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Woodside and BHP Group adjust Scarborough project stakes

BHP has marginally increased its stake in the Scarborough offshore LNG project by 1.5 per cent.

On Wednesday its partner Woodside announced to the ASX both companies had adjusted their stakes in two Scarborough project titles.

Gas from Scarborough is to be processed at the Pluto LNG plant near Karratha.

Woodside's 75 per cent stake in the project will drop to 73.5 per cent while BHP will hold the remaining 26.5 per cent.

Development of the Scarborough gas field would see 4 to 5 million tonnes per annum of additional gas delivered to Woodside's Pluto LNG facility in Karratha.

Woodside has been looking to line up gas sales and sell down part of its stake in Scarborough to help fund the project but talks slowed by travel curbs and weak gas prices following a coronavirus epidemic.

A 52 per cent increase in the size of the Scarborough gas field announced in November also threw a spanner in the works with Woodside rethinking how much of a stake it wanted in the project.

BHP and Woodside have also agreed to apply for production licences for both Scarborough titles.

"The production licence applications are another key step to unlocking the full value of the Scarborough resource through the expansion of our existing Pluto LNG facility," Woodside chief executive Peter Coleman said.

BHP Petroleum country manager Graham Salmond said they would continue to work with Woodside towards a development that would benefit shareholders, joint venture partners and the community.

“The proposed Scarborough development fits with our strategy of seeking to commercialise advantaged gas resources with potential future upside, and we continue to take positive steps in its development," he said.

Woodside is aiming for a final investment decision in 2020 for the Scarborough development, and first cargo in 2024.

Woodside posted this month an underlying profit, excluding one-off charges, of $1.06 billion for 2019, down from $1.42 billion a year earlier.

With Reuters

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‘Corporate daigou’ buying more Bubs products amid coronavirus

Goat milk infant formula company Bubs Australia says Chinese “corporate daigou” have bought more of its products in the past two weeks, as the country continues to struggle with the deadly coronavirus epidemic.

The extra activity among corporate daigou, highly organised shoppers who run their own businesses buying products in Australia to sell in China, is more than offsetting the reduced buying among Chinese tourists and students, the company said.

Bubs Australia boss and founder Kristy Carr says the building blocks are in place for the company to deliver its first profit next financial year.Credit:Chris Hopkins

Bubs’ fortunes are closely tied to China and its half-year result showed that revenue from China sales jumped almost 20 per cent in the December half to $5.44 million. Across all regions, total revenue jumped 38.7 per cent to $27.1 million.

Bubs said the coronavirus had not reduced demand for its products and that it had seen only “minimal disruption” due to the outbreak.

“Infant formula is perceived as an essential pantry item, as it is a key food source for babies. As a trusted premium international brand with transparent supply chain visibility, Bubs is well placed to appease Chinese parents’ heightened focus on food security and their children’s health and immunity,” Bubs said.

The company said demand for dairy products in China had been reinforced by a recent Chinese government statement on nutrition and coronavirus, which recommended consuming 300 grams of dairy products per day.

'That could be because people are worried, similar to toilet paper and masks and sanitisers, that they feel the need to actually stockpile, because of the uncertainty.'

Bubs executive chairman Dennis Lin said it was too early to tell whether the increased activity by corporate daigou was a short-term phenomenon or not.

"That could be because people are worried, similar to toilet paper and masks and sanitisers, that they feel the need to actually stockpile, because of the uncertainty," he said.

Bubs recorded a statutory loss for the half of $7.56 million, down from $8.83 million in the prior corresponding period.

Bubs recorded a normalised EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) loss of $3.74 million for the half, pointing to substantial investments in marketing spending, the launch of products in Vietnam and the development of pending new products.

Bubs produces a range of products, including goat milk infant formula, cow milk infant formula and organic baby cereal.

Bubs does not own any goats but has long term contracts with goat farmers for exclusive access to the milk from a total of about 23,000 milking goats.

Bubs founder and chief executive Kristy Carr said the building blocks were now in place for the company to deliver its first profit next financial year.

"We've been very pleased with the results in the first half. We saw a continued solid trajectory of growth across all of our core product groups in all of the regions that we operate in," she said.

Mrs Carr said the infant formula products performed strongly in the half, with gross profit margins rising to 41 per cent.

Gross revenue from infant formula rose 77 per cent on the prior corresponding period, while adult goat milk powder revenue rose 30 per cent. Gross margins rose from 19 per cent in the prior corresponding period to 24 per cent.

