A Fox on both their houses? It’s hard to tell

Illustration: Rocco Fazzari.TELSTRA’S David Thodey tantalised investors with passing reference to a few potential areas for growth but was frustratingly short on new detail. He made passing reference to Telstra being the preferred tenderer for a massive (multibillion-dollar) Australian defence communications contract but gave no detail on the time frame and what contribution it would make to revenue or profit.
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This is clearly a positive, but without any numbers, just how positive is impossible to tell.

But in the four-hour investor briefing from Telstra yesterday, the most interesting titbit was talk about growing the pay TV operator Foxtel’s penetration from 30 per cent to 50 per cent.

Given that Telstra owns 50 per cent of Foxtel, such a customer grab is also an important piece of news. Again Thodey refused to offer much detail on how this could be achieved, other than by offering what is known in the business as a triple-play offer – bundling the pay TV service with landline and broadband.

It sounds like Telstra was reluctant to steal the thunder from Foxtel management, which clearly has big plans it does not want to unveil until the ink is dry on the change to Foxtel’s ownership.

This is now imminent, given that shareholders in James Packer’s Consolidated Media (which owns 25 per cent of Foxtel) yesterday voted to sell the company to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

Foxtel will now be held 50 per cent by News and Telstra.

Thodey said the triple-play plan was a copy of the strategy employed by Murdoch’s BSkyB in the UK. Foxtel subscribers can already get the service through Telstra’s T-Box set-top device.

The idea is clearly to enrich the pay television content offer, the success of which has long been constrained by the government’s anti-siphoning provisions that restrict the provision of popular exclusive sport.

Thodey said Foxtel had always been free to become a Telstra re-seller. Until now it has chosen to stay out of the market because it says the numbers did not stack up.

It’s not clear why it was not a reasonable commercial proposition, other than that Telstra’s terms were not favourable enough to entice Murdoch into the business.

But Foxtel has now decided to revisit this idea. This will be made all the easier in an NBN world, and Foxtel already has customer relationships and billing systems.

Clearly, the relationship between the two owners has been changing. Thodey said the partnership was better now than it had ever been.

The closer ties between Telstra and Foxtel are in keeping with Thodey’s statements that media content is one of the telco’s growth engines.

At least, in part, it’s another plank in the Telstra strategy to stem the leakage of customers from its local loop PSTN network.Man of steel’s iron will

IT’S hard to get a fix on the takeover game between the Posco-led consortium Steelmakers Australia and its target, the steel maker and iron ore producer Arrium (formerly OneSteel.)

At first blush it looks as if Steelmakers has called Arrium’s bluff.

Arrium rejected Steelmakers’ first offer – a response that was understandable enough.

As is usually the case in these situations, the offer was non-binding, its price was underwhelming and it was full of conditions – the largest of which was access to Arrium’s books.

Steelmakers came back late to the table late on Tuesday and increased its offer from 75¢ to 88¢ a share.

The Arrium response was as short as it was rapid. The new offer still did not come close, and it wasn’t enough to deserve any due diligence.

Steelmakers reckons it is now sick of bidding against itself, and has walked away.

It could always come back if Arrium changed its mind and allowed due diligence, but that would be hard for Arrium, given its strident rejection.

Arrium chairman Peter Smedley has form in fending off unwanted suitors, but with outcomes that are debatable.

After nine months of defending Spotless from a bid from Pacific Equity Partners, the ultimate price was not much of an improvement.

When there is only one bidder in the room, the object of the exercise is to keep them on the hook or find another contender and create an auction. There is no sign of that.

Despite its steel and mining consumable business, the real value in Arrium lies in its iron ore mines – some of which are in the development and which will reach target production levels next year.

Steelmakers pushed the line that it would inject some of its innovative know-how into the Arrium’s steel business and potentially make it more viable, but most analysts saw Steelmakers’ agenda as getting its hands on iron ore.

Whether Arrium’s stock is worth more than 88¢ a share depends on what happens to the iron ore price – and industry experts have differing views on this.

If it remains around $US110 a tonne, Smedley may have been smarter to engage with Steelmakers and potentially push the offer up a bit.

The author has shares in Telstra.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Gram weighs up next move

JASON Gram’s career is unlikely to extend beyond St Kilda, with the sacked midfielder not in the plans of the other clubs.
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As Gram pondered his next move after being dismissed by the Saints, representatives of the 17 other clubs said they would not be pursuing Gram as a delisted free agent or in the drafts.

Many of those clubs were not in a position to consider Gram anyway, given they have already made room for their compulsory three draft choices and would have had to cut another player to make room.

Gram was told of his fate on Tuesday, having been arrested on Monday and facing the Moorabbin Magistrates Court after spending the night in the cells.

