Monthly Archives: December 2018

Office towers in play as yields tighten

Two more office towers are in play on ‘s east coast as offshore money continues to underpin commercial property values.

A Singaporean developer who snapped up a rundown Franklin Street office in Melbourne last year hopes to sell it for around $100 million and double its money just one month after leasing the entire tower to the Victorian government.

And Investa Property Group has moved to offload a 13-level tower with 9,800 square metres of lettable space and another 1000 sq m of retail at 130 Pitt Street in Sydney’s CBD through Savills and Inc RE.

The Pitt Street office has 96 per cent occupancy and a 2.15 weighted average lease expiry and is understood to be worth around $195 million.

Savills’ Ben Azar said there was potential for strong rental growth across the office and retail components of the building in the short term.

In Melbourne, Singapore developer Lian Beng has been a hyperactive offshore player.

The group has bought and sold several buildings over the past two years but its latest property move is perhaps its most audacious.

It will offer the 18-level city office at 50 Franklin Street to buyers one month after fully leasing the tower to the Department of Justice and Regulation and Carlton Justice Service Centre on a 10-year agreement.

It purchased the building late last year for $51.5 million from 11 individual strata owners just before the office’s major tenant ASX-listed call centre group Salmat was due to vacate in February.

The tower remained largely empty for most of this year until the deal was signed with the two Victorian government departments.

Colliers International and Savills were appointed to market the building.

‘s office values have been underpinned by interest from offshore institutional investors.

Two-thirds of capital ($1.5 billion) spent so far in Melbourne’s office sector this year has come from offshore, and similar sources account for about one third ($1.1 billion) of Sydney’s sales, Colliers research shows.

Average reversionary yields for A Grade office were between 5.15 and 5.3 per cent in Sydney’s core precinct and Melbourne’s CBD.

Investors from South Korea, Europe – particularly Germany – and Singapore were focussed on passive investments, while existing developers – including from Malaysia, China and Singapore – were looking to recycle capital from completed projects back into .

“We see yields compressing at least a further 25 basis points across both A and B Grade assets through the remainder of the cycle”, Colliers research head Anneke Thompson said.

Other recent transactions have proved equally lucrative for Lian Beng, listed on Singapore’s exchange with a market capitalisation around $410 million.

In July, it sold a development site at 596 St Kilda Road for $34 million to a Taiwanese developer for a tidy $10 million profit after obtaining a planning permit for a 19 level building with 170 apartments.

Two months before that it offloaded Newspaper House, a building at 247 Collins Street defined by its colourful 1930s mural.

The seven-storey office also traded on a healthy profit, selling for $35 million to Malaysian conglomerate Oriental Holdings after it was purchased for $23 million in 2015.

Eds note: An earlier version of this article cited Anneke Thompson as being from Savills. Ms Thompson works for Colliers International. The research cited here is from Colliers.

Charter Hall Retail REIT delivers 4pc growth

Charter Hall Retail REIT will focus on increasing its portfolio with larger-scale, food-anchored neighbourhood shopping centres after posting a 4 per cent rise in sales growth for the September quarter.

This was boosted by the improved performance of its two major tenants, Woolworths and Coles, with additional revenue coming from its Aldi stores. The trust said there was a focus on increasing the number of Aldi supermarkets in the portfolio.

Overall, for stores paying turnover rent, growth was 4 per cent of anchor tenant moving annual turnover (MAT) and 2.7 per cent for all stores. Occupancy remained stable at 98 per cent with specialty sales growth consistent with the previous period

As part of its asset renewal program, the trust has appointed Colliers International and Stonebridge Property Group to market the Gordon Centre, in Sydney, including the Gordon Village and adjoining assets, for sale.

Charter Hall Retail fund manager Scott Dundas said the decision to appoint agents follows “unsolicited inquiries to purchase the centre that indicated a realisable value significantly in excess of current book value reflecting the redevelopment potential of the site”. It has a book value ($119.2 million at 6.00 cap rate) and was bought by the trust in December 2010 for $67 million.

“The potential future sale of this asset is in addition to assets already identified for sale as part of the 2017 financial-year results. Existing 2018 guidance does not include the financial impact of the sale of this centre,” Mr Dundas said.

