New label for B&B Communities

Following approval of the change at the company’s annual general meeting on December 30, 2008, the new name will also affect the Babcock & Brown Communities Trust, which from today will be known as the Lend Lease Primelife Trust.The company’s ASX ticker code will also change from BBC to LLP. The move will sever management ties with BBC’s troubled investment bank parent company Babcock & Brown, and see Lend Lease inject $195 million into BBC. Lend Lease has a 43.2% stake in BBC, and the change to LLP reflects Lend Lease’s recapitalisation plan, which was approved at the AGM.

Cat fights tough times with salary slash…

Caterpillar said yesterday its cost cutting included significant compensation reductions for executives, management and support staff. The company will also suspend merit pay increases for management and support employees.Executive compensation will be cut in half, compensation for senior managers will be slashed by 5-35% and other management and support staff will see up to a 15% reduction.Caterpillar is also offering US-based management and support employees a voluntary redundancy package.The OEM blamed continued deterioration of conditions in many of the markets its customers serve and on-going uncertainty in credit and financial markets.”We understand these decisions will disrupt the lives of many of our employees and their families, and we regret the need to take these steps,” Caterpillar CEO Jim Owens said. “We considered waiting until January to make this announcement, but decided it was better to communicate these plans with our employees as we approach the completion of our 2009 planning process.” To further reduce costs, Caterpillar will look to save money elsewhere through temporary factory shut downs and layoffs.Thursday last week Caterpillar laid off 814 production employees at its Mossville, Illinois engine assembly facility.”Good companies become great companies when facing and addressing adversity,” Owens said.Caterpillar is the world’s biggest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment.

Abigroup on front foot with skills shortage

Despite the broader global economic downturn, Abigroup said today it is in the process of implementing training programs because it needs skilled professionals to work on its projects now.Additionally, the Bilfinger Berger subsidiary said it was working to further strengthen and develop its workforce and has identified leadership potential within its organisation that it wants to fast-track.Specifically, its Management Development Program (MDP) will develop the skills of potential managers, while the Leadership Development Program (LDP) prepares existing managers for more senior roles. The programs are run by coaching and development specialists. Abigroup said the programs would enhance employees’ management and leadership styles and support their leadership journeys through a combination of formal learning and practical applications. Recently the MDP and LDP programs were launched for staff from across the building, civil engineering and corporate divisions who had been identified as having a high level of technical expertise but required training in management. “These programs allow Abigroup to contextualise training to suit the requirements and needs of our business,” said northern region general manager John Kirkwood. He said the programs would play a valuable role in ensuring Abigroup has “the right people in the right places for the future of our business”.At the end of the six to nine-month courses, Abigroup said participants would be able to immediately draw upon what they had learnt and apply the learnings when back in the workplace.

MBA calls on RBA to shave rates further

The building and construction industry body said further rate cuts would be necessary to trigger a recovery in the slumping residential industry.On Tuesday, the ABS reported the seasonally adjusted estimate for the number of dwelling units commenced slid more than 10% nationally in the September quarter, following a 0.2% revised increase in the previous June quarter.New private sector house commencements plummeted 11% (seasonally adjusted) in the three months to September, a rapid turnaround on the June quarter’s revised rise of 5.3%.MBA chief economist Peter Jones said the organisation applauded the Reserve Bank of Australia’s aggressive rate cuts totalling 3% over the past four months, but said the RBA needed to reduce rates further to attract wary home buyers and investors back into the market.“Consumers are still bearish as a result of economic uncertainty and the global financial crisis and it will take time to turn the housing market around,” Jones said.“The unfortunate thing is that dwelling activity has been suppressed for an extended period leading to a chronic shortfall of housing.“Master Builders welcomes recent initiatives by the Rudd government designed to put a floor under the housing market and urges state and local governments to play their role in attempting to recession-proof the Australian economy.” Jones added that removing bottlenecks to approvals processes within local councils was crucial for the full advantages of the federal government’s fiscal initiatives to be received.

