Oceania

Australia’s Westpac Banking Corp said on Thursday it would disburse A$100 million ($74.2 million) in cheap loans to farmers as a record dry spell hits parts of the nation, while the country’s lenders fight to regain public trust amidst an ongoing misconduct inquiry, Reuters reported. The drought in Australia’s east, one of the worst on record, is impacting every area of rural life, often with global trade and price implications. Already many cattle graziers are being forced to sell stock they can no longer feed.
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Almost one million Australian homeowners are set to default on their mortgages in the coming months, an independent analyst warns. Digital Finance Analytics principal Martin North explained that if the big four banks do go ahead and increase their standard variable rates by as little as 0.15 percentage points over the next few months, homeowners could default, the Daily Mail reported. A number of Australian banks have already begun the process of raising their interest rates, ABC News reported.
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The liquidators of Bella Vista Homes have just $28 with which to pay more than $4 million to creditors – unless they can recover money from two former directors and a series of related company transactions, The New Zealand Herald reported. Insolvency practitioners Rhys Cain and Rees Logan released their first report on Wednesday and outlined their plans to recover the millions owed. They have issued a letter of demand to former Bella Vista director and shareholder Danny Cancian, seeking to recover funds from his overdrawn shareholder current account.
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Telstra Corp. plans to cut 8,000 jobs, sell assets and potentially spin off a new infrastructure business in a make-or-break attempt to fend off competition, Bloomberg News reported. The stock tumbled. Australia’s former phone monopoly, which has lost more than half its market value since early 2015, said it will almost double its cost-cutting program. An asset carve-off will raise as much as to A$2 billion, and one in four executive and middle management roles will go over the the next three years. “We are now at a tipping point,” Chief Executive Officer Andrew Penn said in a statement.
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Australia left its key interest rate unchanged at a record low Tuesday after the key unemployment metric edged higher, Bloomberg News reported. Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe kept the cash rate at 1.5 percent, where it has stood since 2016, as expected by all economists. The jobless rate hit 5.6 percent in April, moving further away from the central bank’s estimated level of full employment. The global picture has also become more clouded amid an emerging-market rout, populism in Europe and U.S. trade tariffs.
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Bondholders led by BlackRock Inc have agreed to inject capital into Quintis Ltd and take it private, rescuing the Australian sandalwood firm after it collapsed in the wake of a short-seller attack, Reuters reported. Between A$125 million and A$175 million ($95 million to $132 million) in capital will be provided and the bondholders will acquire control of the company, administrator McGrathNicol said in a statement. “It is expected that the proposal will be supported by growers, employees and creditors whose rights and long term interests are protected,” the statement said.
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Santos Ltd. plunged the most since 2016 after rejecting Harbour Energy Ltd.’s $10.9 billion final offer and terminating talks, saying its proposal was too low and too risky, Bloomberg News reported. The Australian oil and gas producer said Tuesday its independent directors, managing director and chief executive officer unanimously rejected the proposal because it didn’t represent the full value of the company, as well as being too complex and high-risk. Oil prices and shares of its domestic peers have rallied 14 percent and 18 percent, respectively, since the initial proposal, Santos said.
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Toys ‘R’ Us in Australia has lost its battle for survival with directors today putting the 44-store chain into administration. The move threatens up to 2700 jobs, including 700 full-time positions. Insolvency firm McGrathNicol said partners Jason Preston, Keith Crawford and Barry Kogan were put into Toys ‘R’ Us (Australia) and Babies ‘R’ Us (Australia) after the withdrawal of the final bidder looking over the struggling businesses, The West Australian reported. The stores, including four in Perth.
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Australia’s unemployment rate edged up to a 9-month high in April, despite an increase in the number of full-time roles, the Financial Times reported. Australia’s unemployment rate rose to seasonally-adjusted 5.6 per cent in April from 5.5 per cent in the previous month, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. That was above the 5.5 per cent forecast in a Reuters poll and broke from a four-month run at the same level.
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Australian fashion brand Metalicus has entered voluntary administration and will today begin a major sale across all of its outlets, SmartCompany.com.au reported. In an email to customers on Wednesday evening, the company acknowledged the “difficult period for our staff and customers”, as it explained plans to launch a sale event at all of its flagship stores, Myer concession outlets and online, starting Friday. Metalicus said the sale event will involve “significant savings on all pieces”.
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