Archive for October, 2018

Oct 10 2018

AMP facing headwinds but long-term future looks positive

What’s new
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AMP recently delivered a 10 per cent decline in its interim underlying profit to $440 million, while declaring an interim dividend of 11.5 cents per share, down from 12.5 cents a year ago.

The company actually delivered growth in all business units apart from its wealth protection division – one that is suffering a combination of cyclical and structural headwinds, particularly with decade-high lapse rates.

The company’s key wealth management unit delivered a 19.5 per cent increase in half-year operating earnings to $196 million, driven by stronger net cash flows, a healthier investment market and realisation of cost synergies.

The division’s average assets under management  during the period were $90.1 billion, reflecting an 11.8 per cent increase on the prior corresponding period.

In conjunction with the result, AMP  announced the impending retirement of  CEO Craig Dunn, after six years in the top role. He will be succeeded by Craig Meller, the current managing director, AMP Financial Services, from next January.

Outlook

We believe Mr Dunn has left the business in good shape, having navigated through the financial crisis and made the transformative AXA acquisition, synergies from which continue to be realised as the integration nears its completion. The merger has also left AMP with the largest adviser network across Australia and New Zealand.

Although there are headwinds facing the wealth protection business,  we believe the company is a quality franchise that continues to have good prospects and will see underlying earnings growth resume in the medium term.

Furthermore, renewing its focus on costs, the company recently announced a fresh efficiency program targeted to deliver $200 million of pre-tax recurring cost savings by the end of 2016.

Price

The stock price of AMP has struggled over the past six months, down 14 per cent, as earnings drag from the wealth protection business marred the company’s near-term outlook. Over the past 12 months, however, the stock has fared better, up just over 6 per cent, albeit still lagging behind the rise in the overall market.

Worth Buying?

We view AMP as a fundamentally sound franchise, with a positive longer term outlook that is likely to be further strengthened by contributions from fully integrated AXA businesses. The company is also in a solid financial position, with a capital surplus of $1.7 billion above the minimum regulatory requirement.

However, in the near term, there are headwinds facing AMP, particularly on the wealth protection side. Furthermore, there may well be a period of transition as investors assess the strategic priorities of the new CEO. Consequently, we believe it is prudent to wait for further clarity on these factors before buying into the stock.

Greg Smith is managing director at Fat Prophets sharemarket research. Interested in dividend stocks? Click here to receive a recent Fat Prophets report.

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Oct 10 2018

Kiwis face hurdles in pursuit of lost funds

New Zealanders who have worked in Australia are believed to be the owners of perhaps up to a quarter of the $18 billion in ”lost” super.
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Reports by colleagues at Fairfax Media in New Zealand highlight the hurdles Kiwis can face in getting their lost super repatriated to New Zealand. The Australian and New Zealand governments recently concluded an agreement that is supposed to make transferring superannuation savings between the two countries seamless. The new rules concerning retirement savings portability came into effect on July 1.

But Kiwis contacting the Australian Taxation Office, which has responsibility for lost super, are being told they cannot transfer their savings directly to KiwiSaver, which is New Zealand’s national superannuation scheme. They have to first transfer the lost super into an Australian superannuation fund and then have it transferred to KiwiSaver. The catch-22 is that Australian superannuation funds are not generally allowed to open accounts for those living outside Australia.

To further complicate matters, according to the reports from across the Tasman, Kiwis in New Zealand who have super in an Australian fund and want it transferred to KiwiSaver are often told by Australian funds that they must have an Australian-registered solicitor witness a statutory declaration before the money can be moved. Failing that, they can go to the Australian High Commission in Wellington or consulate general in Auckland.

New Zealand authorities are now talking with Australian authorities to resolve the issues.

Anyone who works in Australia is likely to have some super because employers are required to pay super to their employees in most cases. There are about 650,000 New Zealand citizens living in Australia. That is about 15 per cent of the population of New Zealand. And there is a lot of movement of Kiwis back and forth between the two countries. But far fewer Australians move permanently to New Zealand. That means the transfers are more likely to be from Australian super funds to New Zealand’s KiwiSaver. That is raising the suspicion across the ditch that some Australian superannuation funds are not being fully co-operative because they want to hinder outflows of money from their funds.

Adding credence to this suspicion is that some Australian super funds have a history of being tardy in transferring money to other Australian super funds. That prompted the Australian government, a few years ago, to get tougher on the funds and impose shorter time periods within which they must complete transfers.

Until a solution is found, Kiwis thinking of returning to New Zealand should probably transfer lost super to their Australian fund and then to KiwiSaver while still in Australia. However, there are still likely to be some funds with hurdles in place that make it difficult to transfer super overseas.