“In the event that the asset is sold, proceeds of the sale will be directed towards repaying debt and ongoing capital management activities, including the further buyback of Charter Hall Retail REIT securities.”

The trust is also contracted to divest its Moranbah centre in Queensland for $25 million with a December settlement. It also sold a standalone Woolworths in Kerang, Victoria, for $15.7 million, compared with the book value of $14.55 million on a 6 per cent yield. These divestments were factored into the 2018 earnings guidance.

Mr Dundas, who stepped down from his role on Tuesday, said the trust would continue to transition the portfolio from non-core assets into larger centres where it could add value through active management.

“We are also reducing the trust’s exposure to free-standing and smaller neighbourhood assets with lower growth profiles.”

Mr Dundas has been replaced by Greg Chubb, the group executive retail at Charter Hall.

Brokers said Charter Hall Retail remains a relatively defensive proposition with most income underpinned by strong covenants to largely non-discretionary retailers Woolworths and Coles.

The REIT has also continued its capital management strategy to “optimise shareholder returns”, buying back $5 million of units at $3.94 per unit during the quarter.

But the brokers at CLSA said there were “limited catalysts for Charter Hall Retail REIT to rerate as its high gearing of 36.2 per cent at June 3 30, 2017, limits its ability to meaningfully increase its buyback”.

“However, a sale of Gordon Centre may be a potential trigger but would take time to execute,” the CLSA brokers said.

Strata office follows Target at Williams Landing

Cedar Woods has sold more than half its $27.5 million strata office building in Melbourne’s west in just five months.

A mix of investors and owner occupiers have snapped up 28 of the 48 units available in the five-level building, next door to the new Target headquarters.

Cedar Woods state manager Patrick Archer said “the result is well ahead of our forecasts”.

Opposite the Williams Landing railway station, the 5500 square metre building has sold to local accountants, IT consultants and designers, Mr Archer said.

“It’s a mixture of owners and investors, but even the investors are buying with the view of moving in once it’s more established,” he said.

The offices, which range in size from 53-to-168 square metres are fetching around $5000 a square metre, which is up to half the cost of strata office in the CBD.

The building is expected to be completed in March 2019, just a few months after the Target building is finished and those staff move from their current Geelong premises.

The winning of the Target headquarters was a coup for Cedar Woods, which started the 225-hectare $1.5 billion Williams Landing estate in 2008 after buying a large chunk of the RAAF Williams airfield in 1999. The 12,919 square metre building has already been sold to Centuria for $58.23 million.

Williams Landing is anchored by a 50-hectare town centre, which includes the railway station, a shopping centre, the offices, child care and medical services, gym and restaurants that also serve the surrounding areas. Two apartment buildings have already sold and marketing has just started on a third.

While about 6000 people live on the estate, about 1 million people live just 30 minutes drive away, he said.

“The new strata office is another step towards creating an employment hub within the suburb,” he said.

Recent research undertaken by the National Growth Areas Alliance found the rate of new job creation in the City of Wyndham had increased by 36.4 per cent.

Wyndham is one of the fastest growing municipalities in the country. The 2016 Census revealed that 55,500 people moved into the area since 2011, a growth rate of 34.4 per cent.

Rinehart’s Roy Hill mine gears up for driverless trucks

Driverless trucks are expected to be phased in at Gina Rinehart’s Roy Hill iron ore mine in Western from the second half of 2018.

The likely timetable for the adoption of autonomous vehicles was flagged by Barry Fitzgerald, the chief executive of Roy Hill, at the International Mining and Resources Conference in Melbourne on Tuesday.

“We, I think, are firmly of the view that autonomous trucks are the way of the future, which is clearly a major industry trend. At this point in time we are working towards looking at starting the final implementation, or the phased implementation, probably in the second half of next year,” he said.

“The implementation model is driven by resources and as we develop the pit. So that when you go to autonomy, as we develop different pits we need to do it pit by pit by pit,” he said.

Mr Fitzgerald said that eventually Roy Hill’s autonomous truck fleet would number a bit over 70, very similar to the current truck fleet.

Asked if the implementation of driverless trucks would mean job losses, or re-deployment of staff, he said: “I think it’s a mixture of both. You need to remember that Roy Hill as a business is continuing to ramp up though. We have got another 24 trucks, the first of which are being delivered at the moment, we’ve also got a contractor there, so there is a transition.”

