Missive from Queensland, Manningham developments, women councillors/directors, Incitec Pivot AGM, Rich List, capital raising plays and RACV's Noosa coup

January 19, 2011

Greetings one and all from the magnificent RACV Noosa resort, where the sun peeped out for the first time in days today.

After four days of torrential rain and cuts to both the Bruce Highway near Caboolture and the Pacific Highway near Grafton, we decided to get Paula and the kids out on a Virgin Blue flight from Maroochydore this morning.

I'd agreed to do the 20-hour drive home with a women staying at the resort who couldn't join her family on a flight home to Melbourne due to an ear infection, but she has now decided to stay and recover.

This has freed us up to pick up my cousin from Nambour railway station tomorrow and drive him back to his Brisbane home which is potentially threatened if the 1974 peaks are reached. If the trains are running, we'll try to get a look at the second high tide peak in the CBD scheduled for 3.13pm tomorrow afternoon.

We've got another cousin in Gatton who is fine but there's now talk of the Grafton flood potentially hitting Yamba further south where I'd been hoping to stay with my Aunt on the way home. Yamba was isolated today when the road to the Pacific Highway was cut and this is tipped to last for a couple of days.

It has been harrowing watching the television coverage whilst the rain belted down. Maroochydore got a staggering 444mm in 4 days and nearby by Maleny had more than 250mm in one 24 hour period.

The rain was certainly following us around. The Gold Coast was largely spared the heavy falls except for last Thursday night when Coolangatta copped 110mm hours in 24 hours - the highest hit anywhere in Queensland that day. We were there. Three days later we almost didn't make it into Noosa as it received 200mm on the day we arrived. Incredibly, Noosaville received another 200mm in the 24 hours to 9am this morning.

However, we might have had much more to complain about. After spending five days at Coolangatta we could well have found ourselves driving up the Warrego highway towards Toowoomba as the inland tsunami hit. Indeed, this time last year we were in Toowoomba visiting my sister, but her family has recently located back to Melbourne courtesy of some odd decisions by the Bligh Government which has severely hit an ASX-listed company.

With no sister to visit in Toowoomba this year, we instead went to Brisbane to spend Saturday night with another cousin and then headed up to Noosa on Sunday. This was so RACV director Paula Piccinini and her family could do a "Joe public" visit to the new $220 million resort RACV bought late last year for $63 million from the British Government courtesy of a nationalised bank that went crazy on property deals all over the world.

British taxpayers have taken a bath on what is clearly one of Noosa's best resorts. RACV had the cash to swoop on a bargain and they've got a gem in the resort portolio for less than one third of the cost.

It's not only RACV Club members who stay at RACV Noosa. We bumped into a British family from Middlesborough in the north east near where my father and grandfather were from and they were despairing of the torrential rain. Indeed, there was 200mm on the day we arrived, prompting the Pom to jokingly declare his wife had "lost the will to live".

He was even less pleased to hear British taxpayers had dropped a huge pile building the resort, but soon resorted to cricket jibes to lift his spirits.

Soaking up the saturation media coverage from Noosa

With the rain belting down, there has been little to do at RACV Noosa other than soak up the media coverage. And with most other Media Watchers on holiday, we may as well offer a few thoughts.

Network Ten picked the right day to extend its news coverage and the opening offering on Monday night was strong. However, when competing with the news and current affairs armies of Seven, Nine and Aunty, poor old Ten has struggled to keep up.

Whilst it is still early days, I'm not sure George Negus is the right choice for Ten. His interview with Campbell Newman tonight was too much about George.

ABC News 24 has done well but were shown up for being studio bound for too long before Joe O'Brien made it north. The Queensland ABC TV reporters have done well and provided the most comprehensive news coverage in the evening bulletins before the Toowoomba flash flood dramatically upped the scale. However, some of the local reporters on ABC News 24 have seemed very young, which might reflect Mark Scott's "more with less" strategy.

For mine, Nine's Today show host Karl Stefanovic has been the best performer and the most watchable perched in front of the storming Brisbane river. Nine has also seemingly thrown more time at the story as Seven had some tennis commitments.

Having picked up the Gold Walkley for his remarkable journey to ground zero of the tsunami in Indonesia, Tim Palmer couldn't resist the temptation to replace the appropriately named Paul Lockyer in the Lockyer Valley. Palmer produced another cracker story for The 7.30 Report from Murphy's Creek tonight which focused on a family who will probably be regarded as ground zero victims given their house was located directly in front of the creek at the foot of the Toowoomba range.

