Category archive: Australia

Mark Nielsen Won 2018 CEO of the Year Award

Mark Nielsen has been titled CEO of the Year at the 2018 Executive of the Year Awards in Sydney.

An audience of CEOs and leaders gathered at the ICC on November 21 to recognise the achievements of Australia’s leading executives at the seventh annual Executives of the Year Awards.

Nielsen earned the top award for his contribution as the APAC CEO and executive director of international recruitment agency Talent International. Under Nielsen’s leadership, the 11-person judge panel found, the organisation rose to the number one spot in the ANZ market with amplified revenue and improved team engagement and retention.

Nielsen also won the Professional Services Executive of the Year title. “By uniting the group under one purpose … and utilising digital platforms for coaching, mentoring and selling, Mark has fostered a productive and engaged team that he considers to be the best in the industry,” the panel said.

Janelle Hopkins, Group CFO at Australia Post was awarded CFO of the Year for turning the loss-making postal company into a sustainable and successful organisation.

The CIO of the Year award went to Brett Winn of Blackmores, who was recognised for his role in transforming the company into a cloud-based model to empower employees across geographically diverse locations.

Some of the judges in the panel include Lorna Jane founder Lorna Jane Clarkson, BPAY Group CEO John Banfield, and last year’s CEO of the Year winner Michael Ebeid.

“We saw a record number of applications, a record level of brilliance and our biggest attendance numbers to date with more than 600 guests joining us at the ICC Sydney to celebrate the individuals behind some of Australia’s top business brands,” Chris Dutton, CEO and co-founder of the CEO Magazine told Mediaweek.

For the full list of winners, visit the website.

Australia Blocks $13B Bid by Hong Kong Company for Pipeline Operator

The Australian government has rejected a $13 billion bid by Hong Kong-based CK Group for the country’s largest natural gas pipeline operator.

In June, CK Group launched a bid for APA Group, the owner of 15,000 km of gas pipelines across New South Wales, Victoria and the Northern Territory.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he blocked the deal because “it would result in a single foreign company group having sole ownership and control over Australia’s most significant gas-transmission business.”

In a statement released on Wednesday, CK Group confirmed that the acquisition will not proceed.

Frydenberg said the government will continue to welcome foreign investment into the country that is not “contrary to our national interest”.

Two years ago, the Coalition government also blocked CK Group’s bid to take over NSW electricity distributor Ausgrid. However, the group’s $7.4 billion acquisition of power company DUET Group was approved last year.

A $38M Tesla Battery Plant to Run in SA Starting Next May

A $38 million Tesla battery plant in South Australia is on course to be running in May 2019.

The new 25MW/52MWh grid-scale battery will be built by Infigen Energy at the Lake Bonney wind farm with funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the state government.

“This project has had its challenges but it’s actually travelling very well at the moment,” said Igor Brandao, general manager of development at Infigen.

“It’s comprised of 296 battery packs and 48 converters …These are all containers that will be sitting on a bench and connected to the substation which is where the Lake Bonney wind farm connects into.”

Infigen’s CEO Ross Rolfe said the Tesla battery will help Infigen to become an active electricity market participant. “With this capability Infigen will be able to expand its supply contracts from the Lake Bonney Wind Farm to additional commercial and industrial customers in South Australia, which is at the heart of our business strategy,” said Rolfe.

“We will also be able to reduce our exposure to FCAS costs and respond to the impact of the five-minute settlement rule when it is introduced in 2021.”

The plant is expected to last 10 to 15 years.

Tesla has previously built a battery plant in the state’s Hornsdale region, which is now owned and operated by French renewable energy company Neoen.

Since the 100MW/129MWh Hornsdale power reserve went live, South Australia has seen reduced costs in calling for back-up energy, also known as Frequency Controlled Ancillary Service (FCAS). According to AEMO’s first Quarterly Report of 2018, FCAS costs dropped 57 per cent or around $33 million in the plant’s first quarter of operation.

Battery has played an important role in keeping South Australia online, especially after the statewide blackout in September 2016.

H&M Opens First SA Store at Adelaide’s Rundle Mall Plaza

Retail giant H&M has opened its first store in South Australia at Adelaide’s Rundle Mall.

The two-level store spans across 3,000sqm to offer apparel and accessories as well as homewares, curtains, serveware and decorations through the H&M Home concept.

“We are excited to finally be able to announce the opening date for our Rundle Mall Plaza store … and to offer our customers an incredible fashion shopping destination within Adelaide,” said Thomas Coellner, Australian country manager for H&M.

