Walker stars in Aussie victory

Former Launceston basketballer Lucas Walker goes to the basket in Australia’s win against China in the opening match in the 2014 Sino-Australia Challenge in Perth on Thursday night. Picture: GETTY IMAGESLAUNCESTON basketballer Lucas Walker said yesterday that he was “sore but delighted” with a starring role on his international debut for the Boomers.
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The 202-centimetre, 102-kilogram forward top- scored in a rousing 97-95 come-from-behind victory over China in Perth, having been instrumental in the fightback that forced the game into overtime.

“To get a win was good but it was such a great way to get a win – having been down for the entire game and show a never-give-up attitude,” he said.

With Australia trailing by 10 points inside the final three minutes at Challenge Stadium, Walker and fellow debutant Brock Motum led the resurgence, combining for 22 points in the final quarter and overtime.

Walker claimed 17 points in the match, led the rebounds and steals and enjoyed the most game time.

“I was not nervous at all,” said the 29-year-old who went to West Launceston Primary School, Riverside High and Launceston College before his basketball career took off on the US college circuit and with Melbourne Tigers in the NBL.

“I just went into the game like any other and wanted to play well.

“I’ve been doing everything I needed to do in the game all week so I had pretty clear instruction what I needed to do. It was a tough game. China have a good young group and I think they will be really good, so the intensity was a lot more consistent.

“NBL matches are very competitive but when playing for your country the intensity definitely goes up, and there was a lot on the line with it being my first game. I wanted to play as hard as I could and make an impact.”

Walker played for City, Devils, Trojans and Japara in the LSBL and has represented Montana State University and Saint Mary’s College of California.

Walker is keen to continue his development into game two of the Sino-Australia Challenge at the same venue tonight, before two more matches next week in China.

“I’m just really happy with the opportunity I’ve had in the squad, and now it’s up to me.

“It’s about doing what they want me to do and earning the respect of my teammates and coaches. It’s just baby steps now.

“I want to play well in the other three matches and see where I go from there.

“We didn’t scout them at all before the game but now we can watch film from this game and be better prepared going into game two.

“I’m not sure what to expect in China. I’ve played there before on a preseason tour with Melbourne Tigers and know it’s a tough place to go. The environment and officiating are very different.”

Among those teammates is Hobart’s Hugh Greenwood, who also had a major impact, amassing the most assists and contributing six points.

“Hugh was great on defence and a great leader,” Walker said.

“He brings a lot of intensity which trickles down through the group. I had not met him until last Friday but he’s a fun guy to play with.”

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Rise of Ash: It steams ahead

Arran MacDougall and Ash Lefevre will represent Southern Districts at the June long weekend carnival. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSONHARD running back- rower Ash Lefevre has been selected in the Southern Districts side for the second year in a row.
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But the Steamer powerhouse will have company when the team travels to the South Coast for the June long weekend carnival with fellow forward Tom Boyle and English import Arran MacDougall also in the rep squad.

Lefevre, 23, said it was all part of a steep learning curve for the relatively inexperienced rugby player.

He played “a bit of” league and AFL as a teenager but found his niche when he switched to rugby as an 18-year-old.

“The rep footy helps fast-track your rugby,” Lefevre said.

“It’s a different experience, particularly when I’ve really only been playing for four years.

“Last year was great too, I learned a lot from that season, playing with those guys — I try to play smarter every time I go out there, at least that’s the plan.”

Lefevre fell into the forwards but wouldn’t play anywhere else.

“I always wanted to play at No.8 but with (Nathan) Bright there, a very good No.8, I’ve fallen into the second row.

“I love the forwards, I couldn’t play in the backs, the forwards are where the game is — those guys out wide call us piggies but they can’t do without us.”

An injury-ravaged Steamers travel to Leeton today for a clash with the winless Phantoms.

Missing from the squad will be Tom Wilmore and Gareth Edwards, both injured in the win against Ag College last week, while fellow SIRU rep player Boyle and winger Adam Clements will also miss.

Lefevre, a key part of last year’s undefeated premiers, said that every game is a contest this winter.

“You can’t afford to have an off day against anyone — it is a pretty even competition all round,” he said.

“We have been guilty of making mistakes and that tends to flow into the rest of your game, we have found ourselves in a bit of a rut in a couple of games.

