Archive for March, 2019

Telstra cuts a path to the future

Sunday, March 10th, 2019

Telstra needs to ‘sweat’ traditional assets and free up resources for expansion elsewhere. Photo: James DaviesTelstra axes 1100 jobs in restructureTelstra key top stop NBN wobbles

The 1100 job cuts that Telstra unveiled today are the result of a restructuring of the group’s operations, which in turn flows from an absolutely essential re-weighting of the group’s resources.

The telco is moving away from its traditional businesses including fixed line telephony and towards new and hoped for growth engines.

The aim is not to shrink the company to greatness – that never works – but to control costs by redirecting spending to the growth areas rather than expanding the existing budget to resource them.

The strategy does however create a vice for jobs in the traditional Australian-based businesses, and it is being turned tighter as Telstra also sends administrative work offshore to lock in lower labour costs.

The cuts announced today were flagged in May when Telstra’s chief operations officer, Brendon Riley, told staff that the telco intended to reorganise operationally into five groups.

Three of them – IT Solutions, Networks and Customer Service Delivery – were newly created.

Riley said there would be common support functions for them, and for existing Telstra operations covering the national broadband network and Network Applications and Services (NAS), an end-to-end business communications offer that Telstra sees as one of its new growth engines in Australia.

Telstra chief executive David Thodey doesn’t have a viable alternative, however.

As its old fixed line telephony business shrinks, it must invest in new businesses to maintain revenue and earnings growth.

It must also ‘‘sweat’’ its older assets to make them more profitable as their revenue declines, however, and it also knows that its support in the sharemarket among both wholesale and retail investors draws on the fact that it is a classic investment yield play.

The telco has paid a steady 28 cents a share in regular dividends since 2005, with occasional special dividends thrown in.

At around $4.93 this afternoon, its shares were up 13 per cent this year, 27 per cent in two years and 64 per cent in three years, but were still yielding 5.7 per cent before tax credits and 8.1 per cent after them.

The expectation is that payments will if anything rise in the next few years as income from its deal to co-operate with the roll-out of the new national broadband network starts pouring in.

The NBN co-operation deal was given a net present value of $11 billion by Telstra in 2011 when it was struck.

It has to be renegotiated now that the Coalition is in government and moving to restructure the roll-out from a fibre-to-the-home model to a fibre-to-the-node one.

But ahead of the election Tony Abbott said that Telstra and its shareholders would be kept whole, and Thodey is taking that to mean that the NBN shake-up will be value-neutral at least.

It could in fact be value positive, if the new government decided that after missing roll-out targets the NBN Co needs Telstra’s help in constructing the network.

The expectation that Telstra dividends will stay strong and probably rise is therefore not materially shaken by the change in power in Canberra, and as long as the expectation that Telstra will be a yield play is alive in its share price, its options for funding expansion are limited.

Decisions to cut costs including jobs to both sweat traditional assets and free up resources for expansion elsewhere become almost a fait accompli.

The Maiden family owns Telstra shares.

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Graeme Hick named Cricket Australia high performance coach

Sunday, March 10th, 2019

Former England Test batsman Graeme Hick has been appointed as the high performance coach at Cricket Australia’s centre of excellence in Brisbane.

Hick fills the role vacated by former Australian player Stuart Law, who replaced new national coach Darren Lehmann as Queensland boss in June.

The Zimbabwe-born Hick, who played 65 Tests for his adopted homeland, will be charged mainly with looking after the Australia A and under-19 players.

He will also be used as a specialised batting coach for state and international players when they train at the centre.

“Graeme is a highly regarded former international batsman who has been a consultant coach this past winter working with our AIS scholars,” Cricket Australia performance manager Pat Howard said.

“Graeme knows what it takes to compete at the top level and has had many years’ experience playing in different conditions, which will be vital to the development of our young batters.

