Fresh quad muscle strain for Zaharakis

Feeling the strain: Bomber David Zaharakis.ESSENDON midfielder David Zaharakis could miss next month’s NAB Cup after straining a quad muscle at training on Monday.
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Bombers acting football manager Danny Corcoran told Fairfax Media that Zaharakis had scans on Tuesday and was diagnosed with a grade one strain.

”We got the MRI this morning and he is not too bad,” he said.

Asked if Zaharakis would miss the NAB Cup, Corcoran said: ”Potentially. He is pain-free today and we just have to work our way through it and see how he pulls up.

”He has had a super pre-season. Fortunately it’s a different injury [to last season], which is always good to know. He will miss a couple of weeks, no doubt.”

The Bombers will desperately hope this is not the start of another soft-tissue epidemic which cruelled their 2012 campaign. They had more than 20 injuries in this area, prompting a post-season review.

Zaharakis suffered a severe quad strain at training last year heading into the round 11 clash against Sydney and did not return until round 21, when he admitted he may have returned too early.

The 2011 best and fairest had been in brilliant touch before the injury. He eventually played 13 games last season.

Despite Zaharakis’ setback, the club has had 90 per cent of its players complete 95 per cent of the pre-season program, something midfielder Dyson Heppell said had contributed to a higher standard of training throughout summer.

”It’s definitely a massive help and it’s allowed us to be able to [rotate players],” said the 20-year-old, who plans to increase his time in the midfield this year.

”It has been a really good, really big pre-season, but I think in terms of our training it’s been a lot of endurance type running which has allowed the boys to get that real fitness base up.

”We’ve got some real quality in our training sessions.

”I reckon we’ll definitely benefit from the pre-season we had last year. It was a big pre-season in terms of our weights and the running we were putting in.”

Essendon opens its NAB Cup round-robin campaign against the Western Bulldogs and Collingwood at Etihad Stadium on February 15.

■Melbourne has moved Max Gawn back on to its long-term injury list, with the ruckman recently suffering a hamstring injury after missing the entire 2012 season with a knee injury.

Gawn had his right knee reconstructed in December 2011 and will need to spend a minimum of eight weeks on the long-term injury list, allowing the Demons to promote a rookie if he is unavailable for round one.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.


Mundine sounds warning

Anthony Mundine and Daniel Geale at the weigh-in on Tuesday.ANTHONY Mundine says his best fights have been when he is the underdog and predicts a win over IBF middleweight world champion Daniel Geale will put him a step closer to his dream bout against Floyd Mayweather.
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With bookmakers and critics predicting a Geale win, Mundine insists he is ready to prove them wrong and will then pursue big-name opponents to cement his legacy.

‘‘I have always thrived under pressure, when I played league and in boxing,’’ Mundine told Fairfax Media on the eve of Wednesday night’s bout at the Sydney Entertainment Centre.

‘‘My best fights have been when I am against the odds, and I am against the odds again so I am going to come out swinging.’’

Mundine, who hit the scales at 71.95 kilograms in Tuesday’s weigh-in and then engaged in some last-minute mind games with Geale, refuses to consider the possibility of a loss ending his 13-year boxing career.

Mundine says the fight will be the beginning of a new phase in his career if he can win a fourth world title – one of which includes the IBO middleweight belt he took from Geale in 2009.

‘‘There is a lot of interest around the boxing world because this guy is really a unified champion and I am the only man who beat him, and I am going to do it again,’’ Mundine  said of Geale’s wins over Germany’s IBF world champion Sebastian Sylvester and WBA title-holder Felix Sturm.

‘‘This will put me up there with the best pound for pounders and catapult me to the fights I want to get. I want to fight the best – I don’t care if they are middleweight, junior middleweight or what weight division. I want to fight the best of all time and that is Mayweather, but this fight is going to get me in the position to fight an Austin Trout, a Miguel Cotto, a Sergio Martinez or whoever comes up and is the best deal for us.

‘‘But I have got to get past this test first, and he is a champion, so I am going to have to go and take it from him.’’