“But I have no doubt we have the potential to step it up and make up for those losses.

“We’ll be in the thick of the final’s action.

“For me I play every game as it comes, just go out there and do my best, play a part.”

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Westfield pushes on amid investor revolt

Frank Lowy hopes to split the Westfield shopping centre empire. Photo: Andrew QuiltyWestfield Group chairman Frank Lowy may still be feeling the sting of a shareholder revolt, but the businessman who came to Australia in 1952 with nothing to his name is unlikely to give up, analysts said.
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At the same time events leading up to Thursday’s aborted vote on a split of Westfield have caught the attention of the securities watchdog.

”This was a very significant transaction and we have been taking strong interest in the way that it has been effected,” Australian Securities and Investments Commission chairman Greg Medcraft said.

Earlier this week Westfield Retail Trust chairman Richard Warburton deferred voting on a $70 billion restructure of the Westfield empire, which would have split the Australian and overseas assets. The proposal was approved by investors in the larger sister company Westfield Group, with a resounding 97.26 per cent. But Westfield Retail Trust investors, faced with seeing their company turn into a lower-growth arm of the Westfield Group, returned proxy votes totalling 74.1 per cent, just short of the 75 per cent threshold needed to approve the vote.

Mr Warburton adjourned the meeting for up to two weeks. This will give investors time to consider Mr Lowy’s comments that Westfield Group will spin off its Australian and New Zealand operations regardless of whether Westfield Retail Trust shareholders approve the deal.

”To the extent that some may have expected a rejection of the proposal to result in a more favourable proposal from Westfield Group, despite Westfield Group having already declared the merger terms final, today’s comments from [Mr Lowy] may alter their positions,” Deutsche Bank analyst Ian Randall said.

Westfield Retail Trust shareholders are believed to be concerned at the high debt levels they would have in the new entity, Scentre, as well as the low-growth prospects.

”Near-term, uncertainty is not good, but we don’t agree with the notion that a separately listed Scentre would have a material impact on Westfield Retail Trust’s share price,” CLSA analyst John Kim said.

Independent expert Grant Samuel & Associates saw ”no pressing need for Westfield Group to restructure. The status quo would continue to offer investors a financially sound, well-defined exposure to a single business that is a global leader in the retail property sector.”

However, Westfield Group is determined to carry out a restructure.

Given this, Grant Samuel found the proposal was fair and reasonable, with benefits outweighing the costs, disadvantages and risks.

A plan to separate the two businesses will be presented toWestfield Group shareholders at the start of the next financial year.

UBS analyst Grant McCasker said disadvantages were ”fragmented ownership of assets, potentially leading to higher debt costs but may be offset by the current low-interest rate swap curve, and less synergies, such as tax and overheads”.

”Overheads, tax and interest rate savings, or synergies for Scentre Group total $36 million.”

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It’s a Nobel calling, building a good relationship with another

I’m not sure what three Nobel Prize winners are called but a bunch of these brains have come into my life recently and changed how I see the world.
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First was our Canberran physicist Brian Schmidt who worked out that the universe is expanding. This is good news and hopefully the world economy will follow suit. The second was the long-standing economist to the UN and climate change expert Jeffrey Sachs. And the last was prolific author Joseph Stiglitz.

So what is the common thread in all of this? Simple. Sitting down with people one to one.

It was over a few courses in Chinatown that Sachs gave me the drum on the real trouble we are in. While many think our national emissions are insignificant, the real issue is that our coal is being burnt around the globe. There is no question we are right in the middle of the problem – and the solution.

I’ll leave the fine print to others but a simple summation by a fellow diner was ”we’re stuffed”. Now, Jeffrey doesn’t talk like that but there is trouble ahead unless we act.

In between a forthcoming dinner with the Stiglitz, I hosted an event in Jakarta for the Australia Indonesia Centre recently established by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Indonesian President SBY.

Stiglitz is getting the attention by saying that capitalism is running amok as a broken system. It wasn’t so long ago that the Nobel prize winner was saying that government had to be at the centre of everything.

Charlie says that the problem is that we are printing too much money and that people have given up on government to be able to look after their affairs. And he’s got the research to prove it. But the result is obvious: the people have slowed spending. The economy is not doing well. Not because of the perceived government debt, but the fact they are frightened by the budget.

