Business conditions best since GFC: survey

Business conditions were healthier last month than at any point since the global financial crisis, but that failed to translate into confidence, National Australia Bank says.

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The bank’s monthly business survey revealed its business conditions index jumped 5 points in March to +14 points, well above the long-term average of +5 and the highest figure since the financial meltdown of 2008.

The jump in business conditions came as a surprise, said NAB chief economist Alan Oster, and could have been partly due to a lower response rate in cyclone-hit North Queensland.

“Even so, conditions have improved almost across the board to levels that suggest a strong economy in the near-term,” he said.

He said most industries were showing improved business conditions, with services the stand-out performer and the long-struggling mining industry improving thanks to higher commodity prices and an improved global demand outlook. Retail conditions bucked the trend and dipped.

Despite these positive indicators, business confidence fell one index point in March. That was lead by a 13-point deterioration in confidence among wholesalers and a 3-point drop in personal services.

Mr Oster said the results were encouraging for the near-term outlook and supported the bank’s forecast for economic growth to accelerate in the second half of 2017.

“However, there is still cause to be cautious about the longer-term outlook, particularly as other growth drivers, including LNG exports, commodity prices and housing construction, begin to fade,” he said.

“Meanwhile, the RBA has emphasised its financial stability concerns, which are expected to keep them on hold for the foreseeable future.”

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Rare Albert Park real estate sells for $5.575m

MARKET WRAP

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SALES

Albert Park

Prime Albert Park real estate doesn’t come much rarer than this. An island site at 1 Victoria Ave sold for $5.575 million, about $500,000 over the reserve, Allard Shelton’s Joseph Walton, Michael Ryan and James Gregson said. Mr Ryan said that despite the heritage overlay, the purchaser – who beat off four other bidders at auction – was likely to redevelop the property into a 3-4 level mixed-use building and occupy part of it.

Deepdene

Eighty bids from eight buyers pushed the yield on a Whitehorse Road property to a tight 3.24 per cent at auction. Teska Carson’s Tom Maule and Adrian Boutsakis said number 68-72 offered multiple income streams and development potential. It was finally knocked down to a local investor for $3.532 million. The property was sold subject to three leases with a total rental of $114,510 per annum.

Truganina

A 12.61 hectare parcel of farmland that has been in the same family for 40-plus years at 40 Palmers Road sold for $4.77 million. The block, near the Princes Freeway, changed hands on a 30-day settlement, Colliers International’s Stephen Newsham and Nick Saunders said.

Geelong

Children will be taking care of an investor in their old age after a self-managed super fund snapped up a 90-place childcare centre for $3.1 million. The centre at 1 Regent Street had a 10-year lease returning annual rent of $204,000. The property transacted on a yield of 6.6 per cent after being on the market for 22 days, Andrew Kelly from Australian Childcare Brokers said.

Clayton

A large crowd watched eight bidders vie for 81-83 Main Road until the hammer came down at $2.6 million. Crabtrees Real Estate’s Matthew Marenko and Chris McKenzie said the free-standing office warehouse sold well over the reserve, partly because of future development potential. “Property demand is extremely high and stock levels are at an all-time low which is leading to outstanding results,” Mr Marenko said.

Truganina

High demand and continued growth in the western market has seen a private investor pay $2.5 million on a 6.9 per cent yield for a new industrial facility at 29 Efficient Drive. The 2227 sq m office warehouse was recently leased to UCS (Underground Cable Systems) for five years, Knight Frank’s Joel Davy said. In another deal, two sites at 199 and 207 Proximity Drive sold for $1.6 million each. Nearby at 111 Technology Drive a 463 sq m site sold for $635,000 representing a rate of $1371 per sq m. Also selling was 191 Proximity Drive which went for $1.565m and 33 Enterprise Way which fetched $880,000. Davy and Tony Tripodi brokered the deals.

Huntingdale

A self-managed super fund investor paid $1.15 million for 38 Shafton Street and $905,000 for 32 Hargreaves Street. Both brand new office/warehouses were leased to tenants for a rental return of $118,000 per annum net plus GST and Outgoings, to Savills Daniel Kelly said.

Ashwood

Middle ring retail assets are still proving popular with investors. A small two-level shop at 9 Yertchuk Avenue sold for $840,000. The property changed hands with a single tenant leasing the lower level for $27,368.40 per annum, Rounds Real Estate’s Colin Rounds said. Another property at 2 Yertchuk Avenue sold soon after the auction in an offmarket deal for $590,000. “The vendor contacted us a few days after the auction asking if we were able to help sell his premises,” Mr Rounds said.

