Barking Johnson to boost GWS

With prize recruit Steve Johnson calling the shots, GWS linchpin Shane Mumford will be upset if the Giants don’t snare a maiden AFL finals appearance next year.


The Giants were well placed to be a part of the September action for the first time in 2015, only to nose-dive after Mumford’s mid-season ankle injury.

He missed the rest of the season and they finished two games out of the finals in 11th spot with an 11-11 record – still the best return in their first four years.

Mumford was bullish about the Giants’ 2016 prospects, especially after securing his former Geelong teammate Johnson, who won three premierships with the Cats.

“Stevie J is going to be really good for us down there in the forward line,” Mumford told AAP on Tuesday.

“No doubt he’ll be barking orders more than anyone, so I expect us to take another big step forward and I’d be upset if we don’t push for finals.

“There’s no reason why we can’t be expecting to do it and I’m sure the outside football world is too, because they’ve seen how well we progressed last year.

“I expect us to progress that much again this year.”

Mumford will officially return to pre-season training on Monday.

“I trained right up before I left on my holidays, so I’m not too far behind where I’d like to be,” Mumford said.

“With me being an older guy I probably don’t need to play as many (pre-season games) as some of the young guys and give them a chance to get another taste of for AFL.

“They got a taste of it at the end of last year, Rory (Lobb) and Tom (Downie).

“That’s going to be really beneficial for us because they know now what it’s like to have to back up week after week.

“The more you play, the more confident you get to do it.”

The Giants’ ruck stocks will be boosted by the addition of another one of Mumford’s former Geelong teammates, Dawson Simpson.

“He’s been in the (AFL) system now for eight years, the same as me, so he’s got that base behind him and he should be good for us,” Mumford said.

“He is going to be handy to have there for us. He’ll be pushing the other young ruckmen like I do.”

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CBA declares aim to be ‘the ethical bank’

Commonwealth Bank chairman David Turner wants Australia’s biggest bank to also be its most ethical following the damning financial advice scandal and allegations it fraudulently impaired loans.


CBA, which is working through about 8,000 complaints related to allegations customers lost savings due to its poor financial advice, came under fire again last week when a parliamentary inquiry heard it lowered valuations on the commercial loan book it acquired in its 2008 takeover of BankWest so it could reduce the price it paid UK bank HBOS.

Fronting shareholders at CBA’s annual general meeting on Tuesday, Mr Turner rejected claims the bank used the tactic and drove customers out of business as a result.

However, he added that the bank was voluntarily examining all aspects of its business to identify areas where it had performed below expectations.

It is refunding approximately $7.6 million to about 8400 customers after failing to apply fee waivers and benefits to one of its agribusiness products.

Shareholders heard the bank will announce a similar refund to retail customers within weeks.

“We see it down the road as being the ultimate competitive advantage,” Mr Turner said.

“We think we will be the ethical bank that others look up to for honesty, transparency, decency, good management, openness. That’s exactly where were trying to go.”

CBA is just one of the major financial institutions trying to improve its image following a period in which they have been lambasted for raking in huge profits while hiking mortgage rates and imposing exorbitant credit card fees.

Australia’s big four banks delivered combined annual cash earnings of $30 billion in 2015.

ANZ last week said it will pay $13 million in compensation to 200,000 customers after failing to pay them enough interest on their savings accounts.

National Australia Bank, Macquarie Investment Management and Bank of Queensland have also compensated customers in recent months.

Mr Turner said CBA has since July 2014 assessed about 1500 of the 8000 formal reviews requested in relation to the quality of its financial advice, and that the process will take about two years to complete. So far, the bank has made offers of compensation totalling $2.2 million.

A Senate report into the bank’s financial advice business last year blasted CBA over its response, or lack thereof, to cases of fraud and misconduct in the division.

“We received justifiable criticism for acting too slowly so now we are being proactive,” chief executive Ian Narev told shareholders.

“We will continue to look for these sorts of mistakes, not because a regulator’s asked us to do it but because it is the right thing to do.

“The amounts of money in aggregate are small but they are meaningful for the customers who receive them and even more importantly they are evidence of our commitment to do the right thing.”

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Ainsworth expands US presence

Poker machines supplier Ainsworth Game Technology is set to double the number of machines it has under operation for fees in the lucrative US market.


Ainsworth is spending $US38 million ($A53.56 million) to acquire US-based Nova Technologies, which has 1,300 poker machines earning a daily fee installed across 11 states.

The deal will lift the number of poker machines that Ainsworth has under gaming operation on daily fees in North America to more than 2,600.

“This is an accretive acquisition and highly complementary addition to our North American business,” executive chairman Len Ainsworth said on Tuesday.

News of the deal came as Ainsworth warned of a flat first half profit, sending the company’s shares lower.

Ainsworth described Nova as a leading provider of Class II systems – or video lottery terminals, with game titles including Dragon’s Heat, Enchanted Princess, Immortal Nights, Gorilla Diamond and China Gold.

Its machines are connected to a centralised computer system that determines the outcome of each wager.

The US market has 56,000 Class II poker machines installed.