However, even with this mournful backdrop, my time in Jakarta last week made me feel good. Despite the ebb and flow of tensions between our governments, key people are talking to each other and new leaders are making a difference. One is the new Indonesian ambassador to Australia who had been ”recalled” for the past six months. Ambassador Nadjib Riphat Kesoema is a good man who is not distracted from the truth – the vast majority of the people in both countries just want to be friends.

We all know we have got a lot of work to do on many fronts just like Sachs says about our environment and Stiglitz says about Western economies. But in every case, if people talk to people, as opposed to governments and bureaucrats being in the middle of everything, there’s a chance that we can fix any problem.

This point was driven home for me by Sachs himself through a story he told about John F. Kennedy. Apparently the young US president came to an agreement with Soviet president Khrushchev that they would regularly write private letters to each other not as politicians but as ordinary citizens and that the letters would never be published until after their deaths. It resulted in a regular and very frank exchange. They formed a real understanding of each other and it was through that understanding that the Cuban missile crisis was quelled and global nuclear war averted.

A real relationship is necessary to solve any problem and that’s the way I have done business all my life.

I once flew to London to hand over a piece of paper and have a 30-minute conversation. That piece of paper changed the advertising industry and made many people wealthy.

If we really want to solve the problems of the world and create new opportunities, we have to build relationships. Asian people know this, particularly their business and political leaders. We should take a leaf out of their book.

Perhaps the PM could take a Saturday off pretty soon and fly to Jakarta for a long lunch. But, importantly, keep the visit private.

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You can’t always get what you want if you’re a lousy client

It is your money and your responsibility and you will get much better results by showing an interest. Photo: Louie DouvisI referred a client to a long-standing friend the other day, an accountant; someone who needed tax advice – stockbrokers are not allowed to give tax advice.
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I was expecting a grateful email in reply but instead they came back with, ”Thanks for the referral, Marcus, but I have recently effected a ‘no dickhead’ policy with clients to protect my staff so can you please tell me if they’ve been vetted yet?”

And there you have it, the truth. The customer isn’t always right after all, they never have been and, like it or not, every service provider, especially a good one, has a choice.

The cliche is that you have to be thick-skinned in some industries, but how sad. If handling a client means you are having to put up with a lot of their crap, then I can tell you, that’s not going to work. If you are a pain and your service provider is tolerating you, then you are hardly going to be getting the best they can offer unless they are desperate or you are extremely rich and stupid.

Making it work as a client in any industry is as much your responsibility as it is your supplier’s, and if your supplier is only dealing with you for the money, then it probably isn’t working as well as it could.

Obviously there are exceptions on both sides, but if you aren’t getting what you want, you aren’t the priority, you aren’t happy, ask yourself why, especially if you are going from supplier to supplier, or in my industry, from broker to broker.

In my experience, most financial professionals, including brokers, planners, accountants and estate agents, are pretty smart and at the sharp end of affable. So if you spend your dinner parties generalising about them being dickheads, you know, it just might be you.

So for those of you who are wondering why you never get the call, let alone a top 10 call, here are a few tips on how to get the best out of your financial professional.

Understand their motivation. Ask them how they are paid. Some advisers are salaried and told to sell product. Others are paid on a slice of commission. Find out which. Only then will you understand their drive and their interest in you.

Ask them what makes a big client or a small client and try to assess where you sit on their list. Then you will understand whether you are going to get called or not; whether you need to be more proactive and whether you are with the right adviser. You may not want to be the biggest client and you probably don’t need to be the smallest. But it’s interesting to know.

Take responsibility. Many believe their financial adviser is going to take responsibility for their money and investment returns. But it is your money and your responsibility and you will get much better results by showing an interest and not relying on your adviser to make it happen on their own. Input is good, safer, required.

In the current compliance environment, clients can quickly become a liability. Settlement risk is a big issue these days. Play the game. Don’t expect to deal without money in the bank. Any financial professional who trades for you is trusting you to settle. It shouldn’t be an issue and don’t be surprised if your relationship, and the value it delivers, crumbles when it is.

