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No near-term deals for BHP spin-off

BHP Billiton’s spin-off South32 is keeping its eye out for opportunistic mergers and acquisitions but is in no rush to seal any deals, chief executive Graham Kerr says.

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Mr Kerr says any deal would also have to be sold “very strongly” to investors.

He said mergers and acquisitions were not a key strategy for South32, which bundles together BHP Billiton’s aluminium, base metals, silver, manganese and coal assets.

“I think M&A is always opportunistic and you only do it for value,” Mr Kerr told reporters.

“We will look, we’ll be aware of M&A opportunities, but we would only pursue those if we had the mandate from our investors and we saw value.

“The industry gets fixated on growth for growth’s sake – we’ll be very focused on how we grow our cashflow.”

Mr Kerr’s comments came as BHP Billiton’s shareholders in Australia and Britain overwhelmingly backed the mining giant’s plans to spin off South32 as a separate entity.

At meetings held in Perth and London late on Wednesday, shareholders voted in favour of the spin-off.

When asked about the commodities that South32 could have on its divestment radar, Mr Kerr said each asset would have to “win the right to stay in the portfolio”.

He touched on the company’s coal assets, saying they were “not the most value accretive way we can see ourselves using our people, time or resources at the moment”.

“I think our investors in the first six months would be expecting us to actually deliver on the regional model, deliver on increased productivity and operational targets to build up a sense of confidence in the management team.

“At the same time with M&A, six months, 12 months, 18 months – we’ll always be prepared.”

Mr Kerr said South32 needed to think deeply about what it would do with its manganese assets, given volatile prices for the commodity.

Slowing down production while prices were low would be considered, he said.

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Raiders prepare for tough Titans NRL clash

They beat defending premiers South Sydney but Canberra coach Ricky Stuart reckons Saturday’s clash with Gold Coast will be the Raiders’ toughest NRL match of the last month.

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In the past four rounds, the Raiders have beaten Manly, Wests Tigers and last start toppled the Rabbitohs, with a narrow loss to Melbourne their only blemish.

But Stuart believes the Titans, on a run of three consecutive victories, pose a bigger threat – even without star forward Greg Bird following his eight-week suspension.

“They’re a very opportunistic football team,” Stuart told the club’s website on Thursday.

“They’ve scored the most tries in the NRL this year – 31 – and 12 of those have been scored from their tryline to their 20, so they’re 80-90 metre tries.

“So they have a lot of speed, a lot of talent; their back five are very, very fast.

“I personally think this game will be our toughest game over the last month.”

The Raiders have won four of their five matches on the road so far this season, but are yet to taste victory at GIO Stadium.

Not since Canberra’s inaugural 1982 side has the club lost its first three fixtures at home.

Stuart, eager to end that run this weekend, believes the Raiders have played better and more consistent football on their own turf but the results haven’t fallen their way.

“There’s two games we could’ve won, but we didn’t,” he said.

“But it’s a situation now of just making sure we’re doing the best prep for our next game and that’s the way we look at it.

“A lot of teams are 4-4, we’re in a very, very congested competition at the moment.

“It’s just a matter of trying to win the next match.”

The Raiders have named a similar line-up to the one that beat the Rabbitohs in Cairns, with Jordan Rapana cleared to play despite hurting his cheekbone.

Stuart said consistency was key to ensuring a place in the finals later in the year.

“Everybody wants to be fighting for a top-eight spot and consistent football early in the season, right through the representative season, is very important,” he said.

“And that comes from not having a lot of injuries and players in good form, so you can create combinations and have players gel together.”

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Burnley in last-chance saloon, need a miracle

Sean Dyche’s side have earned plenty of plaudits for their style of play this season, but not enough goals or points.

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When they stunned champions Manchester City 1-0 in March they were one point behind 17th place and survival appeared to be well within their grasp.

Five defeats and a 0-0 home draw with Tottenham Hotspur in their next six matches, however, leaves the humble Lancashire club needing a sporting miracle.

With three games left to play they have 26 points, compared to 17th placed Hull’s 34. They must beat Hull, Stoke City and Aston Villa and hope for favours elsewhere.

Despite their predicament, Dyche said his team remains motivated and midfielder Matt Taylor insists the fight goes on.

“There’s three games left and we’ll continue to fight,” Taylor told the Lancashire Telegraph.

“We won’t feel sorry for ourselves. We’ll dust ourselves down and go again.”

While Burnley’s Premier League status looks almost certain to last only one season, as it did in 2009-10, fellow promoted side Queens Park Rangers are also in dire straights, although Leicester City look like surviving.

QPR, on 27 points, will be doomed by the time they travel to Man City on Sunday, should Hull beat Burnley, Aston Villa beat West Ham United and Newcastle United beat West Bromwich Albion the day before.

Third from bottom Sunderland, who are a point behind Hull with a game in hand, could put the jitters up the teams just above them with victory in Saturday’s early kickoff at Everton.

A Sunderland win against Roberto Martinez’s side would take them, for a few hours at least, above free-falling North East rivals Newcastle United who have lost eight league games in a row and are spiralling out of control.