Plant theft campaign launched

The Name and Shame campaign has been running for the past five years since it was launched by Perth’s major building companies and the Housing Industry Association in conjunction with Meridian Services.The objective is to identify offenders, support police in the prosecution of the offenders and publicly name adults who are convicted as a further deterrent to committing offences on building sites. The shame file (http://www.hianameandshame.com.au/shame.aspx) lists 121 people who have been charged and convicted, out of a total 150 convictions to date.Rewards are paid – totalling $80,000 to date – to members of the public who provide information leading to the arrest of offenders responsible for building site crime. At the same time, Name and Shame increases public awareness of the problems and costs associated with building site incidents.Police have also been brought into the campaign, conducting a Tradesmen Stop campaign in which all exits from a new housing development area were blocked and random searches undertaken of vehicles leaving the area. As well as searching 85 cars, the police carried out licence and breathalyser checks.Inquiries resulting from Tradesman Stop led to the discovery of a large quantity of allegedly stolen materials, and the campaign says further similar exercises are planned.According to the HIA, building site crime in WA alone costs more than $15 million each year. Comparative figures for the civil construction sector are not easily available, but it is believed that about 2000 heavy vehicles and 500 pieces of plant and equipment are stolen in Australia each year – the costs of vandalism and petty theft come on top of that.The need for more effort to be made in preventing plant theft and site vandalism was underlined by the most recent survey of members by the CCF WA branch. But initial investigations by the branch highlighted the lack of data on the incidence of plant theft and site vandalism. “It will be difficult to engage the government, police and other organisations without us having a capacity to identify how significant the problem is,” the CCF noted in a circular to members.As a result, the CCF has teamed up with Meridian Services to launch a pilot project to gain data on the incidence of plant theft and site vandalism across the metropolitan area. The CCF has added links on its website so members can report incidents, with the information to be collected and collated by Meridian.Member companies are being encouraged to inform their supervisors and site-based staff about the strategy to ensure the pilot study is as accurate as possible.

Industrea wins $5.3M Chinese contract

It is the first time Industrea has made a sale to Shenhua Ningmei Group Material Co, part of Industrea’s existing client Shenhua Energy Company.Today’s contract brings Industrea’s total new contracts since June 2008 up to $60 million.“Having a strong reputation in this area is especially important with the Chinese government placing increased emphasis on productivity and safety in its recent 11th Five-Year Plan,” Industrea chief executive Robin Levison said.“With China’s demand for energy unabated and its mining sector showing exceptional resilience, China will continue to be an area of growth and profitability for Industrea with the strong demand for safety and productivity equipment expected to continue for both the current and next financial year. “Aligned with Industrea’s internal budget forecast, certain future additional Chinese sales contracts completed during the remainder of the current financial year will be delivered and revenue recognised in the next financial year.”

New player builds competition

IronPlanet managing director Graeme McPherson said the company had built “excellent market penetration” in North America and had reached a point where growth in those territories was becoming expensive from both a cost and resource perspective.“Interest levels have been phenomenal,” McPherson said. “We are averaging about five or six bids per item at the last auction and we had in excess of 1000 people online during the course of the auction.“We had Singapore and New Zealand [buyers bidding] as well … but all the equipment sold into Australia.“In the last auction 72 percent of equipment went to end users and 28 percent to resellers. We can’t tell what the businesses have been but on average over the past four auctions we’ve had about 75 percent of items go to end users.”McPherson said the company’s core line-up of equipment was skid steers, compactors, rollers, dozers, graders, loaders and excavators from about 30 tonne down to minis.IronPlanet offers two types of sales to vendors. In an owner auction there are two prices, the opening bid price and a reserve price the vendor has set prior to the auction. “The seller will consult with us to find the opening bid price and the reserve is also then set,” McPherson said. “People bidding will get a message back advising them that the reserve is not met via an email.”In a feature auction the opening bid price is determined by IronPlanet. With this type of auction, once a further bid is placed the item is on the market and will be sold.The company has a variable type of listing fee for vendors and also offers “iron clad assurance” – a kind of warranty on the auctioned item’s description to leverage some light security for buyers.“Iron Clad is not to ensure that [the equipment] will perform from a functionality basis but rather that what is provided in the report is true and accurate, and what the buyer will get is what was on the report,” McPherson said.“If [the listing] says it is a backhoe loader with a four-in-one bucket and air conditioning with 3522 hours, it means it will turn up with those things in place.”At this early stage of its exposure to the Australian market, McPherson said the company was “on target with our business plans, about where we expected to be”.“We’d always like to be further advanced but we really only launched in August [2007],” he said.Makrell said Ritchie Bros. was not fazed by the new competitor. “It keeps you on your toes,” he said. “The people who will benefit from the competition are the end users and the dealer.” “I believe if we maintain our integrity and our service and our business model that’s been successful for 50 years worldwide … we will continue to grow.”Increased competition in sourcing used equipment will remain an ongoing challenge. “It’s a matter of being on top of the market and building rapport with people to sell their equipment,” Makrell said.