There is nothing worse in the money game than a client with unrealistic expectations. If being happy means having your expectations met, then the route to unhappiness, failure and blame is to expect too much. Tell a broker, planner or fund manager that you want to double your money every year and they have a choice. Re-educate you, pass you on to someone more desperate or sign you up and take your bets. Advisers are in the business of building a client base, not holding onto rockets until they explode.

Every financial professional will bend over backwards for a good long-term client. All you have to do is be one.

Marcus Padley is the author of the sharemarket newsletter Marcus Today. This column should not be construed as personal investment advice.

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Southern Cross Media downgrades profit forecast

About 70 per cent of Southern Cross’ TV revenue comes from its Ten content, meaning advertising sales have been under pressure.Southern Cross Media Group has blamed a 10 per cent profit downgrade on the poor ratings of its metropolitan free-to-air television affiliate Ten Network, as well as soft performance from its 2Day FM metro radio network.
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Southern Cross said its underlying net profit was likely to be about $80 million for fiscal year 2014 rather than previous guidance of $89 million.

The company’s regional television business broadcasts mostly Ten content, which has been rating poorly since the conclusion of the Sochi Winter Olympics in February, although its audience has improved since the launch of flagship cooking program MasterChef this month.

About 70 per cent of Southern Cross’ TV revenue comes from its Ten content, meaning advertising sales have been under pressure.

Southern Cross’ 2Day network has suffered from the loss of star Sydney breakfast duo Kyle and Jackie O to rival KIIS FM, owned by APN News & Media.

This has led to lower ratings and revenue and, combined with the company’s increased investment in marketing its metro radio business, contributed to the profit downgrade.

Industry sources have suggested the company’s radio business could take a revenue hit of up to 30 per cent after the dramatic audience slump for its 2Day network, which includes Fox FM in Melbourne.

Southern Cross also owns the Triple M metropolitan radio network, which has generated revenue growth this year, and a regional radio network.

”[Southern Cross] is driving an exciting period of talent-led regeneration with our Today brand, whilst our Triple M network continues to outperform with growth over last year,” chief executive Rhys Holleran said.

”Our focus remains on building our brands whilst controlling our costs.”

The company completed a re-financing of its debt facility in December, which secured finance for five years with no mandatory repayments and improved costs of about $8 million a year, compared with the earlier facility.

But Southern Cross will be hit by a $5.6 million write-off of unamortised borrowing costs in the second half of fiscal year 2014.

The company said it remains ”comfortably” below its leverage ratio covenant of 3.5 times earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation and maintains its objective of lowering the ratio to 2.5 times as ”soon as practical”.

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Demand for IPOs continues unsated

The IPO market fired up in the last quarter of 2013, with 30 new listings and $6.11 billion raised in that quarter alone.As Australia experiences its strongest flow of company floats since before the financial crisis, BusinessDay can reveal the winners and losers in the great IPO rush.
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The appetite for company debuts on the ASX has exploded in the past 12 months, with the amount of capital raised soaring to $9.2 billion – more than the $8.8 billion raised over the three years leading up to 2013.

Fund managers attribute the flurry of activity to a buoyant market and private equity firms, which have had a soft deal flow since 2012, thundering back into action.

Investor confidence has also fuelled demand for IPOs, considering the performance of some of the year’s biggest floats.

Cleaning and services group Spotless, which raised the most capital for the year with $995.6 million has surged more than 10 per cent since it listed last Friday.

Credit reporting business Veda has also had an impressive debut, with its shares rocketing 80 per cent – catapulting it into the top five best-performing new listings – since it floated last November.

”The performance of a number of recent listings, mainly Spotless and Veda, have been quite good for investors so it is giving them the confidence to return to invest in further IPOs,” Citi’s head of capital markets origination John McLean said.

The IPO market fired up in the last quarter of 2013, with 30 new listings and $6.11 billion raised in that quarter alone, according to Grant Thornton.

Data from the business advisory firm also showed a clear trend from the materials (mining) sector in favour of the financial and consumer discretionary sectors.

This was despite small phosphate explorer Fertoz, which raised $4 million, being the best performing float over the past 12 months, with shares rising 180 per cent.

Mr McLean said it was difficult to pinpoint a trend by sector alone.

