Stop knocking reform ideas: Treasury boss

Australia's new federal Treasury secretary has bemoaned the level of political debate about the economy, saying there is too much joy taken in knocking ideas instead of serious discussion. In his first public address as Treasury Secretary, John Fraser flagged superannuation and middle class welfare as areas that must be reassessed if Australia is to be able to meet its future health and ageing co…

  • Cabcharge profit falls AAP - 42 minutes ago

    Payment and transport business Cabcharge is searching for new income beyond taxis and considering a name change after a 13 per cent fall in half year profit. "The enduring solution to our challenges will come from new revenue streams and we are determined to leverage our payments expertise outside the taxi industry," chief executive Andrew Skelton said. The company blamed a fall in half year profit to $31 million on lower income due to price caps on taxi service fees in Victoria and NSW, a move the Western Australian government has also now made. Cabcharge said it has achieved annualised savings of $7 million, including reducing taxi driver bonus schemes.

  • $A struggles to fall against yen, euro AAP - 2 hours 5 minutes ago

    The Australian dollar's race to the bottom is not going to plan. Reserve Bank boss Glenn Stevens wants a lower Aussie dollar to boost economic growth, but the European and Japanese central banks also want the same thing with their currencies. In the past seven months the Australian dollar has dropped almost 20 US cents, from 95 US cents in July to 76 US cents in early February, and most forecasters expect it to bottom out between 70 and 72 US cents in 2015. HSBC head of Asian currency research Paul Mackel said it's becoming difficult for the RBA to engineer a faster depreciation for the Australian dollar.

  • Solid Energy delays first-half report, says future … BusinessDesk - 2 hours 5 minutes ago

    Solid Energy, the state-owned coal miner whose chair Pip Dunphy stepped down this week, will delay reporting its first-half accounts, saying forward pricing for coal may impact on its ability to meet debt repayments when they come due next year. Low coal prices are expected to remain lower for longer than previously forecast and won't recover as quickly, prompting the board to hold back the company's accounts after its monthly meeting today, it said in a statement. Despite a favourable shift in the exchange rate, current and expected coal prices mean Solid Energy will need to keep making structural changes. A restructuring of Solid Energy was announced in 2013, coinciding with the publication of the annual reports, after collapsing coking coal prices on world markets exposed the company's over-commitment to a range of development initiatives, including development of options to turn lignite coal into diesel and urea, and renewable energy products such as pellets for wood burners.

  • Capex figures a drag on the $A AAP - 2 hours 14 minutes ago

    The Australian dollar is struggling to recover the losses suffered after the release of bleak local capital expenditure figures. FXCM chief currency strategist John Kicklighter said the figures do not bode well for a busy period of local economic data next week, which includes the release of gross domestic product figures on Wednesday. "The Aussie dollar dropped against all of its major counterparts with the exception of the euro this past session," he said. The futures market and economist are giving a rate cut a better than even chance, which Mr Kicklighter said could add to further volatility for the Aussie dollar.

  • The week in numbers to February 27 AAP - 2 hours 24 minutes ago

    The big and small numbers that grabbed attention - or should have - in the business world over the past week. Monday: 8.1pct - Australia's biggest steelmaker BlueScope reintroduced dividends after lifting ...

  • Stocks to watch at noon on Friday AAP - 2 hours 30 minutes ago

    Stocks to watch on the Australian stock exchange at noon on Friday: CAB - CABCHARGE - up three cents, or 0.6 per cent, at $5.00 Payments system operator Cabcharge is looking to expand beyond the taxi system ...

  • Woolworths woes, CBA gains balance market AAP - 2 hours 32 minutes ago

    The Australian share market is flat, with strong gains from heavyweight Commonwealth Bank offset by a disappointing first half profit result from Woolworths. "This is translating into not much change ...

  • Oil slump threatens Norway's affluence AAP - 2 hours 58 minutes ago

    Losing his job on a Norwegian oil rig meant a shift down in lifestyle and expectations for Kristoffer Sandberg, something an increasing number of people in this small oil rich country are facing. It's the start of what economists are predicting will be a long recession in the energy industry, which accounts for 15 per cent of Norway's economy, more than half of its exports and 80 per cent of the state's income.

  • Treasury Wine says revamp is working AAP - 3 hours ago

    The maker of Penfolds wine has taken a large hit to half year profit despite stronger sales, as it makes major changes to its business. Treasury Wine Estate's net profit in the six months to December 31 dropped 60 per cent from a year ago to $42.6 million, as the previous half year result was boosted by a tax benefit. Chief executive Michael Clarke said the owner of the Wolf Blass and Rosemount Estate labels had a good start to the financial year, with sales revenue up almost nine per cent to $883 million. Treasury Wine is also spending on its key growth markets of north Asia and the United States.