To check if you have lost super, try the ATO’s SuperSeeker search tool or phone 13 28 65.

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Oct 10 2018

Cornish debut in lap of NRL gods

Anthony Milford shifts to fullback to take on Cronulla. Photo: Stefan PostlesThe Canberra Raiders are pleading with the NRL to clear the way for under-20s star Mitch Cornish to make his NRL debut, asking for a second-tier salary cap exemption for the last game of the season.
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Two-time under-20s halfback of the year Cornish has been named in the Raiders starting team to play the Cronulla Sharks at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.

The NRL blocked the club’s attempt to blood Cornish earlier this season because he was outside the Raiders’ top-25 contracted players.

But with Glen Buttriss having shoulder surgery on Friday, Blake Ferguson AWOL, Sandor Earl serving a drugs suspension, Josh Dugan sacked and eight other players injured, the Raiders have asked for an exemption in a game which is virtually a dead rubber for Canberra.

The second-tier cap is $375,000, and Canberra’s has been stretched to breaking point given it has already elevated Paul Vaughan, Anthony Milford, Jake Foster and Sami Sauiluma from outside its top-25 players group.

Sauiluma got an exemption to play last month when the Raiders suffered an injury crisis in the outside backs.

But with Sam Williams, Anthony Milford, Josh McCrone and Terry Campese all fit to play, the NRL could deny Cornish’s hopes of playing against the Sharks.

If Cornish does play, it could be a brutal initiation as the Canberra Raiders try to end a horror season by salvaging some pride.

Prop Brett White was at Melbourne Storm when they were stripped of their 2007 and 2009 premierships, three minor premierships (2006-2008) and their 2010 premiership points due to salary cap rorting.

”I don’t think anything will compare to the season I had down [in Melbourne] when everything happened, but [this year in Canberra is] not far off it,” White said.

”We let 50 points in on the weekend [against the New Zealand Warriors] and that’s not acceptable. [In the pre-season] we need to get away, forget about everything that’s gone on this year so when we do get back we can fix the wrongs of this year.”

Cornish was named in the No.7 jersey with Anthony Milford moving to fullback and Joel Thompson shifting from the centres into the second row. Retiring veteran Shaun Berrigan will get a farewell match from the bench if he is fit after carrying a shoulder injury for most of the season.

Sharks captain Paul Gallen will miss the match after taking an early guilty plea for his crusher tackle against the North Queensland Cowboys last weekend.

Gallen’s absence means there will be no re-match between the NSW captain and Raiders second-rower Josh Papalii after the pair clashed in a semi-final at Canberra Stadium last year.

Interim Canberra coach Andrew Dunemann is trying to help the Raiders restore some respect after a year plagued by off-season drama, players misbehaving and coach David Furner’s sacking.

Regardless of whether Dunemann retains the position full-time, White said the next appointed coach needed to set strict behaviour boundaries.

”It comes down to how you manage people … if there are clear boundaries hopefully we don’t have the dramas we did this year,” White said.

”If you have someone that has everyone on the same page and everyone buying into it, I don’t think you’ll have the same dramas.”

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Oct 10 2018

PREVIEW: Around the law in 80 ways

STAGING a topical revue on the weekend of a national parliamentary election could be fraught with problems but the team behind the 2013 Newcastle Law Revue are taking it in their stride.
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The performance on election night will include updates on what is happening in the tally room, delivered in a slick comedic manner.

The revue, Around the Law in 80 Ways, is being staged by the University of Newcastle Law Students’ Association at the Civic Playhouse, with performances on Friday and Saturday at 7.30pm, and on Sunday at 6.30pm.

Former prime minister Julia Gillard announced a September 14 election date in late January, at the time when planning for the revue began. Rehearsals started in June and were well under way when Kevin Rudd announced a new date on August 4.

As the students’ law training teaches them to expect the unexpected, they weren’t flustered by the changes.

One of the skits, Bringing the Troops Home, has Rudd, his deputy Anthony Albanese, finance minister Penny Wong, and defence minister Stephen Smith, working out how they can bring the troops home from Afghanistan by Christmas when they have spent all their budget on a military aircraft that’s a dud.

This is the third year the Law Students’ Association has staged a revue, and a third evening performance has been added after last year’s shows sold out.

Ellen French, who has been a director of all three revues, said this year’s cast, crew and band of 40 was the biggest to date.

“We have taken a new approach to scripting to accommodate that, including trying some novel things musically,” she said.

Africa, one of the hits of rock group Toto, is used in an a cappella arrangement, for example, to explain the legal field of equity in an amusing and tuneful way.

