Archive for July, 2019

Jul 10 2019

Body discovery crushes girlfriend

UTTERLY DEVASTATED: Anika Haigh was the girlfriend of missing British-born man Gary Tweddle. GRIM TASK: Police rescue officers unload a stretcher.
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THE girlfriend of a man missing in the Blue Mountains for more than seven weeks was no Tuesdayfacing the grim reality that it was his body recovered from remote bush that same day.

‘‘The sun is beginning to rise on a day that we have all been hoping would never come,’’ Anika Haigh posted on the Facebook page she had devoted to the ‘‘most beautiful, loving, kind and caring man’’.

Ms Haigh, who grew up at Valentine and attended school at St Mary’s Gateshead and St Francis Xavier at Hamilton described how she had been left ‘‘utterly devastasted’’ by the loss of her British-born partner Gary Tweddle.

The couple, both 23, had been together three years and were living in Sydney when Mr Tweddle disappeared from a work conference at a Blue Mountains resort on July 15.

Ms Haigh had moved to Sydney to pursue a career in events management, although her family still live in the Hunter.

Mr Tweddle was working with a computer company and the pair had met in a Sydney pub.

‘‘No day is the same without you,’’ Mr Haigh posted on Facebook after his disappearance. ‘‘There is a hole where you used to be but please know my heart is full of amazing memories of you.’’

On Monday a NSW Ambulance Service helicopter discovered a body near where Mr Tweddle was last seen at the end of Sublime Point Road, Leura.

Ms Haigh travelled down from Queensland, where it is believed Mr Tweddle’s mother lives, to be in Leura while emergency services recovered the body on Tuesday.

Police abseiled down a cliff face to retrieve the body and take it to Glebe morgue in Sydney for formal identification.

The nightMr Tweddle went missing he had been out for dinner with work mates before returning to the resort where they were staying in a taxi.

He was captured on security footage running from the building without his glasses or jacket moments later and was last heard from during a 17-minute mobile phone call with work colleagues.

He told them he was lost and didn’t know where he was. Shortly after, his phone cut out.

The incident sparked the biggest search in Blue Mountains history, with more than 1000 volunteers combing the landscape.

Ms Haigh organised the Facebook page called ‘‘Have you seen Gary Tweddle?’’ in an effort to garner exposure.

More than 4600 people liked the page and condolences have been flooding in.

On Tuesday morning Ms Haigh posted: ‘‘Your time of hide and seek needs to end now though please. Time to come home where you belong. I love you.’’

Jul 10 2019

IOOF joins battle for Trust Co

The battle for Trust Co is now reaching seven months and three suitors, with IOOF the latest to throw its hat in the ring for the small-cap financial services company.
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IOOF chief executive Chris Kelaher told BusinessDay it behoved the Trust Co board to accept its ”clearly superior” offer ”sooner rather than later”. It has offered guaranteed cash of $6.03 for each Trust Co share, plus a 22¢ dividend, or 0.74 IOOF shares for each Trust Co share. The guaranteed cash consideration is capped at $100 million.

Mr Kelaher said Trust Co offered an attractive path into fast-growing sectors such as self-managed superannuation and philanthropy.

But Equity Trustees, the party that put Trust Co in play in February, still hopes to seal the deal and said it was keeping open the option of a cash component of its bid.

Financial services giant Perpetual will hear the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s verdict on its bid by September 19.

News of the three-way tussle put a rocket under Trust Co’s share price, its shares soaring 12.8 per cent on Wednesday to close at $6.54.

Baillieu Holst analyst Nick Burgess said: ”The ultimate successful bidder is difficult to determine.”

Excluding synergies, Mr Burgess valued the Equity Trustee bid at $5.93 a share, Perpetual’s at $6.16 and IOOF’s at $6.34 cash or $6.64 in shares. But, taking synergies into account, he said, Equity Trustees offered Trust Co shareholders ”the most long-term upside in theory”.

”That said, the lack of a cash component and lower headline value on a pre-synergies basis are practical barriers for Equity Trustees,” he told clients. ”IOOF’s position, with a higher bid than Perpetual, no ACCC concerns, as well as a proven, long-term track record of adding value through acquisitions looks strong.”

Deutsche Bank analyst Kieren Chidgey estimated there was a 50 per cent chance that Perpetual would nab Trust Co, by offering a 10 per cent premium to IOOF’s offer, or about $7.22 a share.

Equity Trustees chief executive Robin Burns told BusinessDay it was offering Trust Co shareholders a 60 per cent stake in the combined company, rather than the small stake in a large company offered by Perpetual and IOOF. Asked if Equity would consider a cash component to its bid, he said: ”The option of looking at our bid remains open.”

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Jul 10 2019

IOOF throws its hat in the ring

It is sometimes argued that Australian companies are well placed to expand in Asia because they carry light political baggage: Australia’s lack of notoriety in the region makes them less controversial acquirers of assets. So the theory goes.
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A similar informal rule applies in Australia’s financial sector. Financial giants find expansion avenues blocked, as NAB discovered in 2011, for example, when it tried and failed to take over AXA Asia Pacific. Smaller financial fish like IOOF swim clear of the competition regulator’s takeover net. Growth by acquisition is easier for them – and with his latest expansion attempt, a $203 million bid for The Trust Company, IOOF chief executive Chris Kelaher is again positioning his group as an alternative to a takeover that has met regulatory resistance.