Newcastle, in 15th spot with 35 points, had two sent off in the 3-0 capitulation at Leicester last week, after which manager John Carver suggested defender Mike Williamson had got a red card on purpose.

Such is the disarray at St James’ Park that skipper Fabricio Coloccini wrote an open letter apologising to the club’s fans.

“Players and staff have come together in order to leave all past problems aside and to focus 100 percent on the three ‘cup finals’ that we have left,” he said.

With Chelsea already champions and Arsenal and Manchester City scrapping for second place, the only real intrigue at the top is whether fourth-placed Manchester United can clinch a place in the top four, having lost three consecutive games.

Victory at Crystal Palace on Saturday would ease their nerves.

(editing by Justin Palmer)

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Federer falls under Kyrgios spell in Madrid exit

Ten months after the then 144th-ranked Kyrgios overwhelmed Rafa Nadal in the Wimbledon fourth round with a fearless brand of tennis, the Australian showed that he is a force to be reckoned with on clay too.

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Now ranked 35th on the back of contesting his first ever ATP final in Estoril last weekend, Kyrgios brought an abrupt end to Federer’s hopes of winning a fourth Madrid trophy with a heart-pumping 6-7(2) 7-6(5) 7-6(12) victory.

“I think he’s the greatest of all time… I knew before the match that I would have to play one of the greatest matches I have ever played, I wasn’t intimidated at all,” the remarkably composed 20-year-old said courtside following his victory in two hours 37 minutes.

“It doesn’t really feel real at the moment. It’s a strange feeling… it’s pretty exciting.”

While Kyrgios was celebrating what he called “definitely the greatest win of my career”, Federer was condemned to his earliest exit in 11 visits to Madrid.

On the day he had hoped to celebrate the first birthday of his twin boys Lenny and Leo with a routine victory, the world number two was first rankled when Kyrgios broke him in the opening game of the match.

The irritation went up a few notches as he was heard snapping “We need a clown for this circus” when the second set slipped away from his grasp under a barrage of aces and crunching baseline winners.

Facing an opponent who was just eight when he won the first of his record 17 grand slam titles in 2003, Federer wasted two match points in the tension-filled third set tiebreak.

Instead Kyrgios was the one holding his arms aloft in victory after he wrapped up the contest on his sixth match point when Federer slammed a forehand wide.

Following a disappointing season in which he has claimed only one low-key title, Nadal went back to using his old racket model to record a 6-4 6-3 win over American Steve Johnson.

He was joined in the third round by Tomas Berdych and 10th seed Grigor Dimitrov but U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic followed Federer out of the exit door after a 6-7(5) 7-6(5) 6-3 defeat by Fernando Verdasco.

Kei Nishikori also progressed with a 6-2 4-6 6-4

victory over Belgian David Goffin, while second seed Andy Murray rounded out the day’s action with a 6-4 3-6 6-0 victory over Philipp Kohlschreiber.

(Writing by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Ed Osmond/Nick Mulvenney)

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Britain’s opposition leader Miliband holds rally on eve of election

The leader of Britain’s main opposition party, Ed Miliband, rallied supporters to show up in force at polling stations on Thursday as he seeks to lead the next government in what appears to be the closest election race in the country for a generation.

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Miliband addressed an audience of supporters in the northern English city of Leeds where he promised to reward hard workers.

“We’re fighting for a Britain where we reward the hard work of every working person not just those who get the six figure bonuses in our country. We’re fighting for a Britain where every young person whatever their background, wherever they’re from has a chance to live a better life than their parents.

“We’re fighting for a Britain where everyone plays by the same rules. And yes where we take on the tax evaders the hedge funds that avoid their taxes and the Tory donors and say enough is enough,” he said.

Miliband re-iterated his view that his Conservative rivals were a party for the rich and privileged.

“And in the closing hours of this campaign, this is my message to the British people. For five years this country has been run for the richest and most powerful but tomorrow is your day. Tomorrow it’s your voice that counts. Tomorrow you have the power to make Britain work for working people once again. You have the power to build a country which rewards hard work again.

“You have the power to build a future for our young people. You have the power to rescue our NHS. You have the power to elect a government that understands that it’s only when working people succeed that Britain succeeds. Use your power for you, your family, and for our NHS. Use your vote. Use your vote to vote Labour and together let’s build a country that works for working people once again,” he added.

A late burst of opinion polls on Wednesday suggested that Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour challenger Ed Miliband had fought each other to a standstill on the eve of Britain’s most unpredictable election in a generation.

Despite five weeks of campaigning, neither party has opened up a clear lead in the polls, pointing to a potentially messy and uncertain outcome from Thursday’s vote.

The stakes are high because Britain’s future in the European Union, as well as its national cohesion, could hinge on the result.

Cameron has promised to hold a referendum on whether to stay in the EU if he returns to power, while polls suggest Scottish nationalists could emerge as the third-largest party, despite losing a plebiscite last year on whether Scotland should break away from the United Kingdom.

 

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