Oakleigh South

A shop with a residence upstairs at 676 Warrigal Road sold under the hammer for $641,000, Ray White Commercial Oakleigh’s Paul Rizzo said. “There were three main bidders and the successful purchaser happens to be local developer,” he said. Meanwhile, a 248 sq m building at 13/94-102 Keys Road in Moorabbin sold off market to a local investor for $495,000, Ryan Amler said.

Malvern

A block at 675 Dandenong Road sold privately for $680,000. The property was leased for $30,000 giving a return of 4.4 per cent. The new owner plans to develop eventually, Philip Prowse from Prowse Burns Commercial said.

Melbourne

After 40 years based in Melbourne’s inner suburbs, design firm SJB has relocated to the city, leasing 860 sq m across two fully self-contained floors at 18 Oliver Lane. Colliers International’s Milly Stockdale negotiated the six-year deal on behalf of Marks Henderson. The gross asking rent was believed to be around $600 per sq m.

LEASES

Hawthorn

Television and multi-media production company The WTFN Group will relocate to a 390 sq m first floor office at 270 Auburn Road on a three-year lease with two three-year options to renew. The firm will pay annual rental of $117,500 net with 3 per cent annual increases in a deal negotiated by Kevin Sheehan and Rory White from Gray Johnson’s newly created eastern office. No incentives were given.

Prahran

Sideshow Coffee, an offshoot from the owners of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, will open in Peregrine Projects’ Luxton development at 30 Chatham Street. Designed by Zwei Architects and stocking Code Black Coffee, the new espresso outlet will pay $72,000 a year in rent.

Mount Waverley

ASX-listed cleaning and security firm, Millennium Services Group, has agreed terms on a new office lease on Level 1 of 205- 211 Forster Road. The modern, fully fitted and furnished 700 sq m office leased for $186,000 per annum net on a five-year term, Savills Australia’s Daniel Kelly said.

MOVERS

Colliers International’s real estate management division has appointed two new recruits. Dev Dulai will join the firm as engineering and operations manager and Tarone Smith as a new senior property manager.

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Girls with single parents more than twice as likely to be obese

File photo: iStockYoung girls with single parents are more than twice as likely to be obese as girls living in two-parent households, while boys’ obesity is more likely to be linked to takeaway food consumption, according to new research.

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Professor Peter O’Rourke, a senior biostatistician at Queensland’s QIMR Berghofer medical research institute, analysed information gathered on more than 3500 children to explore the differences between genders and age groups in regards to childhood obesity.

The research, published in Public Health, revealed Queensland’s obesity rate in children was 9 per cent, 2 per cent higher than the 2011-2012 national average.

Socio-economic conditions, diet and exercise were named as the three factors that most heavily influenced a child’s likelihood of being obese.

Photo: iStock

But Professor O’Rourke said the effects of these factors differed between boys and girls.

“For girls, particularly older girls, the main contributing factor was parental social disadvantage. It was manifest by both the education level of parents and single status of parents,” he said.

“For boys the dominant factor was excessive use of takeaway foods.”

Key findings were:Boys aged 5-1112 per cent were obeseFactors strongly associated with obesity were parents’ level of education, takeaway food consumption and lack of participation in organised sport.Boys who parents were not university educated were more than twice as likely to be obese.Boys who ate takeaway food two or more times a week were nearly two-and-a-half times more likely to be obese.Boys aged 12-17Seven per cent were obeseFactors strongly associated with obesity were parental education and takeaway food.Girls aged 5-1111 per cent were obeseFactors strongly associated with obesity were parent’s level of education and marital status.Younger girls with single parents were more than twice as likely to be obese as girls living in two-parent householdsGirls aged 12 to 17Four per cent were obeseFactors strongly associated with obesity were parents who were not university educated.These girls were also three times more likely to be obese if from a single-parent household, and more than twice as likely to be obese if they do not participate in organised sportProfessor O’Rourke said determining why girls and boys were so different when it came to obesity was not part of the research scope.

“We do not know why girls from single-parent households are more likely to be obese. More research needs to be done in this area,” he said.

“I could speculate that girls are more sensitised by family issues and boys have more freedom so therefore make more independent choices about takeaway foods.

