Archive for March, 2012
“Get off the internet”: Liz Koops’ advice for Aussie youths
Winner of the 2012 Qantas Australian Women of the Year in the UK Award, Liz Koops told Australian Times that if young Aussies want to get ahead in London, they need to pull the plug on Facebook and learn the value of hard work.
IF THERE is any expat Aussie living in London who knows the meaning of hard work, it’s Liz Koops. Queen of the theatrical production scene after 20 years of international musical and comedic hits, Liz is the first to admit that she is only where she is now after a lot of hard grafting. Australian Times had a quick chat to this year’s Australian UK Woman of the Year, to suss out some of her secrets of success.As managing director of the musical theatre production company Back Row, Liz is best known for making a name for Aussie shows in the UK – two of the most famous being Tap Dogs and Priscilla: Queen of the Desert.
In her low and distinctly theatrical voice, Liz dispensed some of her pearls of wisdom in an exclusive interview with Australian Times after picking up the 2012 Qantas Australian Woman of the Year in the UK Award.
We asked this highly successful business woman what advice she would give young women – and young Australian women in particular – who are trying to build their careers in the UK. After a lengthy pause, Liz narrowed her eyes, lowered her voice and replied in a husky whisper: “Kids need to get off the internet.”
She went on to explain that in her opinion, young people’s reliance on the internet and social networking sites such as Facebook, encourages laziness and an unwillingness to get out into the real world and get their hands dirty. She said that just because the youth of today are able to easily access information, doesn’t necessarily mean that they know how to use it, and that this is a skill not learnt hunching over your computer screen, but out in the field.
Liz maintained that only through hard work, perseverance and undying passion is success assured. And she added that if the prolonged hours you put into your labour of love means you find yourself sleeping on someone else’s floor (like she did in the early days) then you are, hopefully, on the right track.
However Liz admitted that she “wouldn’t be the same person if I hadn’t grown up in the country”, explaining that her Aussie bush childhood in rural NSW taught her the true value of hard work.
She recounted one particularly entertaining story from her youth spent in the sleepy rural town of Werris Creek, in north-west NSW. Liz told of how her mother made the momentous decision to send her to school in neighbouring Tamworth, 40 kilometres further away than the local school down the road, and how consequently, she and her faithful dog Rex needed to trudge the three kilometre road from her doorstep to the bus stop every morning.
She threw her head back and laughed outright as she told of the many times her and her dog ran furtively after the school bus, eventually needing to resort to hitch hiking her way to school most days. And she smiled as she remembered the dumbfounded look on her classmates’ faces as she sped past the school bus in some stranger’s car.
While Liz concedes our younger generations do need to ‘get off the net’, the buxom Aussie did stress that she does like to collaborate with youths and that her company offers many internships and scholarships for young people eager to enter the industry.
Plaut IT backs program for women.
Plaut IT Australia has selected Sehida Frawley, National Service Delivery Manager, for the Women on Boards Next Generation of Female Corporate Leaders high-level learning and development program.
The program is focused on how women can achieve an executive or “C Suite” role, gain a seat at the board table and be successful and impactful once they are appointed.
Just 28 women across Australia and internationally were selected to join the program.
Frawley joined women from South Australia, Victoria, NSW, ACT, WA, Queensland and Japan when the program commenced this month.
The announcement coincided with International Women’s Day, which has a global theme of “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures”, while Australia’s theme is “Supporting Women’s Economic Empowerment”.
Aussie pacer Ellyse Perry an epitome of multitasking.
She looks like a dream, but on any given day her mix of pace and swing is sure to turn the oppositions’ stay on the crease into a nightmare.
Twenty-one-year old Ellyse Perry, the youngest name in the Aussie pace ranks, stole the show and the headlines with a career-best haul of 5-19 against India on Wednesday and is pitted to be the hosts’ nemesis again on Friday.
Making the headlines has sort of been her thing. A natural with swing bowling, it does not come as a surprise that she camouflages as easily into her all whites as her soccer studs.
Apart from being the youngest debutant cricketer for the Gold and Greens at sixteen, she boasts of being the first Australian woman to play both cricket and soccer World Cup for her nation.
And instead of being perturbed into choosing one over the other, she enjoys being a Southern Star as much as being a Matilda.