”It’s hard to pick a defining theme, other than what always applies, which is quality management teams, businesses that are exposed to growing industries and can produce good dividend yields through strong cash flows – and that have every prospect of meeting or beating their prospectus forecast.

”I think that’s the key. A couple of the transactions that maybe haven’t gone so well have struggled to make their forecasts.”

Indeed, insurance comparison website iSelect was the second-worst-performing IPO – with its shares slumping 40.1 per cent since it listed last June – after a kerfuffle over earnings guidance that triggered an Australian Securities and Investments Commission inquiry.

And transport company McAleese, the worst-performing IPO for the year, has plummeted 69 per cent after issuing two profit warnings in two months.

The trucking group has been struggling to regain credibility with investors after a fatal accident involving one of its fuel tankers in Sydney last year. In April the company said sales revenue for the March quarter would be $9 million less than forecast internally, while earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) would be $7 million lower.

Still, 60 per cent of floats are trading in positive territory.

Mum and dad investors have been particularly keen to buy into IPOs, with retail demand soaring.

CommSec general manager, distribution, Brian Phelps said his clients had been involved in 16 floats this year, compared with 10 in 2013.

Mr Phelps said record-low interest rates were helping fuel demand, with many retail investors slowly re-entering the sharemarket after converting stocks for cash during the financial crisis.

But there has been some reticence. ”People have just been gradually getting back into the market, they haven’t pushed their all back in again,” Mr Phelps said.

As as result, he said, there was still a ”fair bit of cash on the sidelines”, which he expected would continue to buoy the IPO market.

”Things like IPOs are a good opportunity to get in at ground level. A lot of people are looking at the market and thinking, ‘Wow it’s ticked up over the course of the last year, 30 per cent plus, how do I get back in? Here’s an IPO, I might have a go at that.”’

Retail investors have been particularly interested in companies with strong brands such as Nine Entertainment, the year’s second-biggest float, raising $624.64 million. The company’s shares have risen 6.8 per cent since its listing.

But Mr Phelps said IPO demand was outstripping supply, with many offers oversubscribed.

”That leads to scale backs and becomes frustrating for retail clients because the [institutional investors] end up with a good volume of the flow that comes with these IPOs and the [retail investors] get a bit on the back.”

Beacon Lighting was another float that benefited from a strong brand. The company, which sponsored Channel Nine’s home renovation show The Block, has risen 54.5 per cent since it listed in March, placing it inside the top 10 best-performing IPOs.

Wilson Asset Management chief investment officer Chris Stott attributed the strong performance to solid management and growth prospects. ”They are in a good industry position. They have a strong growth outlook in terms of rolling out stores right around Australia,” Mr Stott said. ”We also are seeing small signs of that renovation cycle starting to pick up, which would benefit Beacon Lighting.”

Mr Stott expected the momentum of IPOs to continue for at least the next 12 months and across a number of sectors.

Platypus Asset Management founder and chief investment officer Donald Williams said as long as the sharemarket, which this week hit six-year highs, stays ”comfortably above 5000 points” it should be able to absorb a flurry of floats.

”There are lots of reasons why the IPO will continue to be open, I think,” Mr Williams said.

”We think the market will grind higher for most of the year and valuations are reasonable, they are better than they were a couple of years ago.”

Mr Williams expected the health sector to dominate the biggest IPOs, particularly given the federal government’s impeding float of Medibank, and mooted relisting of Australia’s second-biggest private hospital operator Healthscope.

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All steam ahead for India’s Narendra Modi on business reforms

Over a plate of tandoori chicken and a grandstand view of an Indian Premier League cricket match in the Punjab last week, former state cricketer and now chartered accountant Jimmy Sharma conveyed something of the aura surrounding India’s new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
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”I think we all feel that this is the beginning of a golden era for Indian business,” Sharma said.

Top of the list of things that Sharma hopes Modi will do to lift India’s economy out of the doldrums is to cut barriers to entry.

”It doesn’t matter what business idea you have for India, it requires endless government approvals from at least 10 different departments. If the application spends two weeks on each department desk, you’re looking at six months just to get a green light.”

The first Prime Minister in a generation to have a parliamentary majority in his own right, Modi’s election has excited business leaders who blame India’s failure to tackle long-term economic reforms on a succession of weak coalition governments.