Photo: iStock

“Knowing which factors are associated with obesity in boys and girls of different ages is crucial because it will help policy makers to develop effective age- and gender-specific strategies to tackle childhood obesity.”

Professor O’Rourke said the research was done in conjunction with the Queensland government Department of Health as it conducted regular surveys of a whole range of health indicators on behalf of the commonwealth.

“After they had performed their analysis and done state-wide reporting we had access to the data to identify our particular theme which was childhood obesity and then screen from their surveys the risk factors to identify which of these were important risk factors contributing to childhood obesity,” he said.

Mother Jo Walker said she found the findings of the research frightening.

“I wouldn’t say the parents are at fault. I understand for single parents or time-poor parents it is hard to bake fresh food all the time and prepare nice healthy meals,” Mrs Walker said.

“But I suppose at the end of the day they are the ones doing the shopping and offering the food up; I guess in some ways it does come down to them.”

Mrs Walker, who has a four-year-old son, said she had already started educating him on the importance of health.

“I think even now we are educating him, you know – we don’t eat that sort of food very often because it’s not good for us, it’s not good for our teeth, it’s not good for our tummies,” she said.

“So just hopefully as he gets older I can explain a little bit more why it’s not good for him.”

Professor O’Rourke said he was keen to follow up on the initial research, funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.

“The problem is still an important one and obviously we would like to see what impact our results have; have things changed; what are new messages and new trends that should be investigated?” he said.

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Investors pump cash into office assets

Investors are viewing the national office markets as the most attractive place for cash as evidenced by the more than $5 billion of assets that have changed hands in the past year.

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One of the latest is the sale of 59 Goulburn Street, Sydney, to the Chinese group I-Prosperity and Toga D&C for $158 million. The vendor was the Singaporean-based Roxy-Pacific Holdings. The sale was through Colliers International and JLL.

There is approval for a hotel and or/office space with ground-level retail on the site.

Taking advantage of the demand for high-quality assets is QIC Real Estate, which is selling its half-share of the MLC Centre, Sydney, worth about $300 million.

There are also suggestions that Brookfield Property is now looking to sell three 25 per cent stakes in its $1 billion Wynyard Place project, with the funds used to help with the development costs.

It comes amid a swath of sales in Melbourne, which have included 40 and 60 City Road, Southgate, worth a combined $340 million, Twenty8 Freshwater Place, Southgate, valued at $286 million and 100 Queen Street, worth $274.5 million.

JLL’s Australian head of research Andrew Ballantyne said investors navigating the Australian office investment landscape have opportunities to satisfy diverse mandates.

“Sydney and Melbourne can be classified as the high-growth markets. Asset pricing is reflective of the strong rental growth outlook with prime net effective rents projected to rise by 34.9 per cent in the Sydney CBD and by 18.7 per cent in the Melbourne CBD from 2017 to 2019.”

Yield spreads to Sydney and Melbourne have widened beyond historical benchmarks and new sources of capital are exploring opportunities to gain exposure to a potential market recovery.

“Real estate investors have shown a bias for low-risk assets. Adelaide and Canberra are the epitome of low risk with the volatility of returns typically lower through the cycle,” Mr Ballantyne said.

Rents for skyscraper offices in Australian cities, are rising faster than those in any other global city, according to the latest Skyscraper Index from Knight Frank.

The report examines the rental performance of commercial buildings over 30 storeys across the world.

Melbourne and Sydney grew the fastest among the cities surveyed at 11 per cent and 10.1 per cent respectively in the six months to the fourth quarter of 2016, amid tightening vacancies and limited new supply.

In Sydney, stock withdrawals to accommodate the new Metro line and residential conversions are reducing the overall supply, while Melbourne had the strongest level of net absorption in 2016.

Knight Frank’s head of office leasing, Australia David Howson said Sydney’s office vacancy is at 6.2 per cent, and is forecast to go as low as 3.5 per cent in the next two years, with the current low vacancy and prospect of even lower vacancy driving rental increases now.

“In Melbourne, the vacancy rate is at 10-year lows at 6.4 per cent,” Mr Howson said.

“Unusually for Melbourne in recent years, the level of new stock additions will be lower in the next 24 months at 113,242 sq m or 1.3 per cent stock growth per annum. This is well below the long-term average of 3.6 per cent per year.”