“It has been a matter of greatest pride for me that I could represent Australia in two separate disciplines,” tells the defender, adding that she admired the skills of Mike Hussey as much as those of Lucas Neill.
“Thanks to both the federations I have had such a wonderful experience playing in the World cups. Sports has been my lifeline and it doesn’t matter if I am kicking the ball around, or hitting the leather, it is fun,” says the pacer who clocks a good 124kmph.
Having former squash player Mark Perry for a father and swimmer Cathy Perry for a mother, sports entered her life very early in form of the backyard games. Growing up in Sydney she was an easy choice for Sports Captain, Athletics Captain and Cricket Captain at school and college.
“In Australia, sports and fitness is the way of life,” she says. “My family has been involved with sports. My love and passion probably stems from there.”
At the age of 16, while most await a chance to play for the state, Perry was selected for the national squad against England in 2007 before playing for New South Wales.
Ask her about her most memorable sporting moment and she seems caught between Australia’s T20 World Cup win in 2010, where she bagged the Player of the Match in the final and the 2011 soccer World Cup in Germany. She unwillingly bends in favour of cricket.
“Both are team games and there are challenges and thrills galore. It’s a life experience and all I want to do is enjoy it,” says the dashing blonde who has dabbled in television anchoring too.
Used to wearing her many caps, Perry’s interests and choices have been many faceted making her somewhat an epitome of multitasking. On Friday, at Wankhede, her one task will be cut out for her – to aid her team to a cleansweep.
Rice sizzles to book berth for London.
SHE was Australia’s shining star on the opening night of competition in Beijing four years ago, and now Stephanie Rice will have the opportunity to again ignite the nation’s Olympic campaign, having qualified last night to defend her 400 metres individual medley crown in London.
Rice was superb last night, leading early in the butterfly, holding on to her advantage in the backstroke, then breaking the race open in the breaststroke leg, by taking a five second lead into the final freestyle leg. She crusied home for an effortless win to be the first picked on the Australian Olympic team for London.
Joining her on the team is West Australian Blair Evans, who charged home to grab second spot.
While her time of four minutes, 33.45 seconds (Evans swam 4.37.80) was well adrift of her world record, Rice considered just making the team the significant point, having battled a nagging shoulder injury since undergoing surgery in December, and she even admitted recently she was unsure exactly how it would stand up through her preparation for the trials.
Rice’s coach Michael Bohl also made it clear the aim was making the team for London, and now there is time to improve.
”She’s still a fair way from that [her 2008 level] at the moment, but there’s still another 14 or 15 weeks to prepare,” Bohl said. ”The mission of this was just to qualify whether that was first or second.”
In China in 2008, Rice began her Olympic career with a stunning victory in the 400m individual medley, breaking the world record along the way, a mark which survived the supersuit era and still stands today at 4.29.45.
She then went on win more gold in the 200m individual medley and as a member of the 4x200m freestyle relay. With her three gold in Beijing, Rice joined Jodie Henry (2004), Petria Thomas (2004), Ian Thorpe (2000), Shane Gould (1972), Betty Cuthbert (1956) and Murray Rose (1956), as the most successful Australians at a single Olympic Games.
Rice now has the opportunity to join Ukrainian swimmer Yana Klochkova (2000 and 2004) as only other woman to defend the arduous Olympic 400m individual medley title.
Comeback queen Libby Trickett has given herself a shot at defending the 100m butterfly title she won in Beijing in 2008, by advancing out of the semi-finals last night into tonight’s decider.
Trickett clocked the fastest time she has swum in her comeback during the heats yesterday, then usurped that last night with a handy 59.67s performance to secure sixth fastest place in the semi-finals.
”I’m excited to go faster than I did this morning to be honest,” Trickett said. ”This morning was a real surprise for me, and the confidence I now take out of both those races is huge.
”It’s going to be a fun race tomorrow night. The [leading] girls are racing really quickly, but for me it’s just such a thrill, I’m buzzing at the moment.
”At the end of the day it’s just a thrill be racing at this level again and making the final after having a year out of the water. It’s pretty rewarding. It’s like, ‘I am still good enough to be at that level.”’