As the pair came face to face for the last time before stepping into the ring  – Geale weighed in slightly heavier at 72.5 kilograms – Mundine did his best to get under his rival’s skin by blowing bubblegum in his face.

Geale said he was used to Mundine’s antics and was determined not to let the 37-year-old rile him.

‘‘There has been a couple of times I started to get angry but I take it all in my stride. He wants me to get upset and I understand that.’’

After losing their previous bout, Geale said he was motivated by revenge. ‘‘A statement needs to be made. All the talk has been done and I am just excited by this.’’

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.


Last days of summer

summer Spatchcock with spicy escabeche dressing. Photo: Marina Oliphant
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It’s that time of year when we’re clinging to our holidays but really have to get back into the swing of the working week. I hope these three recipes help cross that divide: a spicy chicken escabeche that’s perfect for a summer feast with friends, a fragrant curry that makes midweek meals simple, and my take on roast beef for a family meal.

Spatchcock with spicy escabeche dressing

Escabeche is a classic Mediterranean marinade used to lightly pickle meat or fish while infusing it with spice. Typically, freshly cooked fish, chicken or rabbit is doused in the pungent, sweet-and-sour dressing and either served straight away or left to marinate overnight, and served cold. My roasted spatchcock is best served warm or at room temperature, when the meat is most succulent and the fragrance of tarragon, paprika and saffron is in the air.

12 eschalots (golden shallots), unpeeled

2 bulbs garlic

100ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little extra

2 large tomatoes, very ripe

2 punnets cherry tomatoes

2 pinches saffron threads

2 tbsp yellow mustard seeds

1 tsp sweet smoky paprika

2 tsp ground cumin

2 fresh bay leaves

Salt flakes

120ml sherry vinegar

2½ tbsp brown sugar

4 poussin, size five – ask your supplier to spatchcock the birds (removing the backbone)

Freshly ground pepper

½ bunch tarragon

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

2. Cut the unpeeled eschalots lengthways and toss into a roasting pan with the whole garlic bulbs. Drizzle with the extra oil and roast for 30 minutes.

3. Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Squeeze out the garlic pulp and peel the skins off the eschalots. Increase the oven temperature to 200 degrees.

4. To skin the tomatoes, bring a pot of water to the boil. Score a cross in the base of the large tomatoes and in half of the cherry tomatoes (use the others unpeeled) and drop them into the boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove and refresh in cold water. The skins should slip off easily. Chop the large tomatoes, leaving the cherry tomatoes whole.

5. To make the sauce, in a large, wide-based saucepan over medium heat, add the 100ml of oil, chopped tomatoes, peeled and unpeeled cherry tomatoes, eschalots and garlic paste and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes.

6. Add the saffron, spices and bay leaves, season with a little salt and stir for another minute.

7. Add the sherry vinegar and brown sugar and cook for another five minutes. Don’t overreduce; the sauce should be loose and the cherry tomatoes should hold their shape. Take off the heat but keep warm.

8. Place a large frying pan over high heat. Season the birds with salt and pepper and lightly oil. Sear the flattened poussin for three minutes on each side. Transfer to a roasting tray and roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes.

9. When the birds are nearly cooked, gently warm the sauce, add the picked tarragon and check the seasoning.

10. Remove the birds from the oven and lay on a serving platter with any roasting juices. Immediately pour over the warm dressing and rest for five to 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4 to 8

Drink Provencale rosé

Roasted porterhouse with cinnamon rainbow chard and horseradish bread sauce

This is my take on roast beef, served with braised rainbow chard scented with cinnamon, and a non-traditional rendition of an old-school sauce. Bread sauce has never tasted so flash; I’ve whipped it into shape with creme fraiche, heaps of fresh horseradish and a good spike of mustard.

1.5kg porterhouse, in one piece

Salt flakes

Freshly ground pepper

Bread sauce

300g creme fraiche

375ml milk

1 large clove garlic, finely sliced

1 fresh bay leaf

1 eschalot (golden shallot), sliced

250g white sourdough bread,

no crusts, diced

60g fresh horseradish, grated (or quality preserved horseradish)

½⁄ tsp English mustard

3 tsp Dijon mustard

1 lemon

Braised chard

1½⁄ bunches rainbow chard

(or silverbeet)

100ml extra-virgin olive oil

1 brown onion, finely diced

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cinnamon stick

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Place a heavy frying pan over high heat for three minutes.

