MIDDAY UPDATE: Fulton Hogan's Aussie project stalls AGM

By Paul McBeth

Local construction company Fulton Hogan has put off its annual meeting until mid-December as it tries to settle negotiations over one of its more problematic Australian contracts.

The Christchurch-based company will hold its annual meeting on Dec. 19 as it continues talks that are “material to the annual results of the company,” it said in a letter to shareholders.

“These negotiations relate to the financial outcome of a project in Australia which has been impacted by severe adverse weather conditions and some complexities around the contract,” chairman Ed Johnson said.

Fulton Hogan's A$705 million joint venture with Leighton Holdings to upgrade the Sapphire-to-Woolgoolga section of the Pacific Highway in New South Wales is one of its more high-profile projects to suffer some setbacks, losing 71 working days to wet weather in the first six months this year.

The project has been slated in Australian media as being in financial strife due to rainfall and poor planning. The upgrade didn’t lose any work days in August.

Brierley sells some more GPG shares

Veteran corporate raider Sir Ron Brierley has sold down his stake in Guinness Peat Group even more, hocking off A$2.3 million of stock on top of the NZ$$2.87 million sale he made last month.

Sydney-based Brierley sold 5 million shares at 46 Australian cents apiece on Nov. 8, leaving him with 41.9 million shares, or 2.58 percent of the firm.

NZ dollar may fall this week as investors scratch heads over local economy

The New Zealand dollar may extends its decline this week after last week's turgid labour market report show a struggling domestic economy, and put more focus on upcoming local figures, including retail sales.

The kiwi dollar recently traded at 81.47 US cents, down from 81.67 cents in late New York trading on Friday. Traders say 81 cents is the next key support and is a level it hasn’t broken below since Sept. 11. Five of six traders and strategists in a BusinessDesk survey say the kiwi may weaken this week.

As at its September monetary policy statement, the Reserve Bank had economic growth of 0.4 percent pencilled in for the third quarter after growth in the second quarter beat its estimate at 0.6 percent. But figures last week showed unemployment climbed to a 13-year high of 7.3 percent, stoking concern the economy has lost pace. Retail sales for the third quarter, due on Wednesday, are expected to have risen 0.5 percent, down from the second quarter’s 1.3 percent pace.

Dwindling tourists sap demand for local accommodation in September

New Zealand guest nights fell in September as international visitor numbers plunged from 2011, when the figures were plumped by the Rugby World Cup.

Total guest nights at short-term commercial accommodation fell 3.6 percent to 2.11 million in September, compared to the same month a year earlier, and were down 1.4 percent from August, according to Statistics New Zealand.

That was led by a 28 percent plunge in international visitor nights to 709,000 from the same month a year ago, when New Zealand accommodation was bolstered by the Rugby World Cup. International visitor nights were down 4.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted 956,000 from August.

Government figures showed the number of short-term visitors shrank 19 percent to 179,100 in September from a year earlier, when the country was flooded by fans for the Rugby World Cup.



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