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From that perpetual font of bad news known as the ASX, shares in Harvey Norman (HN) have dropped some 43 per cent since the start of the year, contributing to a $1.2 billion wipeout from the value of the retailer.

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Worse still, HN supremo Gerry Harvey was one of the key investors in electronic payment firm Bill Express, which entered voluntary administration last week after collapsing with $180 million of debt, and leaving thousands of newsagents and shops in the lurch when 14,000 point of sale terminals across the country were unable to process payments.

So after an initial $12 million stake in the company when it floated in late 2004, and despite the fact the company posted a profit every year it was in operation, Harvey’s investment is now worth next virtually nothing.

To make matters even worse for the billionaire, Gerry Harvey is also a large shareholder in another company, On Q, which owned a significant stake in Bill Express, which has now emerged as a major creditor to the company.

In 2004 On Q shares reached their peak and were worth some $8.5 million.

However, now the shares, which are now suspended are worth some $560,000.

On Q is yet to update the ASX on the financial implications of the Bill Express collapse despite having told the market it expected to be able to disclose that information as of last Friday.

ASIC is now reported to be investigating allegations of share price manipulation of Bill Express intended to stave off margin calls on the company’s shares.

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