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BHP, analysts rebuffs Elliott’s reform plan

Analysts have added their voices to BHP Billiton’s opposition to a plan put forward late Monday by activist shareholder Elliott Advisors to dump the global miner’s dual company structure as part of a series of moves which are intended to boosting shareholder returns.

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In its rejection, BHP said the costs would outweigh any benefits.

Analysts with both Citi and RBC were quick to pan the idea, although both thought the US petroleum assets in particular to be ‘non-core’.

“The streamlining of BHP Billiton ownership structure to extract value from franking credits as well as a spin-out of the US onshore division are not novel ideas,” RBC Capital’s mining analyst Paul Hissey said.

“We do not necessarily see a collapsing of the [dual listed company] structure would unlock value as we think the only way to distribute franking is through dividends to the Australian shareholders or buyback which we think is currently available to [BHP] in the current format,” Citi analysts Clarke Williams and Trent Allen told clients.

In a letter sent to BHP following private meetings with the miner, Elliott outlined the proposals in detail. The investor has pushed for action to lift investor returns at a number of companies such as Samsung Electronics, Akzo Nobel and SABMiller.

BHP’s response prompted its London-listed stock to pare early gains of nearly 6 per cent . By 1500 GMT, it was 2.3 per cent higher.

“After reviewing the elements of Elliott’s proposal, we have concluded that the costs and associated risks of Elliott’s proposal would significantly outweigh any potential benefits,” BHP said in a statement.

Elliott’s plan would result in BHP remaining listed in both London and Australia, but would scrap its dual-company structure in favour of a single headquarters and tax residency in Australia.

The activist investor called for BHP to shift its US petroleum assets into an entity to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange and commit to returning excess cash to shareholders.

The Citi analysts described BHP’s US petroleum assets as ‘non-core’ with RBC agreeing the merits of BHP retaining its US petroleum sector assets as ‘uncertain’.

“We value the US petroleum business at $US13.5b ($18b) vs. Elliott’s $US22b valuation (although we do agree with the sentiment around the cumbersome nature of both the DLC and the uncertain benefits from petroleum diversification, especially regarding the mismatched pro-cyclical capital spend of the shale business)???,” RBC’s Hissey told clients.

In outlining its proposal, Elliott argued BHP has underperformed comparable mineral and petroleum companies and its plan could provide shareholders with an increase in value of up to 48.6 per cent for holders of Australian shares and 51 per cent for holders of UK shares.

BHP disagreed, however.

“There is no obvious discount in BHP Billiton’s trading multiples relative to the weighted average of relevant mining and oil and gas peers,” it said.

The miner also said it regularly reassessed how to create value and reviewed company structure. It had spoken with Elliott over many months and would consider a more detailed response, it added. It dismissed Elliott’s plan for buying back shares as “a formulaic approach without regard for the cyclical nature of the resources industry or the returns available from other uses of cash”.

Commodity prices crashed in 2015 and early 2016, but have since recovered strongly, helping to drive gains across the mining sector. Mixed views

Started in 1977, Elliott manages assets worth more than $US32.7 billion, according to the company.

It says it holds a “long economic interest” of about 4.1 per cent of the issued shares in London-listed BHP, without specifying the instruments used to build the stake. It also says it has rights with its affiliates to acquire up to 0.4 per cent of the issued shares in ASX -listed BHP.

Other big shareholders were cautious about Elliott’s plan.

“(The) principle is OK. Detail and resultant uplift to shareholders might be more complex/less obvious,” Aberdeen Asset Management’s Head of Equities Hugh Young said in emailed comments.

Aberdeen is the second-biggest investor in BHP’s London-listed shares, with a 4.9 per cent stake worth $US1.3 billion.

Representing another big shareholder, Standard Life Investments Director Frances Hudson said it was not clear the plan was “in the interest of long-term investors or the company”.

Over the past two years, BHP has underperformed relative to fellow miners Rio Tinto , Glencore and Anglo American. But over 15 years, it is ahead of them.

Since it was set up in 2001, BHP said it had returned approximately $US23 billion to shareholders in buybacks and about $US45 billion in cash dividends.

It said it had also taken many steps to increase shareholder value, cut the number of assets in its portfolio by $US7 billion since 2013 and cutting unit costs by more than 40 per cent .

“We have laid the foundations for the group to substantially grow the base value of its operations,” BHP said in its statement. “Elliott’s proposal would put this at risk.”

