BP tankers start returning to roads

BP’s fuel tankers have started returning to the road after a triple fatality but the company says any defects will be fixed first.

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Tankers outside Victoria began returning to service on Monday across metropolitan and regional areas.

BP’s Victorian drivers were being briefed at a safety meeting on Monday with vehicles in that state expected to progressively return to operation from Tuesday onwards, a company spokesperson said in a statement.

Inspections of about 30 BP vehicles in Victoria and another 20 around the rest of Australia over the weekend uncovered some “wear and tear” defects but no trucks were grounded.

The majority of BP’s haulage is conducted by third party operators and the company says it is continuing to work with its contractors to identify trucks which are similar to the vehicle involved in last Thursday’s accident.

A four-year-old boy, his mum and another woman died when the trailer of a BP petrol tanker became detached while rounding a bend on a country Victorian road, crashing head-on into and crushing two cars.

VicRoads checked 20 BP trucks and 19 trailers, issuing five major and 20 minor defect notices for what it says are standard maintenance issues between services.

The major defects affect a major component of a vehicle and BP is addressing all defects before returning the trucks to service, VicRoads director of regulatory services Richard Bell said on Monday.

“The defects reflect standard maintenance issues that occur in between regular services, such as suspension wear and tear, tyres and oil and fuel leaks,” he said in a statement.

“We did find an example of chassis cracking, which falls in a major category and BP have advised us that these repairs will be carried out this week.”

BP said all defects, even minor ones, will be addressed before any vehicle returns to service after the national recall.

“We are satisfied that we have a robust maintenance program for the ongoing inspection of our vehicles and work with the relevant regulators to ensure adherence to applicable regulations.”

Hodges pushed for quick NRL return

A rare Monday training run for Justin Hodges has the Broncos preparing to welcome back their star centre for Thursday night’s big NRL clash with South Sydney.

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Hodges sweated it out for about 25 minutes by himself at Red Hill as he ran sprints, shuttles and also dummy-half drills in a bid to prove he’d quickly overcome his hamstring injury to play at ANZ Stadium.

The 31-year-old hardly missed a beat in his fitness test and gave the thumbs-up as he returned to the sheds before for his side’s closed training session.

“He’ll make the right decision for himself and the team,” said fellow co-captain Corey Parker.

But with just two field sessions to prepare for the in-form Rabbitohs, it was crucial Hodges, who normally rests up at the start of the week, took part on Monday.

Centre partner Dale Copley revealed Hodges, who had an injection last week as he missed Friday night’s 41-10 thumping of Canterbury, returned to training on Saturday.

Copley, behind only Jarryd Hayne with 16 tries this year, switched from the left side to the right with Hodges sidelined and would likely return to left centre again if the 13-Test veteran makes a timely return.

Copley has enjoyed a breakthrough season in Hodges’ absence on the right side, while also relishing the chance for three starts in his preferred position on the left after Jack Reed was dumped for a big night out last month.

The 23-year-old law student felt the move from the wing closer to the action and a boost in confidence had been significant factors in his improvement.

“I think I belong in the NRL, I feel I’ve been contributing to the team and feel comfortable where I am,” he said. “But I’m not getting carried away.

“I’ve still got a fair way to go I think.”

Copley highlighted the difficulty of Brisbane’s assignment against second-placed Souths, who played with a point to prove in their 23-4 defeat of pacesetters Manly.

It came five days after they were branded predictable by outgoing Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett.

“There’s no secret in that their strength is how big they are,” Copley said. “The problem is trying to stop those big blokes, and that’s the task we face.

“They were obviously pretty impressive; anytime you beat Manly you’ve done something right.”

Another raider eyes Treasury Wine

A takeover battle has broken out for Treasury Wine Estates, the maker of Penfolds Grange.

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The company’s board are unwilling takeover targets, but confirmed on Monday that they had received a second private equity proposal, matching last week’s $3.4 billion offer from US-based KKR and Rhone Capital.

Both potential bidders have been given access to the wine maker’s books to conduct due diligence.

The proposals are not binding and there is no certainty of an official offer being lodged, Treasury Wine said.

The new bidder does not yet want to be identified, but various reports citing market sources said it was US buyout firm TPG Capital.

Treasury Wine shares leapt to a 13-month high, adding 20 cents, or 3.9 per cent, to $5.33.

That compares to the bidders’ $5.20 per share proposals.

The popularity of Treasury Wine, which also owns Wolf Blass and Lindeman’s, comes despite its financial struggles since being spun out of the Foster’s brewing group in 2011.

It took an embarrassing $160 million in writedowns in 2013, due to an oversupply in the US that saw $33 million worth of wine destroyed.

Another $260 million impairment charge has been flagged this year as new chief executive Michael Clarke implements his strategy to turn the company around.

That includes major changes to its global business, which Mr Clarke has indicated is more important to the board than takeover opportunities.

Analysts value the share price at about $5.25, and believe a bidding war would increase the offer price, and the chances of shareholders accepting a change of control.

“It’s becoming very, very apparent that soon it will be out of the board’s hands if all of a sudden it becomes compelling and is a premium,” IG market strategist Evan Lucas said.

“Shareholders will start going `we want to take this, we believe that is fair value.”

Morningstar analyst Daniel Mueller speculated that the company could be broken up if it falls into private hands.

“The industry has had a pretty challenging decade for a number of reasons and whether private equity thinks there’s a more long-term cyclical change in the winds, I’m not sure,” he said.