Shares in Bubs closed down 2.8 per cent at 70.5¢.

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Markets

Asian markets continue to pull back fears of growing global outbreak

Asian markets declined in early trading Wednesday following another sharp selloff on Wall Street as the global spread of the coronavirus outbreak continued to rattle traders.

Japan’s Nikkei NIK, -0.88%  sank 0.7%, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index HSI, -0.65%  dipped 0.5%. The Shanghai Composite SHCOMP, +0.35%  edged up 0.3%, while the smaller-cap Shenzhen Composite 399106, -0.80%  fell 0.8%. South Korea’s Kospi 180721, -1.13%  retreated 1%. Stocks ticked up in Malaysia FBMKLCI, +0.32% , but fell in Taiwan Y9999, -0.89% , Singapore STI, -0.96%  and Indonesia JAKIDX, -1.08% . Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 XJO, -2.31%  tumbled 2.3%.

Among individual stocks, SoftBank 9984, -1.10% , Sony 6758, -1.84% and Inpex 1605, -3.20% dropped in Tokyo trading. In Hong Kong, AAC 2018, -2.98%  and Sunny Optical 2382, -3.53%  fell, along with China Mobile 941, -2.40% . Samsung 005930, -2.25%  declined in South Korea, while Beach Energy BPT, -4.02%  and Rio Tinto RIO, -1.83%  fell in Australia.

“The picture is not a good one,” Jeffrey Halley, senior Asia-Pacific market analyst at Oanda, wrote in a note. “Asian stocks will continue to remain under pressure, remaining acutely vulnerable to new negative virus headlines. Europe is to some extent, still playing virus catch-up, with European stock likely to endure a harsh morning session.”

New cases continued to rise sharply in South Korea, where the first U.S. soldier tested positive for the COVID-19 illness. More than 1,100 cases have been confirmed in South Korea, with at least 11 deaths, according to the Associated Press.

China, the epicenter of the outbreak, continued to add new cases — though at a slower pace in recent days — with more than 78,000 total cases and 2,700 deaths. But concern grew about outbreaks away from Asia, from Iran to Italy to the Canary Islands.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it’s just a matter of time before the virus impacts the U.S. “It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen — and how many people in this country will have severe illness,” she said.

U.S. stocks closed Tuesday with the Dow registering its worst two-day loss on record. The Dow Jones Industrial AverageDJIA, -3.15%  slid 879.44 points, 3.2%, to settle at 27,081.3, while the S&P 500 SPX, -3.03%  lost 97.68 points, 3%, to close at 3,128.21. The Nasdaq Composite COMP, -2.77%  fell below 9,000, shedding 255.67 points, or 2.8%, to end at 8,965.61.

After settling at two-week lows Tuesday, West Texas Intermediate crude for April delivery CLJ20, +0.70%  rose to $50.26 per barrel in electronic trading, while Brent crude, the global benchmark BRNJ20, +0.53% , ticked up to $55.25 a barrel.

The dollar USDJPY, +0.18%  edged up to 99.12 Japanese yen.

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Michael Bloomberg Invoked 9/11 To Score Political Points

Michael Bloomberg assured voters during Tuesday’s debate that despite his past efforts to get Republicans elected, he would be a good Democratic presidential nominee because he was the mayor of New York City shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. 

“I have been training for this job since I stepped on the pile that was still smoldering on 9/11,” said Bloomberg, who became mayor almost four months after the attacks. “I’m the one choice that makes some sense. I have the experience, I have the resources, and I have the record,” the billionaire candidate continued. 

Bloomberg’s comments came in response to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) arguing that Democratic voters would never trust a man who funneled money toward right-wing, anti-choice candidates. “The fact that he cannot earn the trust of the core of the Democratic party means he is the riskiest candidate standing on this stage,” she said.

Invoking Sept. 11 was a curious move for the former Republican — and not just because he wasn’t in office at the time of the attacks. Bloomberg, who has defended the invasion of Iraq, spoke at the 2004 Republican National Convention, and endorsed former President George W. Bush for reelection, needs to earn support from progressive voters. And when Bloomberg did become mayor, he responded to the Sept. 11 attacks by authorizing a New York Police Department program to spy on Muslim Americans. After the Associated Press exposed the surveillance program in a Pulitzer Prize-winning series, Bloomberg defended the program as “what you would want” the police to do. 

Bloomberg, who has used his personal wealth to flood the airwaves with advertisements and pay people to praise him on social media, has faced constant criticism for his record on civil liberties during his time as mayor. In addition to the Muslim surveillance program, Bloomberg oversaw a vast expansion of stop and frisk, a policy he has since tried to distance himself from. 

