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Focus shifts to the top line

Friday 15th December 2000

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COMPANY MOVES

On the home front, companies and industries continued rationalising and restructuring. As some firms rushed to achieve scale others shed "non-core" or unwanted businesses. An increasing number of firms are now focusing on boosting revenues rather than cutting costs.

  • Fletcher Challenge pursued its group breakup strategy. First off the blocks was the July sale of the Paper division to Norway's Norske Skog for $5 billion. Energy, after some to-ing and fro-ing with the Commerce Commission, went to Royal Dutch/Shell in a deal that could be worth $4.6 billion, depending on the vagaries of the New Zealand dollar and Capstone Turbine's share price. If shareholders' approval is given early next year Building and Forests will stand alone alongside a new company, Rubicon.
  • Brierley Investments moved its head office and primary listing to Singapore. Lion Nathan went to Sydney.
  • Fisher & Paykel acknowledged criticism from some investor quarters by appointing Deutsche Bank to examine its business. A decision is expected soon on whether the fast-growing healthcare products business will be split off and listed separately from the whiteware division.
  • DB Group became a pure brewer again, selling Corbans Wines to Montana for $151 million. Lion Nathan promptly grabbed a 28% stake in Montana and said it wanted 51%. It faces a bidding war with Montana chairman and 20% holder Peter Masfen, who may also bid for 51%.
  • Tranz Rail is breaking itself up after a lengthy internal review. Its passenger and refrigerated freight businesses are on the market, as are the share stakes of Fay Richwhite (14%) and Wisconsin Central (24%).
  • Telecommunications got a big shakeup with the announcement Telstra Saturn will spend $1.2 billion building a national broadband network. That and other news saw Telecom's share price drop from a high of $9.81 to a low of $5.15.
  • A host of operators raced to equip the country with wireless broadband networks. Clear Communications allocated $120 million to an LMDS (local multipoint distribution service) rollout, joining Wilson Neill's RadioNet, Walker Wireless and SafetyNet in a rush for customers.
  • A consortium of mostly New Zealand investors bought Ansett New Zealand from News Ltd and rebranded it Qantas New Zealand.
  • Natural Gas Corporation bought TransAlta New Zealand for just over $1 billion, creating the country's largest energy retailer.
  • PDL sold its profitable but commodity-driven plastics division to management for $25 million and said it would concentrate on the higher value-added electronics activities.
  • Entrepreneur Eric Watson backed a host of smaller Australian and New Zealand credit information and debt collection companies into listed shell Frontier Petroleum to create Receivables Management Group, a rival for Baycorp.
  • In the year's major "strange bedfellows" deal, cinema group Force Corporation and internet service provider Ihug talked about merging. Negotiations came to an acrimonious end.
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