IT IS happening again with Fairfax stock. As noted earlier, once again FXJ slumped at the start of trading, then clawed its way northward. And again, it's the volume that is fascinating -- almost 30 million shares changing hands as of 3.45pm, well over twice the three-month average.
Is Mrs. Rinehart churning stock to let Corbett & Co. know she can dump the lot and ruin them at a moment's notice?
Is someone else taking a position, perhaps buy-out artists or a Rinehart ally?
Whatever the truth, it must be obvious by now to Roger Corbett that he and his board are, to all intents purposes, thoroughly stuffed. The market doesn't trust him to lift his company from the mire of so many years' poor stewardship. Nor does it understand how a push to digital will generate profits when online ad prices continue to decline and, even with the closure of its prime printing plants, most of the costly Old Media infrastructure remains by necessity in place. So what can Corbett hope to gain by delaying capitulation?
Well, there is one possible explanation: Could it be that Corbett & Co are hoping a staff revolt in defence of, ahem, quality journalism will prompt the Gillardian rabble to fling a poultice of public monies their way? Quite apart from the delicious irony of staffers being the potential salvation of a management that will sack large numbers in any case, there is Prime Minister Yabby's* proven record of squandering billions on everything from web sites for monitoring grocery rices to pouring additional funds into TV-WOG. While she is most definitely sly, the Yabby is far from smart, so there might just be enough wit behind that Mr Squiggle nose to realise her party is going to be out of power for a long, long time, so why not fund a trust or somesuch to support a permanent mouthpiece for everything that moistens a Bunswick bicycle with righteous excitement?
The end is coming, and here is another irony. When they sacked Larry, Curly and Mo-ette yesterday from the editors' offices of the Silly and the Phage, Fairfax finally did the right and sensible thing. Same with the announced switch to tabloid format, tardy as its implementation may be. As for Greg Hywood, well he can't actually believe, as he told Neil Mitchell, that an unyielding diet of warmism, common room cant, apologies for a favoured government's incompetence and a selective eye for corruption has had nothing to do with the Age's alienation from the city and readership it once served.
Gillard's boys -- "man" ill-suits the snivelling likes of Combet, Burke, Conroy -- have variously said there will be no Fairfax bailout. Then again, didn't the Yabby say something similar about a carbon tax?
* Yabby: A creature mostly red, happiest in the muck, with the meat in its tail and the crap in its head.