While Trickett has made the final, it’s going to be a lot harder for her to snare one of those two spots on offer tonight. The two leading qualifiers – Jessicah Schipper and Alicia Coutts – were well ahead of their opponents and look set to fight out the final.
Schipper just touched out Coutts, winning the second semi-final in 58.26s, just 0.04s ahead of Coutts, the world championships silver medallist from last year.
While many expected Schipper would be more dominant in the 200m butterfly, she has shown she certainly has the speed and will be hard to beat tonight.
Among the others making it through to the final are Brittany Elmslie, who clocked 59.01s in winning the other semi-final, Alice Tait (nee Mills) who clocked 59.24s, Yolane Kukla who swam 59.65s, Marieke Guehrer who posted a time of 59.70s, and Brianna Throssell (1.00.09).
The United States’ business of National Australia Bank , Greater Western Bank, has acquired the First Federal Savings Bank in a $39.5 million deal. Observers say the purchase, while not materially significant, provides a stark reflection on NAB’s strategy in North America as opposed to its operations in the United Kingdom. Earlier this year, the lender said Greater Western, which added $90 million to the bank’s profit last year, was posting “good organic loan growth and remained fully deposit funded”. Page 19.
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The Reserve Bank of Australia’s latest quarterly communiqué has supported claims from major lenders that their cost of funding is on the rise. In its report, the central bank said the increases “reflects strong competition for deposits, particularly term deposits, and higher spreads on wholesale debt reflecting an increase in investors’ concerns about the global banking industry”. Page 19.
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Telstra yesterday announced that it had raised $1.23 billion in 10-year bonds as part of its standard debt refinancing scheme, only a week after the company received its first payment from the Federal Government under its $11 billion agreement with NBN Co. The telecommunications giant has approximately $2.25 billion in debt maturing this year. Page 20.
The local financial planning sector yesterday welcomed an announcement from Federal Financial Services Minister Bill Shorten that the introduction of the Future of Financial Advice reforms would be postponed until July 1 next year. “Consumers are now going to be looking for planners who don’t get paid commissions and who will act in their best interests,” David Whiteley, chief executive of the Industry Super Network lobby group, said. Page 19.
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Sources are claiming that the owners of mobile phone network operator Vodafone Australia are looking to sell the business, with an information memo being sent to potential suitors in Asia and Europe. A spokesperson for Vodafone Group , which owns half of Vodafone’s local operations, said the company was “fully committed to our operations in Australia and our sole focus is on the turnaround of the business”. Analysts have predicted Vodafone Australia to post two consecutive annual losses, despite recently investing $1 billion in its mobile network. Page 19.
PricewaterhouseCoopers’ auditing of Centro property group in 2007 came under attack yesterday by legal counsel for Centro Retail Trust, who alleged that the professional services firm delivered a “botched audit” that showcased carelessness, poor procedures and ineptitude. The claims yesterday were the first time the company has criticised its former auditor of any wrongdoing that contributed to billions of dollars of short-term debts being wrongly classified. Page B1.
A study prepared by accountants Ernst & Young for the National Retail Association has claimed that more than 40,000 retail workers will be made redundant over the next three years unless and goods and services tax exemption for foreign online retailers is abolished. “Almost 10 per cent of existing retail jobs will disappear over the next three years unless the Government removes the unfair advantage it is currently giving to foreign-based online retailers,” Gary Black, executive director of the lobby group, said. Page 19.
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Luxury retailer Myer yesterday downgraded its annual sales projections for the 2011-12 financial year after announcing a 19.8 per cent slump in interim profit. “There’s no sign that we’re seeing a reversal of fortunes from a consumer-sentiment point of view and disposable income expenditure, so we’re conservatively saying that we expect our sales to be, at best, flat,” Bernie Brookes, chief executive of Myer, said. Page 19.
Around 60 workers at the gas and oil pipe manufacturing plant owned by OneSteel in New South Wales will lose their jobs after the steel maker announced it was closing the facility. “The company has been keeping the employees of this business aware of the challenges for some time, and will continue to provide support and assistance leading up to the closure,” OneSteel said in a statement to the market. Page B5.
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Stephen Pearce, chief financial officer at iron ore producer Fortescue Metals Group, yesterday said demand for the company’s two senior unsecured note tranches were high, an indication of the miner’s reputation. “We are clearly on the march to investment grade and I think that has been well and truly recognised by the credit markets,” Mr Pearce added. Page B5.
