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Arrium demands action on steel dumping

Iron ore miner and steel company Arrium has slammed the federal government for failing to crack down on the dumping of cheap foreign steel imports.

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The criticism came as the company formerly named OneSteel reported a $1.5 billion half year loss, largely due to plunging iron ore prices and $1.34 billion in impairments from the closure of a South Australian mine.

Arrium’s mining division posted a $65 million loss, and there are no signs of a price recovery, while losses in the steel making business widened to $35 million.

Chief executive Andrew Roberts said the Anti-Dumping Commission’s investigations into steel bar imports were moving at an unacceptably slow rate.

Arrium and BlueScope Steel have long complained of being undercut on prices for construction steel reinforcing bar by overseas producers.

Dumping is not illegal but a government can act to protect local industry, such as in Canada where import duties were recently imposed.

“It is very disappointing, we are continuing to suffer injury in steel from dumped import goods,” Mr Roberts said.

“While we’ve seen encouraging signs and comment from the government recently related to initiatives to improve our anti-dumping regime, we are yet to see this reflected into actions and outcomes.”

Mr Roberts is optimistic Arrium will achieve stronger earnings in the second half of the financial year, including improvement in its mining equipment business and a better performance from the steel division.

He said the company was well placed for an expected lift in construction activity, particularly the use of intensive steel in high rise apartments.

Arrium shut the higher priced of its two South Australian iron ore projects in January – cutting 580 jobs.

It is targetting a 27 per cent fall in production costs to about $57 a tonne by 2015/16, meaning a return to profitability, Mr Roberts said.

IG market strategist Evan Lucas said Arrium’s $22 million underlying loss, which excludes impairments, was a horrible result.

He questioned the company’s optimism about the second half and said shareholders were unlikely to be paid a dividend for some time.

Arrium shares finished the session steady at 22 cents. They have fallen 85 per cent in the last year.

ARRIUM STRUGGLES IN WEAK STEEL AND IRON ORE MARKET

* Net loss of $1.5b, down from $220m net profit in 2013/14

* Revenue of $3.22b, down 12 pct from $3.6b

* No interim dividend, down from six cents

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Ardent shares dive after profit result

Ardent Leisure shares have tumbled more than 15 per cent after the theme parks and gym operator posted a disappointing first half profit.

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Weaker earnings from its Goodlife health clubs dragged net profit down 16 per cent to $18.8 million for the half year to December 31.

Investors pushed Ardent’s shares down 44 cents, or 15.9 per cent, to $2.33 at the close of trade on Wednesday.

Part of Goodlife’s problems stemmed from a trial of a new flexible membership plan, which resulted in more people leaving the gyms than joining.

Earnings dropped by more than 11 per cent.

To address softer sales, Ardent chief executive Greg Shaw announced a transition to 24-hour trading for Goodlife gyms in the second half.

“It will enable us to lower our operating costs, particularly during some of our peak trading periods which are weekends and public holidays,” he said.

But analysts fear that the problems at Goodlife won’t be easy to overcome.

“This could potentially be an ongoing problem,” CMC Markets chief analyst Ric Spooner said.

“So investors appear to be taking a safety-first approach and will want to see some evidence of this situation stabilising.”

Ardent’s laser tag, tenpin bowling and indoor rock climbing US chain, Main Event, partially offset the slide in Goodlife’s earnings.

The Texas-based division’s earnings rose by 61.5 per cent, driven by five new centre openings and the positive impact of falling oil prices on discretionary spending.

“We’ve almost seen a direct correlation of traffic through the centres with the lowering of fuel prices,” Mr Shaw said.

Main Event’s constant centre revenue growth accelerated through January, up 17.7 per cent.

“We’ve seen those trends continue into February,” he said.

Mr Shaw expects that momentum to stay, with traditionally strong holiday breaks and one further family entertainment centre opening in coming months.

“Main Event is very seasonally weighted towards the second half, so we do expect the Main Event contribution to grow about 30 per cent,” he said.

Meanwhile, earnings from Ardent’s Gold Coast theme parks Dreamworld and Whitewater World fell marginally during the first half, but have since recovered after a solid January.

Unaudited earnings for the peak January period were up 4.6 per cent, despite heavy rain.

Mr Shaw predicted a lower Australian dollar to encourage an increase in domestic as well as international tourism to the amusement parks.

“It’s becoming more and more economic for Australians to holiday at home,” he said.

UNHEALTHY SLIDE IN ARDENT’S PROFIT

* Net profit of $18.8m, down 16.3 pct from $22.5m

* Revenue of $285.9m, up 14.1 pct from $250.6m

* Interim dividend of seven cents, up from 6.8 cents.