”If you look at Modi’s track record as chief minister in Gujarat, one thing that stands out is that he gets things done quickly. He listens to business leaders, he understands what they need, and he gives fast answers,” Sharma said.

”We need strong leadership and because Modi has a clear parliamentary majority he can deliver strong leadership, so my feeling is that since Modi’s election, all of a sudden people are feeling optimistic, the entrepreneurial spirit is back, and that this is the beginning of something big.”

Sworn in on Monday as India’s 15th Prime Minister, Modi hasn’t wasted any time.

On his first full day in office, he managed a reassuring summit with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and issued firm instructions to his somewhat slimmed down ministry that entrenched habits of nepotism and patronage would not be tolerated under any circumstances – specifically putting friends and family members onto personal staff.

With GDP growth lagging at below 5 per cent, almost half what it was two years ago, inflation rampant at around 9 per cent a year, and employment growth failing to keep up with the 10 million new job seekers entering the labour market each year, one of Modi’s most important lieutenants will be finance minister and former lawyer Arun Jaitley.

Speaking after his first meeting this week with Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan – an inflation hawk – Jaitley spoke of ”balancing the fight against inflation” with the need for significant public sector investment, comments widely interpreted as being in line with the central bank.

”The challenges are very obvious,” Jaitley said. ”We have to restore the pace of growth, contain inflation and obviously concentrate on fiscal consolidation itself.”

With Modi promising massive investment in infrastructure projects, with talk of 100 new cities, 100 fast trains, and hundreds of new roads, Jaitley has already signalled that the Modi government will be keen to relax foreign investment laws to automatically allow foreign firms ownership stakes of at least 49 per cent in Indian firms without requiring time-consuming government approval.

While Modi had pledged not to allow direct foreign investment in retail, holding foreigners to a 49 per cent stake is being talked about as a kind of compromise solution. To try to stimulate growth, the new government is expected to allow foreign investment in most other areas of the economy including defence.

Tax reform also appears high on Jaitley’s list.

He appears to be pushing strongly for the speedy introduction of a goods and services tax that could boost GDP a couple of percentage points a year. Initially planned for four years ago, the GST was stalled by states opposed to the introduction of indirect taxes, but with more states now controlled by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, economists expect Modi to have better luck forging a consensus than the previous government.

With a broad-based consumption tax likely to significantly increase the amount of tax revenue going to the centre, Modi will have more money to spend on items such as infrastructure.

”The new Prime Minister has a very systematic, very determined style,” National Council of Applied Economic Research senior fellow Dr Kanhaiya Singh said.

”This is a fellow who is a workaholic, who sleeps four hours a night, who has no family or children to worry about, and I keep all this in mind when I think of what reforms he might introduce, because this tells me that he will try to do what he believes is the right thing for the country.”

Singh argues that infrastructure spending has to be a priority.

”I would not be afraid to increase spending, as long as it’s genuine investment in the country’s future on things such as power plants and roads, and not a vote-buying spree, which I very much doubt given Modi’s past behaviour,” he said.

In terms of tackling inflation, Singh said one of Modi’s biggest priorities should be unshackling India’s food supply chains.

Each year much of India’s annual agricultural output rots on the road from the farm to the corner store, including up to 40 per cent of fresh fruit and vegetables.

A staggering 21 million tonnes of wheat each year is lost due to improper storage and inefficient management by the government-owned Food Corporation of India – an entity charged with controlling prices ostensibly in the interests of farmers and consumers.

”One of the things that keeps food prices artificially high is the huge amount of food losses incurred due to improper storage,” Singh said.

”The market is over-regulated, preventing large-scale conglomeration.

”So I think Mr Modi will have to follow through on promises to address the Food Corporation of India and I would think he will have to break it up,” he said.

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Shopping malls turn to cafe culture for success

Food focus: Highpoint shopping centre. Photo: Matthew BouwmeesterThe rise in demand for a coffee at a cafe has seen a significant shift in the way shopping malls are being re-designed.
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Going are the big box anchors, usually a department store or discount department store, to be replaced by larger food courts, cafes, outdoor relaxation and entertainment areas and even office space.

In new developments the landlords are positioning the department stores in smaller, internal areas that can be turned into a series of specialty stores.

