Australia

Free iPads, rental guarantees and an eye-watering A$100,000 ($72,000) off the price of an apartment are some of the sweeteners on offer from property developers amid the worst housing downturn in Australia for 35 years, the Financial Times reported. National house prices fell 1.3 per cent in December, the largest monthly fall since 1983, which resulted in an annual decline of 6.1 per cent last year.

Read more

Asia is finally succumbing to the global property slowdown that’s jolted homeowners and investors from Vancouver to London, with markets in Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia showing fresh signs of softening, Bloomberg News reported. The economic ramifications could be serious. Lower house prices and higher mortgage rates will not only dent consumer confidence, but also disposable incomes, S&P Global Ratings said in a report last month. A simultaneous decline in house prices globally could lead to “financial and macroeconomic instability,” the IMF said in study released in April.

Read more

An inquiry that has exposed rampant greed and wrongdoing in Australia’s major banks and wealth managers wraps up this week ahead of a final report which could trigger sweeping reform of the financial sector of the world’s 12-largest economy, Reuters reported. Dismissed initially as a “populist whinge” by the ruling conservative party, the quasi-judicial inquiry known as a Royal Commission has revealed branch-to-boardroom misconduct which will almost certainly trigger tougher regulation.

Read more

Australia’s big banks are set for their worst earnings season since the global financial crisis. A softening housing market, margin pressure from rising funding costs, and the ballooning cost of dealing with the fallout from an inquiry into misconduct in the financial industry, are all squeezing profits, Bloomberg News reported. Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. and National Australia Bank Ltd. are expected to report their first declines in full-year cash profit since 2016, while Westpac Banking Corp.

Read more
Shareholders in Australia’s big banks shouldn’t get too comfortable. Bank stocks rallied in relief that the interim report from an inquiry into misconduct didn’t contain any specific recommendations. But criticism ran deep as Commissioner Kenneth Hayne lambasted the banks over their culture, conduct, compliance and remuneration practices, Bloomberg News reported. He also took aim at the securities and banking regulators for their timid approach and failure to take court action.
Read more
HFW has won an appeal against a Supreme Court ruling with “significant implications” for insolvency proceedings in Australia, Australasian Lawyer reported. The firm helped Rio Tinto subsidiary Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd overturn a Supreme Court decision that Hamersley could not set off its claims against Forge Group Power Pty Ltd. "Today's decision is not only good news for Hamersley, but for many other unsecured creditors. The rights between contracting parties in the event of insolvency is something impacting almost all businesses,” said partner Matthew Blycha who led the HFW team.
Read more
The Reserve Bank of Australia is downplaying risks to the housing market from rising mortgage interest rates, saying that the cost of funding a home loan is still below that a year ago, The Wall Street Journal reported. In minutes of its Sep. 4 policy meeting released Tuesday, the RBA said that at the time of the board gathering, lenders accounting for around 40% of the market had raised mortgage lending rates.
Read more
Australia’s Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal obtained court approval on Tuesday for a $3.2 billion debt refinancing plan, offering respite to its owners who would have had to start repayments this month, Reuters reported. The Queensland-based terminal, known as WICET, is 40 percent owned by miner and commodities trader Glencore and was built to service a consortium of eight coal companies during a period of high commodity prices. It will now have the maturity of $2.6 billion in senior debt extended from this month until September 2026, court documents showed.
Read more
One of the longest stalemates in Australian corporate history could be nearing a resolution. Vodafone Hutchison Australia Pty, the joint venture between Vodafone Plc and a unit of Victor Li’s CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd. that runs the nation’s third-largest mobile network, is in talks to merge with homegrown challenger TPG Telecom Ltd., the companies said in statements Wednesday.
Read more
Wesfarmers’ annual profit halved as a result of more than A$1bn in write-offs linked to the sale of Homebase, the Australian retail-to-industrials conglomerate’s disastrous foray into the UK DIY market, the Financial Times reported. The company said on Wednesday that full-year profit for the 12 months through June fell 58 per cent to A$1.2bn (US$861.4m). But it posted strong results from its core Australia and New Zealand businesses, with profit at its continuing operations rising 5.2 per cent to A$2.9bn, slightly ahead of consensus forecasts.
Read more