Archive for August, 2019

August 7th, 2019

Ten needs Fox-style right wing ‘revolution’, says former investor Laurence Freedman

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Elizabeth Knight: Smoke says there’s something afoot at Ten
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Network Ten must completely transform itself, possibly into a right wing news channel like Fox, says a former investor in the struggling free-to-air broadcaster.

Pioneering funds manager Laurence Freedman, who made a fortune after steering Ten out of receivership in the 1990s then selling his holding in the mid 2000s, said the network as few options left to return to profitability.

His comments come after the broadcaster posted a $168 million full-year loss and  Fairfax Media, owner of The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review, confirmed it had met Ten executives about a possible merger.

But Mr Freedman said a partnership with Fairfax would not solve Ten’s woes.

“It’s the decrepit talking to the destitute,” he said.

Such a merger would hinge on Fairfax selling its profitable radio stations so it didn’t breach media ownership laws. Mr Freedman said these laws, which prevent a media company owning a newspaper, television network and radio station in the one market, were outdated and irrelevant.

“New technology a long time ago has made a nonsense for the reason for those laws.

“Every person on the planet is a journalist or an opinion maker or taker and there are no boundaries. To have artificial boundaries makes no sense and also is making life more difficult for media businesses that are caught like Ten and Fairfax.

“For Fairfax to sell [its radio stations] in order to buy a semi defunct, old technology company, without a direction or audience, doesn’t gel with me.”

A Fairfax Media spokesman confirmed the company’s management met with Ten recently, but said it didn’t mean it would lob a takeover offer.

“We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t talk extensively across the industry so we fully understand the opportunities and challenges,” the spokesman said.

Ten has stressed that it is undergoing a multi-year turnaround, focusing on event and reality television, sports rights and winning back media buyers through the success of shows like Family Feud and The Bachelor.

Mr Freedman helped deliver Ten riches in the 1990s by focusing the network almost exclusively on targeting the 16 to 39 year old age group.

But he sold out of the company in 2004 after he bought his third phone in a year and found that it had internet connectivity.

“That was a very big warning bell for me that the medium was changing, there was newer technology and therefore I was very cautious.

“If the audience migrated were going to have a huge problem because who were we going to advertise to. We had the biggest budget of people like Levis, Just Jeans, Coke, Pepsi and all those sorts of things and very little of David Jones because of our audience.”

People called Mr Freedman mad for selling his stock but his fears were eventually realised.

He said Ten was unlikely win back its audience, which has permanently shifted to online platforms or to rival networks, even if it delivered the best television programs at attractive timeslots.

“The way you advertise television is not by putting ads in the newspaper, you put it on your own network. You can’t put it on anybody else’s network.

“But If you put it on your own network and there is nobody watching your own network, then you don’t get the viewers going to the new program. It’s a very vicious cycle. How you get out of it? You have to transform yourself.”

Mr Freedman said a free-to-air television licence was still valuable and suggested the network becoming a “hard right wing news channel, a la Fox” could solve its problems.

But he said there were a lot of hurdles to achieving that goal. Indeed, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said he would have difficulty approving a Foxtel/Ten merger.

“We would have concerns if Foxtel sought to own a free-to-air station because that could substantially lessen competition in the viewing market,” Mr Sims said.

And Mr Freedman conceded that News Corp, which owns jointly owns Foxtel with Telstra, would face the same problem as Fairfax because its non-executive co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch owns the Nova Entertainment radio network.

“There are lot of things in its way but my point really is that to turn around is not about trying different programs or different timeslots for the programs it’s got. It needs to be revolutionary, not evolutionary.”

“The management [at Ten] is OK. But they can’t do anything with it.

“It’s like you’ve got a very good old car but it hasn’t got a synchromesh gearbox, it has got narrow tyres, it’s got a top speed of 70 kilometres an hour, and its competing with everyone who has got hybrids, and cars that can go 0-100 kmh in three seconds etc, etc… that’s what the problem is.”

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August 7th, 2019

RBA concerned about global growth, says interest rates will stay low

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The RBA noted that economic conditions in China ‘had softened a little’. Photo: Louie Douvis The RBA noted that economic conditions in China ‘had softened a little’. Photo: Louie Douvis
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The RBA noted that economic conditions in China ‘had softened a little’. Photo: Louie Douvis

The RBA noted that economic conditions in China ‘had softened a little’. Photo: Louie Douvis

The Reserve Bank of Australia intensified its focus on global growth and market volatility in the minutes of its October policy meeting, with concerns about China, Japan and Europe more prominent than in previous releases around its interest rate position.

The minutes, which were drafted just after the release of Australia’s second-quarter gross domestic product figures earlier this month, also note sluggish business investment and continued growth in property investment. Most of this was foreshadowed in the commentary by governor Glenn Stevens when the RBA board voted to hold the cash rate at 2.5 per cent for the 14th month in a row.

The RBA said at the time it foresaw “a period of stability in interest rates”.

“Given the information available, the board’s judgement was that the current stance of monetary policy continued to be appropriate for fostering sustainable growth in demand and inflation outcomes consistent with the target over the period ahead,” it said at the time.

