Hastie asset sale hopes dim, creditors told

The administrator of the collapsed Hastie Group engineering empire has dashed lingering hopes of substantial returns for creditors, signalling that few businesses will find new owners following the company’s collapse.
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Speaking after a creditors’ meeting in Melbourne, Ian Carson of PPB Advisory said Hastie’s enormous debt bill included $100 million owed to “many thousands of creditors”, with rural and regional suppliers particularly hard hit. This amount is in addition to the half a billion dollars owed to banks that funded Hastie’s acquisition binge.

Many creditors had travelled from regional Australia for the “sombre” meeting, Mr Carson said. These included labour hire firms, and suppliers of plastic fittings and guns for fastening.

“They’re really normal, ordinary businesses…and a lot of them are locals. You know, Albury and Shepparton, regional areas,” Mr Carson told a media conference after the meeting.

Mr Carson said of the 44 businesses under its control, just five had been sold for a combined sum of less than $30 million, and another one or two might be sold for modest amounts.

Receivers and managers McGrathNicol, appointed by Hastie’s banks, have taken charge of Hastie’s better-performing assets, but Mr Carson was downbeat on the prospect of substantial returns from the sale of those companies.

“It’s hard to imagine there’ll be a material return even after McGrathNicol,” Mr Carson told BusinessDay.

Asked whether he had greater insight into the cause of Hastie’s collapse, Mr Carson said: “There have obviously been some failures. Whether it’s corporate governance or other things.”

He estimated that about 1,200 jobs had been saved across Hastie’s local workforce now under PPB’s remit, of the 2700 stood down at its collapse. This tally excludes the 1800-odd workers employed by companies taken over by McGrathNichol.

The stood-down workers are being urged to apply for the federal government’s GEERS program, which provides payments to people who are owed entitlements by their bankrupt or insolvent employer.

Mr Carson said it was difficult to determine exact numbers of job losses as some workers had simply taken on work with rival contractors.

Collapse

Hastie had about 7,000 workers across the globe when it collapsed in late May, after the discovery of a long-standing accounting “irregularity” scared off a recapitalisation plan.

Its investors included Lazard Private Equity and Thorney Holdings, the Pratt family’s investment fund, which had supported an equity raising for the Sydney-based company last year.

Hastie’s chief executive Bill Wild said after the collapse that Hastie had a culture of “no bad news” and told staff members they had been let down by management. The collapse has also been blamed on overpriced acquisitions before the financial crisis that the company had failed to integrate.

On the prospect of legal action related to the collapse, Mr Carson said this course had not been his focus so far but he would be meeting with directors and shareholders in the months ahead.

Listed litigation funder IMF (Australia) and law firm Slater & Gordon have confirmed they are following developments closely.

There’s also been a 150-day extension period sought for the convening period before the second creditors meeting, Mr Carson said.

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Marine reserve compensation ‘a drop in the ocean’

Commercial fishermen are set to receive compensation of about $100 million to help them adjust to the establishment of the world’s largest network of marine reserves around Australia, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said this morning.
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But the industry has swiftly poured scorn on the figure. Brian Jeffriess of the Commonwealth Fisheries Association told the National Times the government ”were kidding themselves” if they though that was enough.

Ms Gillard told ABC radio that the 44 marine reserves, covering more than 3 million square kilometres of Australian waters, would affect only about 1 per cent of commercial fishing.

She added: ”There will be assistance available in the vicinity of $100 million.”

Environment Minister Tony Burke announced the massive expansion of marine protection – the world’s most comprehensive – in Sydney this morning, ahead of next week’s Rio+20 summit on global sustainability.

The plan offers differing levels of protection, ranging from full-blown national parks that prohibit mining and most types of fishing, to multi-use zones, which will still allow oil and gas exploration as well as some types of commercial fishing.

Conservationists welcomed the announcement, though many expressed concern that more of the areas should have been marked as national parks.

But the plan puts the Gillard government on a collision course with the fishing industry.

Mr Jeffriess said the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park – a relatively small area compared with today’s announcement – alone had cost $250 million and rising in adjustment assistance.

While praising Mr Burke’s lengthy and close consultation with the industry, he criticised the fact the government had revealed the plan without announcing compensation at the same time.

”If you’re sitting there as a small business in a regional area dependent on the fishing industry, what are you supposed to do? For those who don’t know whether they can stay in business at all, their staff will desert in droves. We’re bitterly disappointed.”

