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Today's News & Views

Financial planning scandal: CBA chairman set to face Senate grilling

ADELE FERGUSON 4:28pm The Commonwealth Bank might have escaped a royal commission into its scandal-ridden financial planning division but its chairman David Turner will be called to address “concerns” in a public forum next year.

Troubled gold miner to face shareholders

3:43am Newcrest Mining holds its annual general meeting on Friday, as the company continues to work through its financial troubles.

ANZ profit expected to exceed $7 billion

3:28am A record $7.1 billion cash profit is expected to be unveiled by ANZ on Friday, and Macquarie Group is also set to report strong earnings growth.

Halloween: Surge in sales of costumes, lollies and pumpkins

halloween

ESTHER HAN 12:15am Halloween is becoming a bigger treat for retailers every year as the growing number of parties fuels demand for lollies, spooky costumes, decorations and pumpkins for carving.

Motorist lobby NRMA warns of fuel disruption threat as reliance on imports grows

BRIAN ROBINS 12:15am The closure of oil refineries has heightened Australia's exposure to disruptions in fuel supplies now the reliance on imported products has topped 90 per cent, motorist lobby the NRMA has warned.

Barclays set aside $A912m for forex claims

7:09pm Barclays has set aside $A912.66 million "relating to ongoing investigations" into foreign exchange trading.

AMP buys into Chinese pension company

6:29pm AMP has paid $240 million to take a stake in a major player in the Chinese pension market.

NAB looks at float of poorly performing UK assets after profit slumps 9.8%

Focusing on home: National Australia Bank chief executive Andrew Thorburn speaks at the bank's full-year results media conference.

Clancy Yeates and Joyce Moullakis 6:16pm National Australia Bank chief executive Andrew Thorburn is ramping up a campaign to rid the bank of poorly performing assets, declaring that selling its British business is a top priority as he looks to lift lacklustre shareholder returns.

NAB plays down lending risk

Greg Roberts 6:17pm NAB's boss says it has not lowered its lending standards amid booming house prices.

Speculation mounts that National Australia Bank will sell MLC

NAB finance chief Craig Drummond.

Sally Rose, Joyce Moulakis and James Eyers 6:14pm Speculation is building that National Australia Bank could divest its life insurance assets, or even sell-off its problematic wealth management business MLC Australia entirely.

UGL shareholders award 'first strike' over sign-on bonus

UGL workers

Jenny Wiggins 6:13pm UGL has received a first strike against its remuneration report as investors protested a $3 million sign-on bonus to the new head of its DTZ property arm and succession incentives to outgoing chief executive Richard Leupen.

Wealth

AMP to buy landmark stake in China pension fund

AMP chief executive Craig Meller.

Ruth Liew 6:19pm AMP is snapping up a 20 per cent stake in China's largest pension group, China Life Pension Company, in a $240 million deal as the Australian wealth giant seeks to ramp up its growth ambitions in one of the world's biggest economies.

Super

Retirement funds in property approach $9 billion

There are now more than 534,000 self-managed super funds and total membership exceeds 1 million.

NASSIM KHADEM 6:08pm Self-managed super funds are gearing into property more heavily amid regulator concerns that debt is fuelling growth in house prices and creating risk for the financial system.

Indonesian president Joko Widodo plans major tax overhaul in quest for cash

Neil Chatterjee and Rieka Rahadiana 4:57pm The tax man cometh. And next year in Indonesia, there will be more of them.

Tax

Multinational firms paid almost $40b in income tax last year, says Tax Office report

The Tax Office is focusing on companies that have undertaken international restructures or have

NASSIM KHADEM 1:11am Multinationals operating in Australia paid almost $40 billion in company income tax in 2013 and transacted $400 billion worth of related party deals.

Shares

Banks lead market rebound

No signs of crisis despite sharp market falls: AFR (Thumbnail)

MAX MASON 1:11am The Australian sharemarket bounced on Thursday, defying a weak lead from Wall St, as investors responded positively to slew of corporate updates including from NAB, Wesfarmers and Coca-Cola Amatil.

Moguls

Kerry Stokes wants media reforms, not 'bits and pieces'

Kerry Stokes at the launch of his biography. He hasn't read the book yet.

Madeleine Heffernan 4:05pm Resources and media billionaire Kerry Stokes says he's not talking with the government about media ownership laws, but he'll be pleased when a complete package is presented.

Abbott government's Direct Action plan casts pall of uncertainty

Peter Hannam dinkus

PETER HANNAM 5:22pm Opinion Direct Action, the centrepiece of the Abbott government’s efforts to address climate change, remains a largely unknown quantity even in the wake of this week’s breakthrough deal between the Coalition and Clive Palmer’s Palmer United Party.

NAB boss Andrew Thorburn determined to offload British assets

Elizabeth Knight Dinkus

ELIZABETH KNIGHT 12:32am National Australia Bank"s new chief executive Andrew Thorburn has further demonstrated the intensity of his crusade to rid the organisation of its troubled and distracting UK legacy assets and get on with the job of improving the core Australia and New Zealand operations.