In 2011 he offered IOOF as a remedy for concerns the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission had about NAB’s proposed $13 billion takeover of AXA.

The ACCC opposed the takeover partly because it would deliver control of AXA’s new funds management platform, North, so IOOF and NAB announced that IOOF could buy North from NAB, with fund management mandates attached.

The ACCC believed that North would be less powerful in IOOF’s hands than in either AXA’s hands or the hands of AXA’s other suitor, AMP. It nixed the NAB takeover again, NAB withdrew, and AXA fell into AMP’s hands: under AMP’s control North has grown, but not spectacularly.

This time Kelaher is acting unilaterally, and turning a battle for control of The Trust Co into a three-sided contest.

It began in February when another trustee services company, Equity Trustees, launched a share-exchange offer that valued The Trust Co at $5.28 a share, or about $177 million.

Equity Trustees pressed on with its bid despite being spurned by The Trust Co’s board, but in May The Trust Co announced that it was endorsing another, larger suitor, the Perpetual group. Perpetual also offered shares, but the bid value was higher at $6.39 a share, and it was also prepared to pay out up to $60 million in cash.

Equity Trustees came back a week later with a sweetened bid that it said valued The Trust Co at $8 a share. Synergies of $15 million that the merged trustee group could extract were worth more to The Trust Co’s shareholders than synergies of $15 million promised by Perpetual, it argued, because the Equity Trustees share-exchange bid would deliver 62 per cent of the merged company to The Trust Co’s shareholders, compared with only about 8 per cent in a merger with Perpetual.

The Trust Co’s directors re-endorsed Perpetual’s offer late in July, after receiving a report from Ernst & Young that identified only $7.5 million of merger synergies in a merger with Equity Trustees, compared with $14 million in a merger with Perpetual.

On August 1 however, regulatory risk reared its head. The ACCC reached a preliminary finding that Perpetual’s takeover of The Trust Co could harm competition in the trustee sector.

IOOF had quietly conducted due diligence on The Trust Co in May, around the same time as Perpetual, and on Tuesday, with the other suitors in the open, its June-year results in the bag and Perpetual’s regulatory hurdle evident, it proposed a share swap acquisition that valued The Trust Co at $6.34 a share.

It also topped Perpetual by setting aside $100 million for a cash alternative of at least $6.03 a share: another 39¢ is available in both cases from dividends the Trust Company ”may wish to declare”, it argued.

Kelaher is edging Perpetual on price and, as he did in 2011 when he proposed buying the North platform from NAB, he is presenting IOOF as the key to a regulatory door that is closing.

Perpetual is already Australia’s biggest trustee services provider, with funds under Trustee administration of about $264 billion, about 52 per cent of the market. A takeover of The Trust Company would lift its share to about 72 per cent or $367 billion, enough to raise ACCC concerns.

IOOF’s funds under supervision are only about $32.6 billion or 6.4 per cent of the industry. Its trustee market share would be about 25 per cent if it bought The Trust Co, not enough to worry the ACCC. The regulator might, in fact, see the market as better balanced.

The contest has run for more than half a year, and with trustee services in demand, as self-managed super expands, for example, it may develop further.

If The Trust Co’s board decides that IOOF’s proposal is superior, Perpetual will get three days to match or beat it. It may do so on price. Whether it can do so on the regulatory front is unclear.

IOOF could then re-bid, and The Trust Co has also kept its dialogue with Equity Trustees running. Since mid-August the two companies have been conducting mutual due diligence and, like IOOF, Equity Trustees is off the ACCC’s radar. It has trustee funds under supervision of $27.6 billion. But it probably needs to develop a cash alternative to stay in the hunt.

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Jul 10 2019

Horse trading in trademarks

Nicole Kidman-endorsed Swisse Wellness has mortgaged its famous brand names to a tax haven subsidiary of Goldman Sachs to secure a high-interest $100 million loan.
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CBD can reveal that Goldman Sachs Investments Holdings (Asia) Limited, which gives as its address in an industrial estate in sunny Mauritius, has registered a claim to more than 30 of Swisse’s brands, slogans and logos.

Official databases show that Swisse’s much-advertised logo and its relentlessly upbeat slogans ”You’ll feel better on Swisse” and ”Celebrate life every day!” are among trademarks ready to be hoovered up by Goldie’s famous blood funnel should Swisse fall behind on its payments.

Also part of the mortgage registration blitz, which started in the middle of last month and was still going on Tuesday last week, are some of Swisse’s more obscure trademarks, such as Benefishoil (can’t imagine why that one never caught on) and CBD’s personal fave, ”Sexiest Tan Alive!”

But key product line names are also mortgaged, including Trimshot and the Ricky Ponting-endorsed Ultivite.

There is also a general charge over all the assets of the company and another over a car (make and model not disclosed).