“We let it get out of control and when I realized that, I cut it back by 95 percent,” Bloomberg said during Tuesday’s debate, adding that he has apologized. Asked by debate moderators if Bloomberg’s implementation of stop and frisk was racist, Democratic candidates South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) both responded that it was. 

Bloomberg’s claim that he unilaterally cut back stop and frisk is misleading, at best. During his time as mayor, stops increased from 92,000 in 2002 to almost 700,000 in 2011. It is true that the number of stops decreased by the time he left office — but only in response to a series of court orders. In August 2013, a federal judge found that the city’s use of stop and frisk was a “policy of indirect racial profiling” that targeted Black and Hispanic communities and ruled the practice unconstitutional. 

Bloomberg was outraged by the judge’s decision at the time. “What does she know about policing? Absolutely zero,” he said on his radio show. “Your safety and the safety of your kids is now in the hands of some woman who does not have the expertise to do it,” he said of the judge. 

Asked how he can put voters’ fears and skepticism about his record on stop and frisk to rest, Bloomberg insisted on Tuesday that Black people in New York like him. “If you talk to the people in New York City, I have over 100 Black elected officials that have endorsed me,” he said. 

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Business

‘If Voda Idea folds up it will be bad news all around’

‘The government is unwilling or unable to provide the kind of relief that Vodafone India is asking for.’

“Currently, about 30-odd per cent of the revenues of telecom companies go to the government. This is unhealthy. The situation will improve if more money can go into the network (upgradation). The telecom companies can take care of the rest (of the other challenges facing telecom markets),” says Mahesh Uppal, director, Com First India, a consulting firm.

India’s operational telecom companies confront an uphill task, no doubt.

As Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel scramble their resources to comply with the Supreme Court order on adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues, leaders from these companies have had meetings with Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash and Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in an attempt to find a way out of the tangle that operational and non-operational telecom companies find themselves in on account of payment of license fees, interest and penalty on the same and payment of spectrum usage charges (SUC) that adds up to roughly 1.47 lakh crore.

This includes Rs 22,589 crore in unpaid license fees, which along with interest and penalty has touched Rs 92,641 crore as of June 2019.

Add to this, the burden of payment of Rs 55,054 crore as SUC, and one can understand the task before companies like Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel.

As per reports while Bharti Airtel has already paid up Rs 10,000 crore on account of license fees and SUC, Vodafone Idea too has made a payment of Rs 3,500 to the government.

The meeting of Bharti Airtel’s Sunil Bharti Mittal with Minister Prasad on February 20 and that of Vodafone Idea Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla with Telecom Secretary Prakash two days earlier are looked upon as efforts to find a solution to the vexing issues faced by these telecom operators.

Uppal believes that Vodafone Idea might fold up, based on the comments made by the company itself, but says the government tweaking its telecom policy could offer a ray of hope to the beleaguered companies.

In an interview with Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com, Uppal discusses the impact of telecom duopoly in Indian markets and how it could affect the government’s ambitious 5G rollout programme.

What are the challenges before the weak players in the telecom sector like Vodafone Idea and the government-owned BSNL and MTNL?

In the case of Vodafone Idea the challenge is essentially financial. In the case of BSNL and MTNL, the issues is also of quality of service besides financial weakness. The companies have consistently lost market share.

In case of Vodafone, there is no serious issue as there is no huge difference between its service offerings and that of its competitors (Jio and Airtel). It is as well placed as Jio and Airtel.

But BSNL has been struggling for quite some time as it has not been able to drive subscriber numbers partly because people had a major issue with the quality of its services and reliability.

Is the Vodafone Idea management capable enough to overcome financial issues, including the AGR payment to the government?

They themselves have said several times that they are not. They have said that unless the government steps in they would be unable to continue their telecom business. We don’t know what will happen eventually, but that is their (Vodafone Idea‘s) own assessment.

Given you experience as a telecom analyst, could you comment on what are the chances that Vodafone Idea would fold up?

Based on what the company has been saying, I think the chances are high. Given the limited options that the government has (in offering a rescue package; The Economic Times has reported that the government is mulling the option of deferring Vodafone Idea’s non-AGR dues), the chances (that Vodafone Idea could fold up) are quite high.

Of course, the government has an option to renegotiate (the terms of repayment of Adjusted Gross Revenue, Spectrum Usage Charges and license fees) if the Supreme Court does not object; (the government) has an option to change policy.