2. While the pan heats up, score the fat on top of the porterhouse and rub the whole piece of meat with salt and pepper. Cook the meat, fat side down, for five minutes (you won’t need oil as the fat will render down). Flip and cook the other side for five minutes.

3. Place the porterhouse on a rack in a baking tray, fat side up. Roast for about 35-45 minutes (depending on your oven) for medium rare, or until a probe thermometer registers an internal temperature of 60C. Remove from the oven and rest the meat for 15 minutes before slicing.

4. To make the bread sauce, take the creme fraiche from the fridge to take the chill off it. In a small saucepan, add the milk, garlic, bay leaf and eschalot and bring to a simmer.

5. Tip in the bread and remove from the heat. Allow to soften for 10 minutes or so, then puree, adding a little milk if it’s too thick for the stick blender (bear in mind the creme fraiche will loosen the sauce).

6. Tip into a bowl and mix through the creme fraiche, horseradish and mustards. Season with salt and pepper and squeeze in lemon juice to taste. Serve immediately.

7. For the chard, wash and trim it, leaving the stalks on, and cut into thick slices on the diagonal. Leave in a colander to drain.

8. In a large pot, add the olive oil and cook the onion and garlic for three minutes. Add the well-drained chard (a bit of water sticking to the leaves will help it steam) and the cinnamon, cover the pot and cook over high heat for two minutes. Stir, replace the lid and cook for another three minutes. Stir again, cover and lower the heat to medium and cook for a further 15 minutes or until tender. Season.

9. To serve, place the chard on a platter, slice the beef and place it over the hot chard. Serve the bread sauce on the side.

Serves 6-8

Drink Grenache with no new oak

Blue-eye, tomato, potato and ginger curry

This is a light and fresh curry that you can make in a flash on a summer’s night. It doesn’t rely on heat from chilli or from the warmer brown spices, but rather highlights the freshness of ginger, the spicy crackle of mustard seeds and the unique smoky, citrus character of curry leaves.

800g whole piece blue-eye trevalla, from the thickest part of a single fillet, skin on (or 4 x 200g fillets)

100ml extra-virgin olive oil

Salt flakes

1 brown onion, sliced in rounds

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

8cm piece of ginger, julienned

1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds

2 potatoes, peeled and sliced in ½cm discs

6 large ripe tomatoes, in chunky dice

5 stems curry leaves (try Asian or Indian grocers)

1 lemon

1. Slice the fish lengthways down the middle of the fillet, along the line of the pin bones. Run your knife down the other side of the bones to remove them and the blood line; discard. You will now have two portions of fillet (from one side of the fish). Cut these across into three-centimetre-thick slices. If you have four 200-gram fillets, simply cut them in half crossways.

2. Place a large wide-based frying pan over high heat. Add half the oil and heat for one minute. Season the fish and fry, skin side down, for a minute or two to crisp the skin. Remove from the pan and set aside.

3. Add the remaining oil to the same pan and heat through. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and mustard seeds and cook, stirring, until the onion starts to soften (about one minute).

4. Add the potato slices and cook for a few more minutes, stirring until they begin to soften. Add the chopped tomatoes, stir, season and cook for a few more minutes until the tomatoes break down and start to form a sauce.

5. Add 200 millilitres of water and the curry leaves (still attached to their stems) and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. The potatoes should be just cooked and the sauce will have thickened.

6. Check and adjust the seasoning. Make sure the sauce is on the drier side as the fish will release water and moisten it. Add the fish, skin side up, and cook for four to six minutes, or until cooked, with the lid on. Squeeze over the lemon juice and serve with steamed rice.

Serves 4 to 6

Drink Margaret River semillon

■ Photos: Marina Oliphant■ Styling: Caroline Velik

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.


