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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Borussia Dortmund team bus damaged, player injured after series of explosions

The team bus of the Borussia Dortmund football club seen after the bus was damaged in an explosion. Photo: Getty ImagesDortmund: ​Local police say a player for German soccer team Borussia Dortmund was injured after several explosions near the team bus ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League game at home to AS Monaco.

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However, German authorities have said at this stage they do not believe the blasts were terrorism-related but they believe it was “an attack with serious explosive devices,” that were likely placed in a hedge near a car park.

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

“According to what is currently known, the windows of the bus were (entirely or partly) smashed and one person was injured,” Dortmund police said in a statement.

Mass-selling German newspaperBildreported in its online edition that explosive devices were placed in a bush by the road along which the bus was travelling.

“The explosive devices were placed outside the bus. Several windows were broken,” police spokesman Gunnar Wortmann was quoted as saying.

Dortmund said defender and Spanish international Marc Bartra had been taken to hospital.

Police deployed a drone to search for other possible explosive devices in the area around the team hotel, and said they found a suspicious object.

Bartra, 26, joined Dortmund for €8 million ($11.3 million) last year from Barcelona, after coming through the Catalan club’s youth system. He has made 12 appearances for the Spanish national team.

“All of our support to @MarcBartra, @BVB and their fans,” Barcelona tweeted in support of their former player.

Dortmund defender Lukasz Piszczek told Poland’s Przeglad Sportowy: “As we were driving alongside a number of cars, a bomb went off at the side of the road. Bartra has a cast on his arm. He’s in the hospital.”

Police said earlier the incident happened in Hoechsten, located outside the city.

“It is not yet possible to say exactly what the explosion was or exactly where something exploded,” said the statement.

“Currently there is no evidence of a threat to the visitors at the stadium.”

Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke told Germany’s Sky television there was an “explosive attack in the immediate vicinity of the hotel exit” as the bus moved from the hotel car park into Wittbraeucker Strasse.

“The team and the coaching staff are of course shocked. We must now channel it in some way,” he said.

“It will not be easy to get that out of the mind. In such a crisis situation, all at Borussia pull together. I think the team will feel it tomorrow.”

Club president Reinhard Rauball said: “Of course this is an extremely difficult situation for the players. But they are professionals, and I am convinced that they will put that away and will give a performance tomorrow.”

AS Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subasic told Croatian daily newspaper 24sata: “We are currently in the stadium, in a safe place, but the feeling’s horrible.”

“The bus turned into the main street, when there was a huge boom, a real explosion,” Sky television quoted Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Burki as saying.

“I was sitting in the back row next to Marc Bartra, hit by fragments … after the bang, we all ducked.”

Borussia Dortmund said in a statement: “Shortly after the departure of the Borussia Dortmund team bus from the hotel to the stadium there was an incident.

“The bus has been damaged in two places. One person has been injured and is in the hospital. At this point we will inform as soon as we know more.”

Dortmund later said in a tweet that the match would go ahead on Wednesday at 1645 GMT.

Dortmund is in western Germany, in the densely populated Ruhr industrial region.

Stadium spokesman Norbert Dickel informed fans of the cancellation, saying that “there is no reason for panic here at the stadium”.

Inside the packed stadium, supporters of Monaco, which plays in the French league, chanted “Dortmund, Dortmund” in sympathy.

Dortmund fans are reportedly offering accommodation for the night for stranded Monaco supporters through a #bedforawayfans Twitter campaign.

Meanwhile, the football world was quick to express solidarity, with messages of support flooding social media.

Current Germany international and captain of Dortmund’s rivals Schalke, Benedikt Howedes, tweeted a message to the club in German which read: “Separated in colours, united against violence! All the best, @MarcBartra and the entire team of the @BVB! I hope you’re fine! #BVBASM.”

Ilkay Gundogan, who played over 100 games for Dortmund before moving to Manchester City in 2016, posted: “I can not believe it! I hope you all go well @BVB!”

Among the Bundesliga clubs quick to offer support were Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen, the latter tweeting: “We’re shocked by the news out of Dortmund. Our thoughts are with @BVB and we’re wishing a speedy recovery to @MarcBartra!”

Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti posted: “We give all our support to @BVB and wish @MarcBartra an early recovery.”

Real Madrid and Spain captain Sergio Ramos added: “Today @BVB @MarcBartra and nothing more.”