CHAIN MAIL: Stop, hammer time

Western Australia-based Ross’s Auctioneers & Valuers is in the business of catering for sellers as well as buyers, and the company specialises in a number of areas, including new and used construction equipment. The services offered by Ross’s include:Site inspection of the assets and consultation on sale methods.
Removal of assets from designated locations and delivery to their showrooms.
Consignment of the assets including asset numbers and serial numbers for accurate asset reconciliation.
Trained staff capable of the identification and marketing of a wide variety of assets.
Several auctions every week ensuring each asset is assigned the correct outlet and market for maximum return on the assets.
The ability to handle almost any quantity of surplus assets, end of lease or other equipment that your company may wish to dispose of.
Hire All Machinery and Sales is the latest in a line of companies to go out of business and their entire range of products is to go under the hammer this Saturday, December 6.The auction will take place in Balcatta, WA, and among the items up for grabs will be Kanga mini loaders, aluminium scaffolding, cement mixers (new and used), concrete helicopters and saws, brick saws, tillers, vertical rammers, chainsaws, quick cut saws, power tools, generators, rollers, compressors, Geni lifts, and Gyprock lifters.There is also a machinery auction taking place at Ross’s showrooms located in Maylands, WA, on December 16 and this will feature trucks and 4x4s among other things.Ross’s is a member of the Auctioneers and Valuers Association of Australia, the Auctioneers and Valuers Association of Western Australia and the Western Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industries. More information on upcoming auctions can be found on their website at www.rossauction.com.au.