Beijing’s blanket of smog sparks fresh idea

A CHINESE entrepreneur is selling fresh air in soft drink cans, similar to bottled drinking water, as north China is once again choking in toxic smog.
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The concentration of airborne PM 2.5 particulates – the smallest and most deadly – went off the chart on Tuesday morning for the second time this month, according to the pollution gauge at the US embassy in Beijing.

The Air Quality Index, designed by the US Environmental Protection Agency, cannot cope with levels beyond 500, 20 times the World Health Organisation air quality standard. The embassy gauge had been hovering in the ”hazardous” 300-500 range since Friday.

Chen Guangbiao, whose wealth is estimated at $740 million according to the Hurun Report, sells his cans of air for five yuan (A75¢) each. It comes with atmospheric flavours including pristine Tibet, post-industrial Taiwan and revolutionary Yan’an, the Communist Party’s early base area.

Mr Chen said he wanted to make a point that China’s air was turning so bad that the idea of bottled fresh air was no longer fanciful. ”If we don’t start caring for the environment then after 20 or 30 years our children and grandchildren might be wearing gas masks and carrying oxygen tanks,” Mr Chen said.

Earlier this month the concentration of airborne PM 2.5 particulates in Beijing and other cities reached the highest levels since measurements began, comparable to those recorded during the infamous London Fog.

The event dominated even state-controlled news outlets, hospitals reported a sharp rise in respiratory-related admissions and political leaders took emergency pollution-reduction measures and vowed to tackle the underlying problems.

Since then the Beijing skyline has remained mostly bleak, with visibility dropping as low as 200 metres several times in the past few days. NASA satellite photos show a thick grey haze has rendered the densely populated plains of north China invisible from outer space.

As the smog worsens, residents of Beijing have begun snapping up products to survive the toxic air.

Chris Buckley, proprietor of Torana Clean Air Centre, said there had been a particularly dramatic increase in the flow of local Chinese customers through his stores, reflecting more open coverage in China’s tightly controlled media as well as the severity of the pollution.

”We used to be told in days gone by that ‘it’s mist and fog’ but I think the game is up now,” said Mr Buckley, who sells air purifying machines and pollution masks.

With SANGHEE LIU

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.


Chaotic Egypt teeters on collapse, warns general

EGYPT’S Defence Minister, General Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, has warned that the state is at risk of collapse.
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Failure to resolve the situation ”could lead to grave repercussions if the political forces do not act” to tackle it, General Sissi said on his Facebook page.

”The continuing conflict between political forces and their differences concerning the management of the country could lead to a collapse of the state and threaten future generations,” he said.

The comments posted on Tuesday were extracts from a speech he gave to students at a military academy.

He further warned the political, economical, social and security problems facing Egypt constituted ”a threat to the country’s security and stability”.

Earlier, thousands of demonstrators flooded the streets of Egypt’s three Suez Canal cities in defiance of a night-time curfew imposed by President Mohammed Mursi after dozens were killed in clashes with police.

Witnesses said protesters took to the streets of Port Said, Ismailiya and Suez City on Monday night as the 9pm curfew went into effect to stage ”breaking the curfew” demonstrations.

The protesters chanted slogans against Islamist rule, ”Fall, Fall the rule of the guide [of the Muslim Brotherhood]”, referring to Dr Mursi who hails from the Brotherhood.

Mahmud Abu al-Majd, of Port Said, said: ”We are on the streets because no one can impose their will on us. We won’t bow to the government.”

In Ismailiya, witnesses said the protesters decided to hold football matches on the streets as part of their protests.

Yet for all those who took to the streets on Monday, there were just as many who stayed home, thinking Dr Mursi has not had a chance to solve Egypt’s intractable corruption and economic problems. They think that protesters should honour the June election results that elevated Dr Mursi to the presidency and speak at the ballot box in coming parliamentary and eventually presidential elections.

”Don’t tell me people are going to the street because they have a hard life. They are taking revenge for the killings,” said Mohammed Noor, 26, of Port Said. ”It is like waves of vengeance. It will continue until one side gets tired or this turns into a real revolution with real leaders.”