Research from the Reserve Bank of Australia economic panel has found that Australia is the front-runner to reap the benefits from a staggering upswing in demand for coking coal from India. However, Christine Milne, senator and deputy leader for the Australian Greens, noted that India and China were openly talking about moving away from coal as a source of energy. Page B3.
Billionaire Clive Palmer last night continued to attract the media spotlight after announcing that his Australasian Resources company would receive $5 million in funding and double the scale of its iron ore business. The announcement comes after Mr Palmer’s recent public statements regarding the governance of soccer in Australia, local politics and the future of domestic media. Page B4.
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Iron ore producer Fortescue Metals Group yesterday finalised a US$2 billion capital raising, doubling its initial goal of US$1 billion and leaving the miner closer to having the funds required to enact its US$8.4 billion strategy to triple iron ore exports by the middle of 2013. “We were approximately five times oversubscribed for the initial US$1 billion and it was that reception .. that gave us the confidence to upscale it to the US$2 billion,” Stephen Pearce, chief financial officer at Fortescue, said. Page B5.
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A report by global law firm Squire Sanders into mergers and acquisitions around the world last year has revealed that Australia was the largest bidder in the world by value in regards to foreign deals. Around US$22 billion of mergers and acquisitions took place in Australia’s mining sector last year, while the US$3.85 billion takeover of local miner Macarthur Coal was one of the 10 largest mining deals around the world in 2011. Page B5.
Windies captain Darren Sammy pinning hopes against Australia on winning history at Arnos Vale.
St. Vincent – West Indies captain Darren Sammy hopes a winning history at Arnos Vale can help lift his team from a prolonged losing streak against Australia when the first of five one-day internationals is played on Friday.
West Indies has won 17 of 20 ODIs at the picturesque venue, which is nestled on St. Vincent’s southwest coast between the tiny E.T. Joshua airport and the Caribbean Sea.
“So far, St. Vincent has been a very good ground for us. As a West Indies team, we always get results in our favour here,” Sammy said. “For me personally, it’s a happy hunting ground. The last three games here, we won all three.”
But West Indies has gloomier, more recent history to overcome. The Caribbean men haven’t won an ODI against Australia since October 2006, losing 13 of 14 with one no-result.
“We’re playing Australia but we’re not going to play names, we’re just going to go out there and play good positive cricket and hopefully we could come out on top,” Sammy said. “We’ve got to believe we have it. We have some exciting players and we have depth in both batting and bowling, so we just have to go out there and execute properly.”
Sammy said key allrounders Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard would be crucial to his side’s chances.
Pollard hit his maiden ODI century against India at Chennai last December, while Bravo is returning to the national side for the first time since he pulled out midway through the one-day series against India last June to “refocus and reflect.”
Bravo has been entrusted with the vice-captaincy, replacing Denesh Ramdin, who withdrew after breaking his right thumb in a training camp.
“We have a very young team and, as one of the senior players, I have to step in and make my presence felt,” Bravo said. “The fire is still blazing in me. I will be bringing the same level of enthusiasm and commitment that I always had. That is the only way I know how to play, by giving my all to the team.”
Australia coach Mickey Arthur is confident his team can continue its winning run, which culminated last week with victory in the home tri-series finals against Sri Lanka.
“We’ve evolved the team over the last month, and we’re just looking for these guys to continue to put their hands up during the series to make sure we keep going in the right direction,” Arthur said. “We’re very excited about the talent we have and a lot of that talent is going to get a lot of opportunities here.”
Arthur, Australia’s first foreign coach, pinpointed dynamic opener David Warner, spinner Xavier Doherty, fast bowler James Pattinson and new wicketkeeper Matthew Wade as some of the newer players that could shine in the series.
Australia’s other wicketkeeper, veteran Brad Haddin, will return from the tour due to personal reasons, Cricket Australia said on Friday.
“Yes, Brad Haddin is returning from WIndies for personal reasons. There will be no further comment from or on his behalf,” spokesman Peter Young tweeted.