Now, whether it will do it or not doesn’t matter but by most accounts, the government is unwilling or unable to provide the kind of relief that the company is asking for.

Will Mr Kumarmangalam Birla’s meeting with Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash help in any way in at least postponing the eventual fall?

Well, that meeting is already done. Mr Kumarmangalam Birla is the best person to answer this question. But the government has very limited options given the fact that fiscal challenges (facing the government) are quite serious.

(Bharti Airtel’s Sunil Mittal met Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on February 20 and said the government is focusing on dealing with the AGR tangle. Mr Birla’s meeting with the telecom secretary happened on February 18.)

If at all Vodafone Idea folds up, what could be the consequences on the telecom industry, the government as well as consumers?

It will be bad news all around. It will be bad for all the stakeholders. The government certainly will lose all the dues (from Vodafone Idea) that are still pending.

The industry will lose its competitiveness and we lose an important player in the market. Consumers, who certainly rely on competition for better prices and better quality of services, will also suffer as the competition reduces in the market.

If Vodafone Idea indeed folds up, who among the incumbents Jio and Airtel will have an upper hand in taking advantage of the situation?

Both of them will benefit from this as the stock market tends to indicate (Bharti Airtel shares have been witnessing a strong interest in recent times).

Reduced competition is obviously not unwelcome if you are a secure player in the market.

What role could the Government of India or the telecoms regulator, TRAI, play to prevent India’s telecom industry from becoming a duopoly?

The current approach of charging levies based on revenue sharing needs to go. It offers the wrong incentives.

An inefficient company will pay less (levies as part of their annual revenues). This is not very smart.

If we want to avoid having a telecom duopoly we need to reduce the costs (of doing the telecom business).

We have to reduce the payments that the telecom companies need to pay to the government.

The government has to see that more money goes into building networks, not to itself.

Currently, about 30-odd per cent of the revenues of telecom companies go to the government. This is unhealthy. The situation will improve if more money can go into network (upgradation). The telecom companies can take care of the rest (of the other challenges facing telecom markets).

Markets are what they are. Some players will succeed, others will fail.

We don’t want regulators adding to the costs and the financial burden of telecom companies.

How well will the current telecom industry situation augur for the government’s ambitious 5G rollout programme?

It is very worrying. This situation does not augur well for the 5G rollout or for the government’s revenues.

If the auction of 5G spectrum does not succeed or receives a weak response, then government revenues will again suffer.

If only two strong incumbents exist in the industry, could they game the system?

Probably. Also to be fair (to the government) the auction is not closed to outsiders (foreign companies). The auction (of 5G) spectrum is open to more players.

What could be the policy measures that the government could undertake or tweak existing policy measures so that we could once again have a thriving telecom industry in India?

This whole approach of basing telecom levies on operator revenues is a very bad idea. That should go.

Second, levies themselves take away very precious investments away from infrastructure. Levies should be lowered to near zero.

If the government’s fear is that companies will start making huge sums of money at the cost of the exchequer, it can adjust taxes in the annual budget (to address this concern).

The AGR is akin to a telecom tax.

Any changes in the spectrum usage charges, or license fees the telecom companies pay to the government that could help revive the industry?

Levies include spectrum usage charges. There is no justification for continuing with a separate SUC if the spectrum is sold in an open auction.

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Twitter Has Thoughts About All the Booing at the Democratic Debate

Not once, not twice, not thrice or four times even but throughout Tuesday night’s Democratic primary debate in South Carolina, booing broke out in the audience against one candidate or another.

The unusual interruption — where decorum has dictated most debate audiences clap, cheer or laugh only occasionally — was noticed on social media.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren was booed while criticizing former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Sen. Bernie Sanders was booed while praising a literacy program started under Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro. Later, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg was also booed.

Some pointed to the fact that the debate attendees included people who had to spend a lot of money to pay for the tickets and so may have been predisposed to a candidate such as Bloomberg, a billionaire. Others said the booing was a stratagem, perhaps by Bloomberg who could have paid the booers and whose own debate performance last week was widely panned.

Much of the social media chatter was speculative and more than a little annoyed, depending on who was tweeting. Some users found humor in it, however.

Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon, a former New York gubernatorial candidate, expressed her displeasure at Bloomberg, whom she labeled “insidious.”


 

Throughout the night, the seven candidates — former Vice President Joe Biden, Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sanders, billionaire investor Tom Steyer and Warren — sounded off on issues including national security, health care, Israel, North Korea, Russian interference in American politics and the threat of the coronavirus.

