Australian Market Report of February 19: Further Drop Ahead

Overnight Wall Street ended rather flat. Investors remained cautious although details of Obama's housing rescue plan had been released.

Yesterday the Australian stocks closed lower on all sectors. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 lost 51.1 points, or 1.48 per cent, at 3,413.2, while the broader All Ordinaries dropped 45.3 points, or 1.33 per cent, to 3,366.9. The local market has fell 4.1% so far this week, and the shares may see a further drop after base metal and oil prices lowered.

Key Economic Facts and Figures

The Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that retail sales adjusted for inflation rose 0.8% in the fourth quarter to $53.5 billion, the biggest increase in a year.

ABS also said merchandise imports fell by A$2.86 billion, to A$17.261 billion, from a downwardly revised A$20.121 billion in December. The merchandise imports fell 14% in unadjusted terms in January to A$17.26 billion from A$20.12 billion in December.

M&A News

Pure Energy Resources Ltd (ASX:PES) has recommended shareholders accept BG Group's (LON:BG) increased takeover offer of A$8 cash per Pure share, which values the deal at A$995 million.

Important Corporate News

Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) has reported a 55% rise in 2008 underlying net profit. Its net profit before one-off items was A$1.83 billion in 2008. Woodside will cut spending by over A$500 million and review non-core assets for possible sale in response to the falling oil price.

Fund manager Perpetual Ltd (ASX:PPT) posted a 84% fall in its first-half profit on direct impacts of the financial crisis. The net profit was A$14.192 million in the six months to December 31, compared to A$87.6 million in the previous corresponding period.

Noni B (ASX:NBL) has slashed its dividend after a 53% fall in half year profit, but the clothing retailer says it expects stronger results in the second half.

Pacifica Group (ASX:PBB) has booked an annual net loss of A$242 million for the 2008 calendar year, compared to an annual net profit of A$21.4 million in calendar 2007.

Zircon producer Iluka Resources (ASX:ILU) delivered a significant increase in full year profit ended December 31, which rose 51.7% on the previous corresponding period to A$77.5 million. But the company says it will not pay a dividend to conserve cash for growth projects.

AMP (ASX:AMP) has posted a 41% fall in annual net profit for the 2008 year. It was A$580 million, down from A$985 million in the previous 12 months.

Australia's biggest private regional airline Regional Express (ASX:REX) yesterday reported a 1.9 per cent rise in half-year net profit to A$10.5 million.

Sunland Group (ASX:SDG) booked a net profit after tax of A$68 million for the December half-year despite a A$41 million write-down associated with its Australian and Dubai property portfolios.

Lion Nathan Ltd (ASX:LNN) said it had a solid start to the year and reaffirmed its full year profit would be between A$300-A$315 million.

Santos Ltd (ASX:STO) has reported a significant increase in profit for calendar 2008 and says the company is well placed amid the global economic crisis. Its net profit rose 359 per cent to A41.65 billion, from A$359.3 million in 2007.

Private hospitals operator Healthscope Ltd (ASX:HSP) posted a 145 per cent rise in first half profit ender December 31.

Michelle Liang
Asia Business News Asia Bureau
Tel: +61-2-9247-4344


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