Imogen Zethoven, a Coral Sea campaigner from the Pew Environment Group, said the announcement was a ”historic moment” in protecting the unique tropic waters beyond the Great Barrier Reef, which are home to sharks, tunas, and marlin, as well as healthy coral reefs, atolls, cays and islands.

Wilderness Society marine campaign manager Felicity Wishart said the announcement was a ”welcome first step” but included ”some major omissions that undermine the effectiveness of the overall system”.

Mr Burke said the plan would take the success of Australia’s national parks on land and apply them to the sea.

”Our oceans have been such a missing piece of that jigsaw and this now allows us to fill that in,” he said.

”For generations, Australians have understood the need to preserve precious areas on land as national parks. Our oceans contain unique marine life which needs protection too.”

 

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MPs call on Fairfax to abandon NZ plan

The NSW upper house has passed a motion calling on Fairfax management to abandon plans to outsource local production jobs to New Zealand.
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Fairfax – the publisher of this website – on Tuesday confirmed plans to move regional editorial production jobs, including page design, layout and sub-editing roles, to Fairfax Editorial Services in New Zealand.

On Thursday, the NSW upper house unanimously backed a motion of support for Fairfax workers.

“Fairfax’s proposed changes will undermine the quality of news and current affairs reporting in the Hunter, the Illawarra and the rest of NSW,” Greens MP John Kaye said in a statement.

Mr Kaye, who moved the motion, accused Fairfax of “stubbornly pushing ahead with these changes”.

“The NSW upper house calls on Fairfax management to put quality news and current affairs reporting in this state ahead of budget considerations and to abandon its outsourcing plans,” he said in a statement.

Paul Murphy, director of media at the journalists’ union, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), will meet Fairfax representatives at 1pm (AEST) on Thursday.

The meeting has been described as a fact-finding mission.

It follows the passing of a no-confidence motion in Fairfax Media CEO Greg Hywood on Wednesday by staff at The Newcastle Herald and The Illawarra Mercury.

Mr Hywood has maintained the New Zealand plans won’t have any negative impact on the quality of the affected dailies or associated community titles.

Comment is being sought from Fairfax on the NSW upper house motion.

– AAP

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Nagging doubts as LionGold stalks its quarry

Will Castlemaine Goldfields have a bar of the LionGold offer?SHAREHOLDERS in Castlemaine Goldfields have more than 16 million reasons to proceed with caution as they ponder a takeover offer from their Singaporean suitor, LionGold.
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LionGold has been collecting gold assets around the world over the past year, and in early April offered two LionGold shares for every nine Castlemaine Goldfields shares in an all-scrip deal.

LionGold has promised to use its financial might to unlock extra value in struggling Castlemaine’s assets, which include the historic Victorian goldfields, scene of the Eureka Stockade in 1854.

But yesterday’s release of the Bidder’s Statement has raised doubts about LionGold’s financial strength, with a significant portion of the company’s finances tied up in overdue payments from an opaque private company based in the Marshall Islands.

LionGold confirmed that a private company, Enchante, had repaid barely 15 per cent of the more than $19 million it owes LionGold.

LionGold blamed delays in getting money for Enchante’s failure to pay the outstanding $16.39 million, and LionGold conceded in the Bidder’s Statement that there was some risk of Enchante defaulting on the debt.

Earlier this year when bidding for another ASX-listed goldminer, Signature Metals, LionGold conceded that Enchante had no accounts or financial statements that were publicly available for inspection. The outstanding $16.39 million is triple the $5.48 million of cash that LionGold has on hand, and comprises about half the $32.6 million that LionGold expects to have on hand by the end of 2012.

But LionGold’s chief operating officer, Errol Smart, told BusinessDay yesterday the company had dealt closely with Enchante in the past and had ”strong comfort that that money will be forthcoming” before the end of the year.

Mr Smart said LionGold had easily completed a recent convertible bond raising for $US23 million, demonstrating its ability to get finance when needed.

”We are not concerned at all about access to finance,” he said.

”We do have other avenues of financing as and when required.”

Castlemaine’s non-executive chairman, Gary Scanlan, also pointed to that raising as proof that LionGold could get funds, despite the difficult economic conditions.

He said the takeover offer was a case of ”relative risk assessment” for Castlemaine shareholders, and he stood by his recommendation that shareholders accept the offer.

