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Archive for September, 2019

Miner New Hope’s CEO has rejected suggestions that the coal industry’s decline is permanent and says he wants to make acquisitions this year.

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Armed with a $1.1 billion war chest, New Hope boss Shane Stephan said he was well placed to ramp up purchases of coal assets that highly indebted miners could not afford to keep.

His comments came as the Queensland thermal coal producer overcame depressed prices to increase underlying first half net profit by 51 per cent from a year ago to $34.2 million.

However New Hope posted a statutory net loss of $23.1 million due to $58.5 million in writedowns of its oil, gas and other assets.

The slump in coal prices since 2011’s record highs have led to thousands of Australian job losses, mine closures and hits to the Federal budget, with coal a major export.

While historically the industry is cyclical, the move by China’s biggest coal giant Shenhua this week to forecast a 10 per cent fall in annual sales as China changes its energy mix has increased speculation that the downturn is a new normal.

Mr Stephan disagreed, saying China’s efforts to clean up the environment were increasing demand for higher quality Australian thermal coal rather than from dirtier Chinese mines.

“People were saying in the late 1990s-early 2000s that coal was part of the old economy and didn’t have a future … the subsequent increase in energy demand during the 2000s proved that wrong,” he told AAP.

“Around the peak of the cycle in 2010-11 they said that was going to be the new normal … they have subsequently been proved wrong.”

The company spent about $50 million on coal tenements in Queensland’s Surat Basin last December, and Mr Stephan said coal companies with high debt from high-priced acquisitions made in 2010-11 would sell assets.

New Hope is financially backed by major shareholder the wealthy Millner family.

Mr Stephan said the miner’s profit boost came from a six per cent rise in coal sales to a record 3.1 million tonnes, falls in the Australian dollar and a 35 per cent fall in diesel costs offsetting weak prices.

New Hope shares gained five cents to $2.53 by 1500 AEDT.

NEW HOPE BATTLES WEAK COMMODITY PRICES

* First half net loss of $23.1m, down from a $22.7m net profit

* Underlying net profit – excluding non-regular items – of $34.2 million, up 51 pct from $22.7 million

* However it said net profit excluding those items was up 51 per cent

* Revenue of $269.1m, down 5.6 pct, from $284.9m

* Fully-franked interim dividend of four cents a share, down from six cents a share.

Outdoor clothing retailer Kathmandu is putting the brakes on its store expansion in Australia after racking up a first half loss.

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Disappointing sales at Christmas and in January as well as heavy discounting on excess winter stock were blamed by the retailer for pushing it into the red with a $NZ1.8 million ($A1.75 million) loss.

The gloom looks likely to continue, with sales during the seven weeks to mid March down two per cent on a year ago.

Acting chief executive Mark Todd said the full year result will depend on Easter and winter sales, Kathmandu’s traditionally strongest trading periods.

In the meantime, the retailer will slow the pace of new store openings in Australia amid weak consumer spending.

“The long term target remains 180 stores but we need to pause for the next few months to see how trading goes in Australia,” he said.

“That will give us clarity as to when to start to look for new store sites again.”

The number of store openings in Australia this financial year has been reduced from 15 to 11, eight of which have already opened, with future store openings dependent on trading conditions.

Kathmandu has 159 stores across Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

Mr Todd said the variety of colours, styles and sizes of certain clothing ranges would also be reduced.

“We didn’t have very good results in Australia in particular on some of our high margin summer apparel groups like travel t-shirts, lightweight fleece and active wear,” he said.

Despite Kathmandu having flagged the loss in February, shareholders were disappointed with the result on Tuesday.

The stock was 20 cents, or 12.7 per cent, lower at $1.37 at 1504 AEDT.

Kathmandu now has a market capitalisation of about $316 million, nearly the same amount of cash Solomon Lew’s retail group Premier Investments has on hand for acquisitions.

However, Mr Todd knocked back suggestions that the company was a prime takeover target.

“A takeover is always possible at any point in time … that’s not a focus for management,” he told reporters.

OptionsXpress market analyst Ben Le Brun said nothing was off the table for Premier in regards to potential acquisitions.

“It’s pure speculation however Premier does go for those niche retailers,” he said.

“However, Kathmandu’s result is a big let down for the market with fairly big misses on most of the metrics, and that’s coming off fairly low expectations.”

Mr Todd will return to his dual role of financial director and operations chief when the company’s new chief executive Xavier Simonet starts on July 1.

POOR NEW YEAR SALES LEAD TO LOSS

* First half net loss of $NZ1.84m, from $NZ11.4m net profit

* Revenue of $NZ179.4m, up seven pct, from $NZ167.6m

* Unchanged fully-franked interim dividend of three NZ cents a share

Skipper Justin Hodges has launched a passionate plea for Brisbane to re-sign Sam Thaiday amid speculation the benched back-rower is playing for his future at the NRL club.

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NSW forward Beau Scott has been linked to the Broncos after a report claiming ex-skipper Thaiday has until the end of April to show he is worthy of a contract extension.

Thaiday, 29, has been relegated to the bench by coach Wayne Bennett after showing up to pre-season training overweight and an underwhelming round-one display.

Contract talks have reportedly been put on hold until the end of next month so the Broncos can gauge Thaiday’s form.

Brisbane great Gorden Tallis added to the intrigue surrounding 12-year Broncos veteran Thaiday, saying he wouldn’t be surprised to see Bennett favourite Scott arrive at the club next year.

