buying , selling and gossip

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    At the rate he has been buying up shares, one could be excused for thinking Billabong founder Gordon Merchant is trying to buy back his old shop.

    He has now acquired more than $11 million worth of shares since April, with Merchant's latest buys including $4 million worth last week taking his stake to 11.6 per cent.

    Apparently, it is nothing more sinister than Merchant thinks the management has got in someone who knows how to get the best out of the business: Gordon Merchant.

    He has taken a hands-on roll at the business he started with a pair of scissors at the kitchen table.

    "It is all about keeping it simple, finding the right people, having good product, that's critical. And concentrating on what made the company successful in the first place, that's what Neil brought me back in for," he told the local press after the company's AGM.

    Neil would be Billabong boss Neil Fiske, who has bravely taken his third-largest shareholder into the belly of the business.

    Merchant said the business was getting back on its feet after its near-collapse by "getting back to our roots."

    The good thing for Fiske is that it does not involve hand-stitching board shorts around the old kitchen table.

    Or taking investment advice from Merchant, who famously sunk a $3.30 per share takeover offer, some years back, for the then embattled Billabong.

    Merchant's current role is centred on product and design and, without a doubt, plenty of testing the product in real-life conditions out in the surf.

    "I don't know if we can get back to our glory days, but it won't be through lack of trying," Merchant said.

    Bank on Jon

    Bank of Queensland's newish boss, Jon Sutton, has had another crack at hinting to analysts and investors that they might have been getting a tad carried away with projections that recent interest rate increases would boost earnings: He sold more than half of his Bank of Queensland stock last week at a very generous $13.51 each.

    That is down on the $14.40 the stock was trading at recently after rising $3 in a matter of weeks which led Sutton to admit to investors at the bank's AGM that the "repricing that occurred across the industry for investor housing loans in August was largely in response to a contraction in margins."

    In other words, the stock is looking toppy after rising on the earnings estimates being put out to the market.

    If selling $1.75 million worth of shares does not get the point across, nothing will.

    The sale takes his stake from more than 203,000 directly owned shares to 72,372, plus performance rights and restricted shares.

    Good thing Sutton pledged to stick around for five to six years soon after he took over in January this year.

    Investors would hate to think the cycling fanatic planned to scarper like his predecessor, Stuart Grimshaw, who took off for the fresh challenge of running US pawn operation EZCorp.

    Then again, Grimshaw's experience is not a great advertisement for taking a leap into the unknown.

    Third time lucky

    CBD was not sure what we should make of that fact that telecom entrepreneur extraordinaire Tony Hakim took a substantial stake in Broad Investments.

    Its main line of business appears to be an Apple reseller it recently acquired.

    That transaction went so well that the guy they bought the business from, Steven Bardell, has left Broad's board and is suing the company in the NSW Supreme Court.

    But back to Hakim, who made his name with National Telecoms Group (NTG), which was forced to limp into private hands after a mauling by the ACCC and the press.

    Hakim then caused a stir at Strathfield Group, before its modestly spectacular collapse in 2011.

    And the latter explains his involvement with Broad Investments its executive chairman, Vaz Hovanessian, is an associate of Hakim, who was briefly installed as executive chairman at Strathfield before its collapse.

    Hakim's equity interest in Broad may not have been intentional. Consideration for his 175 million shares is reported as $175,665 "in lieu of debt owing."

    courtesy of SMH



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