Remuneration

'Strike' companies nip and tuck pay packages

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Su-Lin Tan 3:45pm The majority of companies that received a strike to their remuneration report during the 2013 annual general meeting season have given their 2014 pay packages a nip and tuck to avoid another strike this year.

Gambling

Echo sees earnings rise on high roller bets

Echo's Sydney flagship casino, The Star, has seen normalised revenue grow by more than a third since the start of the financial year.

Jessica Gardner 4:48pm Casino operator Echo Entertainment Group said that after a strong start to the financial year, underpinned by record business from high rollers, earnings in the first six months of the 2015 fiscal year could rise by almost a third from last year.

Melbourne music lovers sound off as St Kilda's Prince of Wales Hotel goes on market

Prince of Wales

SIMON JOHANSON 5:25pm Live music lovers have sounded the alert as another of Melbourne's iconic venues, the Prince of Wales Hotel in St Kilda, is offered for sale.

High rollers boost Echo's performance

Drew Cratchley 4:39pm Echo Entertainment has forecast growth in its annual earnings of up to 31 per cent after a strong start to the year in all of its businesses.

Wesfarmers tight lipped about AMP

Petrina Berry 3:03pm Wesfarmers boss Richard Goyder is tight lipped about speculation the conglomerate is eyeing off wealth management giant AMP.

Origin Energy's production revenue falls

7:02pm Lower sales and prices have contributed to a fall in revenue for Origin Energy's production business in the three months to September.

Gaming

James Packer's Melco Crown proves a losing bet for investors

No crystal ball: James Packer and his business partner Lawrence Ho. Analysts have been caught off-guard by the impact of China's anti-corruption crackdown on Macau.

2:45pm Following the consensus view has proven to be a losing strategy for investors in Melco Crown Entertainment. Despite a flurry of 'buy' ratings on the Macau casino operator, the company's American depositary receipts have lost almost a quarter in market value over the last year.

Theme park owner not worried by economy

Stephen Johnson 1:37pm Ardent Leisure says Australia has more mortgage stress than the US, which may explain why its American operations are doing better.

Finance

IAG targets 20 per cent growth after Wesfarmers insurance buy

Buying Wesfarmers' insurance underwriting unit was

Ruth Liew 1:14pm Insurance Australia Group is targeting up to 20 per cent revenue growth in fiscal 2015 as the company continues to consolidate one of the biggest acquisitions in its corporate history – the $1.85 billion Wesfarmers' insurance buy.

Govt projects to help construction sector

12:37pm The Australian Industry Group is confident that new government infrastructure projects will help offset the fall in engineering construction.

IPOs

Brokers bid for $12b worth of Medibank shares

The sale of Medibank Private is set to reap between $4.3 billion and $5.5 billion for the government.

Jessica Gardner 5:43pm Stockbrokers have bid for $12 billion worth of Medibank shares on behalf of their retail clients, more than double the maximum value of shares on offer of $5.5 billion.

NAB chief Andrew Thorburn on crusade to offload UK assets

New NAB chief Andrew Thorburn has engaged in a rapid fire program to deal with the mistakes of previous managements.

ELIZABETH KNIGHT 1:30pm National Australia Bank”s new chief executive Andrew Thorburn has further demonstrated the intensity of his crusade to rid the organisation of its troubled and distracting UK legacy assets and get on with the job of improving the core Australia and New Zealand operations.

Mirvac looks to residential for growth

Sold: A stake in 101 Miller Street, North Sydney.

CAROLYN CUMMINS 5:47pm Mirvac Group will focus on more residential and mixed use projects to take advantage of the buoyant housing market and to help directors achieve the forecast 1 to 3 per cent earnings growth for the 2015 financial year.

Retail

Coca-Cola to invest $US500m in Indonesia

The equity stake values the Indonesian business at $1.6 billion and is in line with TCCC's 29.4 per cent shareholding in CCA.

Sue Mitchell 1:27am Coca-Cola Amatil has sacrificed economic control of its Indonesian bottling business in return for a $570 million cash injection from major shareholder The Coca-Cola Co as part of a five-year plan aimed at restoring profit growth across the group as early as 2015.

Economy

Signs of animal spirits reviving as companies turn to growth

RBA Governor Glenn Stevens has signalled companies need to invest more again to boost growth.

Bianca Hartge-Hazelman 1:05pm Australian businesses could be starting to unleash their animal spirits as fresh data suggests that more companies are focusing on growth rather than cost cutting.

Eco

Small business confidence remains patchy

The NAB survey found that confidence among smaller companies slipped 1 index point, to 4, between the June and September quarter.

MARK MULLIGAN 12:37pm Confidence among small business operators remains patchy despite improving conditions, according to a private sector survey, which also found that larger stock market-listed companies are starting to feel more upbeat.

Retail

Retailers face another unhappy Christmas, warns Morgan Stanley

Christmas trade would

Stephen Cauchi 5:41pm Christmas is shaping up to be sluggish for retailers, weighed down by Australia's lacklustre economy and poor consumer sentiment, with fund managers and analysts remaining wary of companies exposed to household spending.