Dr Mursi on Sunday declared a month-long state of emergency in the provinces of Port Said, Suez and Ismailiya after riots that left about 50 dead and hundreds wounded.

In a television address he also slapped curfews on the provinces from 9pm to 6am.

The main opposition grouping, the National Salvation Front, which is fractured among many smaller parties, said on Monday that it would not hold national reconciliation talks with Dr Mursi, a position, some protesters said, that made the opposition seem as tone deaf as the President.

Protesters rejected a military takeover, noting that the generals had assumed power after Hosni Mubarak stepped down and had failed in 18 months of rule to bring about reform.

On Monday, the Islamist-dominated Senate ratified a law that would grant the armed forces powers of arrest.

In the US, the Obama administration condemned the unrest.

AFP, MCT

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.


Sharemarket feeling more adventurous

THE bullish behaviour of the sharemarket in recent months and particularly for the past nine days suggests we are in a ”risk on” phase – in other words, investors are pulling money out of the saver haven, the bond market, and putting it into shares.
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It has been a couple of years since the market has witnessed such positive sentiment, and Tuesday’s rise took place despite a weaker lead from the US market.

The market has been edging up for a couple of years but without gusto and volume. Thus the question needs to be asked: what has changed the sentiment?

In theory, shares should rise in response to a belief that corporate profits will grow. But there is little hope that earnings will improve in proportion to the gains made

recently on the ASX. When the interim profit season reports come through over the next few weeks they may be better than current expectations but they won’t be strong. Some companies will post robust earnings, but plenty will be treading water or doing well just to stabilise profit falls.

Manufacturing, retail, construction, tourism and aviation (to name the obvious few) are still struggling and the companies engaged in these industries will not fare well in the coming reporting season, therefore the recovery in the market has almost nothing to do with profits getting better – it is virtually all sentiment driven. So are we just redefining what we consider to be appropriate price-earnings ratios?

There are a bunch of external factors that are playing into this: the immediate risk of a European financial implosion has eased and the prospect of falling off the US fiscal cliff has been averted.

But the US recovery is tepid and there is general recognition that Europe will not grow for years. Both still have massive debt problems that need to be dealt with.

The only real positive is that recent data out of China suggests that its growth rates may be starting to recover, but these are very early signs.

The revival in sentiment appears to be about mitigation of the negatives rather than the appearance of the positives, but this has a flow-on effect. The sharemarket is making us wealthier and so is the property market, which is also showing signs of gains.

Investors are therefore increasingly prepared to take a bet on shares – which pushes up prices and, in turn, serves to reinforce that confidence.

But are businesses and consumers bullish enough to translate this sentiment into action or just take a punt on the market?

The latest business confidence survey by the National Australia Bank released on Tuesday answers that question. While it posted a sharp increase in December, it was all about those external indicators, like aversion of the European debt crisis and the US fiscal cliff. A more thorough read reveals that businesses are still concerned about forward orders and future capital expenditure.

There is nothing in any official or unofficial data to suggest that companies are prepared to invest. The mining industry spending spree that has been sustaining the economy for the past couple of years will peak this year.

The improvement in commodity prices – in particular iron ore – has resulted in an overdue rerating of large resources companies, which has helped to push up the equities market.

And the enlarged appetite for risk has spurred gains in volatile stocks such as Macquarie Group, which has become something of a bellwether for risk.

At the same time investors seem to be hedging their bets. Big gains in the low-risk and higher-yield stocks such as banks, non-discretionary retail and Telstra suggest that there is still a degree of caution being exercised.

This week Woolworths and Coles’ parent Wesfarmers will release quarterly sales numbers that should demonstrate that consumers are still spending on non-discretionary items, but the outlook for the discretionary stocks is not so good. To the extent these companies can improve their positions relies on cutting costs and structural change.

These are the companies in which investors are prepared to gamble.

While they may be reweighting out of bonds and into equities Australian households are not prepared to divert from the now well established trend of reducing household debt.

According to a Dun & Bradstreet survey, fewer people are prepared to take on debt in the near term and therefore demand for credit remains weak or flat.

One of the consequences of this is that debit card use is on the incline and debt delinquencies could fall.