At times their disagreements, otherwise familiar to Democratic voters after many debates this election, played out factitious fashion. The moderators did not always keep a tight rein on the proceedings.

With another contest only days away, followed by “Super Tuesday” next week, in which more than a dozen states will vote simultaneously, the candidates took the night to make one of their last (and they hoped best) cases to primary voters.

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HomeCo upgrades float forecast, prepares to launch new fund

Big box retail manager HomeCo says it is on track to exceed its float forecasts as it upgraded its expected funds from operation for the full year by 10 per cent on the back of an expanded tenancy base and the imminent creation of a new healthcare fund.

The improved outlook, flagged in its maiden result as an ASX-listed company, will be a boost for its heavyweight investors, which include former UBS Australia head Matthew Grounds, the Oatley Family, John Symond, Spotlight co-owner Zac Fried and billionaire Marc Besen.

Spotlight Group and Chemist Warehouse’s 24 stores account for 7.8 per cent of HomeCo’s gross leasing income.Credit:Artist’s impression

The group, which listed in mid-October, booked a $12.4 million loss, with pre-float costs weighing on its result.

HomeCo said it expects to top by 10 per cent the $15.17 million in funds from operation for the full year it forecast at the time of its IPO, which is the most relevant measure for a real estate investment trust.

HomeCo chairman and chief executive David Di Pilla is the largest shareholder in the group, with a 15.9 per cent stake.

Mr Di Pilla, a former UBS banker, said the improved earnings outlook was based on the 12,000 square metres of new leases signed over the past few months, of which 40 per cent were in the services and food sectors.

HomeCo is focussed on "hyper convenience" retail tenants, such as Amart Furniture, Spotlight and Nick Scali, with 70 per cent of the portfolio focussed on daily need suppliers and outlets not exposed to the threat of e-commerce such as fitness centres, medical centres and child care operators.

HomeCo was established from the remains of failed hardware chain Masters, with many of its sites acquired from the Woolworths joint venture. Its portfolio, valued at almost $1 billion, consists of 21 operating centres and nine development projects, which it will look to expand to "add long-term shareholder value".

"HomeCo is on track to execute its strategy to deliver above average risk-adjusted returns and remains focussed on setting up a platform for sustainable long-term growth via the own, develop and manage model," Mr Di Pilla said.

As part of the growth strategy, HomeCo is adding new capital to a selection of existing assets and is considering the establishment of a new healthcare and wellness REIT.

There is also a new partnership with Aurrum Childcare to lease six childcare centres from HomeCo, which are expected to be rolled out in the coming two years, taking the total HomeCo childcare portfolio to 12 centres.

In late trade, HomeCo shares were up 2.1 per cent to $3.81, well above its listing price of $3.35.

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Markets

Sensex tanks nearly 400 pts; Nifty near 11,700

According to traders, besides weak cues from global markets amid rising concerns over coronavirus outbreak beyond China, heavy foreign fund outflow too weighed on market sentiment here.

Market benchmark Sensex plunged nearly 400 points in opening session on Wednesday tracking losses in index-heavyweights RIL, HDFC twins and ICICI Bank amid heavy foreign fund outflow and weak global cues.

After starting over 393.03 points lower, the 30-share index pared some losses to trade 201.94 points, or 0.50%, down at 40,079.26.

Similarly, the NSE Nifty dropped 58.10 points, or 0.49%, at 11,739.80.

Top losers in the Sensex pack included Sun Pharma, Bharti Airtel, Tata Steel, Reliance Industries and HDFC shedding up to 2%.

On the other hand, HUL, Nestle India, PowerGrid and Asian Paints were trading with gains.

In the previous session, the Sensex settled 82.03 points, or 0.20%, lower at 40,281.20, and the Nifty declined 31.50 points or 0.27% to end at 11,797.90.

According to traders, besides weak cues from global markets amid rising concerns over coronavirus outbreak beyond China, heavy foreign fund outflow too weighed on market sentiment here.

On a net basis, foreign institutional investors (FPIs) sold equities worth ₹2,315.07 crore, while domestic institutional investors bought shares worth ₹1,565.28 crore on Wednesday, data available with stock exchanges showed.

Stock exchanges in Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo were trading with losses, while bourses in Shanghai turned positive.

Equities on Wall Street plunged in overnight trade after American health authorities said they ultimately expect the novel coronavirus to spread in the United States and are urging local governments, businesses, and schools to develop plans like cancelling mass gatherings or switching to teleworking.