Home sales flat in Sept

new houses

11:11am New home sales were flat in September, but sales of multi-unit dwellings were up 11 per cent, the Housing Industry Association said.

Flight Centre profits under pressure

Kim Christian 1:15pm Travel group Flight Centre says achieving its profit growth targets will not be a "formality" amid volatility in Australia and strength overseas

Nine in talks to buy outdoor ad firm

10:20am Nine Entertainment has begun acquisition talks with outdoor advertising firm oOh!Media, but says there is no certainty a deal will be struck.

No pressure on insurance premiums: IAG

Evan Schwarten 5:28pm Australians don't have to worry too much about their insurance premiums rising this year, according to one of the country's largest insurers.

ACCC bemoans funding levels

The ACCC was one of the only government regulators spared by severe budget cuts in May.

GEORGIA WILKINS 9:05pm Australia's consumer watchdog has joined other regulators in broadcasting its concerns about resources to the Abbott government.

Tourism

Ebola, weak dollar haven't hurt travel demand, says Flight Centre

Flight Centre managing director Graham Turner.

MATT O'SULLIVAN 11:59am Flight Centre is banking on growth accelerating in the second half of this financial year as it anticipates a gradual recovery in demand and consumer confidence in the Australian travel market.

Coles forecasts cheaper fruit and veg

Petrina Berry 5:06pm The recent spike in fresh fruit prices is expected to ease soon, says supermarket giant Coles after it reported a solid lift in quarterly sales.

Visa posts lower 4Q profit

12:37pm Visa has posted a lower fourth quarter profit of $US1.07 billion, but beat Wall Street expectations.

TV

Seven bets on sport to beat the pirates

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Madeleine Heffernan 9:30am Seven West Media is banking on "piracy-proof" sport and Australian programming as key planks of its bid to stay the top-ranking free-to-air network for the rest of the decade.

Crackdown on $1.5 billion illegal overseas gambling sector

The working group will provide recommendations for stamping out illegal betting, which may include requiring local internet service providers to block access to offshore bookmakers.

Patrick Bartley and John Stensholt 9:31am The federal government and the Victorian government will announce a crackdown on the illegal offshore gambling industry, which is estimated to be worth $1.5 billion annually.

NZ dollar drops 2% in two hours

Paul McBeth and Tina Morrison 9:59am The kiwi has tumbled twice, firstly after the Federal Reserve's upbeat assessment of the US economy and then after a "dovish" Reserve Bank statement.

Retail

Coles, Bunnings, Officeworks boost Wesfarmers sales to $13.6b

Same-store sales at Coles exceeded expectations.

Sue Mitchell 6:24pm Strong sales growth at Coles, Bunnings and Officeworks has countered weak sales at Target, lifting total retail sales at Wesfarmers by 4.6 per cent to $13.6 billion in the three months ending September.

Short supply drives house prices: Mirvac

Belinda Merhab 11:25am A housing supply shortage rather than investor activity is driving the housing market, property developer Mirvac says.

Bond futures prices lower after FOMC

5:09pm Upbeat comments from the US Federal Reserve have weighed on Australian bond futures prices.

Coca-Cola gets help for Indo expansion

Trevor Chappell 1:42pm US drinks giant Coca-Cola is investing $US500m in Australia's Coca-Cola Amatil to help it expand in the growing Indonesian market.

Banks

NAB looks at float of UK business after profit slump

Looking to exit the UK: National Australia Bank's chief executive, Andrew Thorburn, wants to focus on the main game in Australia and New Zealand.

CLANCY YEATES 9:52am National Australia Bank is examining a float of its United Kingdom business, after a fall of nearly 10 per cent in full-year profits due to hefty write-downs in the UK.

Currencies

Australian dollar plunges as US Fed shows more optimism

The Australian dollar has fallen more than 10 US cents in recent months as the US economy improves and the chances of an interest rate hike gets closer.

8:13am The Australian dollar has dropped more than one US cent after the Federal Reserve issued an upbeat assessment of the American employment market.

Stocks to watch at close on Thursday

4:25pm Stocks of interest on the Australian Securities Exchange at close on Thursday

Commodities markets summary

7:45am Commodities news from around the world

World

Tesco facing criminal probe over accounting scandal

The overstatement of its first-half profits has led to the suspension of eight senior Tesco staff members.

7:27am Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has opened a formal criminal investigation into accounting errors at Tesco, raising the stakes in a scandal that has hammered the reputation of the country's biggest grocer.

Wheeler criticised for interest rate hikes

10:44am The Greens say interest rate rises weren't necessary and the Council of Trade Unions wants them cut.

International markets roundup

7:17am News from the world’s major stock markets

China rushes to harness wind with government help

China's wind industry is booming.

Bloomberg News 7:08am China is on course this year to build four times the total wind power installed in all of Denmark as developers push to build the turbines ahead of cuts to incentives originally designed to spur the industry.

Banks and insurers lead market higher

Stephen Johnson 5:07pm Local banks have benefited from an end to US quantitative easing but worsening terms of trade figures hit the miners.

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