Investors did not appear to be deterred by the state of LionGold’s finances, with Castlemaine shares closing half a cent higher at 15.5¢. The stock was fetching closer to 9¢ before the takeover offer was launched in April.

Aside from Castlemaine and Signature, LionGold has tried to get the private Australian gold explorer Brimstone Resources, which holds leases in Western Australia and Victoria. Other acquisitions have been for assets in Mali, Ghana and might soon include Bolivia.

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Greiner denies buy conspiracy

FORMER New South Wales premier Nick Greiner has denied allegations of bid-rigging brought against him by an investment company controlled by a Russian oligarch.
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Pala Investments, registered in the Swiss canton of Zug but ultimately controlled by Russian billionaire Vladimir Iorich, is suing Mr Greiner in a lawsuit also targeting the mining services company he chairs, Bradken, and the company’s chief executive, Brian Hodges.

In a lawsuit filed in May, the Swiss group alleges Bradken, Mr Greiner and Mr Hodges conspired with US private equity group Castle Harlan to buy cheaply an Australian subsidiary, Norcast Wear Solutions (NWS), which competed with Bradken.

However, in a response filed with the court on Tuesday, Bradken, Mr Greiner and Mr Hodges denied their ”commercial dealings” with Castle Harlan broke Australian competition law.

In addition to his role at Bradken, Mr Greiner sits on the board of Castle Harlan’s Australian affiliate, CHAMP.

While Castle Harlan is not a target of the Federal Court lawsuit, Pala last week filed a similar claim against it in the Supreme Court of New York.

In the Federal Court, Pala alleges Bradken and Castle Harlan reached an understanding that Castle Harlan would buy NWS, which makes liners for grinding mills, and then on-sell it to Bradken. Castle Harlan bought NWS in July last year for $190 million and that day flipped it to Bradken in a deal that earned it $US25 million.

Mr Greiner and Mr Hodges told the court Bradken learnt from Goldman Sachs that NWS was for sale in February 2011 but believed that it was excluded from the sale process because it was a direct competitor.

Bradken informed Castle Harlan about its interest in NWS and gave Castle Harlan a deposit towards the purchase of NWS on the same day the private equity group agreed to buy the company, they said.

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Creditors uneasy over transfer of Reed contract

CREDITORS owed up to $80 million by the embattled Reed Construction group are concerned that a contract Reed holds on the Law Courts project has been transferred to another company owned by Reed founder Geoff Reed.
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The transfer this week heightened concerns that Reed is on the brink of seeking voluntary administration.

Law Courts Limited said yesterday it had agreed to a proposal by Reed Construction Australia to novate the construction management contract Reed held for works at the courts to RBG Holdings Group Pty Ltd, the holding company for the Reed Group. It stressed that the overall $300 million project was with firm LCL, not Reed.

It said the measure would ensure continued employment of Reed Constructions project staff, ”retaining significant experience and knowledge of the project in its final stages”, and would also put in place a mechanism that retained all existing employment entitlements for the Reed workforce.

Law Courts said it provided ”the most certainty for the project to continue uninterrupted and avoids lost time and additional costs given the current circumstances surrounding Reed Construction Australia. Law Courts Limited intends to complete the project using the existing resources and contractors on site.”

The novation of the contract comes at a tense time for the company and its subcontractors and suppliers, many of which have not been paid for six months. Reed faces a wind-up application in the New South Wales Supreme Court next week from three creditors.

Reed’s future was under new pressure last week as the NSW Department of Education said it did not owe it money under Building the Education Revolution. Reed claimed substantial sums were owed under BER, and from road projects. Reed said last week it was still negotiating its BER claims.

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India’s boom now gloom

A chastised government is promising shelter from India’s economic storm.THE ”India rising” story was supposed to be one of uninterrupted growth, an irrepressible economic tide that would turn the world’s largest democracy into one of the 21st century’s economic powers.
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A rupee that has lost nearly a quarter of its value in 12 months, a soaring budget deficit, tanking sharemarket and savagely curtailed growth were never part of the plan. But this is India’s economic reality.

India’s economy has staggered to its worst position since the global financial crisis of 2008-09.

Inflation remains above 7 per cent, and, despite promises to cut subsidies, India’s budget deficit was 5.9 per cent in the financial year ended March, and will stay above 5 per cent this year.

The rupee is hovering at record lows, near to, and even briefly above, 56 to the US dollar, and has lost 24.8 per cent of its value since this time last year. Analysts predict it might fall as low as 58.50 in coming months if the European financial dilemma deteriorates.

