Oceania

Australia will extend its temporary insolvency and bankruptcy protection rules until the end of this year, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Monday, providing businesses a lifeline to recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters reported. Under the rules, which were first introduced in March and due to expire on Sept. 30, creditors cannot issue bankruptcy notices to businesses for debts below A$20,000 ($14,558). The creditors’ notice period to act on debts could also be extending letting many firms keep trading without paying rent, tax and loans.

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Thousands of employers are forecast to fail within weeks in a new sign of the pressure on jobs as the Morrison government promises a budget plan to lift the economy out of recession, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. Insolvency firms are preparing for a spike in the number of companies going broke at the end of this month, when safe harbour rules introduced in March to help businesses hibernate through lockdowns are due to end.

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Air New Zealand Ltd plans to draw on a NZ$900 million ($596.34 million) government loan within days to help it weather the coronavirus pandemic after reporting its first annual loss in almost two decades, Reuters reported. The funding injection will provide some much needed liquidity as the airline burns through cash, but it will come at a cost. Along with interest rates of 7-9%, the loan gives the government the right to seek repayment through a capital raising after six months or convert the loan to equity.

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Travel agent STA Travel Group has gone into voluntary administration. It comes after the collapse of the travel group’s Swiss-based parent company STA Travel Holding AG, which filed for insolvency, Business Insider Australia reported. STA operates online travel agent services and 27 outlets in Australia, with Deloitte’s Jason Tracy and Timothy Norman appointed as administrators on August 21.

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Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd’s unsecured creditors will receive an average return of 9-13% of their funds as part of U.S. private equity group Bain Capital’s proposed purchase of the airline, administrator Deloitte said in a report on Tuesday, Reuters reported. The unsecured creditors include 6,500 bondholders who are owed A$2 billion ($1.43 billion) by the country’s second-biggest airline and will receive a return of 8.4-12.8%, less than the 14.4% return for critical suppliers. Priority creditors and employees will receive 100% of funds owed, the report said.

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Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd bondholders have withdrawn plans for a proposed recapitalisation of the airline that was meant to rival one from U.S. private equity firm Bain Capital, a spokesman for the bondholders said on Friday, Reuters reported. Singapore’s Broad Peak and Hong Kong’s Tor Investment Management, which had proposed the rival deed of company arrangement (DOCA) to recapitalise the airline, hold around A$300 million ($216 million) of Virgin’s A$2 billion of unsecured bonds, part of nearly A$7 billion owed to creditors.

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National Australia Bank Ltd on Friday urged customers at high risk of default on their loans to sell their properties sooner rather than later, as it reported ballooning credit impairment charges during the quarter, Reuters reported. Property prices in Australia fell for a third straight month in July but home prices nationwide still stand about 7% higher than in the corresponding month last year.

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Prushka Fast Debt Recovery revealed through data sourced from court records that the Australian Taxation Office and other government agencies, typically the largest source of company liquidations, have halted their winding up of businesses, Dynamic Business reported. In April to June, 374 businesses issued Notices of Winding Up Applications, a decrease of 47 per cent compared to the last quarter, and 64 per cent year-on-year.

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Australian companies are likely to deliver smaller dividends in what is forecast to be the country’s worst earnings season in a decade because of the coronavirus pandemic, with even firms that benefited from the upheaval expected to show caution, Reuters reported. Fund managers and analysts expect the corporate results season that begins this week to reveal an overall decline in profits of around one-fifth due to the abrupt shutdowns that followed the virus outbreak.

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An independent survey commissioned by insolvency firm Jirsch Sutherland has found that of the 1,000 business owners and directors surveyed, 51 per cent said they were expecting to explore restructuring or insolvency options in the next six months, Accountants Daily reported. The prospect of JobKeeper coming to an end was far from their primary concern, with just one in 10 worried about the phase-out of the wage subsidy scheme. Instead, cash-flow concerns continue to keep business owners up at night, with 36 per cent nominating it as their stressor.

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