“The transaction allows us to enter Class II gaming in an immediate and significant manner,” Ainsworth chief executive Danny Gladstone said.

Ainsworth expects Class II to remain a stable to growing market segment, given the favourable tax treatment for such machines at casinos run by native Americans.

Ainsworth’s other initiatives in North America include building a new manufacturing, research and sales facility in Las Vegas, which is expected to open in the second half of fiscal 2016.

Meanwhile, Ainsworth warned shareholders at its annual general meeting that pre-tax profit for the first half of fiscal 2016 is likely to be flat.

Mr Gladstone said Ainsworth expects continued strong revenue growth for the first half and full year, driven by good growth in international markets and market share gains in Australia.

But margins may decline temporarily as the lower Australian dollar inflates the cost of components used in gaming machines.

Increased investments to drive growth, primarily in the Americas, will also affect pre-tax profit.

Mt Gladstone said margins are expected to recover on the back of more-efficient production, cost cuts and greater production volumes of the new technologically-advanced A600 wide-screen cabinet.

Shares in Ainsworth fell 20 cents, or 6.45 per cent, to $2.90.

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Aust, Indonesia to renew trade pact talks

Australia and Indonesia will make a comprehensive trade agreement a priority in the new year, Trade Minister Andrew Robb says.


Mr Robb met his Indonesian counterpart Tom Lembong in Manila on the sidelines of APEC on Monday, ahead of leading Australia’s biggest trade delegation of more than 350 business people to Jakarta.

Mr Robb says Indonesia’s recent interest in joining the TPP and Mr Lembong’s statements on improving the regulatory climate are a “breath of fresh air” to those seeking to do business in Indonesia.

He says he had a “meeting of minds” with the new minister and they will restart efforts to put their commitment in writing.

“Tom and I agreed, among other things, that we would immediately reinvigorate negotiations for the comprehensive economic partnership agreement that I think had run into the sand somewhat three or four years ago,” he told business people in Yogyakarta on Tuesday.

President Joko Widodo’s interest in the TPP is a positive signal, and commitments to winding back barriers to investment refreshing.

“It’s a very ambitious statement, but it’s a very important one and these things tend to move people,” he said.

Also on Tuesday, Mr Robb launched a new report by the Australia Indonesia Centre, ANZ and PwC on finding joint opportunities to tap a potential $3 trillion growth in trade in the ASEAN economy over the next decade.

The neighbours had looked past each other for 15 or 20 years as both focused on northern Asian economies, he said, but the study showed “it’s really quite compelling that we work at it”.

Mr Lembong has said Indonesia’s “unfriendly” protectionist measures have taken a toll on the country.

He told Philippines website Rappler it was time for change.

“We’re not a defensive culture, we’re not a closed culture, we’re not a culture of losers. We’re a culture of winners, we’re a self-confident society,” he said.

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Shareholders deliver strike on Arrium pay

Shareholders have railed against Arrium’s executive pay and the struggling steelmaker’s thoughts of selling its only profitable business.


Arrium chairman Jerry Maycock said the nearly 60 per cent vote against the pay policy at the company’s annual general meeting was disappointing, but he understood the context in which it was made.

He also said it was expected after a large shareholder informed the company it would not be supporting the motion.

A strike is recorded if 25 per cent or more of the votes are cast against the motion. Australian companies are required to hold a board spill vote if they record two strikes in a row.

The company had recommended no increases in executive pay, and had frozen fees for non-executive directors as well.

However, that clearly wasn’t enough to satisfy shareholders frustrated by the nearly 70 per cent slump in Arrium shares over the last 12 months. On Tuesday, the stock closed down 1.2 per cent at 8.2 cents.

Arrium has been hit hard by the plunge in iron ore and steel prices over the past year, delivering a full year loss of $1.9 billion after being forced to take asset impairments and restructuring costs in its 2014/15 accounts.

The company announced a strategic review in August in an effort to reduce its estimated debt pile of $1.7 billion, and subsequently said it is considering the sale of its Moly-Cop mining consumables business, which is its only currently profitable business.

Arrium, formerly known as OneSteel, has also moved to slash costs in its higher-cost steelmaking and iron ore mining businesses.

This year alone, it has halved its mining operations in South Australia and axed hundreds of jobs.

“Lowering the company’s overall cost base and improving productivity levels is one of the key priorities,” chief executive Andrew Roberts told shareholders on Tuesday.

Reducing debt and strengthening the balance sheet was another key priority, he added.

Shareholders however, continued to question the board’s efforts and expressed concern over the company’s future.

They urged the chair to urgently renew the board and fix responsibility for the erstwhile decision to expand the iron ore mining business almost entirely through debt.

Other shareholders questioned the need for the company to consider selling its Moly-Cop business, given its strong growth prospects.

Earlier, Mr Roberts said the company is seeing increased demand in the steel and mining consumables businesses, which could lead to improved earnings in the second half of the financial year.

However, the key iron ore business continues to be impacted by volatile prices and the company is looking at further reducing its breakeven price.

The company cut a further 250 jobs on Monday at its Whyalla steelworks as it looks for cost savings.

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