India’s growth last quarter, 5.3 per cent, was the worst result in eight years. The manufacturing sector shrank 0.3 per cent in the quarter compared with a year earlier, while the farm sector grew by only 1.7 per cent.

India was once the darling of international investors, but foreign firms are now steering clear of the country. Several global telcos have quit India over corruption and uncertainty in licensing.

Gross capital formation – a measurement of fresh investments by companies – grew by 5.3 per cent last financial year, down sharply from 11.1 per cent the year before. As a proportion of GDP it has fallen below 30 per cent.

Worse numbers after bad have prompted Standard & Poor’s to cut India’s credit outlook from stable to negative, imperilling its BBB-minus investment grade status.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee says India’s economic malaise is worse now than during the global financial crisis because this time the cupboard is bare.

He says the government does not have the money to repeat the huge stimulus program launched four years ago. ”The second round of global uncertainty and the slowdown has come rather quickly on the heels of the previous one, with practically no headroom for running a proactive fiscal policy.”

But, to the frustration of businesses and despair of India’s 400 million poor, finding an excuse to do nothing has become this government’s modus operandi.

Almost all of the Indian government’s major economic efforts – to allow foreign investment in multi-brand retail (supermarkets); to curb food inflation; to reform taxation and bring in a GST; or to stop the country’s rampant corruption (much of it within the government) – have failed.

A report from Standard and Poor’s this week, titled Will India be the first BRIC fallen angel? – said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had no authority in the government. “The cabinet is appointed largely by Sonia Gandhi,” it said. ”Hence, the Prime Minister often appears to have limited ability to influence his cabinet colleagues and proceed with the liberalisation policies he favours.”

Dr Kanhaiya Singh, senior fellow at the National Council of Applied Economic Research, told BusinessDay in Delhi: “The government is in a precarious position, a position it has itself created. No one can give this government good marks. The management of inflation and interest rates, and of the economy generally, has not been good for the past few years.”

He said inaction had gripped the government, and time-sensitive decisions were deferred or abandoned because of political difficulties.

”And the major reason behind this indecisiveness is the eruption of a volcano of corruption. That has jeopardised the entire bureaucracy and the political system. No one will make a decision, everyone is too scared.”

Stung by months of criticism, the Prime Minister has committed his government to 10,000 kilometres of new roads, and 18,000 megawatts of additional power generation this financial year, as well as beginning work on 42 port projects and three new airports. ”In these difficult times, we must do everything possible to revive business and investor sentiment,” he said.

India’s unwillingness to use the good times of previous years to prepare for the bad – running up deficits even while growth was in double digits – encourage comparisons with the European economies now staring down imminent collapse. But analysts say that unlike Europe and its structural problems, India’s economic fundamentals are sound and the country can recover.

‘The fundamental ingredients of the Indian economy are intact,” said Kanhaiya Singh, from the National Council of Applied Economic Research. ”They are not jeopardised, so, once these upheavals are taken care of, and the international economic environment comes back to normal, India will quickly pick up.”

”The current problems facing the economy aren’t insurmountable,” Prashant Jain, chief investment officer at HDFC Asset Management in Mumbai told Bloomberg.

”With a few difficult steps, it should be possible to put it back on the rails fairly quickly.”

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Separating claims would cost $1bn in benefits

Aboriginal groups at odds over the James Price Point site marked for a $35 billion gas hub have withdrawn a bid to splinter native title claims after the West Australian Government and the project’s operator Woodside Petroleum threatened to suspend more than $1 billion in benefits.
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It is understood that there are long standing differences of opinion over the cultural significance of the claim site, which includes James Price Point, between the Goolarabooloo and the Jabirr Jabirr people of the Kimberley region.

The two groups have remained on the one native title claim since the 1990s, until last week where an application was filed to withdraw the claim which would have allowed two separate claims to be registered in time for the next round of land acquisition talks.

The move was understood to have seen both groups entitled to participate separately in future negotiations over the Browse liquefied natural gas hub proposal.

However, moments before going to court today, those behind the decision to splinter buckled under pressure from the WA government and Woodside to withdraw the application, leaving the conflicted groups to remain as the one negotiating body.

The hub at James Price Point is an option for processing gas from the Browse basin off the West Australian coast, but a final investment decision is not expected from Woodside until early next year.