Unfortunately, the first phone interview Tim did for ABC News 24 earlier today was barely decipherable on a dodgy line but these sorts of snafus were nothing compared to the botch up on the night of Julia Gillard's coup. ABC News 24 was established just in time for this remarkable news event but we haven't been able to compare it with Sky News which is not available at RACV Noosa.

Crikey's first post-break edition was a bit light on for floods coverage but today was stronger as it harvested social media photos and gave the press gallery a much-deserved flogging for the atrocious questioning of Julia Gillard in Canberra on Monday.

On the newspaper front, The Courier Mail has been weaker than The Australian and we've found the Sunshine Coast Daily to be quite good on the local coverage. The Courier Mail only managed about 12-14 pages today focused on a wrap-around which was overly focused on photos with not enough good or detailed writing. Maybe we got an early edition at Noosa and the later editions were much better.

All up, this story really has re-affirmed the power of well-resourced and continuous live television coverage. Social media is coming but the old media have performed well and none better than the free to air networks. Many will beg to differ with this assessment and feel free to let us know at Stephen@maynereport.com.

Peace breaks out at Manningham as Jennifer Yang replaces Fred Chuah

In took a big effort by a range of people but we appear to have reached an accommodation amongst the Manningham councillors that will lead to a more co-operative and productive 2011.

As was explained in the last edition, four of us councillors who have been rumbling (Mayne, Pick, Reid and Ellis) sat down and reached a peace agreement. Click here to read how The Manningham Leader covered the settlement.

Whilst it wasn't explicitly part of the agreement, the same four councillors supported Liberal member Geoff Gough into the mayoralty for 2011 at our delayed AGM held on December 21.

This was reported in The Manningham Leader after Christmas in a story which identified fellow Heidi ward councillor Grace La Vella as the other candidate in the private ballot held the night before the AGM.

Cr Gough is the most experienced councillor having served fourteen years in total and two previous years as mayor. He was also the least involved in the various past disputes and therefore the most neutral alternative.

I've really enjoyed working with Cr La Vella and believe she serves the community very well. And it wasn't easy resisting the "women on boards" argument. How could someone who argues passionately for more women in power choose a bloke in this situation?

Whilst Cr La Vella had a lot to offer, in the end I went for stability and the proverbial "safe pair of experienced hands" after a tumultuous year.

The other mooted mayoral candidate was Labor member Meg Downie, although in the end she grudgingly accepted cross-factional support to be deputy mayor in exchange for not running for Mayor. Meg's only solid vote for mayor was from fellow Mullum Mullum ward councillor Graeme McMillan and the two of them failed to attend the traditional post mayoral vote function with community leaders.

They've been "boxing on" over the past month which has been disappointing given everyone else is keen to pursue a more co-operative approach.

Meanwhile, the Victorian Electoral Commission yesterday conducted the countback to decide who will replace deputy mayor Fred Chuah and produced a surprise outcome in Jennifer Yang, who received 1126 primary votes, which was lower than all other councillors and about 10 other unsuccessful candidates across the three wards.

In equivalent situations across Victoria, the person who was number two on the departing councillor's preference ticket was almost always elected.

Had this trend continued, former mayor and veteran councillor Bill Larkin would have been elected, which would have been the most democratic outcome in some respects given that he got the second highest primary vote in Koonung ward with 2403 votes and finished fourth in the final count.

We've got three wards with three councillors from each ward, but the system has now decided Bill Larkin is not in the top four in Koonung.

I'm looking forward to meeting Jennifer Yang and am certainly pleased that we've now got 3 women out of 9 councillors which is above the state average of 30%.

A vintage year for women on boards

This story appeared in Crikey on December 21 and is no longer behind the pay wall.

In an Australian business year with few standout deals or dramatic collapses, arguably the most notable development was the record number of women appointed to ASX200 boards. The new ASX listing rule requiring companies to explain their gender diversity policies from next year is clearly having a profound impact.

How else to explain the fact 27% of all new ASX200 board appointments in 2010 were women, compared with a miserable 5% in 2009.

This lifted the overall number from 8.3% to 10.6%. Such momentum will surely see women reach a respectable 15% by 2012, after which a long-term target of 20% would be in range.

Blokes who attack positive discrimination to reverse the current imbalance usually come back to the old merit argument.

However, even they struggle to sustain the claim that women merit less than 10%.

Given the fact that women still only comprise about 10% of senior executives in Australia, it is hard to sustain an argument that they deserve more than 20% of public company board seats.

The lack of experience or pipeline argument is perfectly reasonable. No one is arguing for a Norweigian-style 40% quota for board seats, but surely we can do much better than 10.6%.

This shame file of ASX200 companies with no female directors is reducing.