He also said: “We’re of the view that people do need to achieve their potential. And so we will work with them, and I think you’ll see that there’ll be some people re-skilled (and) re-trained. Some people may choose not to stay with us because obviously they may like driving trucks or doing something else. And so we will continue on to train and develop people, we will expect to redeploy people, but we’d expect there will be a reduction in people long term, not necessarily from our current numbers of people.”

Mr Fitzgerald also said that Roy Hill had recently commissioned its third autonomous drill, with more to be commissioned soon.

New York, London inspire new Sydney Metro stations

Artist’s impression of Victoria Cross StationSydney’s city and northern skyline are to alter once more with the construction of an office, residential and possible hotel towers on top of the new Sydney Metro stations.

The new sites are part of the NSW government’s $20 billion Sydney Metro scheme, which will deliver a new train network across the metropolitan area.

In Pitt Street in the CBD, plans are understood to include two buildings: one a 47-storey mixed-use (potential hotel), and a 65-storey residential.

At Victoria Cross Station in Miller Street, North Sydney, there is one building, up to 40 storeys, with commercial offices and integrated retail on the ground level.

The Victoria Cross and Pitt Street stations have been chosen as locations where Sydney could replicate mass-transit-oriented developments such as Hudson Yards in New York and Paddington Station on London’s Crossrail.

As the planning process only recently started, there are no details on who will develop, lease or occupy the commercial/retail site and hotel.

Commercial agents have said there is a shortage of hotel rooms and limited supply of new office space, due to the continual conversion to residential sites in the city and North Sydney.

Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance said: “This was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revitalise Sydney for the future.

“Like metro stations around the world, stations on the new Sydney Metro system will be vibrant places and landmarks in their own right.”

Planning for integrated station design at Crows Nest will start next year. The new station at Martin Place will also be integrated into the area around it, and the NSW government is assessing an unsolicited proposal.

Sydney Metro program director Rodd Staples said work on the integrated designs could start while station construction was under way.

“Sydney Metro is more than just a world-scale public transport project – it’s a defining city-building opportunity,” Mr Staples said.

“This is an opportunity to build on the revitalisation Sydney Metro brings, creating truly landmark places and developments that showcase world’s-best practice for transit-oriented developments.”

Sydney Metro services start in the first half of 2019 on the Sydney Metro Northwest project, with metro rail to be extended in 2024 under Sydney Harbour, through the CBD and beyond to Bankstown.

Oil and gold higher for longer: Macquarie


The prices of oil and gold are likely to stay higher for longer, according to Macquarie analysts, who have looked at 100 years’ worth of market data to plot the characteristics of the new commodity cycle.

Breaking up commodities into “industrial” and “metals” the analysts found that over the past century, the prices of almost all commodities have remained stationary.

“Looking through the variation, it is notable that for most industrial commodities there has been no clear up or down trend over the past 100 years,” wrote Ric Deverell, analyst at Macquarie Securities.

“The only commodities that remain ‘expensive’ relative to the 100-year average are oil and gold, with the possibility that we have moved to a new higher average for both of these key markets.”

The hangover of the previous commodities “super cycle” – a period of price disorder following about 15 years of the rise (and subsequent fall) of food stuffs, oil, metals, chemicals, fuels – has paved the way for a more stabilised commodity complex.

Prolonged Chinese infrastructure stimulus and supply constraints in some markets have underpinned the resurgence in most commodities, though oil and gold look to have actually broken out of their 100-year average. Gold

The Macquarie team looked closely at gold over the past century, which was relatively stable up until the Bretton Woods system was introduced in the 1940s.

This was an agreement where the world’s major currencies were pegged to the price of gold and the US dollar was established as the world’s reserve currency.

The price of gold fell steadily after that, given its supply and demand mechanisms were distorted by the US dollar’s movements.

Demand for the greenback lead to overvaluation concerns and in 1973 participating currencies were floated, which put an end to the Bretton Woods agreement.

At this, gold spiked, but a persistent period of inflation in the United States saw the price trade at a steady band until economic growth picked up and appetite for the safe-haven asset waned.