But Tallis also slammed the Broncos on Triple M radio on Monday, saying it was embarrassing that they had aired Thaiday’s “dirty laundry” by leaking the news that the 200-plus game stalwart was on a six-week trial.

Hodges stood up for his besieged teammate on Tuesday, saying he would pick Thaiday over Scott “every day of the week”.

“The club has got to do everything they can to keep him,” he said.

“Over 10 years, he has been one of our best players every week.

“I am sure a deal will get done. You need a Sam Thaiday in your team.”

Hodges did not know what to make of the Scott speculation.

“He’s a great player; he gets under everyone’s skin; he does that quite well,” he said.

“He’s a quality player you’d love to have in your side.

“But if I had a choice over him or Sam, I would pick Sam every day of the week.”

Asked how much longer he could play, Thaiday said: “Another four years, easy.

“None of this talk is coming from us. I think it is a bit of a beat up.

“I don’t read the paper; I stay away from watching the news – I just continue doing my job.”

When told of Tallis’ passionate defence of him, Thaiday said: “That’s what mates do – they stick up for mates.”

Thaiday claimed he had not wondered how his Broncos bench role would affect his Queensland State of Origin and Test prospects.

“It (bench) is the role I have to play for the team,” he said.

“In the end, footy is what is going to get me a deal so I am not too worried about it at all.”

Matt Allwood will make his Warriors NRL debut at centre against Brisbane in a backline shuffle to cater for the absence of Sam Tomkins.

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Fullback Tomkins will miss four-six weeks with a knee injury, prompting coach Andrew McFadden to introduce Canberra signing Allwood.

Tuimoala Lolohea shifts from centre to fullback for the club’s 20th anniversary match, against the opponents they faced in their inaugural game in March, 1995.

Lolohea, 20, will have his second start in the position in four games this season.

He filled the role when Tomkins was out with a hamstring injury in the loss to Newcastle – excelling with 213m and 10 tackle breaks – and he also played the last 29 minutes in the win over Parramatta at fullback after Tomkins left the field.

Allwood will become the seventh player to make his Warriors debut this season, joining backs Solomone Kata and Jonathan Wright and forwards Ryan Hoffman, Bodene Thompson, Sam Lisone and Albert Vete.

The 22-year-old has played twice for the club’s NSW Cup side, at centre and fullback, as well as being the NRL team’s 18th man twice.

Assistant coach Tony Iro was comfortable with Lolohea’s ability at fullback despite his lack of experience.

“He was outstanding there when we played Newcastle and had more experience when Sam went off last week,” he said.

“We all know the ability he has and have real confidence in him being able to handle himself.”

Warriors: Tuimoala Lolohea, Jonathan Wright, Matthew Allwood, Solomone Kata, Manu Vatuvei, Chad Townsend, Shaun Johnson, Jacob Lillyman, Thomas Leuluai, Ben Matulino, Bodene Thompson, Ryan Hoffman, Simon Mannering (capt). Res: Nathan Friend, Ben Henry, Sam Lisone, Albert Vete, Dominique Peyroux (one to be omitted).

Labor and the coalition have laid out their battlegrounds before the pre-budget parliamentary break.

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The planning comes as an average of the three latest Morgan, Essential and Newspoll surveys puts Labor ahead of the coalition 53.7-46.3 in two-party terms.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott told Tuesday’s coalition party room, the last before the May 12 budget, that the government had made “pretty good progress”, especially over the past six weeks.

Six weeks ago the prime minister survived a Liberal Party room spill motion 61-39, leading to a number of unpopular policies being ditched.

Mr Abbott said Labor leader Bill Shorten had put off voters with his “litany of screeching complaints”, while the government had responded directly to voter concerns.

Mr Shorten on Tuesday launched a new campaign in the lead-up to the budget using the theme: “Mr Abbott – Don’t Pocket our Pension”.

Labor MPs will spend the next six weeks pushing the message that the Abbott government wants to make budget savings by cutting pensions and raising the pension age to 70.

Mr Shorten said the failure of the first coalition budget was not because Labor had been negative, but because it had “won the argument in the community”.

He challenged Mr Abbott in parliament to rule out cuts to pensions, just as the government had on Monday ruled out adding to its $11 billion in cuts to foreign aid.

Mr Abbott told parliament pensions rose last week, by $78 a fortnight in the case of a married couple.

“This is a government which is putting pensions up and this government will put pensions up twice a year, every year,” he said.

Labor families spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said the opposition stood by the policy of pensions rising by the higher rate of CPI, the pension index or male total average weekly earnings.

She insisted independent research had shown over the next decade $23 billion would be taken out of the pockets of pensioners.

Such messages have made coalition MPs jittery about the potential for the May budget to be as badly received as Treasurer Joe Hockey’s first budget.

To answer their concerns, Mr Hockey gave a 15-minute presentation to the party room on Tuesday in which he said this year’s budget would focus on small business, child care, infrastructure, free trade agreements and integrity in the tax and welfare systems.

Any savings in the budget to offset spending would be “responsible and fair”.

The government has been blaming the “feral” Senate for blocking much of its agenda, but crossbench senator Ricky Muir said it was merely reflecting the public’s view.

“Generally what I hear … is thank God you’re there, thank God there is actually scrutiny over the current budget proposals,” he told ABC radio.