– with Reuters

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To afford the rent, tenants should turn apartments into mini petting zoos

NewsThe new look Yarralumla play station. complete with mini golf of Canberra’s famous iconsThe Canberra TimesDate: 17 March 2016Photo Jay Cronan Photo: Jay CronanControversial US ‘rent-bidding’ start-up Rentberry to launch in AustraliaRenting househunters forced to jump through extra hoops in Sydney’s tight rental marketRenting an exercise in crowd control for Melburnians

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It’s so very easy to look at the property market right now and see nothing but doom and gloom.

Fortunately everything’s swell for those on the renting side of the equation at the moment – especially with the news that Rentberry is set to launch in Australia and allow would-be tenants to fight to the death in real-time by bidding for rents.

Sure, critics point out that this will turn the nightmarish process of applying for rental properties into a gladiatorial bloodsport that will drive the rents in larger cities from their current level of “offensive” to “downright insulting” – renters in the Bay Area enjoyed a price jump of the order of five per cent when the app launched locally – but these criticisms fail to take into account the important qualifying factor that Rentberry are based in the US and couldn’t care less about you povvo types.

Just think of it as the Uber of house hunting: you just put in the rental price that most stretches you beyond your ability to keep body and soul together in order to appeal to the landlord, and then … um, then the nearest house drives over, or something? And probably does something disruptive and agile on the way.

In any case, there’s been one fascinating development that should have renters feeling slightly less like walking into the sea: the news that NSW Labor have decided that if they get into power, they’ll make having pets a right of renters across the board.

There has been much criticism of this thought bubble from property management groups, landlord bodies, and cat-hiding services who can see their lucrative inspection-time dollars drying up.

And while this little plan sounds like the sort of thing that’s likely to be forgotten as soon as Labor get into power, since NSW is essentially a develocracy, it also represents the only reasonable hope that tenants have if we all have to start bidding against one another for shelter: the start of a much-needed income stream in the form of mini petting zoos.

Sure, it’s not going to be easy to share a one-bedroom flat with some alpacas, some ducklings and a tiny pony that the kids can ride, but since we’re definitely not going to do anything meaningful about housing affordability, we need to start thinking outside the litter box.

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Growthpoint, Cromwell increase tenant lists

The stronger leasing markets have led to an increase in landlords Growthpoint and Cromwell Corp’s tenants profiles across Melbourne and Sydney.

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Growthpoint Properties Australia has undertaken 28,323 square metres of leasing since the release of its half-year results in February 2017, including a 26,517 sqm logistics warehouse at 120 Link Road, Melbourne Airport to The Workwear Group, part of the Wesfarmers empire, for 10 years.

The swathe of new deals, with asset sales in Queensland, has boosted Growthpoint’s total portfolio occupancy, as at March 31, to 98 per cent, with 2.5 per cent vacancy in the office portfolio and 0.3 per cent in industrial.

Growthpoint currently has only 7 per cent of its leases, by income, potentially expiring over the next 24 months.

Growthpoint’s head of property, Michael Green, said the company would continue to act with “immediacy, and in advance of potential expiries, to lease up vacant space within its portfolio”.

According to Cushman & Wakefield, with effective rents trading at a significant discount to Sydney, Melbourne stands as an attractive proposition for companies looking to enter Australia.

“In the year ahead, a decline in the vacancy rate is expected to support strong rental growth, however as the next development cycle draws closer this growth can be expected to slow,” C&W’s research says.

In Sydney, Cromwell Property Group has secured two big-name retailers as long-term anchor tenants at its flagship $130 million Northpoint redevelopment.

Woolworths and Olympus Medical Centre have been quick to sign on for space in the integrated three-level retail facade.

Due for completion in 2018, the precinct will create a shopping, dining and lifestyle hub on the North Shore.

Damian Horton, Cromwell head of property, said the recent leases were an “exciting milestone” for the Northpoint redevelopment project, which is considered a central catalyst for North Sydney’s rejuvenation.

“The tenants are a perfect fit for a building that will become a hub for office workers and local residents. We are excited to be making a significant contribution to the North Sydney Council’s vision for the area,” Mr Horton said.

Cromwell has signed a 10-year lease with Woolworths to commence in mid-2018, securing the supermarket’s first store in North Sydney, while Olympus Medical Centre has signed a 10-year lease for 724 sqm on the ground level.