The global financial crisis and the extraordinary monetary policy that followed saw gold rocket to all-time historical highs, and Macquarie believes this signals the next step up in the commodity’s long-term average.

“Looking through the noise, it is interesting that the average price in recent decades has been higher than seen previously,” writes Mr Deverell. Oil

Brent crude, the most sensitive commodity to supply and demand constraints, was mostly stable until the 1970s, when an embargo imposed by members of OPEC led to fuel shortages and sky-high prices.

The 1990s saw a lot of movement; oversupply in the early 1990s saw it drop near to historical lows, before war and conflict damaged supply and it rallied sharply until 2012.

With prices stabilising now, and Middle Eastern supply butting heads with the shale gas revolution in the US, Macquarie thinks oil has found a new higher trading band.

The only commodity the research team expects to trade significantly lower is aluminium, which has fallen consistently for the past 150 years.

GPT office strength offsets weaker retail

Diversified property group GPT is on track to post a 3 per cent growth rate in its full-year funds from operations, boosted by the strong national office leasing market and despite weaker retail sales conditions.

In its quarterly update for the three months ending September 30, chief executive Bob Johnston said GPT remained in a “very strong” financial position and would continue with its program of refurbishing key shopping centres in Melbourne and regional Sydney.

Mr Johnston said the improved balance sheet from the $US325 million ($403 million) private placement had extended the debt expiry and attracted 10 new investors to the register. Gearing now sits at 25.3 per cent.

“Retail sales growth softened during the quarter with total centre moving annual turnover (MAT) growth falling from 3.1 per cent in June to 1.8 per cent as at the end of September, reflecting a softening in consumer confidence. Despite this, GPT’s high-quality retail portfolio continues to deliver strong like-for-like income growth,” Mr Johnston said.

The data revealed a strong performance by “mini majors”, which include Priceline and some international apparel brands, with an 11.7 per cent rise versus 15.4 per cent for the June quarter, but this was offset by weakness in department stores and discount department stores.

Over the past three months GPT’s Wholesale Shopping Centre Fund settled its acquisition of an additional 25 per cent stake in the Highpoint Shopping Centre and Maribyrnong Homemaker Centre for $680 million, excluding acquisition costs of $37.4 million.

The fund’s Wollongong Central mall also opened a $68 million refurbishment of its Gateway Building, which included the new generation David Jones department store and food concept. The construction of the $420 million expansion of Sunshine Plaza, in which GPT has a 50 per cent interest, remains on track for completion in late 2018.

But according to Macquarie Equities property analysts, the sheer extent of lease liabilities means the department stores and discount department stores “issue”‘ of weak trading conditions, will “bumble along for some time” as change in control or lease assignment generally requires landlord approval.

“Our case study implies store rationalisation programs will continue. Factors supporting this include: increased competition, including internationals, ecommerce/Amazon; changing consumer preferences; growth in category specific retailers; and cyclical headwinds including a mature housing cycle, rising interest costs for investors and rising cost of living,” the Macquarie analysts said.

Brokers at Shaw & Partners retained their hold recommendation on GPT, saying the weaker retail was “unsurprising” give the general state of the sector.

In GPT’s office portfolio, occupancy remained high, due to its high exposure to the strong conditions in the Sydney and Melbourne markets.

During the September quarter, a total of 27,000 square metres of new leases and renewals were agreed across the portfolio. The largest was at 750 Collins Street, Melbourne, where Monash College leased 41,181 sq m for 15 years, while at Darling Park tower 2 in Sydney, Adobe signed 3079 sq m for five years.

GPT also submitted a development application for its planned 26,000-square-metre prime office tower at 32 Smith Street, Parramatta, valued at about $230 million.

Queensland Health Ombudsman suspended over response to former Mater Hospital anaesthetist

The Queensland Health Ombudsman has been suspended over his response to information regarding a former Mater Hospital anaesthetic technician who faced court last week charged with fraud and assault.

A statement released by Health Minister Cameron Dick on Friday evening said Leon Atkinson-MacEwen had been suspended until the end of his contract on December 19.

“I requested information from the Health Ombudsman at the weekend regarding action he took after he was provided with information in June this year about a former Mater Health Services anaesthetic technician,” Mr Dick said in a statement.