Given the nature of the production team, the law comes in for ribbing. In one sketch a scrabble player is put on trial at the International Criminal and Scrabble Court for using a proper noun in a game

Non-legal aspects of society are not neglected and the behaviour of ordinary people in routine situations gets amusing treatment in a very physical scene where actors portray the body parts of a drunk.

Nicole Tutton, centre, is the centre of attention in a rehearsal of an Around the Law in 80 Ways.

Oct 10 2018

Operation spring clean

buckets Good, clean fun: creating a happy home.
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The pleasures of a home that is spotless and ready for warmer weather relaxation starts with a spring clean. Here is a sure-fire strategy to get your house ready to pass inspection on the domestic front.

Assemble the troops

Make sure you have everything you need before you start. There’s nothing worse than getting into the dirty details of your spring clean and realising halfway through that you don’t have all the tools for the task.

You’ll probably need a bucket full of cleaning supplies, dusters, sprays and wipes, aprons, thin surgical gloves and thick rubber gloves; handled baskets to carry clutter; garbage bags to bin throwaways; and boxes and markers to label items you’ll store away for the season.

Shoot and scoot

Before you start the general clean-up, squirt toilets with disinfectant, spray shower cubicles with anti-mould and glass cleaners, and apply degreasers to the kitchen benchtop, stove, rangehood and splashback.

Then allow the chemicals to act while you tidy up the rooms. This is also an excellent time to spray your oven with a powerful degreaser. Open all the windows in the house to release any noxious fumes and bring in fresh air.

 

Forward march

Start at one end of your home and work to the other. You’ll need to do this twice over – first to tidy and then to clean. Like a mine-sweeper, go from room to room decluttering and putting things away. Straighten up what’s immediately on show before opening up cupboards and drawers to organise. To help motivate you, listen to a favourite playlist.

Stow away

The heavy cleaning will be much easier once everything is in its right place. Use a large basket to collect toys and clothes or anything in the wrong place, and return each item to its room as you go. Take boxes, especially into bedrooms, and fill them with winter bedlinen, clothing or appliances you won’t use in summer. Label each one before you put it away.

Strip beds, turn mattresses and remove electric blankets and quilts. Make up beds with summer linen.

Take no prisoners

As you sort through kitchen drawers and pantries, vanities and linen cupboards, wardrobes and toy boxes, TV units and bookcases, not everything will pass muster. If an item hasn’t been used in 12 months, give it to charity, donate it to the school fete or throw it away. In a central place, put a bin in which to throw out these items. Don’t let children or partners touch it or you’ll be stuck on this step all day.

Duster buster

Always work from the top down. Remove cobwebs from ceilings, dust along picture rails, then skirtings. Clean lampshades and fabric bedheads with a lint brush. Have a couple of empty plastic tubs at hand to remove books and groceries from shelves so you can wipe them down. Clean out sliding door tracks with an old toothbrush. Take any shag-pile rugs outside and drape over a tree branch, bench seat or, as I do, over a trampoline pushed on its side, and beat the carpet pile with the back of a rake.

Bring the rugs inside only after you’ve finished vacuuming and mopping floors. If you are changing winter-weight continental quilts to summer-weight ones, leave them in the sun for a few hours before you pack them away.

Blitzkrieg

Using a wrung-out sponge dipped in a hot soapy water, clean light fixtures, bathroom fan vents, cornices, mouldings and picture rails. Damp mop walls and ceilings (buy a new mop for this purpose, otherwise smudges may occur). Change or clean the air-conditioner filters. Touch up any scuffs or chips in wall paint.

Now, go back to the trouble zones of bathrooms and laundries and clean up the chemical sprays you applied earlier.

Remove hair and gunk from shower drains and give stainless steel sinks a good scrub. wash and squeegee the windows, mirrors and glass surfaces, putting towels on the floor to soak up any drips.

Kitchen crackdown

Now tackle the big-ticket items in the kitchen. The oven, stovetop and rangehood, already covered in degreasers, will be ready to simply wipe clean. Wash all the shelving in the refrigerator, putting what you can into the dishwasher, which should also be cleaned after this task by putting it through a cycle with a couple of upended lemon halves skewered on the dish rack spikes.

Throw out food in the freezer that has been there more than a month. Thoroughly clean the appliances in daily use, such as the kettle, toaster, coffee maker and rice cooker. Clean out drawers as dust and grime get in everywhere, then wipe down drawer fronts and polish up timber knobs or shine chrome handles.

The final assault

Spray a microfibre cloth with a disinfectant cleaner and wipe the door handles. Do the same to light switches. Pull out cushions and vacuum upholstered furniture. Finally sweep, mop and vacuum floors.

If you have any steam left, do a little sprucing. You can make a big change to your decor with little effort by rearranging some furniture, updating photos or bringing out a new collection of treasures to display.

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