Wade replaced Haddin as Australia’s limited-overs wicketkeeper during the Australian summer, but Haddin was expected to be retained for the first test which begins on April 7 at Bridgetown, Barbados, and was named in the Australia test team on Wednesday.
It is the first Caribbean visit for Doherty, Pattinson and Wade, while Warner was part of the team that reached the final of the World Twenty20 on these shores back in 2010.
Australia captain Shane Watson, filling in as Michael Clarke recovers from a hamstring injury, said he was keen to bring his winning experiences to his leadership.
“For me, it’s just a really enjoyable time to be able to try to bring across the way that I love playing cricket and the way I’ve seen throughout my 10 years of playing and being around international cricket with one of the most dominant Australian sides that we’ve produced,” Watson said. “I’ve learnt a lot about how I think the Australian team can play at their best. So I’m just really excited about being able to lead a team of very high quality and talented individuals, but also know exactly what is required to be able to win.”
West Indies: Darren Sammy (captain), Dwayne Bravo, Carlton Baugh, Tino Best, Devendra Bishoo, Darren Bravo, Johnson Charles, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Kieran Powell, Kemar Roach, Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels.
Australia: Shane Watson (captain), David Warner, George Bailey, Dan Christian, Xavier Doherty, Peter Forrest, Ben Hilfenhaus, David Hussey, Michael Hussey, Brett Lee, Nathan Lyon, Clint McKay, James Pattinson, Matthew Wade.
PNG disappointed by Carr’s sanction threat.
Papua New Guinea’s top envoy to Australia says foreign minister Bob Carr’s threats to impose sanctions on his nation are disappointing.
Senator Carr said on Wednesday any failure by PNG to hold its planned mid-year elections would be a “shocking model” for the Pacific and could result in sanctions.
PNG High Commissioner to Australia Charles Lepani says for Senator Carr to make such a comment “on his first sojourn” as foreign minister is disappointing.
“We were very surprised and very disappointed about this statement,” he told ABC Radio on Friday.
“Though it’s not in a mould that Australia would want it, we do have a very robust system of democracy.”
Mr Lepani said wielding the big stick of sanctions was akin to likening PNG’s predicament to that of Fiji’s, where military rule has been in place since Commodore Frank Bainimarama seized power in a coup in 2006.
But Mr Lepani says his country is nothing like Fiji and is very proud of its democratic institutions.
PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has pledged a full, free and fair election for late June but is facing calls – including from his own deputy – to delay.
His deputy, Belden Namah, says the poll should be pushed back for 12 months to give the government more time to implement its polices and to stamp out any potential for fraud.
Mr Lepani said Mr Namah had since retracted this statement and confirmed the PNG prime minister’s position that the elections will proceed “as planned and on schedule”.
He also sought to reassure the Australian government that recent mutinies within PNG’s military would not threaten the stability of its nearest regional neighbour.
“At this stage we are very certain that nothing will prejudice or jeopardise the democratic institutions through military activities in the country,” he said.
He said relations between PNG and Australia were “resilient” and would continue as such despite Senator Carr’s comments.
Australia Archibald Prize Names 41 Finalists.
What do an unnamed soldier wounded in Afghanistan, businessman David Gonski and pop star Missy Higgins have in common?
They are all the subject of entries in this year’s 75,000 Australian dollar (US$78,600) Archibald Prize for portraiture.
The Archibald is Australia’s oldest and most prestigious art award. It’s also the country’s most popular art event, with nearly 150,000 people attending last year, not least because of the well-known faces in the paintings that give it broad appeal.
The Art Gallery of New South Wales on Thursday released the names of the 41 painters selected as finalists out of 839 entries. The finalists’ work will show in an exhibition that is open to the public March 31 to June 3, with the winner to be announced March 30.
Ben Quilty, who last year won for his portrait of the late artist Margaret Olley, has made the short list again this year with his depiction of an Australian soldier known only as Captain S. For three weeks late last year, Mr. Quilty was attached to the Australian Defence Force in Afghanistan as an official war artist.
The Archibald was first awarded in 1921 when the prize was £400. The money was left by Jules Francois Archibald, editor of the Bulletin magazine, who died in 1919. Since then the prize has been awarded to artists such as William Dobell and Brett Whiteley.