Former Queensland Health Ombudsman Leon Atkinson-MacEwen. Photo: Toby Crockford

“An independent investigation, which may take a number of months to conclude, will now be initiated into the handling of this matter by the Health Ombudsman.

“The Deputy Queensland Ombudsman, Mr Andrew Brown, will be appointed acting Health Ombudsman. Mr Brown has previously acted in this position.”

Evan Leslie Kajewski, the former Queensland Health employee who has brought about the downfall of Mr Atkinson-MacEwen, has been accused of attending operating theatres, taking fentanyl from the operating trolley and replacing it with a syringe he had prepared containing saline solution.

The offences allegedly took place between February and May and include stealing the drug fentanyl, a powerful opioid pain medication, while he was working at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane.

Mr Kajewski, 39, resigned from the hospital and now works as a butcher. He was granted conditional bail when he faced Brisbane Magistrates Court on Thursday.

In documents tendered as part of the bail hearing, Detective Senior Constable Benjamin Caffery said Mr Kajewski’s alleged actions put the lives of the affected patients in “serious jeopardy”.

“The results of these actions could have been catastrophic and this investigation has shown that it was fortunate that no patients suffered as a result,” he said.

“In cases, it was only the professionalism and expertise of the doctors performing the procedures that allowed for a successful procedure under the circumstances created by the defendant.”

With AAP

Kilgour Avenue sells $70k over reserve at auction and upcoming action

HOT PROPERTY: This Merewether townhouse has been tastefully renovated and features a sizeable yard, according to McGrath Estate Agents’ Tammy Hawkins.It was a big day of auctions last Saturday and more are expected this weekend.

Gavan Reynolds of Reynolds Auctions had 11 bookings for last Saturday and reported all sold, seven under the hammer and four prior.

After a slow start and an opening bid of $1.2 million, 128 Dawson Street, a three-bedroom Cooks Hill home on 398 square metres marketed by Walkom’s Kate Rundle, sold for $1.36 million.

Also in Cooks Hill, First National’s Luke Murdoch sold a three-bedroom terrace at 49 Railway Street for $820,000 to out an of town buyer.

Mr Reynolds estimated around 80 people turned out to watch proceedings at Nelson Bay property35 Gloucester Street, which was marketed by PRDnatiowide’s Dane Queenan.

Bidding started at $978,000 for the two-bedroom home located less than 100 metres from the water before it was sold for$1.02 million.

There was plenty of interest for a tired-looking three-bedroom home on 809sqm at51 Carrington Street, Mayfield.

Chris Arnold of Arnold Property marketed the property with a price guide of$600,000. It sold for $671,000.

A crowd of around 35 people turned up to watchfiveregistered buyers rigorously bid for a two-bedroom unit at 28 Kilgour Avenue in Merewether marketed by Dalton Partners’ John Kerr and auctioned byDavid Phelan. It sold for$730,000,$70,000 over the reserve.

It followed on from previous strong auctions for units in Merewether, according to Mr Kerr, who said he had similar competition for a unitat 43 Pell Street, which sold for $646,000 in September, and at 80-82 Frederick Street which sold for$1.25 million in August.

ON TODAYMerewether is the place to be today with several auctions scheduled and plenty of interest for all.

Tammy Hawkins, of McGrath Estate Agents, will auction a renovated three-bedroom townhousewith a large yard at 22 Patrick Street, Merewether with a price guide of $850,000. The auction will be on site at 11.15am.

McGrath’s Sean Redpath will take 72 McMichael Street, a two-bedroomMaryville home, to auction at 10.30am with a price guide of $700,000.

An iconic Merewetherresidence on a1321.6 square metre corner block at 114 Janet Street is on the market for the first time in 72 years and will be auctioned on site at 9.45am with a price guide of $2.6 million.

Mike Flook of Robinson property is marketing the property and expects it to be sought after.

He is also marketing“an original terrace in a great location” at9 Brien Street,The Junction which goesto auction at 3.45pm with a price guide of $500,000.

First National’s George Rafty will take 14 Mary Street, Merewether to auction at 12.45pm with a price guide of$920,000 to $1 million. It is a freestanding two-storey home.

