Australia

Qantas Airways has raised A$1.05bn ($633m) to bolster its balance sheet, one of the first successful private debt raisings by an airline since countries around the globe began shutting their borders against coronavirus, forcing the industry to ground thousands of aircraft, the Financial Times reported. The 10-year loan advanced by a consortium of domestic and international banks is secured against part of the Australian carrier’s fleet at an interest rate of 2.75 per cent.

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Australia has one of the harshest regimes for insolvent trading in the world. But its laser focus on the interests of creditors, and harsh penalties, has served to distract directors in times of distress – and arguably stood in the way of better outcomes for everyone (creditors included), The Australian Financial Review reported. Refocusing directors’ attention to the interests of the company as a whole could change that.

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“Mate, I’m terrified.” “All we need is for two big jobs, two major corporates to go under and there will be a run of people putting themselves into administration. It's a domino effect." The coronavirus pandemic swept through corporate Australia this week at a ferocious pace, forcing a string of companies to pull their financial forecasts and triggering steep share price falls, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

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Corporate undertakers are divided over pleas for the government to impose a "moratorium" on insolvent trading laws to keep businesses afloat and protect directors, with some insolvency practitioners warning it will hurt creditors and worsen the economic downturn, the Financial Review reported. Thousands of businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs), face collapse in coming months because of a severe downturn in economic activity from the coronavirus disruption.

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The coronavirus pandemic will bankrupt most airlines worldwide by the end of May unless governments and the industry take coordinated steps to avoid such a situation, an aviation consultant warned, Bloomberg News reported. Many airlines have probably been driven into technical bankruptcy or substantially breached debt covenants already, Sydney-based consultancy CAPA Centre for Aviation warned in a statement Monday. Carriers are depleting cash reserves quickly because their planes are grounded and those that aren’t are flying more than half empty, it said.

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The Australian dollar tumbled to its weakest level since the financial crisis as investors continued to weigh the impact of the coronavirus on economic growth in China, Australia’s biggest trading partner, the Financial Times reported. The currency, typically regarded as a proxy for Chinese economic growth, fell as much as 1 per cent to $0.6662 in New York trade on Friday morning, the lowest level against the greenback since March 2009.

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Natural disasters are unpredictable events with broadly predictable results: a destruction of property and wealth, but no lasting impact on economic growth, The Wall Street Journal reported. Australia’s wildfires, which have ravaged more than 26,000 square miles of land and killed at least 30 people, will be the latest big test of that view. At stake is the country’s 28-year run without a recession—the longest ongoing streak in the developed world.

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Australia’s Downer EDI cut its annual profit forecast on Thursday amid a surge in costs at its loss-making construction contracts, sending the company’s shares sharply lower to mark their worst session in nearly a decade, Reuters reported. The revised outlook comes amid weak global business investment and as Australia’s economy stutters along with sluggish wage growth and high consumer debt.

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Audit group KPMG said on Wednesday Australia’s McWilliams Wines Group had gone into voluntary administration and that it was seeking capital or a buyer for the winemaker, which has been struggling to pay creditors amid changing drinking trends, Reuters reported. The decision comes in the wake of deadly bush fires that have engulfed large swathes of Australia, especially the state of New South Wales where the company’s vineyards are located. McWilliams Wine was not immediately available for comment on whether the fires are a contributing factor.

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Whichever way you look at it, it’s been an annus horribilis for many big name retailers. In 2019, we witnessed the collapse of a slew of Aussie favourites, with some international players also folding in recent months, news.com.au reported. So where did it all go wrong for these iconic companies – and what does 2020 hold for our struggling retail sector? According to Queensland University of Technology retail expert Dr Gary Mortimer, there are two main factors that caused the downfall of many businesses in 2019 – changing consumer tastes and “overcrowded, hyper-competitive markets”.

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