The cafe and restaurant sector has experienced 10.3 per cent growth over the past year, leading the retail recovery, according to the latest retail research and forecast report, “Retail Struts Ahead”, by Colliers International.

With annual retail sales turnover higher than the long-term average at 4.9 per cent, confidence is returning to the retail sector.

Michael Bate, head of retail at Colliers International, said discretionary spending has led the retail recovery.

”Money spent in cafes and restaurants is particularly good for the local economy, as unlike international luxury purchases where the financial benefit goes offshore, spending in cafes and restaurants is predominantly retained at home,” he said.

Another phenomenon is the offering of short-term leases, or pop-up stores, which now dominate malls.

”We are seeing some shorter lease terms with upside. While typical specialty lease terms were five years, there is still occurrence of shorter lease terms,” Mr Bate said.

”This can be beneficial for centre owners as it avoids locking-in low rents over an extended timeframe.”

He said the competitive retail environment has meant that while there is still good demand for physical space in shopping centres, owners need to be accommodating and offer a range of flexible leasing opportunities.

Like Westfield, AMP, GPT and Mirvac, Stockland – which has retail development as a core business – will revamp its centres with an emphasis on food.

GPT’s Matthew Faddy said Highpoint in Melbourne has done this with considerable success through better sales from higher foot traffic.

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Insolvency guru KordaMentha’s Mark Korda under fire on advice

KordaMentha partner Mark Korda advised Octaviar’s directors before the firm collapsed. Photo: Louie DouvisOne of Australia’s best-known insolvency practitioners, KordaMentha partner Mark Korda, has been accused of giving substandard advice to failed investment group Octaviar in the run-up to its collapse in September 2008.
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In a lawsuit filed with the Queensland Supreme Court, the liquidators of two companies in the Octaviar group accuse KordaMentha’s advisory arm, 333 Capital, of breach of duty and misleading or deceptive conduct.

The claim is based on advice given by Mr Korda to directors of Octaviar, formerly known as MFS, at a series of board meetings from late January 2008.

333 Capital has yet to file a defence but a spokesman said the claim was ”ludicrous and would be a waste of the liquidators’ and creditors’ time and resources if it proceeded”.

Directors of Octaviar pulled the plug on the debt-laden group on September 13, 2008, by appointing administrators.

Along with City Pacific, MFS rode the Gold Coast property boom in the mid-2000s, at its peak hitting a market value of $2.4 billion and boasting as chairman former Liberal Party leader Andrew Peacock.

However, its complex and highly leveraged structure, which included $2.5 billion in debt, could not survive the Global Financial Crisis.

The case against 333 Capital was lodged in January by Ferrier Hodgson, which is liquidating Octaviar Investment Notes and Octaviar Investment Bonds, two Octaviar companies that raised money for the group.

It is alleged 333 Capital started providing advice to Octaviar on January 22, when Mr Korda and fellow KordaMentha partner Mark Mentha met members of the board including chief financial officer David Anderson, Rolf Krecklenberg, who headed tourism arm Stella, and Craig White, who had replaced founder Michael King as chief executive.

This allegedly was followed immediately by a full board meeting where Mr Korda and Mr Mentha outlined a proposal to sell Stella and restructure Octaviar.

Ferrier Hodgson alleges that by this time Octaviar was already insolvent due to a cash-flow crisis and its failure to pay a $60 million tax bill.

It is alleged Mr Korda failed to tell the board the company was insolvent at 21 board meetings between January 22 and July 15.

In addition to attending board meetings, 333 Capital allegedly also ran a project called ”Cash is King”, which was supposed to monitor the cash flow of the group, help the company sell off assets, meet the corporate regulator and take part in a daily phone call with Octaviar’s lawyers, Freehills.

Ferrier Hodgson says that Octaviar would have gone into administration earlier but for 333 Capital’s advice, reducing the loss to investors in company notes and bonds. 333 Capital’s spokesman said the claim had been filed but not served, ”presumably in order to avoid the deadline under the statute of limitations”.

He said 333 Capital was helping Octaviar’s directors ”work through its issues”.

”To suggest that creditors would have been better off if the company was placed into administration is to stretch logic, common sense and statutory responsibilities beyond breaking point,” he said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.