“He will complement the specialist skills with Troy Cooley and Tim Coyle who are responsible for our fast bowling and fielding programs respectively, as well as all national coaching staff in our pathway system including Darren Lehmann.”

Hick will begin his role by attending a batting forum in Sydney next month.

Several former Australian cricketers and current coaches are expected to use the forum to provide information for the creation of a national batting program.


Tests: 65

Debut: v West Indies, Leeds, 1991

Average: 31.32

Highest score: 178 (v India, Mumbai, Feb 1993)

100s: 6

50s: 18

ODIs: 120

Debut: v West Indies, Birmingham, 1991

Average: 37.33

Highest score: 126no (v Sri Lanka, Adelaide, 1999)

100s: 5

50s: 27

* Scored 41,112 first-class runs at 52.23 including 136 centuries


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Market has a spring in its step

Sunday, March 10th, 2019

Early sale: The ABC’s Deirdre Brennan and her executive producer husband David Spencer sold their Macarthur Street, Ultimo, house for $1.25 million before it was due to go to auction. Trading in: Pengana Capital’s Russel Pillemer and his wife Carole sold their Latimer Road, Bellevue Hill, property for $4.64 million.

False start: Terry and Elsa Jenkins have now sold Roselyn on Forsyth Street, Killara, after a previous sale fell through last year.

Landmark sold: A restored Craignairn in Wahroonga sold for shy of $6 million.

Sydney’s movers and shakers are making the most of a happy spring selling season.

Headlining the sales results is the Federation Arts and Crafts mansion Craignairn in Wahroonga.

The local landmark on 7100 sq m is one of the area’s largest lots and was designed by Howard Joseland for textile merchant Waler Symington Strang and wife Evelyn Mills in 1909.

In recent years it’s had about $1 million lavished on restoring and up-dating it by developer Alfred Attard and wife Alexandra, before they listed it with hopes of more than $6 million in August.

Landmark sold: A restored Craignairn in Wahroonga sold for shy of $6 million.It was sold by Chana Scotcher, of Chana Scotcher Realty, and Andrew Burns, of Burns and Burns, who declined to comment on the sale, but other sources say the result was $6 million, and is rumoured to have been bought through buyer’s agent Hylton John, of PK Property.

In Mosman, investment banker Cosmas Kapsanis and his wife Susan Turner-Kapsanis have sold their home for $5.8 million to a Chinese buyer.

Kapsanis, the co-founder and managing director of corporate investment advisory Ivest, and Turner-Kapsanis listed the Mistral Avenue property in August given their plans to move to the eastern suburbs, closer to their triplet sons’ Cranbrook school.

The sale was by Richard Simeon and Mark Manners, of Richardson & Wrench Mosman.

In Ultimo, the home of the ABC’s new controller of children’s TV Deirdre Brennan and her executive producer husband David Spencer has sold for $1.25 million.

Early sale: The ABC’s Deirdre Brennan and her executive producer husband David Spencer sold their Macarthur Street, Ultimo, house for $1.25 million before it was due to go to auction.

The Macarthur Street terrace was expected to go to auction this Saturday through BresicWhitney’s Matthew Carvalho and Chris Nunn, who had a guide of more than $1.1 million.

The couple listed the four-bedder – around their corner from their workplace at the public broadcaster – following their purchase of a Paddington terrace in July for $1.9 million through McGrath’s Ben Collier.

Francophile Ross Steele has also jumped the auctioneer’s hammer to sell his grand Victorian terrace in Paddington for $1.89 million.

The accomplished author and academic sold the Stafford Street property following his recent purchase of a three-bedroom apartment in the Paddington Green complex for $1.727 million.

Di Jones agent Victoria Morish and Ann Ramsay Arkins were marketing the terrace – where Steele wrote most of his 37 published titles – with hopes of more than $1.6 million.

In Bellevue Hill, chief executive of hedge fund group Pengana Capital Russel Pillemer and his wife Carole are free to trade up to their forever home now they have sold their property for $4.64 million.