Industry Report – Projects

NEW SOUTH WALESRAILSydney Rail Project (Proposed)Principal: Transport Infrastructure Development Corporation-Richmond Line AllianceScope: Construct 3km new railway track and associated works between Quakers Hill and Schofields stations; new Schofields station, car parking, bus interchange, replace pedestrian level crossings at Quakers HillStatus: Macmahon announcement of subsidiary MVM Rail signing of Richmond Line Alliance, November 2008Purpose: Upgrade rail infrastructureContractors: Richmond Line Alliance (Transport Infrastructure Development Corporation, Leighton Contractors, Maunsell AECOM, Sinclair Knight Merz, Ansaldo STS, MVM Rail)Value: $236 million(New project: Macmahon announcement of contract award, November 2008)NEW SOUTH WALESPORTSMayfield No. 4 Berth, Newcastle (Current)Principal: Newcastle Port CorporationScope: Upgrade former BHP ore berth, construct hardstand for cargo handling, storage or assembly areaStatus: Successful tenderer announced November 2008, construction commenced end November 2008, completion late 2009Purpose: Meet potential for general industrial and commercial freight close to Newcastle Contractors: BMD ConstructionsValue: $25 million(Update: Ports and Waterways announcement of contract award to BMD constructions, November 2008)NORTHERN TERRITORYRESOURCESIron Ore Wharf Removal, Darwin (Proposed)Principal: Infrastructure & TransportScope: Remove conveyor system, ship’s loader and redundant building structures on Fort Hill siteStatus: Tender awarded to Steelcon Constructions (NT) December 2008, demolition commenced December 2008, completion 12 monthsPurpose: Wharf no longer used and not feasible to retain structure due to its conditionContractors: Steelcon Constructions (NT)Value: $6.4 million(Update: NT government announcement of tender award, December 2008)QUEENSLANDROADSIpswich Motorway Upgrade, Dinmore to Goodna (Proposed)Principal: Main RoadsScope: Upgrade 8km motorway to six lanes, construct service roads, pedestrian bridges, demolish 17 bridges, construct 31 new bridges, 70 new retaining walls, pre-cast concrete barriers, relocate underground cables and sewerage pipes, environmental investigationsStatus: Contract awarded to Origin Alliance November 2008, construction commencing early 2009, completion 2012Purpose: Provide safer, more reliable motorway with significant benefits for local communities, long-distance travellers and freight haulersContractors: Origin Alliance (Main Roads, Abigroup, Fulton Hogan, Seymour Whyte Constructions, SMEC Australia, Parsons Brinckerhoff Australia)Value: $1.1 billion(Update: State government announcement of award of contract, November 2008)QUEENSLANDPORTSTownsville Marine Precinct Project (Proposed)Principal: Port of Townsville, Infrastructure and PlanningScope: Construct onshore facilities including commercial ship-lift, trawler berths, barge ramp, maritime maintenance workshops, includes possible construction of boat ramps, car parking, coastguard facilities; offshore facilities include breakwater, moorings areaStatus: Project declared “significant project” requiring federal and state environmental impact statements. Draft terms of reference available until December 22, 2008 at Townsville City Council Offices, Walker Street, Townsville; Townsville City Library, Level 1, Northtown, 280 Flinders Mall, Townsville; State Library of Queensland, Cultural Centre, Stanley Place, South Bank, BrisbanePurpose: Meet ongoing and increasing demand for commercial marine facilities by providing an opportunity for marine-dependent industries to co-locate in sheltered, purpose-built precinctContractors: NAValue: NA(New project: State government announcement of project, November 2008)WESTERN AUSTRALIAPORTS/RAILOakajee Deepwater Port and Rail, near Geraldton (Proposed)Principal: Geraldton Port AuthorityScope: Deepwater port to handle Cape-size carriers, railway line and industrial estateStatus: State government to wait for indication of federal funding before finalising agreement on development, finalisation date extended from November 30, 2008 to February 28, 2009, project feasibility mid-2009, port operational 2012Contractors: Oakajee Port and Rail (50:50 Murchison Metals, Mitsubishi Development)Purpose: Railway and export port 20km north of Geraldton for current and predicted Mid West region iron ore mines Value: $1.5 billion(Update: State government announcement of extension of finalisation date, November 2008)WESTERN AUSTRALIARAILKwinana Freight Terminal (Proposed)Principal: PlanningScope: 1400ha site between Russell Street and Rowley Street includes 133ha core terminal area, industry park, strategic and logistic links with proposed Kwinana Outer Harbour port container facility and private port proposal at James PointStatus: Public comment period closes January 30, 2009Purpose: Create rail-based transport node for southern corridor for efficient functioning of freight network on site formerly known as Hope Valley-Wattleup Redevelopment ProjectContractors: NAValue: NA (New project: State government announcement of project, November 2008)WESTERN AUSTRALIAURBAN DEVELOPMENTRiverside Masterplan, Perth (Proposed)Principal: East Perth Redevelopment AuthorityScope: 40ha commercial/residential high-rise development of former Gateway siteStatus: Revised master plan released November 2008Purpose: Redevelop eastern CBD area alongside planned redevelopments of WA Cricket Association ground, WA Trotting Association’s Gloucester Park and Trinity CollegeValue: $880 million (EPRA $130 million, predicted private sector investment $750 million)(Update: State government announcement of revised master plan, November 2008)WESTERN AUSTRALIARESOURCESRapid Growth Project 5, Stage 5, Port Hedland (Proposed)Principal: BHP Billiton Iron OreScope: Construction work to facilitate dredging at Finucane Island, includes seawall construction, placement of 750,000 cubic metres armour rock; new containment ponds for dredge materialStatus: Macmahon announcement of award of contract, December 2008Purpose: Increase Pilbara iron ore operations capacityContractors: Macmahon HoldingsValue: $50 million(Update: Macmahon announcement of award of contract, December 2008)

Macmahon denies takeover talks

In a statement yesterday, Macmahon said it wished to clarify that it was not in discussion with Bouygues about a possible takeover or merger.However, the company said it is continuing to explore project opportunities with Bouygues and other selected alliance partners.In September, Macmahon’s $500 million drawn-out takeover bid for Africa-focused mining contractor Ausdrill lapsed after it failed to gain enough acceptances.