Over the past year, the likes of Asciano, Transurban, Seek, Oz Minerals, Fairfax Media, SP Ausnet and Virgin Blue ended their all-male affairs.

Several companies such as Reece, Newcrest, JB Hi-Fi, Adelaide Brighton, Nufarm and Incitec Pivot have been placed on notice that if no females are appointed in the next few months, a hostile board tilt (possibly from a feral feminist such as Catherine Deveny) could be coming their way in 2011.

The same applies to Melbourne-based Alumina, which is chaired by conservative 70-year-old Donald Morley, who spent many years as Hugh Morgan's finance director at WMC. Nominations close in March for this year's Alumina AGM, so the clock is ticking.

It was amusing to hear Incitec Pivot chairman Alan Watson tell shareholders on Monday that nomination committee chair John Marlay is responsible for finding a first female director for the fertiliser giant.

This is the same Marlay who spent six long years as CEO of Alumina only ever answering to blokes.

In terms of individual women on the rise, here are some of the more notable achievements in 2010:

  • Belinda Hutchinson succeeded John Cloney as chairman of QBE Insurance in July.
  • Paula Dwyer has been anointed as the chair of Tabcorp once its casinos business is de-merged next year.
  • Sam Mostyn was added to the boards of Transurban and Virgin Blue.
  • Carolyn Hewson continued to receive rave reviews from peers and was rewarded with a spot on the BHP-Billiton board.
  • Nora Scheinkestel has also been highly rated by peers, such that Catherine Livingstone finally ended her “lone female chair” status by adding her to the Telstra board.
It is important that we don't see the same old names being recycled through the directors club, so here are the four most notable new additions to the top 100 female directors list:
  • Carol Schwartz: joined Stockland after many years experience on a range of government and not-for-profit boards.
  • Shirley In't Veld: was given permission by the WA government to join the Asciano board while remaining CEO of Verve Energy.
  • Denise Bradley: a giant in the education space who did the Bradley Review of universities for Julia Gillard and was therefore an excellent choice for Seek given its burgeoning online education business.
  • Philippa Stone: the Freehills partner of 20 years joined David Jones, which she has previously advised.
There are plenty of other excellent women out there who would add a lot more value than many of the tired old white blokes who dominate corporate boards, so the pressure must be maintained after what has been a very encouraging 2010.

Women, farmers and plenty more at the Incitec Pivot AGM

The Incitec Pivot AGM in late December was quite an interesting affair with a few laughs as we put the pressure on the board about diversity, succession, director selection and pay issues.

Australia hasn't produced nearly enough international agri-business players given our natural advantages so we really should celebrate Incitec Pivot for transforming itself from a farmers co-operative with $150 million in sales to a fertiliser giant worth almost $7 billion.

The two constants during that period have been chairman John Watson and former deputy chairman Allan McCullum, who was re-elected for another 3 year term at the AGM after serving for 14 years already.

Watson and McCallum both joined the Pivot board on the same day in 1997. Both were farmers who came out of the VFF where Watson was running the dairy division and McCallum was running grains policy. Watson has sold his farm but McCallum still lives near Kerang on his wheat property. They also both serve on the Websters board so the whole thing looks rather in-bred, which formed part of the AGM discussion as you can hear from the edited highlights below:

How did you find the new director Paul Brasher, what was the process? Why are you still an all blokes affair and will that be addressed?
We'll be encouraging the use of head hunters and board reviews in the period ahead to try and further break down the old boys network elements of director appointments in Australia. It was really encouraging that Paul Brasher had not met any of the Incitec Pivot directors who selected him.

Will Allan McCallum serve a full term and are there any rules about tenure limits?

Supporting the re-election of John Marlay.

What is the current fee cap for non executive directors?

We'll be pushing the case that executives are overpaid and directors under-paid in Australia this year and it was interesting to hear the chairman defend the CEO's $4 million package which is more than three times what the six NEDs get.

Some interesting new names for The Mayne Report Rich List

BRW magazine does a great job with its various Australian Rich Lists but we've broadened their efforts to track any Australian who has ever been worth more than $10 million. We began the process of building the list in early 2008 where we had an initial 327 names. Now, after much research, we've got more than 1500 names with those who've fallen back below $10 million italicised. Below are some new entries:

Don Mathieson: benefited to the tune of $175 million from the sale of Melbourne-based glass processing company Don Mathieson & Staff Glass Glass to CSR in 2008. He is the younger brother of pokies king and former billionaire Bruce Mathieson.