As seen in the statement, the RBA ramped up its language around China, noting that “some indicators of economic conditions had softened a little. Members were briefed that the Chinese authorities had scope to ease policy if needed to support GDP growth. In the property market, conditions had continued to soften and the government had announced policy changes designed to support the market.”

About Japan, another of Australia’s key trading partners, it noted that “prospects for growth remained unclear”, and that “growth in output in the rest of east Asia had been a bit below its decade average in recent quarters”.

Board members reiterated the need to keep the cash rate at a record-low 2.5 per cent and noted a further pick-up in lending to property investors.

The RBA said continued accommodative monetary policy should support demand and help growth strengthen over time.

“To date, this had been most apparent in the housing market, where dwelling investment had picked up and was expected to remain strong following the rapid rise in housing prices and high levels of approvals,” the minutes said.

The RBA minutes also note that the price of iron ore had reached its lowest point in five years, on “a combination of increased Australian and global supply and, more recently, some softening in the growth of Chinese demand for steel, perhaps resulting in part from weaker conditions in the housing market.”

Its observations of the domestic economy include a more than 8 per cent increase in dwelling investment over the year to the end of the June quarter. The RBA said “continued strength in building approvals and other indicators pointed to further growth in coming quarters”.

“House price growth had been a little slower, on average, over 2014 than in late 2013, but remained consistent with strong conditions in the established housing market,” the RBA said.

It also said volatile jobs data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics suggested “the possibility of some measurement problems”.

Despite some wild fluctuations in the August data, the RBA concluded that “labour market conditions remained subdued, although they appeared to have stabilised somewhat over the course of 2014 to date”.

It said some forward-looking employment indicators had picked up a bit, suggesting “modest employment growth over the coming months”.

The RBA notes increased volatility in global financial markets, which it attributes partly to diverging monetary policy directions. Deputy governor Guy Debelle has since warned of a build-up of risks in some sectors of the bond market, where buyers and sellers may not be well matched. It also refers to recent declines in the domestic currency.

“Members noted that the Australian dollar had depreciated by 4 per cent in trade-weighted terms over September,” the minutes say.

“This was primarily a 6 per cent depreciation against a rising US dollar (and the renminbi), although weaker-than-expected Chinese economic data and further declines in key commodity prices had contributed to some additional softening of the Australian dollar.”

August 7th, 2019

Larkham knocks back Cheika chance

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Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham is staying put. Photo: Katherine GriffithsACT Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham wants to coach the Wallabies, but the World Cup-winning flyhalf has put club before country to ensure nothing compromises his mission to win a Super Rugby title.
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Larkham has rejected an approach to join Michael Cheika’s Wallabies as an assistant for the spring tour of Europe but says he will consider helping Australia’s World Cup hopes next year.

Cheika has accepted the position of the Wallabies coach and will juggle his duties as NSW Waratahs coach at the same time.

Former Brumbies director of rugby Laurie Fisher has emerged as a potential interim assistant to Cheika for the five-game tour of Europe after recently joining English club Gloucester.

However, Larkham says his priority is guiding the Brumbies to a Super Rugby title and did not want to take on a role which would affect his preparations for next season.

The ARU has delayed the worst kept secret in rugby – Cheika’s appointment as Ewen McKenzie’s replacement – as the new coach tries to finalise his support staff and the playing squad.

Western Force coach Michael Foley was also approached but it is understood he will make the same decision as Larkham given the short notice. The Wallabies fly to England on Friday.

“Everyone wants to see success with the Wallabies … it’s been difficult as a rugby supporter over the past few years knowing we haven’t got the results at the top level,” Larkham said.

“You want to do something that helps. But I’ve committed to the Brumbies … five weeks in Europe is not conducive to me committing to that.”

Larkham backed Cheika to transfer his Super Rugby success into the Test arena as the Wallabies coach, adding that he was “honoured” when asked to be Australia’s attack coach.

Larkham, one of Australia’s greatest playmakers, played 102 Tests for the Wallabies in a career which included World Cup, Bledisloe Cup and Super Rugby titles.

Larkham also revealed his desire to be the Wallabies head coach in the future.

“I definitely have ambition to coach at that level. If you’re a rugby coach you’ve always got ambition to be at the top level,” Larkham said.

“Test level is a step up. To be coaching your national team would be something very special and a great opportunity. I have a lot of respect for [Cheika] and I think he’ll do a fantastic job.

“I haven’t ruled anything out after the spring tour, I certainly want to help the Wallabies provided it doesn’t distract or detract from my role here at the Brumbies.

“It’s a great opportunity for me at the Brumbies to really create something that is unique. We want to win Super Rugby titles, that may be next year or in five years. But we want to be at the top every year.”

Larkham is preparing to take the Brumbies reins for the first time as the sole head coach after joining Fisher in a co-coaching role last year and serving apprenticeships under Jake White and Andy Friend.

In the past the Wallabies’ assistant coaches have been employed to solely work with the national team.