Trading in: Pengana Capital’s Russel Pillemer and his wife Carole sold their Latimer Road, Bellevue Hill, property for $4.64 million.

Pillemer bought the property in 1998 for $1.67 million, before he and fellow Goldman Sachs alumnus and now local MP Malcolm Turnbull set up private equity firm Centrestone.

More recently renovated and extended, the two-storey home on Latimer Road was listed with brothers Mark and Barry Goldman, of Raine & Horne Double Bay.

And on the upper north shore, retired insurance executive Terry Jenkins and his wife Elsa have finally sold their Killara home after a couple of false starts.

False start: Terry and Elsa Jenkins have now sold Roselyn on Forsyth Street, Killara, after a previous sale fell through last year.

The 3210-square-metre property, Roselyn, has been home to the Jenkins since they bought it in 2005 for $5.7 million from investment entrepreneur Louis Carroll, who in turn had purchased it in 1998 for $3.8 million from executive recruiter Andrew Banks.

The Jenkins sold it last November for $5.5 million to a China-based buyer who then failed to complete the sale after exchange. It was relisted with an asking price of about $6 million and has now sold through Luschwitz’s Ceto Sandoval.

No word on the sale figure, but title records will show the final result when it settles.

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Former Czech prime minister’s secret marriage to one time chief of staff

Sunday, March 10th, 2019

Former Czech Republic prime minister Petr Necas and his one time chief of staff, ensnared in the most exhaustive anti-corruption sting operation in the Czech Republic since the fall of communism, were married in a secret ceremony on Saturday, the Czech media are reporting. The move was variously viewed by analysts as a declaration of love or a cynical ploy to avoid prosecution.

In June, Necas, 48, was forced to resign after his chief of staff and lover, Jana Nagyova, was charged with abuse of office for using the country’s secret intelligence service to spy on Necas’ wife, whom he divorced in August. Nagyova was also accused of trying to bribe three members of Parliament, who opposed a government austerity plan, with offers of posts in state-owned companies.

But on Tuesday, Nagyova dealt prosecutors a blow when she walked into a police station in Prague and introduced herself as Mrs Jana Necasova, her lawyer, Eduard Bruna, told the Czech media. Under Czech law, family members cannot be compelled to testify against one another, and analysts said this could make it difficult for prosecutors to prove that any order to offer bribes came from the former prime minister.

Jaroslav Plesl, deputy editor of Tyden, a leading political magazine, said on Tuesday that the marriage could prove a potent legal weapon for the newlyweds. ‘‘The heart of the bribery case has been whether she was acting alone or on behalf of Necas, and now it will be very difficult to prove whether he was giving her directions’’, he said by phone from Prague, adding, ‘‘That does not negate the fact that they are also very much in love.’’

Over the past several days, the Czech media have speculated that Necas and Nagyova married in a secret ceremony after they were spotted at Chateau Mcely, a 17th-century chateau near Prague with a manicured English park, a spa and a lake with a white sand beach. Tabloids have been offering big rewards for recent photographs or videos of the couple.

The two had been engaged for years in a surreptitious relationship that Necas finally acknowledged in July, telling Tyden that being romantically involved with a senior aide while he was prime minister was a bad idea. ‘‘Interconnecting a personal relationship with a working relationship is simply not correct, and I knew that,’’ he told the magazine, explaining that the heart had won out over the head.

Prosecutors have been seeking to prove that Necas, a churchgoing father of four previously nicknamed ‘‘Mr Clean Hands’’ for his anticorruption campaigning, was involved in bribing members of Parliament.

Necas has not been charged with any crime and has strenuously denied any wrongdoing. Nagyova has also professed her innocence and was released in July after a month in jail pending trial. On Tuesday, Bruna, her lawyer, told the Czech media that Nagyova had declined to give a statement to the police, saying she was ‘‘not yet ready’’.

