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Distributed: Jan 5, 2010

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Sydney, Jan 5, 2010 (ABN Newswire) - The Australian shares edged higher on the first trading day of 2010. Energy stocks surged amid expectations the oil price will continue to rise this year. At the close, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index advanced 5.7 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 4876.3 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index gained 7.1 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 4889.8.

Key Economic Facts and Figures

The Australian Industry Group/PricewaterhouseCoopers performance of manufacturing index (PMI) fell 2.8 points in December to 48.5, seasonally adjusted, after a drop off in production, new orders and input deliveries. The index was below the 50 point level that separates expansion from contraction for the first time since July 2009 as the sector felt the pressure of a high Australian dollar, successive interest rate rises and a weak global economy, a survey shows.

Housing Industry Association Tuesday releases new home sales data of November.

M&A News

Industrial services provider WorleyParsons (ASX:WOR) has agreed to acquire CNEC Engenharia (CNEC), a stand-alone engineering and project management operation of the Camargo Correa E&C division. The purchase price will be BRL170 million comprising BRL130 million in consideration and BRL40 million which will be initially retained by the business as a non-core asset.

National Australia Bank (ASX:NAB) is gearing up for a possible bid for UK lender Northern Rock, the Observer newspaper in London has reported. It is said that NAB could also bid for hundreds of branches being sold by Royal Bank of Scotland (LON:RBS) and Lloyds (LON:LLOY) as part of a penalty imposed by the European Commission for approving state bailouts of the banks.

Important Corporate News

Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) said its agreement to sell up to 3 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas a year to PetroChina (SHA:601857) (HKG:0857) from the Browse development has not been settled by the December 31 deadline but a separate agreement with Taiwan's CPC remains in place. Woodside said it is also in talks with Japan's Osaka Gas (TYO:9532) over possible sales of gas from Browse.

Benitec Limited (ASX:BLT) (PINK:BNIKF) Monday announced that it had signed a win-win agreement with Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). Benitec agreed that Capital Growth Agreement and the Commercial Agreement will be terminated in exchange for providing CSIRO with a 10% equity stake in Benitec. "The renegotiated agreements further strengthen the Benitec and CSIRO relationship and allows the company to be a more attractive investment option moving forward", said Sue MacLeman, Chief Executive Officer of Benitec.

Ironclad Mining Ltd (ASX:IFE) said tests of high-grade iron ore at Wilcherry Hill confirms that simple dry, low cost processing will enable that company to commence production of direct shipping ore late this year. It plans production of two million tonnes of premium iron ore per year at the site in the northern Eyre Peninsula.

Resources developer IMX Resources Limited (ASX:IXR) has signed a Heads of Agreement with Taifeng Yuanchuang International Development Co. Ltd to invest a minimum of A47.1 million in IMX. Taifeng Yuanchuang, the Hong Kong subsidiary of the privately owned Sichuan Taifeng Group, will contribute around A$23 million to become a 50 per cent equity partner in the phase 1 of the project and other developments in ML6303. Taifeng will also acquire A$24.1 million worth of shares or 19.9% in IMX, at a price of 48.4c each, a 25% premium to its 30-day VWAP.

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  Related Companies

>>>        Benitec Biopharma Limited
>>>           IMX Resources Limited
>>>          Ironclad Mining Limited
>>>        Lloyds Banking Group PLC
>>>          National Australia Bank Limited
>>>         Osaka Gas Co., Ltd
>>>         PetroChina Company Limited
>>>         Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc
>>>          Woodside Petroleum Limited
>>>          WorleyParsons Limited

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