Matt Tripp: the son of Bob Hawke's former bookmaker Alan Tripp who pocketed an estimated $40 million in late 2010 when Irish firm Paddy Power paid $132.6 million for the 39% of Sportsbet it didn't already own.

Peter Richards: the former CEO of Dyno Nobel collected more than $20 million from the Incitec Pivot takeover in 2008. He joined Dyno Nobel's Australian operations in 1991, then worked in Asia and North America before returning to lead the Macquarie driven float.

Richard Purves: the long-serving chairman of health group DCA who collected about $40 million from private equity firm CVC in a $2.7 billion takeover bid that closed in late 2006. Also an environmentallist who has served as chairman of WWF Australia and one of the international directors.

Ross McDiven: sold his Multiplex shares for about $5 million to Canadian firm Brookfield in the 2007 takeover and was paid many millions more as an executive before and after the takeover.

Another rare scalp for ASIC

The Mayne Report's ASIC jail list highlights what a slack job the corporate plod has done over the years locking up white collar crooks but it was pleasing to see some accountability for an insider trading job earlier this month which we've recorded as follows:

17 December 2010 - Former Streetwise director, Mr Kovelan Bangaru, was sentenced to 8 years and 6 months imprisonment and will not be eligible for parole until he has served 6 years and 4 months of his sentence. Mr Bangaru, 43, was found guilty on 24 August 2010 on 13 charges of fraud. Mr Bangaru fraudulently obtained over $19.8 million from a number of financial institutions by providing false financial statements in support of various loan applications from companies of which he was a director.

Around the grounds on capital raising plays

With the world's biggest small share portfolio - 650 holdings worth about $30,000 - we continue to receive a steady stream of capital raising offers. After a bumper 2009, the pickings were relatively thin in the first part of 2010, but we finished with a better December quarter which unfolded as follows:

October 4
Transfield Services: $30,000 into two entitlements to $15,000 SPP at $3.13. Exited at $3.53 for gain of $3800.

October 11

MacArthur Coal: $30,000 into two cracks at $15,000 SPP at $11.33. Exited at $13.20 for gain of $4900.

October 11
Ampella Mining: $5000 into SPP at $1.95. Scaled back to $3086 and exited at $2.43 for gain of $750.

October 18
MEC Resources: $8,000 into 1-for-10 entitlement offer at 50c with overs. Got the lot and exited at 52c for gain of $300.

October 18
Premium Investors: $7500 into SPP at 5% discount to VWAP. Priced at 72c and exited at 74.6c for gain of $250.

October 26
Mirabella Nickel: $5000 into SPP at $1.60. Exited at $1.695 for gain of $260.

October 27
Spark Infrastructure:
$17,000 into two cracks at 2-for-7 entitlement offer at $1 with overs. Completely shafted in scale back.

October 28
Karoon Gas: $15,000 into SPP at $7 and exited at $9.10 for gain of $4470.

October 29
Wide Bay Australia:
$5000 into 15,000 SPP at $9.67 after placement. Exited at $10.07 for gain of $180.

October profits: $14,910

November 1
Gryphon Minerals:
$15,000 into SPP at $1.25 after placement. Scaled back by 80% and exited at $1.34 for gain of $160.

November 5
$12,000 into 1-for-5 entitlement offer at 50c with overs. Scaled back to virtually nothing.

November 12
Bathurst Resources:
$10,000 into 1-for-2 entitlement offer at 30c with overs. Scaled back to nothing.

November 22
$15,000 SPP at 85c after placement. Exited at 95c for gain of $1750.

December 8
Kimberley Metals: $10,000 into SPP at 24c. Exited at 24.5c for gain of $180.

December 15
Warrnambool Cheese & Butter: $10,000 into 1-for-6 entitlement offer with overs. Scaled back to nothing.

December 21
Westfield Retail Trust: $13,750 into 1-for-4.23 demerger from parent with overs at $2.75. Exited at $2.65 for loss of $500.

December 21
Nomad Building Solutions:
$6000 into 3-for-4 entitlement offer at 10c with overs. Exited at 11c for gain of $570.

December 22
Breakaway Resources:
$12,500 into $15,000 SPP at 7.4c. Exited at 7.6c for gain of $310.

December 24
$15,000 into SPP at 2.5% discount to VWAP which turned out to be $6.77. Exited at $7.16 for gain of $840.

December 24
Bow Energy:
$15,000 into SPP at $1.15. Scaled back to $12,500 and exited at $1.17 for gain of $200.

December 31
K&S Corp:
$5000 into 1-for-6 entitlement offer at $2.15 with overs. Got the lot. Exited at $2.24 for gain of $200.