Representing the joint claim lawyer, Vance Hughston told the Federal Court in Perth both sides had received letters from Woodside and the government shortly after the application to end the claim was lodged last week.

The groups were served with default notices in relation to the previous Browse Precinct Agreement, estimated to be worth about $1.5 billion, as well as notices to suspend their benefits under the agreement leading up to today’s hearing.

“The applicants are no longer prepared to push ahead with this discontinuance,” Mr Hughston said by videolink.

“The applicants find themselves in an impossible situation where the stakes are so high that they’re not prepared to take this matter any further without taking instructions from the broader group.”

Kimberly Land Council chief executive Nolan Hunter said the “extreme pressure from the State Government and Woodside has taken its toll on the Named Applicants,” in a statement after court.

“As a result, they instructed the KLC to withdraw the Discontinuance Application and hold an entire Goolarabooloo Jabirr Jabirr native title claim group meeting to decide whether the group should split and lodge individual native title claims, or if it should remain together as one group.

“Native title is important to the Goolarabooloo and Jabirr Jabirr people and needs to be determined to provide certainty to the group and resolve any internal issues.”

The validity of any state agreements signed by the group is expected to be challenged in the coming weeks.

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NATO chief urges Libya to release Australian lawyer

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at Parliament House.NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has joined Australia in calling on Libya to release lawyer Melinda Taylor.
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Ms Taylor, a lawyer with the International Criminal Court, was detained last week along with colleagues.

The Australian is accused of exchanging papers with Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, whom she is representing.

The papers allegedly included a coded message from his former right-hand man in the days of his father’s regime, Mohammed Ismail.

Mr Rasmussen, in Canberra for talks with Prime Minister Julia Gillard and other key ministers, said today he regretted Ms Taylor’s detention.

”I strongly regret that certain groups in Libya have arrested … representatives of the ICC,” he said. ”And I would urge them to release these individuals as soon as possible.”

Australia’s ambassador-designate to Libya, David Ritchie, is lobbying for Ms Taylor’s release. The Australian government, as well as Ms Taylor’s parents, have been calling for the 36-year old lawyer to be set free.

Mr Rasmussen’s comments come as Australia and NATO signed a political declaration to recognise and strengthen their security ties.

NATO nations’ forces are co-operating with Australia’s 1550 troops in Afghanistan.

Mr Rasmussen said Australia was a ”very valuable” NATO partner.

He said Afghanistan might seem like a long way from Australia but ”security can start far from home”.

”A conflict thousands of miles away can have a direct impact on our lives,” he said. ”We are on the same side when it comes to values.”

Ms Gillard said she and Mr Rasmussen had discussed the international transition out of Afghanistan.

”We’ve agreed the transition is on track for completion by the end of 2014,” she said.

Defence said today an Australian soldier had been wounded when a Bushmaster struck an improvised explosive device in Oruzgan province on Tuesday.

The soldier’s wounds were superficial. He is reported to be in a satisfactory condition and is expected to return to duties soon.

According to Defence, 227 ADF members have been wounded in Afghanistan. Thirty-two soldiers have been killed.

With AAP

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Spanish yields hit new record high

Spain’s 10-year borrowing costs rose to a euro-era record after the nation’s credit rating was cut to one step above junk by Moody’s.
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Italy’s yields reached the highest in almost five months as it prepared to auction 4.5 billion euros ($5.7 billion) of three-, seven- and eight-year bonds after borrowing costs climbed at a sale of 12-month bills yesterday.

German bunds rose before a report that economists said will confirm European inflation eased to the slowest pace since February 2011.

Moody’s downgraded Cyprus and lowered Spain’s rating three steps to Baa3 after the nation asked for aid to support its lenders.

‘‘The debt markets are telling us that they’re unconvinced by the bank bailout and that the next step is that the government will have to concede, capitulate, and go for a sovereign loan,’’ James Stewart, head of macro research at AX Markets, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s ‘‘Countdown.’’

‘‘That seems to me quite likely, and even now I think it’s moving on from Spain to Italy.’’

Spain’s 10-year yield climbed 10 basis points to 6.86 per cent in early trade and reached 6.89 per cent, the highest since before the euro was introduced in 1999. The 5.85 per cent security maturing in January 2022 fell 0.68, or 6.80 euros per 1000-euro face amount, to 93.09.

Italy’s 10-year yield rose 8 basis points to 6.29 per cent, after advancing to 6.34 per cent, the most since January 20.