Villarreal’s former Tottenham striker Roberto Soldado had words of support for fellow Spaniard Bartra, tweeting in Spanish: “All my support for the @BVB right now and especially my companion @MarcBartra. Today, everyone is closer than ever.”

Manchester United noted the incident involving their former Champions League rivals, tweeting: “We’re sending our support to our friends at @BVB tonight.”

Liverpool added: “Thinking about all of our friends at @BVB this evening. YNWA.”

And Atletico Madrid, preparing for Wednesday night’s last-eight clash against Leicester, tweeted: “Our support from Madrid for @BVB. We hope that @MarcBartra is alright and wish him a speedy recovery.”

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert in a Twitter message wished Bartra a speedy recovery and praised Monaco fans in the stadium for chanting support for Dortmund after hearing news of the blasts.

“Great reaction of the Monaco fans. This evening we are all behind @BVB,” he tweeted in German.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach also tweeted in support for Borussia.

Dortmund’s Ruhr region rivals Schalke from nearby Gelsenkirchen wished Bartra a speedy recovery and Dortmund fans a safe journey home.

“In moments like these the region holds closely together,” the club tweeted.

Wires

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Supermarkets set to pass rising costs on to customers: Citi

AFR – WOOLWORTHS CEO. Reporter: Sue Mitchell. Woolworths Leichhardt supermarket, Leichhardt Marketplace Photo shows, Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci pictured at their Leichhardt store as he points out what woolies is doing to win back customers and restore sales growth . Photo by, Peter Rae Thursday 20 October, 2016 Photo: Peter RaeShoppers should kiss goodbye steady prices in the supermarket.

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Supermarkets are paying more for electricity, meat and fruit and vegetables, and will soon pass these price rises on to customers, said investment bank Citi.

“Australian supermarket industry growth is near 30-year lows of 2.5 per cent,” said Citi analysts led by Craig Woolford. “The reason is a simple one. Price inflation is absent in this market.

“Cost pressures are building around raw materials and energy prices, which is likely to trigger higher inflation in our view.”

The analysts point out that sugar, palm oil, coffee, dairy and oil prices are all up by double digits in the past year, and raw material ingredients and packaging in grocery items accounted for about 20 per cent of retail prices.

Furthermore, the analysts note that meat prices are on the rise due to export demand, and fresh produce inflation will rise by between 5 and 10 per cent in the next three months given flood and cyclone damage.

Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci recently warned that soaring electricity prices were a “material issue” and would lead to higher prices on the shelves. At $360 million a year, electricity is Woolworths’ third largest cost, behind labour and rent.

“We manage what we can manage with energy efficiency. But given the cost increases that are coming through right now, we are trying to outrun a bear, but I am not sure we can,” Mr Banducci said in late March.

“We will have to in some way, very cautiously and carefully, pass those through to our customers, unfortunately.”

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???Australians in Philippines warned terrorists may be planning kidnappings

Australia has warned its citizens that terrorists may be planning kidnappings in the central Philippine provinces of Cebu and Bohol, as Philippine soldiers clashed with militants linked to Islamic State.

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Cebu City is the country’s second largest city with a population of almost three million people.

Five Abu Sayyaf militants and four soldiers were killed during a fire-fight on the island of Bohol, about 650 kilometres south-east of Manila on Tuesday, after security forces spotted 10 militants on three boats.

In updated advice on Tuesday, Australia’s smartraveller.gov广州桑拿论坛 website cited unsubstantiated yet credible information about kidnapping plots in the provinces obtained by the US embassy in Manila.

“If you are planning to visit Cebu or Bohol you should exercise heightened vigilance and review your personal security plans,” the advice said.

The advice warned Australians to exercise a high degree of caution across the country because of the high threat of terrorist attack and high level of crime.

Earlier advice warned that terrorists were planning kidnappings in areas frequented by foreigners on the southern part of Cebu island, specifically around Dalaguete and Santander, including Sumilon Island.

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has ordered his troops to step-up attacks on the Abu Sayyaf whose leaders have sworn loyalty to Islamic State, declaring “we will go ahead and kill them to the last man”.

Philippine armed forces’ chief of staff Eduardo Ano said on Monday his troops can eliminate the Abu Sayyaf within months.

“They are no match for us,” he said.

But with fast boats, millions of dollars in ransom payments from the families of kidnap victims and support from sympathetic locals and corrupt officials, the Abu Sayyaf has survived many military offensives over more than a decade.

