MIDDAY UPDATE: Employment intentions weaker in many areas

Jan. 14 (BusinessDesk) - Hiring intentions have slipped in many parts of the country, apart from in Canterbury and Wellington, according to Westpac McDermott-Miller's employment confidence survey, taken last month.

There were significant drops in employment expectations in Auckland, Northland and the Bay of Plenty, while outside Canterbury, South Island employment expectations were downbeat “on the back of declines in perceived current job opportunities and earnings.”

The Auckland index slipped from positive territory in September (100.8) to a mildly negative 96.9 in the December survey. Also slipping from mildly positive to mildly negative between the two surveys were Southland, Nelson/Marlborough/West Coast, and Southland.

Otago remained the most pessimistic about employment prospects, slipping from 97.9 on the index in September to 94.4 in December.

Waikato recorded a significant uptick between September and December, rising from 89.8 to 95.8, although any reading below 100 indicates pessimism and the latest score is still lower than the 96.9 recorded in December 2011.
The index as a swhole rose to 99.1 in the December 2012 quarter from 98.9 in the September quarter.

Canterbury registered an index of 113.5, up from 110.9, and the highest of the regions surveyed.

“Employment confidence in Canterbury has risen for the third quarter in a row and the region is now the only one in the country where employment optimists clearly predominate,” economist Felix Delbrück said.

Sanford acknowledges $2.2m fine in US court

New Zealand fishing company Sanford says it has made significant changes to its operations to avoid a repeat of the "serious issues" raised in the case involving non-compliance with regulations by its tuna fishing vessel, the San Nikunau, when operating in international waters near American Samoa.

The US District Court in Washington DC issued the fine last Friday, and the judgment prohibits Sanford using US ports or transiting US waters.
The company says it has stopped using Pago Pago as a stopping point and now avoids transiting US waters anyway.

All fish are now either sold and transferred to fish carriers at sea, or landed in New Zealand.

The company also spent significant sums upgrading the San Nikunau last year.
The boat was detained in Pago Pago in July 2011 before criminal charges were laid in January last year relating to the handling of waste oil on board the vessel.

Sanford shares were unchanged at $4.32 in trading on the NZX this morning.

Investigators concluded Hubbard was misleading investors

Former National Bank chairman John Anderson concluded Timaru businessman Allan Hubbard had misled investors in his tangled affairs, in a report written shortly before Hubbard’s death in a car accident in September 2011.

The report by Anderson and Deloitte insolvency specialist Rod Pardington has been released after a 16 month wait that included an appeal to the Ombudsman’s Office, which had intended to suppress the comment about Hubbard making “misleading representations to investors” but mistakenly released the conclusion to BusinessDesk.

Hubbard died with fraud charges hanging over his head, and had been battling a decision to place him, along with his wife Jean, under statutory management along with much of the rest of his tangled business affairs.

In their July 2011 report reviewing the order freezing the Hubbards’ assets, Anderson and Pardington concluded the statutory management should remain in place.

Anderson and Pardington said the managers needed to figure out the value of couple’s assets and liabilities and had to clarify the uncertainties around the business affairs, and that once those issues were cleared, the order could be lifted.

The uncertainty as to who held what assets was seen a risk for terminating Allan Hubbard’s statutory management, as was the claim that there were “misleading representations to investors,” the report said.

NZOG’s first well outside NZ to spud in late Jan

New Zealand Oil & Gas’s pursuit of a more diversified global portfolio will take an important step with the spudding of the Parit Minyak-2 well onshore in Sumatra, Indonesia on Jan. 27.

NZOG has a 22.5 percent interest in the Kisaran block, in the prolifically productive central Sumatran region. The planned well, to which NZOG will contribute US$6.5 million in the initial phase, is to explore an undeveloped oil discovery made in 2006, as well as additional zones an earlier well did not touch.

A second well, Parit Minyak-3, is scheduled following construction of an access road.

NZOG has interests in three Sumatran exploration areas, and is also developing interests in Tunisia as part of a strategy to make the company less dependent on New Zealand finds after relatively unsuccessful local exploration failed to turn up replacements to its interests in the producing Tui and Kupe fields.

NZOG is also currently working on drilling rig needs for a 2013/14 summer drilling campaign in New Zealand waters, with intentions to drill in the relatively shallow Kaheru prospect, the deeper Kakapo licence area, and the Matuku prospect in the south-west Taranaki.

Both jack-up and semi-submersible rig options are under consideration, with Matuku operator OMV announcing last month that the fully refurbished Kan Tan-IV semi-submersible rig has been secured for drilling in the third quarter of this year. NZOG holds a 12.5 percent interest in Matuku.

NZOG shares were unchanged at 88 cents this morning.



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