German 10-year yields dropped three basis points to 1.46 per cent. The rate has climbed from a record-low 1.127 per cent on June 1.

Spanish securities have lost 5.6 per cent this year, according to indexes compiled by Bloomberg and the European Federation of Financial Analysts Societies. German debt has returned 2.5 per cent and Italian bonds rose 5.4 per cent.

Bloomberg

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European shares wane after Spain’s rating cut

Europe’s top shares edged lower in early trade, with caution prevailing among investors as Moody’s became the latest rating agency to downgrade Spain, ahead of an Italian bond auction later in the session and the Greek election over the weekend.
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The FTSEurofirst 300 was down 2.27 points, or 0.2 percent, at 984.89, having closed 0.3 per cent lower on Wednesday in nervous trade as worries over global growth in the wake of the eurozone debt crisis crimped appetite for risk.

In London, the FTSE 100 index was down 13.52 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 5470.29, having gained 0.2 per cent on Wednesday. Frankfurt’s DAX 30 dipped 0.1 per cent to 6146.92 points and in Paris the CAC 40 shed 0.2 per cent to 3022.40. Madrid’s IBEX 35 index opened 0.6 per cent lower.

Moody’s action, ahead of an Italian bond auction at which borrowing costs are seen sharply rising, saw Spain’s rating cut by three notches to ‘Baa3’ from ‘A3’, while Cyprus was also knocked down, by two notches.

“Until there is more calm around Greece and Spain, one should just stay a bit on the sidelines and watch what will happen,” Heinz-Gerd Sonnenschein, equity markets strategist at Deutsche Postbank, in Germany, said.

He said stocks are attractive on price-to-book and price-to-earnings levels but until a clearer picture is formed of what will happen in Greece and Spain investors are better off adopting a wait-and-see approach to investing.

With uncertainty swirling around equity markets, riskier banking and mining shares were among the top falling sectors on the index.

BSkyB was the biggest blue-chip faller on the London bourse, dropping 6.9 per cent after the satellite broadcaster paid 2.28 billion pounds ($3.55 billion) to broadcast 116 English Premier League soccer matches per season in a new three-year deal that will start from 2013-14.

Reuters

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Aussie invasion: why we took over ‘Whistralia’

Spot the Aussie? It’s not hard in Whistler, Canada.The Canadian village of Whistler is home to so many Australians that it has been dubbed ‘Whistralia”. Ben Groundwater finds out what they’re doing there.
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The Australians have taken over. In fact, they took over long ago. Everywhere you go in Whistler, Canada, there’s an Australian. You couldn’t throw a snowball without hitting an Australian.

Wake up in the morning and go for breakfast – you’re being served by an Australian. Grab your ski gear from the hotel – the girl behind the desk is Australian. Smile at the cleaner – he’s Australian.

Head to the chairlift – the operator is Australian. Maybe take a lesson – your instructor is Australian. Eat lunch – served by an Australian. Grab a beer once the lifts closed – cracked open, of course, by an Australian. Time for dinner – guess where your waiter’s from? Australia.

You’re starting to get the idea now. There’s a reason this place, North America’s largest ski resort, has been nicknamed “Whistralia”: because it really is chock full of Australians.

It’s difficult to get your head around the sheer scale of the invasion until you actually arrive and take in the number of Australian accents at Whistler Blackcomb. There are others, too – plenty of English accents, even the odd Canadian one – but the massive majority are speaking genuine Strine.

So what’s the attraction? Why do some many young Australian travellers wind up living and working in Whistler when Canada and the USA offer so many alternatives? Why are we taking over en masse?

Dylan Stewart is the Marketing and Communications Editor at IEP, an organisation that helps travellers get over to North America with the appropriate working visas. He says Whistler has plenty of attractions, not least of which is that huge bulk of other Australians.

“Many Aussies end up at Whistler because they know that there’ll be countless other Australians there as well,” Stewart says. “The benefit for Aussies is that with all the Australian accents, they never seem too far away from home.”

Then there’s the not-insignificant lure of the Whistler nightlife. Unlike some of the more family-oriented resorts, once the sun goes down in Whistler the nation’s biggest ski area becomes the nation’s biggest party. And for some reason that seems to appeal to young Australians.

“Whistler has always had the connotations of being a huge party town,” says Stewart, “and you don’t need to spend long there to realise that the reputation is warranted. Apres-ski activities are as big a drawcard as the mountain itself, and it means that even if you aren’t a great skier or boarder – or if you break your arm on the first run of the winter – there’s still plenty to do.”