Treasury Wine was still regarded as a premier wine producer, with low cost horticultural assets that might appeal to college endowment, pension or sovereign wealth funds, he said.

Private equity firms traditionally buy underperforming public companies to restructure and turn them around and before returning them to public hands.

Tablet sales tumble at JB Hi-Fi

JB Hi-Fi is pinning its hopes on families wanting to sit around big-screen TVs playing computer games to make up for declines in tablet sales.

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The electronics and whitegoods retailer says tablet computer sales slipped in July, but believes an expected rise in demand for games in the lead up to Christmas will help bolster its earnings.

JB Hi-Fi posted a strong full year net profit result on Monday, up 10 per cent to $128.4 million for 2013/14 thanks to higher margins and cost cuts across the business.

But it has started the new financial year on the backfoot, with same store sales in July down 5.5 per cent due to a slide in sales of tablets, such as iPads and Android devices.

It’s a trend that newly installed chief executive Richard Murray expects to continue for the remainder of the first half.

“Customers seem to hold on to tablets for longer, especially the higher (more expensive) models, and the older models are handed down within the family,” he said.

“Large screened mobile phones, called phablets, are seen as a viable alternative to tablets.”

Investors punished JB for the fall in July sales, with its shares closing nearly eight per cent lower at $17.84.

While fewer tablet sales will impact on JB’s first half, Mr Murray said other products such as big-screen TVs and gaming consoles were expected to be solid.

Families who missed out on the latest gaming consoles last Christmas are expected to snap them up this year because they’ve come down in price, he said.

There were also more games coming out that made better use of the more powerful consoles.

“This Christmas it’ll be about the family console,” he said.

“Where previously you started with a console of $1,000, you’re probably going to see prices half that this Christmas and that’s making the products much more accessible to consumers.”

Over the longer term, JB is pinning its growth prospects on whitegoods and appliances with plans to convert 26 more stores into JB Hi-Fi HOME stores this financial year.

Mr Murray said the home appliances market, worth around $4.6 billion, was larger than any of JB’s other markets.

The company is targeting trends such as people’s desire to integrate technology into their homes and to use appliances, such as coffee machines, as a fashion statement.

“We’re very clear that we have growth ahead of us,” he said.

“People are proud of their appliances; they’re colourful and more integrated with the interior design of their home.

“The connected home is still in it’s infancy. People like wireless audio, tablets holders on the wall where they can control the front door or turn on lights through wireless systems.”

But Morningstar senior equities analyst Tim Montague-Jones said JB Hi-Fi faces competition in that market, with many other retailers, including Bunnings, having already expanded into whitegoods.

“The market is becoming more competitive so we don’t expect to see any significant increase in revenue from the JB Hi-Fi HOME concept,” he said.

SOLID PROFIT FAILS TO IMPRESS JB HI-FI INVESTORS

* Net profit of $128.4m, up 10 pct from $116.4m in 2012/13

* Revenue of $3.48b, up 5.3 pct from $3.31b

* Final dividend of 84 cents, up 12 cents

Marquez could win all 18 races: Doohan

Mick Doohan believes there’s every chance reigning MotoGP champion Marc Marquez will make history and win all 18 races this season.

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The 21-year-old Spaniard notched his 10th straight victory at the Indianapolis Grand Prix on Monday morning (AEST), equalling Australian Doohan’s record set in 1997.

He finished 1.8 seconds ahead of Yamaha pair Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, with Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa in fourth.

Marquez now sits on a perfect 250 points on the overall standings after 10 GPs, 89 points clear of Pedrosa in second.

Five-time world champion Doohan said he was surprised his record remained unmatched for so long, especially during the years Rossi won his seven MotoGP titles.

“Rossi had a good crack at it and Marquez, in his current form, is looking like he’s going on to win maybe another 10,” Doohan told AAP on Monday.

“He’s certainly the man of the moment – he’s making the other guys look like amateurs.

“He’s got a teammate on a similar bike, he’s got good rivals on other competitive bikes, but he’s just riding on a different level to everybody.

“There is no doubt there’s every chance he’s going to win all 18 (races this year).”

Doohan still holds the all-time MotoGP record of 12 wins in a season, also set in 1997 en route to his fourth successive title.

But he reckons it’s only a matter of time before Marquez breaks that one, too.

“There was 15 races in the season I did it, so … with eight races left, and on his current form, there’s a good chance he’s going to pick up more than two wins,” he added.

The Queenslander said while Honda clearly had the edge on Yamaha in 2014, Marquez’s mental strength and confidence has proven the real difference.

“What he gets away with is nothing short of spectacular,” Doohan said.

“He’s consistent as well. He doesn’t make a mistake.

“The thing with that is the other guys will lift their level as well. It may not be the next race, but certainly they’ll keep pushing until they try and close the gap, that’s for sure.”

Marquez himself marvelled at his unbeaten start to the year, but admits it won’t be easy to maintain it.

“Every weekend I say, ‘Ok, here is maybe the time to finish second or third. Here will be the time where I struggle’. But every race I feel so strong,” he said.

“The most important thing is that I enjoy it and like we saw on the podium the team enjoys every victory like the first one, which keeps the motivation and concentration.

“But it will be so difficult to win every race.

“Yamaha were close to us here and next is Brno and Silverstone – two tracks where last year we struggled a little bit more and Yamaha is strong.”