No Barnaby Joyce or Money, Money, Money problems when Gina Rinehart hits the dance floor
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No Barnaby Joyce or Money, Money, Money problems when Gina Rinehart hits the dance floor

Why are we not surprised that former Rio boss Tom Albanese was a no-show despite being advertised as one of the headliners at the Sydney Mining Club's gala dinner Wednesday night to celebrate National Mining and Related Industries Day?

All the suckers got was a pre-recorded video, and very little mention of his time at Rio, let alone the charges that landed on his doorstep last month from the US securities regulator.

Mingling: Gina Rinehart and Anthony Pratt at mining's Gala Dinner.

Mingling: Gina Rinehart and Anthony Pratt at mining's Gala Dinner.

Photo: Wolter Peeters

Just as well as the event's patron Gina Rinehart did not let all the kerfuffle over THAT cheque to Barnaby Joyce put her off.

Rinehart was spotted, tambourine in hand and up on stage, dancing to Abba tunes during the mining industry's night of nights.

Night out: Nigel Scullion, Gina Rinehart and Barnaby Joyce at a National Agriculture Day celebration.

Night out: Nigel Scullion, Gina Rinehart and Barnaby Joyce at a National Agriculture Day celebration.

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Her billionaire mate, Anthony Pratt, was also spotted at the shindig but our spies did not spot our AC/DC fan jiving to Abba.

Money, money, money anyone?

But a smart looking Julie Bishop joined the billionaire in dance and song, thanks to Gina thoughtfully arranging for a National Mining and Related Industries Day-branded tambourine to be left on every seat.

Bishop's former colleague Sophie Mirabella was working the door on behalf of her new employer, Rinehart. Meanwhile Italy's favourite son, Senator Matt Canavan, was flying the Nationals flag, making spaghetti jokes, and thinking of ways to dodge any Rinehart-sized cheques that may have been thrust in his direction.

Illustration: John Shakespeare

Illustration: John Shakespeare

Eyesore

McGrath Ltd's dismal performance is not the only thing weighing on its founder, John McGrath.

Our real estate guru has branched out and joined the board of the privately owned optometry group George & Matilda.

He's in good company.

The chairman is former Metcash boss, Andrew Reitzer, it is led by former Luxottica exec, Chris Beer, and the board includes former investment banker Peter Papas.

But the boys are in a hurry as they look to hoover up optometry businesses and act as an industry consolidator before hitting the ASX on an inflated earnings multiple – kind of like McGrath.

According to Today's Opthalmic News, the company behind George & Matilda, IPIC Holdings, now has 40 practices – most of them operating under the George and Matilda Eyecare banner.

But IPIC's first 16 months of its life have been a little too ambitious for its balance sheet.

Its inaugural financial statement lodged with ASIC reports that it generated a net loss of $7.6 million on revenue totalling $16 million.

Given the business is so new, it has not got around to setting up a long-term debt facility, so all of the debt on its balance sheet is current.

It all added up to a bit of heartburn for IPIC's auditors who point out that the "group's current liabilities exceed its current assets by $8.6 million" and said a "material uncertainty may exist that may cast significant doubt on the group's ability to continue as a going concern".

The good news is that one of its investors has offered a debt facility – subject to certain conditions – and the two parties "are in the final stages" of executing the agreement.

Who knows, given the tens of millions he got from the McGrath float, maybe it's our real estate guru himself who is offering IPIC the loan.

The board would obviously like to get the facility over the line – given the consequences of its failure.

"In the event that the group is unable to secure the debt facility or other alternative financing options as outlined above, material uncertainty may exist as to the ability of the group to continue as a going concern."

That would extinguish the $13 million these investors have plugged into the business and make McGrath Ltd look like a winning investment.

Barry Crocker

The betting industry is not known for its modesty, or shrinking violets, so it was never going to be hard for the Australian Competition Tribunal to catch out anyone changing their tune when it came to determining the merits of the Tabcorp/Tatts merger.

So Sportsbet boss Cormac Barry was always going to be on a hiding to nothing when he tried to backtrack on statements that operators such as Tatts and David Attenborough's Tabcorp are roadkill in this new age of global competitors.

"If you look at any e-commerce sector there's typically only one or two dominant players – there's only one Facebook, there's only one Google, one Amazon. I don't think there's any reason why online betting doesn't end up in the same place.

"For those reasons I just don't think the stand-alone, country-centric operators like Tabcorp and Tatts are going to be around in five years anywhere in the world."

The ACT took him at his word and included the damning quote in its judgment backing the merger.

It's a pity that the ACT missed some of the more colourful pronouncements from the annual reports of Sportsbet owner Paddy Power, which include lines like the "nitrous-fuelled Australian business continues to move faster than a Mad Max remake … with accelerated momentum and market share gains leaving the competition eating our dust".

Xmas stocking

With Christmas jingles in the air, former Computershare employee and current board member Penelope Maclagan continued to slim down her stake in the business, offloading $1 million worth of shares over the past week, on top of the $1 million worth that she sold in September.

Not to worry, she still has $188 million worth of skin in the game.

Follow CBD on Twitter. Got a tip? ckruger@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Colin Kruger

Colin Kruger is a business reporter. He joined the Sydney Morning Herald in 1999 as its technology editor. Other roles have included the Herald's deputy business editor and online business editor.

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