Oceania

Fonterra went into the black in its first half but the co-op faces an uphill battle to meet its earnings forecasts for the year while it reduces debt and streamlines its operations. The dairy giant reported net profit of $80 million in six months to January, up from a loss of $348m a year earlier, but said its net earnings before interest and tax dropped by 29 per cent to $323m, The New Zealand Herald reported. Newly-appointed chief executive Miles Hurrell said the result was "not be where it should be".

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Investors in collapsed Australian derivatives trader Halifax are set to have a long wait to get their money back after the administrator found "accounting irregularities" and said they will have to go to court to get a direction on how to disperse the money, The New Zealand Herald reported. Voluntary administrators Ferrier Hodgson, who were appointed in November, released an update on Halifax yesterday and said they had now undertaken a wide-scale investigation of Halifax's financial position.

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Beleaguered rich-lister Eric Watson will likely remain embroiled in courts for years — and faces the possibility of a tax bill of $200m when penalties are added — after a landmark court decision yesterday saw his businesses ruled to have engaged in $51.5m in tax avoidance, The New Zealand Herald reported. Justice Matthew Palmer said a complex 2002 transaction — involving Cayman Island companies while Watson himself was relocating from New Zealand to the UK for tax purposes — was an avoidance arrangement. The case is one of the largest tax judgments in New Zealand history.

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Moana Park Winery has gone into voluntary administration, The New Zealand Herald reported. The Puketapu-based, multi-award winning winery, which is officially registered as World's Best Little Wine Company Ltd, chose to take that step itself on Tuesday. Owned by Daniel and Kaylea Barker, the family business, has made a name for itself with a focus on producing natural, low allergen wines. It's also considered one of the stars of the Hawke's Bay events scene, and hosts the annual Another Day in Taradise.

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The Reserve Bank's proposals to double minimum bank equity levels will cost New Zealand's economy $1.5-to-$2 billion a year without making banks much safer, according to former long-serving central bank official Ian Harrison, The New Zealand Herald reported. Worse, he says the bank's decision to base its policy on ensuring that bank collapses occur only once in every 200 years happened at the last minute when it realised that its initial target of limiting bank collapses to once in every 100 years would have meant New Zealand banks already had sufficient capital to meet that test.

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Crown Resorts director and former AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou has been grilled in court over the $145 million collapse of education group Acquire Learning, ABC News reported. Mr Demetriou was never a director of the company but was executive chairman of an advisory board and paid $75,100 a month and $1.6 million in shares for three days a week of work in an office downstairs from the directors.

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Construction business Arrow International has gone into voluntary administration after a contractual dispute left it with insufficient cashflow to meet operating costs, The New Zealand Herald reported. Administrators from accountancy BDO were appointed at 2.30pm today. "This is not the outcome we wanted or expected, but in light of a recent adjudicator's decision, we had no choice but to take this course of action," the company's board said in a statement.

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A special government-appointed inquiry excoriated Australia's financial sector for misconduct on Monday, referring two dozen cases to regulators for possible legal action but leaving the structure of the country's powerful banks in place, the International New York Times reported on a Reuters story. Regulators will be subjected to a new oversight body and the financial industry's pay will be overhauled to remove conflicts of interest, according to the recommendations of the so-called Royal Commission.

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Australia’s banking regulator said on Tuesday it had decided to keep the countercyclical capital buffer (CCyB) for banks on hold at zero percent, though it was considering setting a different rate in time. The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) reviews the buffer quarterly and it has been held at zero since it started in 2016, Reuters reported. The buffer is an additional amount of capital that banks can be required to hold during periods of heightened systemic risk.

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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.

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