The store opening represents continued strong investment in the real estate Adelaide, said Kate Fuss, acting general manager at Rundle Mall Management Authority.

“We’re very pleased to see such strong investment in the precinct,” said Fuss. “As the longest pedestrian mall in the southern hemisphere, Adelaide’s Rundle Mall is not only South Australia’s top tourist attraction, but also the state’s premier shopping destination, attracting 400,000 visitors each week – a market national and international brands are keen to tap into.”

The Swedish retailer is one of the major tenants at Rundle Mall Plaza, which has been under redevelopment since late 2017. Once completed, the revamped plaza will also have a dining hub, a health and wellbeing precinct and a tech hub.

The $40 million redevelopment will be beneficial not only to Rundle Mall, but also Adelaide in general, said Peter Weinert, executive director at Rundle Mall Plaza owner Weinert Group.

“We have invested strongly in South Australia, creating an enormous amount of work over the past 12 months for our building contractors and for the retail sector,” said Weinert.

“The redevelopment has opened up a wealth of job opportunities, especially for young people in our state. H&M alone will employ nearly about 90 new staff – 95% of which hail from South Australia.”

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Australian-Based Company to Build Coal Power Plant in PNG

An Australian company’s plan to build a coal-fired power plant in Papua New Guinea is a step closer to reality after a memorandum of agreement was reached with the local governments.

Since at least 2014, Australian-based Mayur Resources has been proposing to build a coal-powered power plant and coal mine in Lae, Morobe province. Now a MOA has been signed by the company, the Lae City Authority and the Morobe Provincial Government for a new 60-megawatt power station.

PNG’s Communications and Energy Minister Sam Basil said the plants will relieve Lae City of its blackouts and generate a K5 million or AU$2.09 million in revenue per year for Lae and Morobe governments, as well as 300 local jobs.

Basil said while PNG is a signatory to the Paris Climate Agreement, the country should have the right to use coal power. “Big nations are not reducing [coal emission], therefore, Papua New Guinea needs to be given a quota,” said Basil.

“In PNG, we’ve been denied that right [to burn coal] for a very long time. As mandated leaders from Morobe, we made a decision to make sure we provide cheap power for Lae City to develop into an industrial hub.”

Lae MP John Rosso said coal processing will be significantly more affordable than environmentally friendly alternatives such as hydro power.

“Of course we can utilize hydro power and solar power,” said Rosso. “However, we can’t always wait for this to happen in the next 20 years. We have situations with blackouts to address immediately and thus the coal power option is the way forward.

“When I looked at the facts and figures of how efficient coal power is used in Australia, it was encouraging to back the idea for the coal power plant to be established in Lae.”

PNG’s Conservation and Environment Protection Agency has endorsed the plan following an assessment.

Basil said the power facility will be ready in two years.

Afterpay Shares Hit by Upcoming Senate Inquiry

Afterpay shares dived following news that payday lenders, debt management firms and buy-now-pay-later platforms will be the subject of a new Senate inquiry.

The inquiry, proposed by Labor, is likely to pass the Senate after receiving support from the Greens, independent Derryn Hinch and Centre Alliance senators Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff.

“Financial counsellors are telling us that their clients are coming in with increased debts, as a result of predatory debt-management firms and other unlicensed financial services providers,” said Labor’s Jenny McAllister.

Consumer groups said the “debt vultures” often exploit consumers struggling to get loans from conventional sources, and operate with no regulation. “If you think the banks, insurers and superannuation funds are ripping people off, they are nothing compared with the exploitative conduct of this sector of the marketplace,” said Gerard Brody, chief executive at the Consumer Action Law Centre.

Afterpay shares have performed well this year, soaring 90 percent since January.

Falling 19 percent to $11.35, Afterpay was not the only financial company to get hit with the news. Cash Converters shares were down 12 percent to 26 cents, Money3 dipped 14 percent to $1.7, and Zip Co fell 12 percent to 93 cents.

Dominique Rui-Lin Teoh Frank Lowy

Billionaire Frank Lowy Urges More “Ambitious” Immigration Policy

Westfield co-founder and billionaire Sir Frank Lowy said Australia should embrace “ambitious” and “generous” immigration program.

In the Lowy Institute’s annual Lowy Lecture on Thursday night in Sydney, the businessman said the country should focus on immigration “targets” rather than “caps”, especially now that “our borders are secure”.

Lowy talked about his own past as an immigrant who fled Nazi persecution in Czechoslovakia and arrived in Australia in 1952.