Last month Australian foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop warned that an estimated 600 fighters from south-east Asia could return home after surviving the campaign against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and establish an Islamic caliphate in the southern Philippines “bringing the threat right to our doorstep”.

In February the Abu Sayyaf beheaded a 70-year-old German yachtsman after failing to receive a $US600,000 ransom.

The group beheaded two Canadian hostages last year.

The group has carried out numerous deadly attacks, including the 2004 bombing of a passenger ferry that killed more than 100 people.

Counter-terrorism expert Sidney Jones believes the likelihood of a caliphate emerging on Australia’s doorstep is low but that the more likely danger is that pro-Islamic State extremists with deadly skills may use bases in the southern Philippines to plan hits in Mindanao and Manila, or train operatives to carry out attacks elsewhere in the region.

“It is unlikely that hundreds of foreign fighters will flee there as Islamic State is pushed back but even a dozen could cause serious damage,” Ms Jones wrote in a paper published in March by the Lowy Institute.

Ms Jones said that an alliance of pro-Islamic State groups in the Philippines appears to have a steady stream of funding, apparently arranged in part through Mahmud Ahmad, a Malaysian professor who has joined the Abu Sayyaf.

Meanwhile, the US has put a 26-year-old Malaysian man on a list of most wanted terrorists.

Malaysian police say that from an Islamic State base in Syria Muhammad Wanndy Mohamad Jedi??? has been using social media to recruit Malaysians and plot terrorist attacks.

On his Facebook page under the name Abu Hamzah Al-Fateh, Wanndy ridiculed his listing by the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, saying it would only make him more cautious about his movements and communications.

Wanndy is a senior leader of a group of hundreds of Malay-speaking fighters in a unit called Katibah Nusantara??? who are under the control of Islamic State in the Middle East.

Last week Philippine authorities identified and arrested a Middle Eastern couple allegedly linked to Islamic State who were planning bomb attacks in the Philippines.

The arrests followed tip-offs from US and Kuwaiti officials.

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Hardware disaster continues to haunt Woolies

Woolworths’ disastrous foray into hardware continues to haunt the retail giant after law firm Maurice Blackburn revealed plans for a $100 million class action against Australia’s biggest supermarket chain.

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Despite closing the doors on its loss-making Masters Home Improvement business last year, the proposed class action relates to alleged breaches of the Corporations Act dating back to Woolworths’ shock profit downgrade in early 2015 and attempts to stem big losses from its hardware operation.

By late 2014, analysts were reporting Woolworths was putting up margins at the supermarket chain, cutting staffing levels and leaning on suppliers in an attempt to make up burgeoning losses at its failed Masters Home Improvement chain and Big W.

Shopper backlash to price increases and a broader deterioration across the supermarket chain gained momentum between December 2014 and January 2015, eventually forcing the retailer’s management to cut its full-year earnings outlook in February 2015. Woolworths’ shares dived 13.7 per cent in the wake of the profit downgrade.

One analyst said Woolworths eventually confessed to being too focused on meeting short-term earnings targets but the insight came too late to prevent many shoppers abandoning the chain, creating an opening for Wesfarmers’ Coles business to exploit.

“They just kept on trying to meet earnings targets by going back to the milking cow that was the supermarkets business,” one analyst said.

The proposed class action could exceed $100 million, Maurice Blackburn said on Tuesday. It has opened a registration portal for shareholders to sign up to the claim.

While Maurice Blackburn’s investigation continues, the law firm alleged Woolworths knew that it was significantly behind its profit projections as early as October 2014 but continued to maintain its profit guidance until the publication of its half-year accounts in February 2015.

“When corporations don’t abide by the laws requiring they make timely and accurate market disclosures, these aren’t mere technical breaches – it causes loss to shareholders, undermines the integrity of the market and distorts the efficient allocation of capital that could go to more deserving companies,” Maurice Blackburn principal Andrew Watson said.

“The end result is that shareholders, both individual everyday Australians and large institutional investors entrusted with members’ savings such as large superannuation funds, unwittingly suffer the consequences and lose out in a major way.”

Fears the poor performance of Masters was hurting Woolworths’ core supermarket business surfaced after the supermarket chain reported soft first-quarter sales in late 2014, prompting a number of analysts to question whether the retail giant would meet its full-year net profit guidance.