Brent crude oil futures rose 0.50% to USD 54.53 per barrel.

The rupee appreciated 6 paise to 71.78 against the U.S. dollar in morning session.

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Adelaide Brighton warns of residential construction slowdown

The boss of cement and construction materials company Adelaide Brighton expects Australia's residential building market to decline this year, weighed down by stagnant wages, low consumer confidence and access to capital.

Chief executive Nick Miller said Australia's "relatively low" consumer confidence was probably also hit by the bushfires and floods over summer and was not helped by the recent coronavirus outbreak.

"Australian residential construction approvals declined sharply, by more than 18.5 per cent on seasonally adjusted terms for the 12 months to December 2019. Residential construction is forecast to decline until 2021, at which time it is expected to return to growth," he said.

Cement giant Adelaide Brighton is targetting cost savings of $30 million in 2020.Credit: Photo: Bryan Charlton

Mr Miller said his expectation for softer residential construction this year was across the country, adding that there was some evidence of an uptick in Western Australia and on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

"It is different state by state. The resources states are starting to build improved confidence," he said.

The company's exposure to the residential and multi-residential construction market is about 30 per cent of its earnings.

"That's why I've got a deliberate strategy to get more exposure to the infrastructure sector," Mr Miller told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

"We're building our capability to be more active in that space, where we've got the full offering of vertical supply chain into that market," he said.

Adelaide Brighton reported its full-year results for the 2019 calendar year on Wednesday, confirming that its revenue fell 7 per cent to $1.52 billion, a result in line with consensus.

The company's underlying net profit fell 35.6 per cent to $123 million, which was in line with guidance and consensus expectations. Statutory net profit was down 74.5 per cent to $47.3 million, and was brought down by a $69.8 million impairment.

Mr Miller said the company's 2019 result was hit by softer construction material markets on Australia's east coast, particularly in Queensland and NSW, and that this was partly driven by lower consumer confidence and an oversupply of multi-residential dwellings.

The company also experienced cost pressures on transport, energy, raw materials and sea freight which ate into its margins. It is targeting cost savings of $30 million in 2020, to offset cost "headwinds" of about $20 million.

Shares in Adelaide Brighton were down 5.3 per cent to $2.87 in late afternoon trading. The broader market slumped 2.5 per cent.

Adelaide Brighton will pay a fully franked 5¢ final dividend on April 28, down from 11¢ on the prior corresponding period.

The company said it expected a full year 2020 profit to be about 10 per cent below 2019's underlying profit of $123 million.

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Elizabeth Warren Repeats Allegation at Debate That Bloomberg Told Pregnant Employee to 'Kill It'

A week after their viral showdown at the Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg squared off at another debate, this one on Tuesday night in Charleston, South Carolina.

Warren again pressed Bloomberg over the confidentiality agreements women had signed after raising complaints or alleging misconduct about him or at his company. Last week, after a similar attack from her in a debate performance that was widely panned, Bloomberg announced he would no longer use such confidentiality agreements and would release certain women from them.

On Tuesday, however, Warren added a new element to her critique: She repeated an allegation by a former saleswoman at Bloomberg’s company that, while the woman was pregnant in the ’90s, Bloomberg told the woman to “kill it.”

Bloomberg stridently denied that accusation on the debate stage, even as Warren said voters needed more information about his background to make up their minds — of a piece with similar criticisms she made about him not yet releasing his tax records and supporting Republican politicians in the past.

Another former Bloomberg employee told The Washington Post they overheard Bloomberg tell the saleswoman, “Are you going to kill it?”

That employee “said he found the comment ‘outrageous. I understood why she took offense,’ ” the Post reported.


A billionaire businessman and  three-term N.Y.C. mayor, Bloomberg was a major target at Tuesday’s debate.

After a late entry to the race and an unusual campaigning strategy in which he skipped the first four states and spent hundreds of millions on advertising and building out his campaign staff, Bloomberg made his debate debut last week in Nevada. There he was shredded by his fellow candidates in a performance that was widely panned, pivoting in part on Warren’s prosecutorial questioning about his history with women.

Bloomberg seemed visibly more comfortable and fluent on Tuesday and pressed his case that as the executive of the country’s largest city — and it’s cultural and financial nerve center — he most of all has the can-do experience and record to take on Trump.

Democratic primary voters will next head to the polls in South Carolina, on Saturday.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is the front-runner in the race after winning in New Hampshire and Nevada, but other candidates are hoping to knock him from that perch.

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