Figures from the world of music, movies and television tend to feature strongly in the exhibit. This year is no exception, with Adam Chang’s portrait of Emile Sherman, the Sydney-based producer of “The Kings Speech,” and Martin Sharp’s painting of Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil.
Little-known artist Raelene Sharp won the A$1,500 Packing Room Prize, chosen by the staff who receive the entries, for her portrayal of TV actor John Woods. “I’m mindboggled with it,” said Ms. Sharp “It just means that I’m recognized as someone who is worthy to hang on these walls.”
Artists themselves figure into much of the portraiture. This year’s exhibition includes a portrait of Martin Sharp by Garry Shead, and one of Lindy Lee by Kate Beynon, as well as several self-portraits by artists including Wendy Sharpe.
Over the years, the prize has often been the subject of controversy. Most famous was when two contestants called Mr. Dobell’s winning painting of Joshua Smith a caricature, not a portrait. In 2004, a fellow artist took legal action against Craig Ruddy, saying his portrait of Mr. Gulpilil was a drawing, not a painting, but the case was dismissed by the court.
This year, a stencil work — a portrait of Catholic priest Bob Maguire by Luke Cornish, known in the street-art world as E.L.K. — was selected as one of the finalists.
Roubini group tips budget shortfall.
AUSTRALIA economy will probably miss its growth targets and the government will struggle to deliver a key election pledge to plug an estimated $37 billion shortfall in revenue and spending that is required to deliver a budget surplus in the next fiscal year, according to Roubini Global Economics.
Because of China’s slowdown, corporate revenues from the resources industry would be weaker than anticipated, which meant the Australian government was unlikely to achieve its aim of a wafer-thin budget surplus in 2012-13, said Michael Manetta, an economist focusing on Southeast Asia at RGE.
“It doesn’t look likely to me that they will be able to close the gap fully,” Mr Manetta said.
He said a soft housing market and the risk of a higher jobless rate would affect growth, exposing an error by the Reserve Bank in holding rates above 4 per cent to hold off inflation.
“All these little things could easily weigh down on revenues growth in the next fiscal year and make it very difficult to reach a balance budget target. I’m sceptical,” Mr Manetta said.
In recent weeks, the RBA has signalled that it is comfortable with the economy’s overall direction, even with a strong exchange rate hurting companies operating outside the booming mining sector in areas such as tourism and manufacturing.
Mr Manetta said the RBA’s assumptions that the economy would grow at trend — or market expectations of about 3.5 per cent — were optimistic and that 2.6 per cent was more likely.
He said that meant a rate cut in April and a second one shortly after was expected.
“We are expecting at least two more rate cuts,” he said. “We think (the RBA) was overly optimistic of their assessment of the economy in February and we think there’s going to be a realisation of that.”
RGE is headed by Nouriel Roubini, who gained prominence for warning of a major credit bubble ahead of the global financial crisis.
On employment, New York-based Mr Manetta said Australia’s 5.2 per cent jobless rate could tick higher and he highlighted falling participation rates as a worrying sign.
“We see the unemployment numbers out of Australia as worrisome,” he said. “That official unemployment number is masking what we see as more underlying slack in the labour market.”
Still, Mr Manetta expects the Australian dollar to remain above parity, boosted by strong inflows into government bonds.
Vodafone Australian operation put on the market.
THE owners of embattled telco Vodafone Australia are looking for buyers, industry sources say, with an abbreviated information memorandum circulating among potential purchasers in Europe and Asia.
The Australian understands that a preliminary information memorandum to test the market reaction to a sale has been circulated to cashed-up telcos and sovereign wealth funds in Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere.
Qtel, Etisalat, Korea Telecom and NTT Docomo are believed to have seen the initial sales document, as has China Telecom, a controversial potential purchaser.
“Vodafone might say no, but they are hawking it, no question,” one industry source said.
Vodafone Australia and one of its two 50 per cent shareholders, Britain’s Vodafone Group, vehemently deny that the mobile operation is flirting with a sale and dismiss the suggestion as rumour.
“Vodafone remains fully committed to our operations in Australia and our sole focus is on the turnaround of the business,” said a Vodafone Group spokesman.
Vodafone Australia’s other 50 per cent shareholder, Hutchison Whampoa, has also said it is committed to the local operation, and managing director Canning Fok has pledged financial support through the turnaround.