None of the above is designed to suggest that the equity market rally is over. It’s chicken and egg – but the egg seems to be coming first.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.


Regulator slams Macquarie unit

Macquarie Equities has signed an undertaking.AUSTRALIA’S biggest stockbroking firm, Macquarie Equities, has been forced by the corporate regulator to have an independent investigator oversee its operations after the broker was found to have ”serious compliance deficiencies” over four years.
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Macquarie Private Wealth, the retail division of investment bank Macquarie Group, has been lambasted by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission for ”recurring deficiencies” which the corporate regulator claims may have led to Macquarie giving clients inappropriate advice.

The regulator is concerned that hundreds of its brokers and advisers failed to keep proper client records – as required under financial services laws – which may have also resulted in some of the firm’s clients not having enough information to make informed decisions.

ASIC chairman Greg Medcraft said clients of stockbrokers needed to be confident they were informed – a key requirement to ensuring financial services were provided efficiently, honestly and fairly.

”Our surveillance found Macquarie Private Wealth fell significantly short of this mark,” Mr Medcraft said.

As a result of an enforceable undertaking entered into by Macquarie, the broker must meet the Australian Securities and Investments Commission monthly to report back on risk testing and progress on its plan to overhaul its compliance systems. The undertaking marks one of the biggest compliance agreements between a stockbroker and regulator in recent times.

The undertaking comes amid a prolonged downturn for full service stockbrokers. While the stockmarket has started gaining traction in recent months, volumes remain thin amid broader investor caution. This has prompted many brokerages, including Macquarie, to make deep cuts to staff.

A Macquarie spokeswoman said the broker was committed to the changes set out in the enforceable undertaking signed on Tuesday.

”We take our obligations to regulators very seriously. We have a strong track record of compliance practice and if concerns are raised, we work diligently to resolve them. Accordingly, we have been working and will continue to work constructively with ASIC,” the spokeswoman said.

The problems were first identified by Macquarie Equities during a 2008 internal review of the client files kept by hundreds of Macquarie representatives.

”Those reviews indicated compliance deficiencies involving a significant number of the representatives, which were recurring and not reported to ASIC … nor were they rectified in all cases,” Macquarie’s retail division head Peter Maher said in the enforceable undertaking.

BusinessDay first revealed the investigation in September last year. The ASIC review found up to 80 per cent of staff were not following the rules.

But the review ended in early 2010 in favour of a new coaching and training program. Two years later a second internal review found that ”a significant proportion of representatives were classified as needing improvements” in client record keeping.

ASIC launched an investigation in December 2011 and over eight months found the internal compliance systems were ”of limited effectiveness”. In particular, it was concerned that Macquarie failed to comply with obligations ”regarding the provision of personal advice, general advice and execution-only dealing transactions, including necessary detail in advice documents to enable retail investors to make informed decisions.”

Macquarie has agreed to hire an independent expert – approved by ASIC – to judge the risk framework at the firm against ”generally accepted standards”.

The expert will look at how Macquarie pays its staff, the internal structure and accountabilities, development within the company, competence among advisers, and how documents are created and filed.

A preliminary report is due within four months.

Macquarie has also agreed to help report to ASIC any clients who claim to be adversely affected by the sloppy behaviour of Macquarie’s representatives.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.


Future of retail still uncertain

AS THE summer’s sales come to an end, analysts have offered a mixed outlook for retail investment with signs that institutions and super funds have turned towards shopping centres, pursuing high yields, but Australia’s continuing ”retail revolution” means the long-term outlook remains unclear.
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A report released by consultancy firm Urbis shows shopping centres have outperformed all other property sectors in the past five years, and will continue to draw significant institutional and superannuation fund investment.

Urbis national director for valuations and property advisory Matthew Cleary said Australia’s largest shopping centres had returned 6.9 per cent per annum over the past five years, with results for the past three years even stronger at 9.6 per cent.

Mr Cleary said low growth and low inflation meant investors were now searching for strong yields, and retail centres appealed because of their limited supply, stable returns, consistent income streams and low vacancy rates.