All this is security for the line of credit Swisse has secured from Goldman Sach’s Special Situations Group, which invests the vampire squid’s own money in mid-size companies. It’s expensive dosh, costing Swisse interest in the low teens, but a quick look at the company’s balance sheet shows … nothing, as Swisse is now more than nine months late in filing its 2012 accounts.

CEO Radek Sali dropped some 2013 numbers earlier this week covering revenue and earnings but didn’t disclose a profit figure or give a sense of the company’s assets and liabilities.

Failing to file accounts is a crime, and while corporate regulator the Australian Securities and Investments Commission has so far yet to take any concrete action against scoff-law Swisse, it is said to be aware of the issue.

Bear in mind that a woman who fell pregnant on the day Swisse’s accounts were due would already have given birth.

Did CBD mention pregnancy? Swisse has a range of potions and lotions for that called Pregcel.

The Pregcel name is, of course, mortgaged to Goldman Sachs.Black and blue

Fancy paying $540 to listen to an ex-con talk? That’s how much the Public Knowledge Forum is charging to attend a yakfest starring Conrad Black, also known as Baron Black of Crossharbour or Prisoner number 18330-424.

Strangely, Black’s official bio on the forum’s website omits to mention his stint in a US prison for fraud after being found guilty of embezzling from his media empire, Hollinger.

Instead, the blurb waxes lyrical about Black’s biographies of Maurice Duplessis, Franklin D Roosevelt, and Richard M Nixon (who, convicted felon Black recently insisted, boasts a record ”that puts him very close to the nation’s greatest presidents”).

And there’s also no mention of Black’s other great achievement: taking control of BusinessDay’s owner, Fairfax Media, in 1994.

Michael Smith, who lasted only a few months as editor of The Age under the Black regime, wrote about the experience for the ABC’s Drum website in 2007.

”Conrad Black’s contribution to Australian newspaper publishing was historic and cannot be overestimated,” Smith said.

”He introduced changes that caused The Age’s circulation to plummet 10 per cent almost overnight. No one has ever managed that before or since.”

Black is to appear alongside Annabel Crabb, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson and Atlantic correspondent James Fallows at the Sydney Opera House on November 3.

Got a tip?

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Jul 10 2019

Post-election rally may be wishful thinking

ASX: There will be very few peaks and troughs as a result of the election. Photo: Andrew QuiltyMost analysts are tipping a clear win in the federal election will bolster the economy and reignite consumer confidence. But with the poll just days away, that prediction may be little more than wishful thinking.
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Research from Goldman Sachs has dampened hopes of a post-election fillip on equity markets, saying that historically there is little evidence to support that theory.

Goldman strategist Tim Toohey said changes of government in the past had actually had the opposite effect, resulting in a period of slower, rather than accelerated, economic activity.

”The assumption that elections lower confidence and delay spending in the lead-up to the poll date is not supported by the economic data,” Mr Toohey said.

”[And] we find little evidence to suggest that the passing of a federal election results in a surge in retail spending, confidence and asset prices.

”Typically, the $A declines, equity markets decline, bond yields rise, and the path of economic indicators is mixed in the months following the result.”

Mr Toohey said in the past three elections in which there was a change in government, the equity market sold off 1.2 per cent a month before the poll, was 0.2 per cent in the week afterwards, down 0.9 per cent in the fortnight, and a month later was down 2 per cent.

In the case of the Australian dollar, Mr Toohey said a change of government had historically resulted in a 2.6 per cent fall in the week after the election and held onto those losses for the first month of the new regime.

Bond yields, meanwhile, have risen on average 4.2 per cent in the month afterwards.

Mr Toohey said it was possible there would be a lift in some measures of confidence but it would be mild.

He said it was unlikely that business conditions would recover without a broad-based recovery in consumer spending, adding that ”slowing household income growth suggests a cautious consumer will persist. Recent easing in financial conditions and the rise of household wealth through 2012-13 will help, but the lags from both forces are long and in the interim they will have to navigate further fiscal drag.”

But despite Mr Toohey’s conclusion based on hard evidence, talk of happy days on the ASX after the poll is still swirling.

RBS Morgans chief economist Michael Knox said in a client note that regardless of who won the election, a clear result would boost the sharemarket.

”A look back at the last 30 years and 11 elections has seen the Australian stockmarket increase by 1.31 per cent each month on average in the three months following an election. That equates to an almost 4 per cent gain for the quarter immediately following an election,” Mr Knox said.

”This increasing confidence acts like a reduction to the risk premium and is similar in its effect to an interest rate cut in that the flow-through to GDP has a lag of about five quarters. Therefore, we should see the more long-lasting result from an election outcome continuing on throughout 2014.”

But Ig Markets strategist Evan Lucas agreed with Mr Toohey, saying whatever happened on Saturday it was unlikely that Monday morning would ”see a scorched-earth or grass-is-greener moment”.

Mr Lucas said the markets were more likely to react to global issues – the US Federal Reserve meeting on September 17-18, where it is widely tipped the central bank will agree to start winding back its $US85 billion-a-month stimulus; the German election on September 22; and the Syrian conflict.

”This election from a market perspective is a non-event,” he said.

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