“With landlord-favourable conditions firmly established, existing tenants are expected to prioritise lease extensions and those with the flexibility to hand back excess space are likely to do so. Service sector employment growth, and anticipated negative net supply in 2017 and 2018, are expected to maintain landlord-favourable market characteristics,” C&W research says.

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Hunter BreakfastWednesday, April 12, 2017

Morning Shot: @state.of.grace.8/InstagramWeather: Showers in Newcastle (22 degrees) andNelson Bay (23 degrees). Shower or two in Raymond Terrace,Wallsend, Toronto (23 degrees).

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Traffic: A car and caravan is broken down on the M1 near Wisemans Ferry. Northbound traffic is affected as a tow truck attends the area. Drivers are urged to exercise caution.

Beachwatch:With south to south-east winds pushing a few showers onto the coast it’s only going to be an average day beachside. The swell is from the south around 2 to 3 metres but is expected to ease during the day. Once again the southern ends will be the best value. In the city try Stockton, Nobbys, Flatrock, Merewether and Dudley. Down south try Blacksmiths, Caves and Catho. At Port Sephens try Fingal and One Mile. Most open beaches will be closed to the swimmer due to dangerous rips so be extra careful if you do venture in. The water temperature is 20 degrees.

Trains: Good service on the Newcastle and Hunter lines.

Hunter headlinesONE of the Hunter’s largest employers says “policy instability and uncertainty” in the Australianenergy market is making it harder to justify investing in the region. Read more.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, Scot MacDonald, is urging motorists to make every journey a safe one this Easter in a bid to drive down the road toll towards zeroon the Hunter’s roads. Read more.

Organisers of the Karuah Bluegrass Music Festival are on the hunt to find major sponsors. Read more.

THE infamously slow and unreliabletwo-and-a-half hour train ride from Newcastle to Sydney has been getting worse since 2011, and transport authorities don’t know how to fix it. Read more.

Easter has come early at The Australian Reptile Park on the Central Coast with the birth of five healthy –and adorable –dingo puppies. Read more.

MORE details about the state government’s plan to redirect buses away from Hunter Street have emerged, with the proposal to see more than 40 car spaces cut from surrounding streets. Read more.

The demand for Tailor Made Fish Farm’s product and technology has pushed the Port Stephens business to the point of expansion, which is why it has been listed for sale. Read more.

A GLOW-in-dark streak of blue pavement will be among the more eye-catching elements of a facelift for the Warners Bay foreshore,due to begin next week. Read more.

FORMER Jets captains and 100-plus game players Matt Thompson and Jobe Wheelhouse believe under-siege Newcastle coach Mark Jones deserves a chance to build his own squad next season. Read more.

REGIONAL NEWS► BALLARAT: A disability pensioner slugged with a Centrelink debt three weeks out from major surgery said she prays every day that the robo-debt system “gets its comeuppance”.

Scarsdale’s Lee-Anne Thomas received a debt notice for just under $700 late last November for an overpayment allegedly made by the department in 2010. She said she asked the welfare agency to hold off the debt until she afterher surgery when she could investigate the claimbut her request was refused. Read on

Elsa Hoggard said the first that she heard of her debt to Centrelink was through a Sydney debt collector. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric.

►WOLLONGONG: Thieves have devastated an Albion Park Rail tobacconist for the third time in six weeks, this time using a ute to bust open the shop in a spectacular pre-dawn raid.

The raids, ona Cignall shop off Ash Avenue, have cost the business almost $40,000 in lost stock, property damage and stolen cash. Read more

Avninder Singh has cleaned up his Ash Avenue shop three times in the wake of damaging and costly break-ins. Picture: Robert Peet

►CANBERRA: Graduating university represents the culmination of years of hard work for most, but for Canberra man and paraplegic Paul Jenkins it marked something much more.

Mr Jenkins has spent the past six months training in an exoskeleton deviceand on Tuesday realised his dream of walking on stage at Parliament House and accepting his two bachelor degrees from the University of Canberra. Read more

Paraplegic Paul Jenkins learning to walk with bionic legs with exercise physiologist Jim Barrett. Photo: Rohan Thomson

►WAGGA: Twostricken teens may find a new home in Wagga as their aunt vows to keep a family promise.

Shanon Heidemann, 17, has lived a nightmare following the death of his father, who was swept away in the Queensland floods, west of Gympie.