“To imagine a better life for yourself and your family and to leave behind all that is familiar requires a special kind of courage,” he said.

“Australia needs more of that courage… We are focusing too much on the problems and forgetting about the opportunities of immigration. Let us learn from our history. Immigration has been great for Australia in the past. I believe it will be great for Australia in the future.”

Last year Australia recorded its lowest permanent migration level in a decade with about 162,000 permanent visa granted, compared with around 190,000 in the preceding four years.

Lowy also touched on the topic of Canberra’s relationship with the US and China. He said that the country’s allegiance should lie with the United States rather than the individual president.

“I regret that Mr. Trump does not see the great advantages that flow to America from its alliances and the global trading system,” said Lowy. He also urged Canberra to co-operate with Beijing without letting itself get dominated. “If you don’t look after your own interests, the person across the table certainly won’t.”

peabody energy mates in construction mining r u ok

Australian Mining Companies Join Suicide Prevention Program

As Australia celebrates R U OK Day, an industry has been working on its own awareness program. More than 1,000 construction and business sites across the country are taking part in MATES in Construction Fly the Flag Day, a campaign to raise awareness of suicide prevention.

MATES national chief executive Chris Lockwood said the number of participating sites has more than doubled last year’s, indicating greater momentum for the program.

“For the first time this year we have mining and energy businesses participating along with construction sites,” said Lockwood.

As part of its campaign, the organisation has trained over 140,000 workers to develop life-saving skills to recognise co-workers’ possible struggles and intervene when needed. According to Lockwood, 190 Australians who work in the construction industry take their own life each year, accounting for a suicide every second day. Australian Mining reported that construction workers are six times more likely to die from suicide than a workplace accident.

“The construction industry, which is predominantly male, has a culture that can often leave workers feeling isolated and not knowing how to ask for help,” said Lockwood.

“Factors such as job insecurity, high work demands, and financial stress combined with relationship breakdowns put workers in the construction industry at greater risk and MATES will continue to do all we can to prevent suicides in this and similar high-risk industries.”

Brad Geatches, MATES chief executive for Western Australia said that the industry was partly responsible for workers’ distress due to its competitive, insecure nature. However, ”society is generally becoming more aware of the issue of mental health and suicide, it’s coming out of the shadows, stigmas are breaking down,” said Geatches.

Rental Affordability Continues to Decline, AHIG Report Finds

Renters in NSW, Victoria and Queensland continue to suffer from the increasing gap between their household incomes and the median rents, a new report has found.

The 2018 Affordable Housing Income Gap Report revealed that while property prices and median rents across Australia increased by 82 and 76 percent respectively between 2006 and 2016, household incomes grew by just 40 percent.

“Over the past two decades, housing affordability in Australia has deteriorated at an extraordinary rate,” the report said. “Recent research by the Everybody’s Home campaign shows it is now generally accepted as fait accompli that home ownership is beyond the reach of average income earners and a significant proportion of the population has all but given up on the “Australian Dream”.”

Melbourne is the worst capital city for renters, as median rents were up 75 percent while incomes grew by merely 43 percent. Brighton and Brighton East were the least affordable suburbs to rent in the city, requiring 42 percent of an average renter’s weekly income to pay the median rent. Melton was the most affordable with 21 percent.

In Sydney, Woollahra led as the least affordable suburb with 44 percent of income required to pay median rent. Regional NSW did not fare better. Byron’s median rent at $590 was worth 48 percent of income, while Port Macquarie real estate took 34 percent of income for the median rent of $390.

Queensland had the most modest growth in prices. The increase in rents of 61 percent over the decade was also partially offset by the steady income growth of 40.5 percent. Eatons Hill was the least affordable locality in the Greater Brisbane area, while the localities of postcode 4184 were the most affordable.

Find the report here.

Sydney Property Prices Continue Dropping

Homes for sale Sydney today are $50,000 cheaper on average than last year, according to new figures released on Monday.

The latest CoreLogic home value index revealed that the median sale price of Sydney units, houses and townhouses overall has fallen 5.6 per cent in the past 12 months, dropping from over $900,000 in mid-2017 to $855,287 now. Median price fell 7.1 per cent for the detached house category, and merely 2.2 per cent for units.

The fall was driven by weak winter sales activity, with the median price dropping by 1.2 per cent over June, July and August combined.

Experts predict the downward trend in property prices would continue into 2019. Buyers of detached houses would be even better placed due to lower demand and more significant drops in prices.