January 4
Carnegie Wave:
$5000 into $15,000 SPP at 10c which closed December 21. Exited at 10.5c for gain of $200.

January 6
$15,000 into SPP at maximum of 64c or 2.5% discount to VWAP. Closed December 23 and exited at 66c for gain of $450.

* The full list of capital raising plays since January 2009, our current commitments and upcoming offers are all detailed on this master list.

From the Press Room

We're probably going to scale back our third party media commitments in 2011 and after a 10 day holiday with the family in Queensland, the recent exchanges since the December 17 edition have only comprised the following:

Mayne: a standout year for women on boards
Crikey, 23 December, 2010

Mayne: directors club scrambling to retain barriers to entry
Crikey, 21 December, 2010

774 ABC Melbourne: discussing the past year on a panel with Lindy Burns and guests, December 23, 2010.

612 ABC Brisbane:
discussing executive pay on December 20, 2010.

A hellishly early review of the daily papers

After resisting a few requests during 2010, I finally relented and agreed to do a newspaper review for ABC News 24 on Monday, December 21. The riding instructions were basically as follows:

Good Morning! It's 5.00am, your alarm has just gone off and soon you'll be on the couch for instant coffee and great conversation about the morning papers.

Get into the ABC at Southbank by 6am to read the papers, have a coffee and be on air by 6.45am.

We want your analysis and observation so feel free to expand and expound on the stories that interest you. Comparing and contrasting story coverage across the papers is always great, so is looking at opinion and analysis pieces as well as news. Stories from overseas papers are great, too. Photographs and cartoons are always good value – the producers will take a copy for you.

Here are some tips:

* Look at the presenter whilst talking - ignore all cameras and all others!

* When you have a story in the paper that ISN'T going to be put on screen by the producers, hold the paper elevated on your lap and slightly to the left, as if you were allowing someone to read over your left shoulder. The high camera behind you will focus on the shot.

* No need for notes - leave them outside and just have a conversation.

* The chat usually runs for around 7-8 minutes, and that's a fair amount of time, so you can go to four, even five topics.

* The viewers love a bit of argument and the contest of ideas so most of all, enjoy yourself.

Not sure the contribution was so flash based on the criteria laid out but click on the screen grab below to see for yourself:

Strategic review of The Mayne Report

After more than three years of operation, the better half has ordered a "strategic review" of The Mayne Report which has so far wracked up losses approaching $300,000, although some of this has been offset by the substantial gains from capital raising plays. We spelt out all the options in our December 17 edition and have decided in the short term to scale back the multi-media element of our operation.

After almost three years of excellent service, we've given our multi-media producer Shane Marden notice but are confident his considerable talents will be picked up.

If you're aware of any options for Shane or have any other suggestions on the way forward, drop us a line to Stephen@maynereport.com if you have any comments on what should be pursued in 2011.

Donate to help keep us going

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January 13, 2pm: Paula and the 3 kids are safely on flight home from Sunshine Coast - now for the big solo drive home avoiding various flood zones.

January 11, 2.30pm: A good Crikey wrap on Queensland floods situation:

December 27, 5.20pm: Enjoying watching the cricket and researching what happens to directors in takeovers whilst the kids are at the pool with mum and friends.

December 25, 3.33pm: Having a January meeting with the chairman of Santos, Peter Coates, over the lack of an SPP for retail after $500m institutional placement.

December 23, 3.41pm: Had a good finish to the trading year with $1040 profit today exiting Brambles and Bow Energy SPPs. Off to Manningham staff Christmas lunch.

December 23, 3.35pm: Good on The Australian for publishing my letter: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/stephen-mayne/story-fn558imw-1225975624355

December 22, 6.50pm: Just updated the top 100 female directors list after Crikey yarn today. See: http://www.maynereport.com/articles/2009/12/23-0835-6640.html

December 22, 1.08pm: Just sent a letter to The Oz correcting today's line that Nicholas Pullen "defended a slew of defamation writs" in the Crikey days. It was 2.

December 20, 11.05am: Could be a board tilt coming on at Santos in May if they persist with $500 placement to big end of town whilst refusing an SPP for retail.

December 20, 2.21am: We've got a new mayor and deputy mayor in Manningham. All will be revealed at the delayed annual meeting tomorrrow night.

December 16, 2.28pm: ABC national radio last night doing annual gig of The Year in Review with Rod Quinn.

That's all for now.

Do ya best, Stephen Mayne

* The Mayne Report is a multi-media governance website published by journalist, shareholder activist, local government councillor, Crikey founder and political candidate Stephen Mayne which includes email editions such as these. To unsubscribe from the emails click here.