“We have provided and will continue to provide extensive financial support for VHA to accelerate the work needed to ensure all of our customers in Australia enjoy state-of-the-art mobile network services,” Mr Fok has said.
However, analysts and industry sources are not convinced and wonder how much money the troubled mobile carrier’s shareholders can commit to it, and for how long, especially after the slew of network disasters, profit erosion and customer defections that have plagued Vodafone in the past 18 months.
The Vodafone joint venture lost $336 million in 2011 and shed 554,000 customers (taking its total subscriber base down to 7 million) as ongoing network issues and customer confidentiality breaches took their toll.
Its customer base shrank by 179,000 in the six months to December, compared with gains of 313,000 at Optus and 958,000 at Telstra over the same period.
Its deteriorating balance sheet and exodus of customers has forced Vodafone Australia to embark on a major cost-cutting program that is expected to result in hundreds of job losses as it strives to reignite its sales performance.
Even though the carrier has injected $1 billion to improve and upgrade its mobile network to lure back customers, some analysts predict two more years of losses as spectrum renewal and interest costs hit the bottom line.
Renewal of its spectrum licences is expected to cost Vodafone $710m over the next two years and that will rise to up to $2bn by 2017 once the government finalises auctions of airwaves currently used by analog TV broadcasters.
Vodafone now needed to put a lot more into capital expenditure than it had in the past “just to put a bandaid on its wounds”, said one analyst who declined to be named.
“All the problems Vodafone has experienced over the last 18 months have tested its parent companies’ patience and we know that Vodafone Group has sold struggling operations in the past, so you can’t entirely rule out a sale,” the analyst said.
China Mobile, which has almost 650 million customers and which recently set up an office in Australia, is one potential buyer of Vodafone. The Chinese giant last year reported a profit of $19bn on revenues of $80bn.
With about $US50bn ($47.7bn) in the bank and between $US16bn and $US17bn in free cashflow each year, it has the cash needed to fund an acquisition the size of Vodafone Australia.
However, analysts say the Chinese telco would be unlikely to view Vodafone as an attractive prospect because of the limited growth profile of Australia’s maturing mobile market.
“China Mobile has growth aspirations but in the past three to four years they haven’t made any acquisitions. I’d be surprised if they ventured into Australia anyway because all they want is growth,” the analyst said.
“And I also seriously doubt that too many European carriers would want to come to Australia and compete with Telstra and Optus. Life would be very tough, unless of course Vodafone turns out to be a very cheap asset.”
Cricket: Weary Australia take on West Indies.
Stand-in Australia captain Shane Watson believes the team’s recent success over India and Sri Lanka will mask any world-weariness when they kick-off their Caribbean tour.
Australia tackle the West Indies in the first of five One-Day Internationals (ODI) today, with two Twenty20s and three Tests to follow on the seven-week tour – a trip they set off on just 12 hours after their Tri-Nation Series win over Sri Lanka in Adelaide.
Watson, deputising for the injured Michael Clarke, insists his squad can impress, with younger players desperate to make their mark.
“It’s a very exciting time in Australian cricket,” said Watson. “To think even 12 months ago it was being said that the depth in Australian cricket might not be that good, to actually see the guys who are coming through.”
Watson is keen to see how the likes of Nathan Lyon, James Pattinson and Peter Forrest perform in the Caribbean after making their mark on home wickets.
“Pattinson has been brilliant, Lyon as well. To see these guys come in and perform straight away is exciting.”
While Australia boast of their current line-up and backup, West Indies have turned to their back catalogue in an effort to gain an edge, with 31-year-old fast bowler Tino Best recalled after more than two years on the sidelines. Best last played international cricket in the 2009 Champions Trophy.
Another player in form is big-hitting Kieron Pollard, who smashed 151 off 120 balls in a recent squad warm-up.
However, West Indies are again without former captain Chris Gayle, who has not played for them since last year’s World Cup.
Apple’s 4G iPad debuts early, quietly in Australia
Apple Inc’s new iPad went on sale in Australia early on Friday, greeted by a throng of fans hoping to get hold of a 4G-ready tablet computer that won good reviews despite stopping short of being called a major innovation.