The club had already decided to dismiss the 156-game midfielder, who would have been entering the final year of a contract worth about $350,000 next season.

The club said it had been working with Gram closely following the breakdown of his relationship and that he had ”failed to honour repeated undertakings to the club concerning his behaviour”.

The Saints also said they would continue to make professional support and counselling services available to Gram and his former partner, while the AFLPA is also working through the situation with Gram.

Meanwhile, Carlton yesterday delisted Andrew Collins just two years after trading the small forward in from Richmond for Shaun Grigg.

The Blues, who have promoted rookie pair Levi Casboult and Zach Tuohy to their senior list, are planning to redraft Collins either in the preseason draft or as a rookie.

After cutting Sam Lonergan and Kyle Reimers on Monday, Essendon yesterday announced that rookie Mark Baguley would be promoted to the senior squad, delisting young onballer Michael Ross.

Gold Coast delisted three of the dozen 17-year-olds they prelisted three years ago – Piers Flanagan, Hayden Jolly and Josh Toy – and officially moved Nathan Krakouer off their list.

After 85 games in nine years, the Saints cut Raphael Clarke loose. Clarke, the No. 8 draft pick in 2003, played in the 2009 grand final side.

Adelaide was unable to delist Kurt Tippett on AFL orders, with the investigation into the Crows’ re-contracting of the forward three years ago still under way.

”It is our understanding that subject to the outcome of the investigation and the AFL’s approval, Kurt now has the right to delist himself in this period and nominate for the national or preseason draft,” Adelaide said in a statement.

Tippett will come off the club’s list at either the second list lodgement ahead of the national draft, or the third list lodgement after it.

Should the forward remain on the Crows’ list until after the national draft, the club will have to delist another player.

Tippett’s easiest path to Sydney, which still plans to recruit him, will be via the pre-season draft.

Both Adelaide and Gold Coast have been told that Brad Crouch and Jaeger O’Meara – their selections in last year’s 17-year-old mini-draft – must come onto their list as ”traded” players, rather than as one of their compulsory three draft selections.

It means both clubs have had to find an extra pick to ensure they make those three selections in the national draft. Upgraded rookie Ian Callinan will count as one of the Crows’ three selections, while the Suns have promoted Kyal Horsley.

All delisted players are now eligible to sign with the club of their choice, as a delisted free agent, provided they have not rejected a contract offer from their club.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Bulldogs rue fixture’s financial hit

THE Western Bulldogs say they have been crunched commercially and in football terms as clubs begin to assess their fixture for the 2013 campaign.
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The battling Bulldogs are one of five teams banished from the Friday night timeslot and will predominantly appear on subscriber television. It also has the hardest run of this year’s bottom-four clubs.

The Bulldogs begin their campaign with two home matches, but they are against the low-drawing Brisbane Lions and Fremantle. However, it was granted a request to host a major Victorian club – Essendon – on multicultural weekend.

Bulldogs chief executive Simon Garlick said his club faced ”some obstacles”.

”From a football perspective, 2013 presents a demanding schedule, highlighted by a slight increase of interstate travel and tough three-to-four-week blocks against finalists from 2012,” Garlick said.

North Melbourne, another club that has struggled for exposure in recent years, was granted a strong draw commercially, with three Friday night games.

But after a great 2012 draw helped it reach the finals, it was were drawn to play powerhouses Collingwood, Geelong, Hawthorn and Sydney over the first five rounds, with return clashes against the Magpies, Cats and Hawks.

Geelong must also brace for a gruelling start, with a block of six-day breaks and no games at Simonds Stadium until round 10 because of the ground’s redevelopment.

Cats football manager Neil Balme admitted the club’s veterans would not have time to ease their way into the campaign because of three successive six-day breaks.

”It’s so individualised it just depends on how each of the old blokes are, whether they’re able to play all the games, but we’ll have to wait and see to work it out,” Balme said.

This year’s grand finalists, Sydney and Hawthorn, were presented with contrasting starts.

Hawthorn had one of the toughest draws in 2012 and was handed arguably the most difficult for next year, which starts with matches against all seven of this year’s other finalists, including Geelong in round one and West Coast in Perth in round two.

Sydney can expect far less attrition when it opens its premiership defence against Greater Western Sydney and Gold Coast. It also plays St Kilda and Brisbane – which both missed the finals this year – before the grand final rematch in round seven at the MCG.

The AFL’s decision to have Carlton and Hawthorn battle at Etihad Stadium in round 12, rather than at the MCG, could mean supporters from both teams are locked out.

Collingwood has another potentially bruising campaign, but will again be prominent in prime-time, with seven of its 10 night matches played in the coveted Friday night slot.

Essendon will play 11 night games and, like Collingwood, has five trips outside Melbourne.