Urbis’ optimism is at odds with BIS Shrapnel’s 10-year retail property forecast (2012-22), released last July, which suggested commercial property investors would shift from retail property to high-performing office and industrial developments because an oversupply of retail space occurring concurrently with increased online and/or overseas shopping meant Australia’s retail heyday was over.

CBRE’s national director of retail investments, Steve Lerche, said the outlook was unsettled.

”Investors will pay a premium for A-grade stock,” he said, ”but secondary stock is going to find it much, much tougher.”

Lower interest rates meant some investors were looking to the retail sector for stronger yields but they were choosing property carefully.

Mr Lerche said Australian retailing had been relatively stagnant for 20 years or so and cheaper overseas travel (and the shopping it allowed), and increased online shopping, meant Australian shopping centres no longer had a captive audience and would need to innovate and mature.

Subregional shopping centres – those with 10,000-30,000 square metres and one discount department store and a supermarket – could do well, he said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.


It can be torture in high-stakes games

CALL it the plane of pain. These days, it’s a luxury private jet, ferrying high-rollers back and forth between Asia’s capitals and Crown’s Australian casinos.
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While some might say the business of landing Asian whales on Australian shores is a little murky, VH-CCC, one of three Gulfstreams owned by James ”Slim Jim” Packer’s Crown Limited may have a far darker past.

According to data compiled by plane-spotters at website airframes杭州夜网, VH-CCC may be one of the planes used by the CIA for so-called ”rendition” flights of terror suspects in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

The controversial program allegedly involved kidnapping suspects, some of whom were then handed over to torturers.

While Crown no doubt treats its high-rollers to nothing but the best as they carve through the sky from Macau, Hong Kong or Jakarta, conditions on board the CIA’s flights were not quite so Mahogany Room.

In one case involving VH-CCC, reported by The Guardian in 2005, two Egyptian men seized in Sweden allegedly had suppositories inserted into their anuses before being wrapped in plastic nappies and put on the plane, which flew them to Egypt for torture.

Before delivery to Crown in 2007, VH-CCC was known as N126CH, according to airframes杭州夜网 data. And before that it worked through a string of rego numbers, including N379P – the number under which Guardian journalists tracked its movements.

With LUCY BATTERSBYSKYShades saga

THE failed SKYShades business backed by Brisbane Broncos founder Barry Maranta and golfer Greg Norman committed ”severe” breaches of the franchise code, according to Australian Competition and Consumer Commission staff.

ACCC staff also alleged that SKYShades’ behaviour ”may cause significant financial loss” to investors who had signed up to distribute the company’s shade cloth. So far, investors have lost millions.

But the ACCC’s enforcement committee decided to drop the investigation on July 12 last year – the same day it was advised that creditors had taken court action to close down two SKYShades companies.

”They worked out after 12 months it was all crap,” Maranta told CBD.

Details of the investigation into SKYShades are revealed in internal ACCC documents, released to distributor Aaron Ycas under freedom of information laws.

Ycas sunk $33,000 into SKYShades in 2010 after attending an information session in Newcastle hosted by Maranta’s business partner Ric Hayter and featuring a life-sized cutout of Norman.

Norman may regret getting involved: SKYShades’ US arm went broke in mid-2010, owing the Great White Shark $145,000 in unpaid endorsement fees.

The ACCC documents show it first received complaints about SKYShades in January 2011.

Investigators believed SKYShades could be selling franchises, something the company denied.

”The breach of the code was assessed by the small business and fair trading group to be severe due to the fact that none of the code provisions was complied with,” ACCC staff said. ”This is most likely to SKYShades regarding the arrangement as a distributorship and therefore outside the code.”

Maranta said it was ”exactly right” that SKYShades didn’t regard the deals as franchises.

”We didn’t want a franchise, we wanted tradespeople,” he told CBD.

The ACCC eventually decided ”not to investigate the matter further”, New South Wales general manager of enforcement Geoff Williams told Ycas in an August 6 letter.

”It’s as though no one wants to do anything – it all seems too hard,” Ycas told CBD.

”We’ll just keep plugging away and keep the pressure up.”