Carrier Telstra stole a march on Apple, commencing sales at just two of its own stores at midnight. Numbers were down compared with previous launches, though a still-solid turnout reflected demand for a new iPad version deemed a collection of incremental improvements.
Apple shares breached $600 for the first time on Thursday on the Nasdaq, but gave up gains and dipped into the red in the afternoon. The stock is up 47 percent for the year and nearly 10 percent for the month, partly on anticipation for the new device. A single Apple share now costs more than the Wi-Fi-only iPad, which is priced starting at $499.
The initial rush for the first new third-generation iPads sold globally was not at one of Apple’s gleaming glass and polished wooden stores in Sydney, but across the road at Australian phone company Telstra. Telstra opened two stores just after midnight local time to begin selling the iPad, stealing an 8-hour march on Apple.
David Tarasenko, a 34-year-old construction manager who was the first to pick up the iPad, said ever since Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook revealed the tablet’s third iteration, he couldn’t wait to get one.
“When Tim Cook announced it, it sounded like such a magical tool. I just got hyped into it, I guess,” he said.
The third-generation iPad from Apple – which sports a high-definition “retina” display and comes with a better camera – is capable of operating on high-speed 4G “LTE,” or Long-Term Evolution network. But this version is not compatible with Telstra’s 4G network in Australia.
The tablet houses a wireless chip from Broadcom Corp and a Texas Instruments Inc driver, components carried over from the previous iPad, according to teardown and repair outfit iFixit.
Influential reviewers Walt Mossberg and David Pogue raved about the iPad’s new retina display. Mossberg said “using the new display is like getting a new eyeglasses prescription,” while Pogue said it made text look “freakishly sharp.”
Both Mossberg and Pogue noted that the new iPad had enough technical improvements to maintain its lead in the market.
“Apple hasn’t totally revamped the iPad or added loads of new features,” Mossberg said, “but it has improved it significantly, at the same price.”
Waiting it out
The new iPad is going on sale on Friday in 10 countries, including the United States, Canada, Singapore, France and Britain.
Elsewhere around the globe, diehards have begun lining up in front of Apple stores. Media pictures showed snaking lines already in place outside stores in Munich, Paris, London, Singapore and Hong Kong.
A sign outside an Apple store in Hong Kong discouraged fans from forming a queue, saying the store will not “serve on a first come first served basis” for the new iPad without elaborating, according to media reports.
“The (lack of 4G access) is not a game-breaker. They’ve upgraded the 3G technology, which I’ve tried and it’s pretty snappy,” said Cameron Ing, a data storage administrator.
Among those lined up outside Sydney’s flagship Apple Store was Stephen Parkes, who was paid A$950 ($990) to wait in line for four days by the founder of an odd jobs website.
“I get a high waiting in the line and picking up one of the first products being retailed,” said Ryan Han, a student at the University of New South Wales, who had also queued for hours.
“I did that for iPad 1, 2 and will do it for 4 as well,” said Han, who was hoping to buy two iPads, for himself and a friend.
Such is the demand for new Apple products that middlemen often pay strangers to buy the latest versions and transport them to markets scheduled for later releases.
A middle-aged Asian man outside the Apple store, flanked by two blue suitcases, said he was hoping to buy several new iPads, ideally more than 10. He declined to reveal his name, nationality or for whom he was buying the tablets.
Apple’s market capitalization now exceeds $500 billion and Wall Street thinks it can expand further – should fan-demand persist.
Early signs hint at a strong 2012 for the device, which competes with Samsung Electronic’s Galaxy and Motorola’s Xyboard, among others. Despite soggy weather, small crowds had already gathered outside the downtown San Francisco Apple store ahead of the launch in the United States.
Apple began accepting orders for the device on March 7, but wait times for shipping it are now two to three weeks in the United States.
Wall Street expects a strong start for the latest iPad and some analysts even expect sales of the current model to overtake the iPad 2. Apple will continue to sell the iPad 2 but dropped its price by $100 to start at $399.
Apple may sell 65.6 million iPads, according to an estimate by Canaccord Genuity analysts who also raised their target price on Apple stock to $710 from $665.
So far, the company has sold 55 million iPads since it was launched in 2010.
Tablet sales are expected to increase to 326 million by 2015 with Apple largely dominating the market, according to research firm Gartner.