The corruption investigation, which included wiretaps of Necas’ phone conversations with Nagyova, turned up $US8 million ($AUS8.5 million) in cash and stashes of gold that prosecutors suspect was linked to influence peddling, the authorities said.

The case has riveted the country in a region that has struggled to shed a culture of corruption in the aftermath of the communist era. Corruption in the Czech Republic is so endemic that one industrious young Czech recently started a ‘‘crony safari’’ bus tour. The stops include the modernist villas of influential lobbyists and a single address registered to hundreds of companies.

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Bennett non-committal over future at Knights

Sunday, March 10th, 2019

KNIGHTS coach Wayne Bennett yesterday knocked back an opportunity to reaffirm his commitment to the club for the last two years of his four-year contract.

Bennett’s future remains the subject of speculation in the lead-up to Newcastle’s preliminary final against the Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night, despite assurances from Knights chief executive Matt Gidley that the coach would remain at the club until the end of 2015.

‘‘Look, I’ve got no control over that, so I don’t worry about it,’’ Bennett told the media after overseeing training yesterday, when asked about that speculation.

But when asked if he was staying in Newcastle for the next two years, as per the commitment he gave Knights owner Nathan Tinkler in April 2011, Bennett said: ‘‘Look, I can’t give you an ironclad guarantee about anything in this game, so right now, I’m the coach here, and when that changes, I’ll let you know.’’

Fairfax Media reported yesterday that Bennett was still being linked to a move to Townsville to take up a role with the Cowboys, or a return to Brisbane to rejoin the Broncos, but Gidley said the seven-time premiership-winning coach was staying put.

‘‘I’ve spoken to him about that – he’s not going anywhere,’’ Gidley said.

‘‘We’ve put a lot of work in to get some of these players here. We bought players who want to play under Wayne and play for Wayne and improve on his watch.

‘‘He’s not going to let these guys down. Wayne is extremely loyal.

‘‘I don’t laugh at [the speculation] or buy into it. Whenever there’s instability at the Broncos, Wayne’s name will be mentioned as a possible solution.

Wayne Bennett at Knights training yesterday. Picture: Darren Pateman

‘‘He built the place there and had wonderful success there. I understand that. But I think he’s excited about what we’re trying to do here.’’

The Cowboys have spoken to several coaching candidates in the past week, including Kevin Walters, Paul Green and Broncos assistant coach Kristian Woolf.

Broncos coach Anthony Griffin is contracted until the end of 2015 but is under pressure after his side failed to finish in the top eight.

Bennett told the media after training yesterday that the Knights would not be within one win of a grand final without Tinkler’s intervention and involvement.

‘‘I made a statement after the game [against the Storm last Saturday] – I was interviewed in Melbourne the other night – that without Nathan doing what he’d done, we wouldn’t be where we are today,’’ Bennett said.

‘‘We wouldn’t all be standing here talking about what our chances are – good, bad or indifferent – [against the Roosters] on the weekend.

‘‘His contribution has been outstanding and I’ll repeat, without it, we wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t have the team we’ve got here, we wouldn’t have the staff we have here.

‘‘It just wouldn’t have happened.’’

AAP reports: Gold Coast coach John Cartwright says he’s committed to staying with the NRL club despite speculation linking him with Parramatta.

Ricky Stuart’s decision to walk out on the Eels after one year of this three-year deal has led to plenty of discussion as to who will take over at the struggling club.

Cartwright was linked to Parramatta this week, joining ex-North Queensland mentor Neil Henry, Tim Sheens, and England coach Steve McNamara as possible candidates for the Eels.

But the foundation coach of the Titans is contracted with the club until after the 2016 season and says it’s his intention to see out that deal.

‘‘I’ve made a commitment to the Titans until the end of 2016 and I stand by that commitment,’’ Cartwright said yesterday.

‘‘I believe we are building a playing squad that can win the competition in the near future and I’m determined to help the club achieve that goal over the next few years.’’