Activists act

IS THIS the shareholder activist organisation so angry with chief executives it can’t bear to have one of its own?

After two years in the job, Australian Shareholders Association CEO Vas Kolesnikoff is to step down at the end of May, and won’t be replaced. Instead, a national operations manager and a research manager will report directly to the board.

While insisting the split was amicable, Kolesnikoff also told AAP: ”There are just insufficient staff to do the job and there’s just no support.”

Also on the way out is consultant and professional loudmouth Stephen Mayne, whose contract finishes about the same time. He’s got a new gig as City of Melbourne councillor.

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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.


Investors push shares into bull market territory

OPTIMISM about a recovery in the global economy has seen the Australian sharemarket close higher for the ninth-straight day, despite insurers losing ground in the wake of storms and floods on the east coast.
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The ASX 200 finished on Tuesday 1.1 per cent higher at 4889 points. It was its highest close since April 2011, with the big four banks all registering strong gains while defensive stocks such as Telstra hit multi-year highs.

The market is up more than 20 per cent since early June, entering what has traditionally been defined as ”bull market” territory. The leading S&P 500 index on Wall Street was around 17 per cent higher for the same period. Positive sentiment about improving economic data from the US and China, as well as the lifting of black clouds over Europe, also spread to business confidence, with the National Australia Bank’s monthly business survey released on Tuesday showing a sharp increase in the index for December.

At the same time, expectations of a Reserve Bank interest rate cut in February fell to 26 per cent, Credit Suisse data showed. Markets priced in a cut in the cash rate by 25 basis points for the year, and a 60 per cent chance of a second rate cut.

”Relative to six months ago, there has been quite a significant drop in the risks facing the global economy,” said UBS’s chief economist for Australia, Scott Haslem, adding that the

moderate economic outlook for 2013 had benefited for the removal of some ”tail risks”.

”We’ll never be without risk, but some of those tail risks around the longevity of the European project and the potential for the US to go over the fiscal cliff have certainly been diminished.”

Last week, the International Monetary Fund expressed cautious optimism in its outlook for the global economy this year, trimming its projected gross domestic product annual growth to 3.5 per cent amid continued weakness in the eurozone.

A greater appetite for risk has seen also bond prices fall globally, as news emerged that European banks were set to repay more than €130 billion of long-term loans to the European Central Bank. Some strategists have forecast a move out of bonds into stocks this year.

Westpac senior market strategist Damien McColough said within a ”risk on” theme where global growth was expected to be stronger, bonds would be very expensive. He said the global market rallies were a reflection of the reduction in risks rather than confidence in growth.

”It’s really a removal about the real catastrophe or disaster premium that has been in market rates for some time. As opposed to confidence that the [global economies] are growing strongly, it’s more a confident belief that the worst-case scenario has been averted,” Mr McColough said. ”So that causes equities to remove some of the negatives and bonds to lose some of their expensive pricing.”

The director of research at Bell Potter Securities, Peter Quinton, said while stocks were trading in bull market territory, applying such a definition at this time was ”a little bit aggressive” for the Australian market.

”But having said that, I think there are very solid fundamental underpinnings to those 20 per cent risings,” Mr Quinton said. ”The brutal reality is … there’s still risks out there. But anybody who has been bearish about the stockmarket for the past six months has been proved dramatically wrong.”

Among the major banks on Tuesday, Westpac rose 67¢ to $28.22, Commonwealth Bank lifted $1.14 to $64.73, National Australia Bank found 48¢ at $27.72, and ANZ advanced 44¢ to $26.51.

Some insurance stocks fell as they began to feel the pain from ex-tropical cyclone Oswald, with more than 10,000 claims lodged and the damage bill set to rise above $100 million. Suncorp lost 21¢ to $10.70 as it said it had so far received about 4500 claims and expects more to come. Insurance Australia Group nudged up 1¢ to $4.93, and QBE dropped 31¢ to $11.28.

In the resources sector, BHP Billiton improved 7¢ to $37.17, and Rio Tinto firmed 9¢ to $66.15.

With AGENCIES

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.