As Shanonhelped emergency services searchthe floodwatersfor 50-year-old David Heidemann,he was told hismother and brother had died in a fatal collision on the Princes Highway at Berry. Read on

Tragedy inspires support: The Berry Crash Tragedy gofundme page pic.

►PORT AUGUSTA:Reach Solar energy reachedfinancial close on the first phase of the 300 Megawatt BungalaSolarproject near Port Augusta.And at the same time, entered sale agreements withEnelGreen Power (EGP) and the Dutch Infrastructure Fund. Read more

The 70MW solar farm in Northern NSW, a similar, but smaller proposed project than the Bungala Solar Project.

►MANDURAH: Regional development minister Alannah MacTiernan has given the strongest indication yet that she will overhaul the Royalties for Regions program to give it a stronger focus on job creation.

The program, which was first proposed by former Nationals WA leaderBrendon Grylls, has invested more than $6 billion in the regions since 2008.

Ms MacTiernan said the incoming Labor government would redirect Royalties for Regions funding to infrastructure that created jobs, such as renewable energy projects. Read on

Regional development minister Alannah MacTiernan with Mandurah MP David Templeman. Photo: Marta Pascual Juanola.

NATIONAL WEATHERWhat does it look like in your neck of the woods today?

NATIONAL NEWS►The Turnbull government’s budget razor gang is set to consider changes to the $10 billion Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme designed to bring down the price of medicines and kill off a potentially damaging fight with pharmacists. Read on

►Australia has failed to comply with its international obligation to crack down on family trusts, despite concerns they could be misused for tax evasion, money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Read on

Andrew Leigh MP outside his office which is 600m outside the new Fraser border. He will now need to move to a new office inside the new Fraser electorate. Photo: Rohan Thomson

►Federal funding has been stripped from two of Australia’s largest private colleges after they raked in more than $440 million from taxpayers in just three years. Read more

VIDEO SPECIAL►After a successful 2017, Party in the Paddock will return to White Hills, Tasmania from February 9 to 10, 2018. Organisers announced the event had been confirmed for another year, with grand plans for the Paddock’s sixth edition.

WORLD NEWS ►The team bus of German football team Borussia Dortmund was damaged and a player was injured following three explosions near the vehicle on its way to Tuesday’s Champions League game at home to AS Monaco, police said.

The match, a quarter-final first leg at Signal Iduna Park, was called off and rescheduled for Wednesday. Read on

The team bus of the Borussia Dortmund football club seen after the bus was damaged in an explosion. Photo: Getty Images

►United Continental Holdings Inc. shares have fallenas outrage on social media over a passenger’s forcible removal from a flight spread across the globe, including to China, where local media questioned whether racism played a role in the incident. Read on

►JAKARTA:A court hearing the blasphemy trial of Jakarta’s Christian governor has been accused of succumbing to political interference after it agreed to delay proceedings until one day after the gubernatorial election.

Jakarta’s police chief wrote to the North Jakarta District Court last week requesting the trial be postponed “considering the increasing vulnerability of the security situation in Jakarta”. Read on

JUST BECAUSEON THIS DAY IN HISTORYI’ll cite you, if you cite me. pic.twitter广州桑拿/1XfG3A2m9o

— Academia Obscura (@AcademiaObscura) April 10, 2017FACES OF AUSTRALIA: Tony Fisher, Peter NortonTwo of the Riverina’s longest-serving linesmen are preparing to be trained on the National Broadband Network, the latest in a long line of innovations since their careers started.

A lot has changed sinceTony Fisher and Peter Norton went to work for the Postmaster-General’s Department more than 40 years ago. Read on

Telstra linemen Tony Fisher and Peter Norton have seen a lot of changes in technology since they started their careers more than 40 years ago.

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West Melbourne car park fetches $25m

Chinese developer Holder East has paid about $25 million for a car park in West Melbourne near Cbus’ new police headquarters site.

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The 1877 square metre site was billed as the first car park deal for 2017, but the property at 496-508 La Trobe Street is effectively a development site, held by Indonesian syndicate Regent Realty Australia for the past 15 years.

Colliers International agents David Sia, who negotiated the deal with Daniel Wolman, Oliver Hay and Matt Stagg, said the vendor had no plans to develop the unpermitted site, which is on the border of West Melbourne and the CBD.

“They saw the rising land tax bills and fear of over-supply as reasons to part ways with the asset,” Mr Sia said.

“Given the size of the site, it’s a strong indication of the strength of the market for land, achieving about $13,000 a square metre which represents the top end of land rates for this precinct,” he said.