More than anything else, however, Whistler is just well known. You could probably find better terrain at Revelstoke, or nightlife in Banff, or beauty in Lake Louise. But ask anyone which ski resorts they know in Canada and Whistler will inevitably be top of the list. So where else are you going to go?

There’s also a certain ease for Australians in taking a working holiday in Whistler, or Canada as a whole. It’s not just the familiar accents, the similarities in culture between Canada and Australia and the many opportunities for employment on the mountain, but the lack of issues in getting there in the first place.

If you’re under 31 it’s relatively straightforward to get hold of a working holiday visa for Canada through the International Experience program. The visa lasts for two years, but get talking to a few people around the mountain and you soon realise that plenty of Aussies have figured out ways to extend the fun. And given Whistler is a year-round resort, with the ski area morphing into a mountain-biking park in the warmer months, most people never feel the need to go anywhere else.

Plus, the ski terrain is long and varied. If you’ve got two mates, one of whom fancies himself as the next Shaun White and the other who’s never strapped into a binding, Whistler is the sort of place that’s going to please them both. And there’s always the Tube Park if you want to hang out together.

The jobs Australians are doing in Whistler range from the predictable to the bizarre, the well-paid to the… well, not very well paid. There are the traditional ski-bum jobs like lift operator, cleaner, chalet all-rounder (a nice way of saying that you have to do everything), and barmen.

(There’s an Australian guy called Dave working at a hotel there, and his sole job seems to be to replace broken doors. “You wouldn’t believe how many people manage to kick their doors in here,” he says with a sigh. “Mostly drunk Czechs for some reason.”)

But there are other employment options in Whistler as well.

Right now there are Aussies driving shuttle buses for hotels, as well as cooking the food in the restaurants. Some wind up spending their nights behind the wheel of the huge snow groomers, while others with experience nab a coveted position as a ski or snowboard instructor. And there’s more.

“Some manage to use their trade to carve out a living, which often keeps them employed once the season has finished, too,” says Stewart. “HR and hotel guest staff are other positions that many of our participants find themselves working in both at Whistler and other resorts throughout Canada, as well as in shops, takeaway restaurants, car parks and tourist info places.”

Of course, it doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as you’re doing something to keep the cash flowing in and the dream alive. What you’re really there for is that huge mountain, those metres of snow, those pumping bars – and the fact that you’re a long, long way from home.

For more on working holidays in Canada, visit https://www.whpcanada南京夜网.au/

The writer travelled as a guest of the Canadian Tourism Commission and Tourism British Columbia.

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Gloomy June and wet Saturday ahead

June is traditionally our gloomiest and wettest month of the year, but this June has been much gloomier and wetter than normal.
Nanjing Night Net

We have been short-changed more than 20 hours of sunshine already, which is an hour a day less sunshine than average, Weatherzone meteorologist Brett Dutschke said.

It has been so wet that some sport has had to be cancelled due to sodden ovals. There is a chance of this happening again this weekend.

Cloud will roll in from western New South Wales early tomorrow night as another low and pool of cold air develop.

Rain will not take long to reach Sydney, starting on Saturday morning and it may last all day. Some sport will again have to be cancelled.

Thankfully for most, the whole weekend won’t be a washout. Sunday is looking brighter with temperatures reaching the high teens.

In the past few weeks, low pressure systems have been a regular feature off the New South Wales coast. The lows have driven cloud and rain over much of the east of the state, Mr Dutschke said.

With 100-150mm of rain in the past few days, it has already become Sydney’s wettest June in five years.

The city has gained 200mm so far, 70mm more than the monthly average.

Eastern suburbs have been particularly wet. Dover Heights has been drenched by 280mm this month and Rose Bay and Randwick 240mm, all doubling their monthly average only halfway through the month.

Some northern and western suburbs have also put up with a wet few weeks. Homebush and Marrickville have had about 200mm each.

Unfortunately for outdoor types, much of this rain has fallen on the weekends.

It is also the wettest start to a year in 11 years.

After heavy downpours earlier in the year, this has now become the city’s wettest start to a year since 2001, recording 900mm, compared with the January-to-June average of 728mm.

Looking ahead to the rest of winter, overall temperatures and rainfall should be near average as we continue with a neutral climate phase.

As we head into spring there is increased chance of sunnier, drier and warmer days due to the likely onset of El Nino.

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