Australian Stock Market Report – Midday 2/19/2013

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Local stocks are slightly firmer in the early session, consolidating four and a half year highs reached on the All Ordinaries Index (XAO) yesterday. It's a significant consolidation given Wall Street was closed overnight for Presidents' Day holiday and European markets closed in the red for a third consecutive session.

The All Ords is up 4.2pts at lunchtime to 5087.1pts.

In company news, Newspaper publisher, radio station owner and outdoor advertising company APN News and Media (APN) has come back online following the forced departure of the company's CEO, Chairman and three independent directors. The resignations came at the request of APN's two largest shareholders - Ireland based Independent News & Media as well as funds manager Allan Gray - who hold a 51pct stake in APN. Chief executive Brett Chenoweth, chairman Peter Hunt and Independent directors Melinda Conrad, John Harvey and John Maasland left the company on Monday. The company had been in a trading halt since Friday on speculation the CEO's departure was imminent. APN shares dropped 10pct in early trade and at lunchtime in the East are down 7pct to 28c.

Coca-Cola Amatil (CCL) has seen its FY profit fall 22pct as it deals with weak consumer spending and the high Australian dollar. CCL reported a $459.9M profit for the 2012 year, down from $591.8M in the previous period. But the result included $98.5M in write-downs relating to its food processing division. Excluding the write-downs, net profit rose 5pct. Shareholders will receive a final dividend of 32cps up from 2011's 30.5c payment as well as a special one-off dividend of 3.5c per share, unfranked. CCL shares are firmer by 2.3pct at lunchtime to $13.95.

Steel and mining group Arrium (ARI), the company formerly known as OneSteel, has fallen further into the red as the high Aussie dollar and weak construction markets caused a writedown on its assets. ARI reported a 1H13 loss of $447.2M compared to its 1H12 loss of $74M. ARI shares are down 0.8pct to $1.25.

Broadcaster Southern Cross Media (SXL) saw its 1H profit slump by 52pct during what the company has called one of its most difficult periods. Net profit came in at $45.1M down from $94M. SXL shares are up 9pct in early trade to $1.3375.

The Australian dollar is worth US103.21c, £0.6674 and €77.36c.

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