The property was purchased in 2002 for $2.9 million. Some historic industrial buildings were demolished and permits for a residential project were issued but never executed. It is next door to the 1880s Spinks Tinsmiths Building at 488 La Trobe Street, where a16-storey apartment building has been proposed.

Thomson Geer partner Eu Ming Lim acted for the vendor. The purchaser has plans for a residential or office development, Mr Sia said. The site is close to the new Haileybury City campus and Far East Consortium’s massive West Side project.

The low-profile Holder East is an active trader in city property.

Late last year the developer bought 501-509 King Street for $6.02 million, one week ahead of its scheduled auction. The site adjoined another property at 511-525 King Street which Holder East had bought in 2014 for $10.05 million, giving the firm a 2000 square metre development site.

The company was cashed up after selling a 2000 square metre site at 97 Franklin Street to Scape Student Living for $56 million.

Meanwhile on the other side of the city, six parties including a major Chinese investor and some active Southbank players, are understood to be competing for a key site behind Crown Casino.

Prices offered for the three-storey building at 190-196 City Road are understood to be more than $20 million, a substantial premium on the price paid by Datacom, a New Zealand technology company, in 2005. Datacom bought the property for $7.15 million after it passed in at auction.

It is selling the property with a newly signed four-year lease in place with three three-year options.

The 4307 square metre building is on a 1597 square metre site surrounded by towers, which makes it an attractive future development target.

CBRE agent Josh Rutman, who is marketing the building with Lewis Tong and Mark Wizel, declined to comment on the deal.

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To get the answer, investors must ask the right question

Ask the right question and maybe you will get the correct answer.

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And if you are a local shareholder in BHP Billiton, figuring out whether the shares you hold trade at a premium, or a discount, to their London traded counterpart is fundamental to deciding whether you should back any push to collapse the dual-listed company structure, with separate shares listed in the Australian and London markets.

Late on Monday, investment funds associated with US activist investor Paul Singer went public with a proposal to prod global miner BHP Billiton to collapse its dual company structure as well as spin-out its US petroleum assets.

BHP immediately ruled it out, saying it has looked at making the move but costs would outweigh the benefits, and the idea was greeted coolly by analysts, who mostly doubted just how much better off shareholders would be if the reorganisation was implemented.

Dubbed the “value unlock plan”, Elliott Advisors which claims to speak for as much as 4.1 per cent of the capital of BHP’s British-listed arm, would collapse the miner’s dual company structure into a single Australian-headquartered entity with its primary listing on the London Stock Exchange with Australian investors to receive a CHESS depositary interest.

The proposal is aimed at retaining index inclusion in the two markets, which is important to retaining sharemarket valuations.

But if the proposal was implemented, would offshore investors gain access to the premium BHP shares trade in Australia or would Australian investors end up seeing the shares trade at the discount BHP shares are accorded in London?

Or as Macquarie asked in a research note: Does the British stock trade at a discount or the Australian stock trade at a premium?

The common view is that the premium accorded BHP shares traded on the ASX stems from the benefit of franking credits.

“There is the real risk in our view that a combined single listed entity could trade towards the UK multiples rather than maintain the Australian multiples,” the broker warned clients.

Over the past two years, BHP shares traded in Britain have traded at a 15 per cent discount to the Australian-traded shares. The ASX200 trades on a price-earnings multiple of around 16.3 times, analysts said, which is significantly higher than the multiple of 14.5 times shares included in the FTSE100 index trade at.

The limited spread of investible assets available through the ASX, with a bias towards financial services and mining stocks, along with the broadly higher dividends paid by public companies in Australia when compared with offshore markets due to their maturer status are often mentioned as reasons why multiples are higher on the main ASX indices.

The other element of the Elliott Advisors proposal, BHP spinning out its US petroleum assets into a separate entity to be listed on the New York stock exchange, won broader support from analysts, although whether this would be beneficial to shareholders would depend on the level of debt the entity would be loaded up with if the plan were to proceed.

Group-wide, BHP’s net debt stood at around $US20 billion at the end of December which is expected to decline to around $US15 billion by mid-year, thanks to strong commodity prices, iron ore and coal in particular.

“The level of debt ascribed to the petroleum division is critical in valuing a demerger option, particularly given we only expect the US petroleum assets to consume all cash generated for the next eight years,” Macquarie told clients.

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