But Larkham backed Cheika’s vision to have the best coaches involved, regardless of their Super Rugby alliance.

“I feel for the ARU at the moment with the way things have panned out,” Larkham said.

“It’s a great concept with Super Rugby coaches coming together for the good of Australian rugby and then breaking apart to compete against each other. We all feel the same, we’re trying to do our bit for Australian rugby.

“I see my role as making one of the Australian teams [the Brumbies] the best team in the competition.”

Fisher’s chances of joining Cheika’s set-up are unclear given he moved to Gloucester to resume his head coaching career and his team is in the middle of its season.

The Wallabies will play their first game against the Barbarians at Twickenham on November 1 before taking on Wales, France, Ireland and England.

August 7th, 2019

Chris Pelchen resigns from St Kilda

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Chris Pelchen will look to remain in the AFL system after resigning as St Kilda’s chief of football.
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The Saints’ football boss has quit the club after a lengthy review of the club’s off-field operation. The Saints could look internally for a replacement.

“I will look at what develops in the foreseeable future, both in and outside of the AFL,” Pelchen told Fairfax Media on Tuesday.

“I still have high regard for the Saints and wish them every success for the future.”

The football department review was overseen by club chief Matt Finnis and involved Pelchen. His departure is understood to have been amicable despite rumours for some weeks that he was searching for a new role in the knowledge he would leave the Saints before the end of the year.

The club is expected to focus its search for a new football boss based more on performance and less on list management and strategy.

Pelchen, who joined St Kilda from Hawthorn three-and-a-half years ago, raised eyebrows internally last week when he outlined the club’s long-term strategy in a media report which came so soon before his impending departure and without the club’s full knowledge.

He departs the Saints almost 12 months after the sacking of coach Scott Watters, with whom Pelchen had fallen out.

Pelchen had been linked to a role at Carlton but the Blues have denied any interest.

Finnis, who only joined the Saints during the past season, said Pelchen had played a key role in beginning to revamp the playing list.

“Chris has professionally led our football department since August 2011 and in that time introduced a strategic focus to the club’s list management activities and helped turn around our total player payments position,” Finnis said.

The Saints had been under enormous salary-cap pressure as a result of the bonuses paid through the team’s 2009-10 grand final appearances.

“Amongst other initiatives, Chris was instrumental in the club entering a new market in New Zealand and the establishment of the Saints player academy while the strategy to recontract a significant number of our young players in a single campaign throughout 2014 can also be attributed to Chris’ expertise,” Finnis said.

“However, following our end-of-season review, we agreed to make some changes to drive further development in our high-performance programs across our football department.”

As the Saints continue their rebuilding plan, as part of the club’s Road to 2018 blueprint, the Saints will have three selections in the top 22 in next month’s national draft.

“This upcoming national draft is an exciting period for the club and Ameet Bains, Tony Elshaug and their team are a long way down the path in determining which talented young players will be recruited into the club,” Finnis said.

In another move, Saints list manager Bains will soon leave that position to become the club’s chief operations officer.

August 7th, 2019

Zetland’s violet tower wins award

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The distinctive violet hues of Meriton’s award-winning glass tower, VSQ North at Zetland. The distinctive violet hues of Meriton’s award-winning glass tower, VSQ North at Zetland.
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Landscaping around the VSQ North complex by Meriton.

The distinctive violet hues of Meriton’s award-winning glass tower, VSQ North at Zetland.

The distinctive violet hues of Meriton’s award-winning glass tower, VSQ North at Zetland.

A complex of four buildings in Zetland including a 27-storey tower has won this year’s Housing Industry Association NSW award for buildings over 10 storeys.Developed by Meriton and designed by Turner Architects, the residential complex is known as VSQ North.

The elegant glass tower with its purple-hue is the tallest building in the area.

“It has become a landmark for Zetland and for Sydney itself,” said Meriton’s founder and managing director, Harry Triguboff.

“It is one of the first buildings you see as you drive in from the airport.”

VSQ North, on the corner of Gadigal and O’Dea avenues, has 297 apartments of one-, two- and three-bedroom configurations.

Completed last year, all the apartments were sold by the end of the year.

Prices ranged from $450,000 to $1.17 million for a three-bedroom apartment with two car spaces.

Meriton has a one-bedroom-plus study apartment with parking available for resale in VSQ North. It first traded for $600,000 in 2011 and is for sale at $670,000.

The complex is set in landscaped gardens and includes an indoor pool and spa, gymnasium, sauna and childcare centre as well as the services of a building manager. There are 131 bicycle storage spaces.

The judges said the project was visually appealing and well executed with good use of energy efficiency and acoustics.

The HIA’s NSW executive director, David Bare, said the awards show the housing industry’s innovation.

“It is encouraging to see that HIA’s builders and designers have maintained their commitment to excellence,” said Mr Bare.

“The high standard of entries shows that support for these awards has yet again been remarkable. Each year the bar is raised higher.”

VSQ North is close to the $8 billion Green Square project.

“We’re very proud of it and the residents love living here,” said Mr Triguboff.  “We believed in Zetland from the beginning.”