90 seconds at 9 am: BNZ puts Mainzeal in receivership; RBS fined over Libor, to claw back bonuses; China to need less coal; Aussie retail sales fall; NZ$1 = US$0.843 TWI - 76.3

Here's my summary of the key news overnight in 90 seconds at 9 am, including news that BNZ has put the large construction division of Mainzeal into receivership. It apparently owed the bank $20 million and was unable to make a $1.8 million payment on it when it fell due.

Mainzeal is New Zealand's third largest commercial construction company and employs about 400 people directly, plus many hundreds of subcontractors. It had recently moved into a new head office in Auckland, and is Vero's preferred contractor in the Canterbury quake rebuild.

It had been caught up in some big projects that required major remediation, including some big leaky buildings with much work ongoing, and the Vector Arena. It is part of the privately held Richina Group which had put a major effort into its Chinese focus. The rest of the Richina companies are not affected by the Mainzeal receivership.

There is more here »

Staying in New Zealand, the Fonterra globaldairytrade auction yesterday was pretty positive. Prices were up 2.4% from the previous auction in US$ terms, and up 1.7% in NZ$ terms, despite the high currency. They are up 3.8% year-on-year in US$ terms, and up 1.4% in NZ$ terms. Prices have been rising steadily since the middle of last year.

Overseas, the Royal Bank of Scotland was fined US$612 mln (NZ$730 mln) by US and UK authorities for manipulating the benchmark Libor interest rates via its Japanese subsidiary, and says it plans to claw back three-quarters of the money from bonuses and awards already paid out to the firm’s employees. That will be fun to watch. More fun than an unsatisfactory fine rather than criminal conviction. Meanwhile Deutsche Bank has suspended five traders in its internal rate probe over a similar manipulation.

The US Federal Reserve has confirmed that information was stolen from its servers during a hack attack. The US central bank told Reuters it had fixed the vulnerability found in some third-party software it was using.

In China, their central bank is worried about impending inflation. It said that monetary easing by countries like the US and Japan may push up commodity prices and make global capital flows more volatile.

There were a couple of tough things that affect Australia overnight. China says its decade-long boom in coal-driven heavy industry is about to end as their new leadership shifts priorities towards energy conservation. Coal is a major Aussie export - and it looks like Solid Energy was right to pull back here. Demand will soften significantly, it seems.

Australian retail sales unexpectedly fell for a third month in December, the longest stretch of declines in 13 years, as consumers spent less dining out amid a deteriorating employment outlook. There were weak building approval numbers too in Australia. Their currency dropped and we start today at 81.7 AUc. Against the US dollar we are at 84.3 USc and the TWI is still very high at 76.3.

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#1. It's a hard road to hoe in NZ competing with The Ministry of Works - oops, read Fletchers

Brilliant call - but how do all those competing electricity generator/retail sales outfits get by after the ideologues extinguished the NZED and local power boards?
Oops - I got it, they gouge by other means:
Kiwi power prices have increased at twice the rate of most other countries over the past three decades.
A book next month from Victoria University researcher Geoff Bertram, Evolution of Global Electricity Markets, claims New Zealand's power prices are now more than twice what they were 30 years ago, in real terms. Read NZ Herald article