication of interest to the board of directors of AstraZeneca in January 2014 regarding a possible merger transaction,” said a statement issued to the London Stock Exchange yesterday, one week after media reports regarding a potential tie-up. Market resilient in face of overseas falls AAP PERTH: The Australian share market has closed higher for the seventh-straight session due to support for high-yielding local stocks. CMC Markets chief analyst Ric Spooner said the local market had been fairly resilient in the face of overseas falls. Renewed tensions between Russia and Ukraine and disappointing earnings results from US bellwether stocks Ford and Amazon contributed to overseas market falls late last week.
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