In a research note from December 3, less than a week after Woolworths reaffirmed its full-year guidance, Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst David Errington slashed the earnings outlook for the retailer by 5 per cent for fiscal 2016 and 13 per cent for fiscal 2017.

Merrill Lynch forecast the 2015 full-year net profit after tax would grow by 4.5 per cent, at the bottom end of the retail giant’s guidance of between 4 and 7 per cent growth.

“The key reason for our earnings downgrade are our view of the continued deterioration of Woolworths’ non-supermarket business, notably Masters and Big W and the reduced ability in our view of Woolworths supermarkets to continue increasing margins,” Mr Errington said.

“In our view, continuing to drive margins higher in Australian supermarkets is seeing a loss in competitive position, leading to deteriorating sales and ultimately a fall in margins.”

Woolworths cut its full-year net profit after tax guidance to the “lower end” of analyst forecasts as part of its half-year results in February 2015.

The retailer’s 2015 full-year net profit before one-off costs inched up by just 0.1 per cent to $2.45 billion, while its full-year net profit slumped 12.5 per cent to $2.15 billion, thanks to big losses at the Masters chain.

IMF Bentham has proposed to fund the class action, which would deal with claims of alleged misleading or deceptive conduct and alleged breaches of continuous disclosure laws between November 27, 2014 and February 26, 2015.

Senior investment manager at IMF Bentham, Wayne Attrill, said like all shareholder class actions, it would proceed only if enough shareholders signed up.

“This is a chance for investors who believe they were deprived of information on the true state of affairs of the company standing up and being able to access a meaningful redress,” Mr Attrill said.

Woolworths on Tuesday said it had not been served with proceedings and would defend any action.

“Woolworths considers that it has, at all times, complied with its continuous disclosure obligations,” the company said in a statement.

The class action follows failed action against Woolworths by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

According to Maurice Blackburn, Woolworths said in its defence to the ACCC proceedings that it had forecast in October 2014 that there would be a variance in its gross profit before freight of $53 million.

The competition watchdog’s case was launched in December 2015 and related to the company’s dealings with suppliers to plug a profit shortfall after discovering a $50 million hole in its books. The Federal Court last year ruled the conduct towards suppliers was not unconscionable.

Australian Shareholders’ Association director Allan Goldin said he would watch the case closely. “If continuous disclosure didn’t happen, then we are obviously very concerned,” he said.

Class actions need seven or more people to run, but their financial viability depends on the size of shareholder losses.

Maurice Blackburn would not say whether any institutional shareholders were behind the action.

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Oroton CEO follows Rose Byrne out the door

Struggling boutique handbag retailer OrotonGroup has appointed its major shareholder as interim chief executive after its boss resigned fresh from a disappointing half-year result.

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Mark Newman, who has held the top job for four years, will be replaced temporarily by director Ross Lane, who is the company’s biggest shareholder with a 21 per cent stake.

Combined with fund manager Will Vicars, the pair own 38.5 per cent of the company, which has a market capitalisation of just $68 million.

The stock is not broadly covered by the market. A privatisation would depend on the major shareholders’ appetite for further investment. It’s understood Oroton has not been shopping its brands around.

Dean Fergie, director and portfolio manager at Cyan Investment Management, said Oroton’s recent first-year sales were “poor to say the least, with negative like-for-like sales and an earnings before interest and tax margin that halved.” Oroton also halted dividends.

Chairman John Schmoll said Mr Lane’s “intimate knowledge” of OrotonGroup and his “broad retail experience” meant he was “ideally qualified to lead the company during this important period of transition.” Mr Schmoll is a former chief financial officer of Coles Group.

In early trade, OrotonGroup shares closed up 1??, to $1.62.

Oroton recently blamed its disappointing first-half result – when net profit dived 52 per cent to $1.8 million for the six months ending January 28 – on its unprofitable GAP brand, unseasonable weather, “a structural change in shopping habits,” the exit of discontinued categories, lower factory outlet sales at Oroton, lower foot traffic and foreign exchange problems.

It is seeking to target a younger and broader customer, through using “influencers” to promote its products, putting more money into social media, and promotions such as its “Great Barrier Reef Collection.”

OrotonGroup recently dumped Bridesmaid actress Rose Byrne as its model, and paid $4.5 million for a 30 per cent stake in accessories brand The Daily Edited.???

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