Kinghorn still sweet at Krispy Kreme

Premier investments chairman Soloman Lew and CEO Mark McInnes pose for a photo on 25th Se[tember 2017. Picture by Wayne Taylor. AFR.A decade has now passed since Rams Home Loans founder John Kinghorn cashed in $650 million after floating the group on the stock market – and watched his fellow investors quickly lose a fortune as it almost went bust in the financial crisis which hit within weeks.

The AFP now alleges that he failed to pay all the taxes owed on the gilded bounty he received in the float which the venerable New York Times said “may be the worst initial public offering of the decade”.

So CBD thought it was worth checking up on the accounts of another company he has had his fingers in over the past decade, Krispy Kreme .

The good news is that Kinghorn is still making good money from junk food with the doughnut business reporting a net profit after tax of $8.27 million on sales of $88.2 million.

According to the company accounts lodged with the corporate regulator, ASIC, the company recorded an income tax expense of $3.43 million.

Not that it paid the taxman this amount. The statement of cash flows report that just $23,098 of income tax was actually paid last financial year.

This partly reflects the fact that prior year tax losses mopped up some of the tax bill. The company collapsed in 2010 after its expansion plans got ahead of its finances.

Kinghorn revived the artery clogging business with a safer business model that has prospered from selling Krispy Kreme doughnuts through Russ Withers’ 7-Eleven stores in .

Kinghorn might now be a bit distracted by the court battle as the Krispy Kreme business prepares for its multimillion-dollar expansion into New Zealand.

Not that Kinghorn needs to be fronting the campaign to sell the doughnuts to our Kiwi cousins, as Krispy’s financial accounts say: “As an 80 year-old icon is it (sic) critical that we honor (sic) our heritage and authenticity which consumers know and trust.” Ad Myerers

None of Myer’s current board will be on hand as chief executive Richard Umbers delivers his much anticipated update to investors on Wednesday.

As of Tuesday afternoon there was no further salvos from billionaire rag trader Solomon Lew, but given how much money he has lost on his stake in Myer this year, he will certainly be listening in on the webcast.

Such has been the barrage of criticism from Lew’s team at Premier Investments that nobody had time to notice the release of Premier’s annual report just after 5pm on Friday.

It reveals that the pay packet of Lew’s chief executive, Mark McInnes, is not lagging the retailer’s performance. His remuneration topped $10 million last year, and half of it was in cash.

And given the spray Lew aimed at Myer’s directors on Sunday over the lack of stock held by the well-remunerated board, CBD thought it was worth pointing out that Premier director – veteran corporate raider Gary Weiss – holds just 6000 shares after 23 years on the retailer’s board.

Sally Herman has 8000 shares after six years,

Another three directors with a combined 16 years on Premier’s board have no shares to speak of whatsoever, according to the annual report. Last Drinks

It was the first of the send-off drinks for ASIC chairman Greg Medcraft on Monday night, and a suitably impressive gaggle of industry types were there as the Paris-bound boss riffed on his famous 2014 remark that was “paradise” for white-collar criminals.

For starters, he is a big fan of the plans for the government to triple the fines for corporate law-breaking.

“We want to become a hell hole for white-collar criminals,” he told the audience which included Macquarie big wig Nic Moore, Elmer Funke Kupper, APRA’s Wayne Byres, and our most popular Treasury secretary ever, John Fraser, ACCC boss Rod Sims, and Senator John Wacka Williams.

“With apologies to John Milton, for white-collar criminals we hope that it will be paradise lost,” said Medcraft – which makes you wonder what the French will make of his humour. Bendigogo

And one decade on from the financial crisis, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank chairman was lamenting its continuing role in driving the public’s revulsion of everything we hold sacred.

Robert Johanson told Bendigo investors on Tuesday that the “most significant consequence” of the GFC was the “collapse in public trust in banks and bankers”.

And here we were thinking it was the exorbitant pay packets, arrogant charges, and endless scandals.

He did admit that the collapse in trust is not limited to bankers and business.

“Politicians and government, the media, churches – all sorts of institutions which used to be seen as the underpinning of our civil society are now routinely reviled, usually through the instantly gratifying mechanisms of social media,” said Johanson in his AGM speech.

It is not clear from the context of his speech if he is blaming the GFC, or social media for the latter.

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