May, 2019

Atlas shareholders approve $180m raising

Atlas Iron’s new chairman Cheryl Edwardes has made her first pitch to shareholders, saying a $180 million capital raising will insulate the company against future iron ore price volatility.

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Shareholders will vote on the capital raising at the Atlas annual general meeting on Thursday, two months after the junior miner suspended mining operations and trading in its shares when iron ore prices dropped below $US50 a tonne.

Ms Edwardes said the dilutionary capital raising was an “integral part of the strategy to insulate Atlas against future iron ore price volatility and maximise the company’s ability to generate strong returns for shareholders in the future”.

“In light of the volatile iron ore price environment, participating in the capital raising is not without its risk,” Ms Edwardes told the annual general meeting on Thursday.

“However, the board believes the terms of the offer are both attractive for investors while enabling Atlas to strengthen its financial position considerably.”

Atlas predicts the iron ore price, which is trading around $US61 a tonne, will move between $US50 to $US70 per tonne over the next two years, despite analysts’ predictions that it could drop as low as $US38 per tonne in the months ahead.

Atlas, which has $340 million of debt with US bond holders which is due in December 2017, is confident the majority of its 34,000 shareholders will support the capital raising.

Managing director David Flanagan embarks on an international roadshow to Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Edinburgh, Australia and New Zealand during July.

Iran’s Zarif to join Vienna nuclear talks

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will travel to Vienna to join a final push for a comprehensive nuclear agreement with major powers, state media reports.

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“On Saturday morning, he will join his deputies who are at the talks drafting the text of a comprehensive agreement,” the official IRNA news agency reported on Thursday.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is to join the talks on Friday, called on the Iranian side to address all outstanding issues.

“If they are not addressed, there won’t be a deal,” he stressed on Wednesday.

Iran and the so-called P5+1 group – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States – are working to a June 30 deadline to allay international fears that it is seeking a nuclear weapons capability.

Iran denies any such ambition but is eager to secure a lifting of crippling Western economic sanctions imposed over those concerns.

On Tuesday, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei set out “red lines” for the negotiations, demanding an “immediate” lifting of sanctions by the United States as well as the United Nations in any deal.

He also renewed his opposition to any inspection of Iranian “military sites” by the UN watchdog.

President Hassan Rouhani said Iran was seeking not only a lifting of sanctions but a rapprochement with the outside world.

“One of the ways of establishing and enhancing national strength is having dialogue with the world over political issues,” IRNA quoted him as saying late on Wednesday.

“And the power of interaction is one of the main elements of national strength,” he added.

“As the leader put it, we want to negotiate. We don’t want to merely take a position, but we seek serious negotiation and fair agreement.”

Cocoa quarantine centre opens in UK

A new STG1 million ($A2.

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04 million) home for the world’s only cocoa quarantine centre has opened, with the facility’s head saying the work “has never been more important”.

The International Cocoa Quarantine Centre (ICQC) was opened at the University of Reading, where cocoa is kept for two years before being shipped to 20 countries around the world.

The centre’s work has been hailed as vital in ensuring cocoa remains free from disease and can be used in breeding programs to make new types of chocolate that have greater resistance.

“The work and research undertaken at the university has never been more important,” said Professor Paul Hadley, who leads the cocoa program.

“Demand for cocoa is going up and up, particularly in countries like China where the standard of living is increasing and people are getting a taste for some of these confectionery products.

“In South and Central America, the centre of cocoa origin, two major diseases, frosty pod and witches’ broom disease, have had a major impact on commercial production. If these diseases spread to other cocoa producing regions such as west Africa it would absolutely devastate the industry. Therefore, safe movement of cocoa via ICQC is of paramount importance.”

Loke Fong Han, senior economist at the International Cocoa Organisation, said the work of the quarantine centre was vital.

“Instead of transferring cocoa from country to country, we have this safe movement of materiel through the quarantine centre which is free from pest and disease,” he said.

“This is of huge value to the sector.”

NRL’s Brisbane ‘vulnerable’: Bennett

Still drained by one of the NRL’s great defensive efforts, ladder leaders Brisbane appear “vulnerable” ahead of Friday night’s clash with lowly Newcastle according to coach Wayne Bennett.

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Bennett had no complaints after the Broncos’ gutsy 14-12 last round win in Melbourne where they braved 11 in-goal dropouts and made 69 tackles in their own 20m zone.

But the Brisbane master coach has not been so fond of what he has witnessed during their limited preparation ahead of Friday night’s Suncorp Stadium showdown.