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Breakers eye Cairns win before NBL finals

Star point guard Cedric Jackson says the New Zealand Breakers’ main focus ahead of their final match of the regular season is simply making sure they win.

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The Breakers host Cairns in Auckland on Sunday and need a 26-point victory to dislodge the Taipans from top spot heading into the NBL play-offs.

“A lot of people have asked us about the 26-point difference, but whatever happens happens,” Jackson said.

“We’re just trying to protect home court and trying to get this win.”

It was Jackson’s miracle bucket against Perth on Sunday that kept alive the Breakers’ hopes of overhauling Cairns.

With the Breakers trailing and just 2.6 seconds left in double-overtime, he let fly from inside his own half of the court.

“I just threw the ball and drifted to the side, so I didn’t really see the angle of it,” he said.

“Then it went in. It was pretty amazing. It actually hit me the following morning that the shot went in.”

It was the second time the point guard had landed a buzzer-beater from deep to win a match.

The first, in 2008 during his university days, was from farther out and helped Cleveland State beat Syracuse.

The earlier success wasn’t something that came into his head as he lined up his attempt against Perth.

“But after I made that shot I immediately thought, man, I can’t wait to talk to my college coaches about it,” he said.

Three days earlier, Jackson had recorded his second triple-double of the season in the loss to Adelaide.

The twin feats earned him the league’s player-of-the-week award for the second time this season.

For all the attention on him, Jackson was quick to praise back-court partner Corey Webster, who bagged 27 points against the Wildcats.

The haul eclipsed Webster’s previous career-high haul of 26 against the 36ers last Thursday.

“He was the real hero,” Jackson said.

“He led us to the win. He was unbelievable.”

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Eagles face early injury woes in AFL

West Coast are set to be without star duo Jack Darling and Scott Selwood for their AFL season opener against the Western Bulldogs, while the jury is still out on premiership defender Beau Waters.

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Darling’s recovery from a stress fracture in his right foot has been slower than expected, with Eagles coach Adam Simpson all but conceding the 22-year-old won’t make round one.

Selwood is further advanced in his recovery from the ankle injury that plagued him last year, but the vice-captain also appears unlikely to be ready to face the Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium on April 4.

“I doubt (they’ll be ready),” Simpson said on Wednesday.

“You’ve got to be careful about this big beacon that says, `Round One’.

“It’s such a big season – 22 games, plus the NAB Cup.

“So they’re really aware that it’s not about round one. It’s about getting it right. And whenever they’re right, they’re right.”

Waters is in the same boat after hurting his reconstructed right shoulder at training last week.

The 28-year-old hasn’t played for more than 18 months, and the Eagles will get a clearer picture of his status when they re-assess him later this week.

“We’ve just got to see where his body is at, and don’t rush it,” Simpson said.

“It’s not about getting back for NAB Cup. We’ll keep managing him in a way that’s cautious.”

Tagger Mark Hutchings (groin) is another player unlikely to be fit for the season opener, with the spate of injuries leaving four spots up for grabs early in the early rounds.

Darling’s absence will be particularly hard to cover given his importance to the team.

Although the 90-game forward only booted 39 goals last season, his tackling pressure and ability to hound opponents once the ball hits the ground is a crucial part of West Coast’s attacking set-up.

Jeremy McGovern could be swung up forward to fill the void, while ruckmen Nic Naitanui and Scott Lycett may be given longer stints in attack.

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Matai re-signs with Manly in NRL

Manly centre Steve Matai has performed an about-face and re-signed with the NRL club until the end of the 2017 season.

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The New Zealand Test representative last year asked the Sea Eagles for a release from the final year of his contract amid turmoil at the club.

At the time he was unhappy at premiership-winning teammates Glenn Stewart and Anthony Watmough being allowed to leave the club and believed he could earn more money elsewhere.

Several clubs including New Zealand and the Gold Coast tabled big money offers for Matai’s services however Manly refused to grant him a release.

“There’s been a lot of speculation of late, so to have my future sorted before the start of the season is great,” Matai said.

“It means my focus can simply go back to ensuring I’m fit and ready for action as soon as possible.

“The main priority was always my family – my partner Kate and my two little kids. Everything I do is for them.

“They start school soon, so not having to relocate definitely played a part in the decision too. My goal is always to make them happy. If they’re happy, then I’m happy and I’ve done my job.”

Matai’s signature is a big coup for the Sea Eagles who are fighting to retain off-contract star halves Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran.

“For Sea Eagles members and fans to know they won’t have to worry about seeing Steve line-up against the club over the next few seasons is extremely pleasing,” Manly chief executive Joe Kelly said.

“To also see Steve remain a one-club player in this era, really does put him in very elite company and is a special achievement.”

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