St Kilda can lay claim to having arguably the toughest draw of the sides that missed the finals in 2012, but was granted its request to play two high-drawing Victorian teams, Richmond and Essendon, in its first two home games.

The Saints and Sydney will play on Anzac Day in the New Zealand capital of Wellington, the first premiership match to be played outside Australia.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

AFL action on tanking ‘big step’

LEADING sports bookmaker Alan Eskander says the AFL’s apparent new stance on tanking is a big step for the integrity of the game.
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He said AFL had been ignorant in not admitting that tanking had been taking place maintaining that ”they outrageously denied tanking exists, questioning the intellect of its fans.

”Clearly what has happened over the last couple of days is a negative for the AFL’s brand, but it is a necessary step in that it forces the AFL to recognise the existence of the issue and will force them to stamp tanking out.”

Eskander said the ”grey area” surrounding tanking had put punters off betting on some games, but that there hadn’t been a suggestion of any corruption.

”In any sport you can’t have tow teams who are playing off without being 100 per cent trying to win the game. AFL action will mean that all spectators and punters will be able to watch AFL games with the confidence that both teams are trying their hardest to win, which is the fundamental base of any sport.” he said.

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Stewards to run rule over Cup hopefuls

Glencadam Gold will not run in the Lexus Stakes on Saturday, but will go straight into the Melbourne Cup.STEWARDS will carefully monitor the progress of Melbourne Cup hopeful Glencadam Gold in the lead-up to Tuesday’s race after the stayer was detected with heat in his leg earlier this week.
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With positions in the Melbourne Cup becoming crucial to those on the edge of the field, the wellbeing or otherwise of the Sydney-trained stayer could mean a vital passage-way into the race for another hopeful.

The Gai Waterhouse stable has resorted to taking the import to the beach this week and on Wednesday ruled him out of a start in the Lexus Stakes at Flemington on Saturday, preferring to go straight into the Melbourne Cup.

”Our team of vets will, of course, be across the horse [Glencadam Gold] and for that matter they will be looking at the top 35 [in the Melbourne Cup order of entry],” chief steward Terry Bailey said.

”We will monitor all of them, as we want the field to be problem-free.”

Waterhouse has not given up hope of Glencadam Gold taking his place in the Cup and redeeming his poor Caulfield Cup effort, when he finished near the tail of the field after being sent out favourite.

Amazingly, just 24 hours after his Caulfield Cup flop, he drifted to $151 for the Melbourne Cup, with most punters assuming his spring carnival was over. When it was announced that the stable was pressing ahead to the Melbourne Cup, the imported stayer firmed into $41.

Now, with a cloud over his fitness, he has drifted to $67.

”I sent Glencadam Gold to the beach again today, he is not running Saturday,” Waterhouse said on Wednesday.

”I’m still confident he will be there on Tuesday. He doesn’t need to run again before the Melbourne Cup.”

Waterhouse has also confirmed her other imported stayer, Fiorente, would wear blinkers in the Melbourne Cup.

The former English stayer is still in quarantine at Werribee and since he has been in Australia he has been wearing blinkers in his work – a piece of gear he had never worn in Europe.

”I just think they get him to relax and focus, and has worked well,” Waterhouse said. ”It was something we picked up on before he left [England] and it might give him an edge.”

Fiorente scored the second win of his career in the Goldsmiths Stakes at Newmarket in July – a meeting Waterhouse attended – and she was successful in buying him.

In the Newmarket race, Fiorente defeated Joshua Tree, who went on to win the group 2 Prix de Kergorlay in France and the group 1 Canadian International at Woodbine.

Last year’s Melbourne Cup runner-up, Red Cadeaux, was third in the race at Newmarket.

”He was just a magnificent horse, I just had to have him,” Waterhouse said.

The leading trainer will be represented in the Lexus Stakes by Reuben Percival, who has to win to force his way into the Cup.

Meanwhile, Sydney jockey Tommy Berry still plans to head to Flemington on Saturday to experience the atmosphere ahead of the Cup, in which he is booked to ride Glencadam Gold. While Berry is without a ride on Derby Day, he’s keen to get accustomed to Flemington.

”Gai is pretty confident she’ll get him there [to the Melbourne Cup],” Berry said of Glencadam Gold.

”She doesn’t want to take any chances, I guess [by running him on Saturday], and he’s very fit, with his Newcastle Cup and Metropolitan runs, so fitness isn’t an issue.”

■Mikel Delzangles gave his Caulfield and Melbourne cups winner Dunaden the tick of approval on a flying trip to Australia on Wednesday, before heading stateside for the Breeders’ Cup. The French trainer left a happy man after watching Dunaden’s final gallop at Werribee.

He said Dunaden could win a second Melbourne Cup: ”I think he is better than last year but the weight is more. It will take a very high performance to win but he is very well.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.