Bennett hinted that Brisbane had lacked their spark at their two training sessions this week due to the short turnaround from Sunday’s gruelling win over the Storm.

In another headache, centre Jack Reed (head knock) is out, forcing a backline reshuffle in a side already without Queensland backrower Sam Thaiday (rested).

“We have been better,” Bennett said of their training effort this week.

Sitting pretty on top of the NRL ladder with one State of Origin match left has done little to settle Bennett’s anxiety ahead of the Knights clash.

Bennett believed Brisbane could not afford to drop their guard against a Knights side described as “embarrassing” by Newcastle skipper Kurt Gidley last week.

Newcastle led by 10 on two occasions but conceded three tries in seven minutes to lose 30-28 to Cronulla last round.

“They have had a pretty rough eight to 10 weeks now so they will be wanting to get it right,” Bennett said of second last Newcastle (5-9 record).

“We are a bit vulnerable right now.

“It is a game we have to make sure we have our heads on our shoulders … not just turn up and go through the motions.”

Bennett admitted he was “pleasantly surprised” Brisbane (11-3) were on top despite his stars juggling Origin duty.

“We have to come out the other side, it’s still not over for us, but in two or three weeks we should be clear of the (Origin) hangover,” he said.

“Being able to rest players is going to help us enormously.”

Justin Hodges and Corey Parker were rested for Brisbane’s win over Melbourne while Parker was also given a break in the wake of Origin I.

Meanwhile, an 18-strong Knights squad including Jarrod Mullen (foot) flew out for Brisbane on Thursday.

Forward Jeremy Smith (sternum) and half Tyrone Roberts (ankle) didn’t make the cut.

It will only further fuel speculation linking Bulldogs off contract No.7 Trent Hodkinson with a move to the Knights next season.

KEY STATS:

– Brisbane have suffered just one loss in nine games against Newcastle since 2011, and have enjoyed nine wins from 13 games against the Knights at Suncorp Stadium

– Brisbane sit on top of the ladder after round 15, a position they have not occupied so late in a season since 2005

– Newcastle led the competition after four rounds but are now just one loss away from potentially dropping to last with just one win in their last 10 games

– The second last Knights have won just two of their five away matches this season, both in Queensland

– Brisbane’s attack is the best in the competition, averaging the most points (26.6 per game), tries (4.6 per game) and line breaks (7 per game) since round 10

Roosters seek to end horror run

The Sydney Roosters aim to shake off one of the NRL’s worst records when they take their home clash against Gold Coast to Gosford on Sunday.

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Dating back to 2006, the Roosters have lost an incredible 11 straight games when they have taken a home game away from their traditional base of Allianz Stadium.

The tricolours are buoyed for this game by their return to the top four for the first time since round four after their defeat of St George Illawarra.

But they also have a very poor record against the Titans, winning just five of 12 matches against them since Gold Coast joined the competition in 2007.

The ‘home’ side also has the return of the suspended Sam Moa and Michael Jennings (stood down) for the clash against an under-strength Titans.

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves hasn’t been named but is a good chance of returning from a calf injury.

Gold Coast centre Nene Macdonald will play his first game against his old club, just two weeks after leaving Bondi.

Either way, Moa said the Roosters have no fears about taking on the Titans on the Central Coast.

“We do lose that home ground advantage but we do have an affiliation with the Central Coast,” he said.

“We have had a coupe of trial games there the last few years and it has worked really well and we have a really good following up there on the Central Coast.

“We are really happy to go up there and represent the Roosters.”

The Roosters NSW Cup feeder team is the Wyong Roos.

SOMEONE ELSE’S CROWD – ROOSTERS ‘HOME’ RECORD AWAY

Round 7, 2012, North Queensland 50 Roosters 12 in Darwin

Round 6, 2011, Brisbane 24 Roosters 6 in Gosford

Round 22, 2010, St George Illawarra 19 Roosters 12 at SCG

Round 16, 2010, Warriors 20 Roosters 18 in Christchurch

Round 10, 2010, Newcastle 34 Roosters 18 in Gosford

Round 14, 2009, Gold Coast 24 Roosters 20 in Gosford

Round 9, 2009, Melbourne 28 Roosters 12 in Gosford

Round 6, 2008, Newcastle 34 Roosters 20 in Gosford

Round 12, 2007, Newcastle 22 Roosters 18 in Gosford

Round 26, 2006, St George Illawarra 36 Roosters 16 at SCG

Round 22, 2006, Newcastle 32 Roosters 18 in Gosford

(Source: Fox Sports Stats)