  • PaperlinX makes $91m half year loss AAP - 3 hours ago

    Packaging group PaperlinX has announced an even deeper half year loss stemming from problems in Europe only a week after its chief executive was sacked and replaced. The company behind industrial packaging, fine paper and signs blamed surprisingly poor market demand and unsustainably low prices in the UK and midwestern Europe for a loss of $90.8 million in the six months to December 31. The bad news comes nine days after the company sacked and replaced chief executive Andrew Price after just over a year in the top job. Chairman Robert Kaye said its poor performance in Europe had overshadowed its healthier operations in Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

  • Bathurst sinks into the red in first-half, still waiting … BusinessDesk - 3 hours ago

    Bathurst Resources, which last year wrote off the value of assets covered by its Buller coal project, posted a first-half loss as it continues to wait for international coal prices to improve. The company has hunkered down over the past year, laying off staff, trimming its board size and writing off the entire value of its Buller mine assets as it waits for coking coal prices to improve. "Work at Escarpment commenced on 1 July and has focused on the installation of water treatment systems, haul rods and dump areas," Bathurst said. Shares of Bathurst jumped 20 percent to 5.9 cents and are up 63 percent this year.

  • NZ business confidence gains in February as agri sector … BusinessDesk - 3 hours ago

    New Zealand business confidence improved in February as recent gains in dairy prices turned sentiment around in the agriculture sector, and as low interest rates stoke hiring and investment expectations. A net 34.4 percent of firms are optimistic about the general economy, up from 30.4 in the previous survey, according to the ANZ Business Outlook. "Higher dairy prices are no doubt working their magic. Today's ANZ survey showed a net 28.1 percent of respondents are picking profits to improve compared to a net 20.6 percent in the previous survey, with a net 23.4 percent intending to raise prices, up from 20 percent.

  • Countdown boosts first-half earnings 2.9% amid cost … BusinessDesk - 3 hours ago

    Countdown, the New Zealand supermarket chain owned by Australian retailer Woolworths, increased first-half earnings 2.9 percent as it cut costs and boosted volumes to compensate for lower prices. Countdown started its 'price lockdown' and 'price drop' marketing campaigns in October 2013 in an attempt to better compete with the rival Pak 'n Save and New World supermarkets run by the Foodstuffs cooperative. In the first half, Countdown's gross margin fell 6 basis points to 23.19 percent as prices dropped 0.3 percent, with deflation across a number of key categories including grocery and bakery. "Countdown supermarkets continued to deliver profit growth despite price deflation and ongoing subdued grocery market conditions in New Zealand," said Woolworths chief executive Grant O'Brien.

  • Harvey Norman profit up 27.4% AAP - 3 hours ago

    Retailer Harvey Norman is forecasting sales growth in its homemaker products thanks to improved consumer confidence. A strong housing market in Australia, record low interest rates and major infrastructure investment in NSW and stable consumer sentiment were pointing to positive trends, chairman Gerry Harvey said. "In Australia, our stores are benefiting from improved consumer confidence on the back of strong equity markets and strong growth in the housing market," Mr Harvey said. Mr Harvey said the strength of the company's online strategy and the benefits of the integrated Harvey Norman system helped the result.

  • Haiti celebrates completion of hotel AAP - 3 hours ago

    PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, AP - A second international-branded hotel has opened in the Haitian capital in what backers of the project and officials hope will be a spur to further economic development in the impoverished country. The 175-room Marriott Port-au-Prince is a four-star hotel geared primarily toward travellers looking to do business in Haiti, said Denis O'Brien, chairman of Digicel, the telecommunications company that developed the project adjacent to its Haiti headquarters in the Turgeau neighbourhood of the capital. "If a foreign direct investor is going to Haiti, they have to have a good first impression," O'Brien, whose company is the largest private employer in Haiti, said in an interview before Tuesday's event. O'Brien, an Irish billionaire whose company recently completed building 150 schools in Haiti and restored the historic Iron Market that was damaged in the January 2010 earthquake, said the hotel will directly create about 200 jobs, but that he hopes it will lead to more.

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  • Book review: Kim Gordon is more than just a 'Girl in a Band' Associated Press - 15 hours ago
    Book review: Kim Gordon is more than just a 'Girl in a Band'

    "Girl in a Band" (Dey Street Books), by Kim Gordon As the front woman for influential indie band Sonic Youth for three decades, Kim Gordon had a ringside seat as experimental music left the grimy ...

  • Nissan's Z sport coupe remains an affordable performer Associated Press - Thu, Feb 26, 2015 6:04 AM NZDT
    Nissan's Z sport coupe remains an affordable performer

    Thank you, Yutaka Katayama. Katayama, who died last week at age 105, was the executive who renamed the sports car Nissan exported to the United States in the late 1960s. It had been called the Fairlady, ...

  • Train car design reduced impact in Southern California crash Associated Press - Thu, Feb 26, 2015 1:13 AM NZDT
    Train car design reduced impact in Southern California crash

    After a horrific crash a decade ago that killed 11 people and injured 180 more, Southern California's commuter train network began investing heavily in passenger cars designed to protect passengers from ...

  • Expanding food group lifts profit forecast AAP - Wed, Feb 25, 2015 11:07 PM NZDT
    Expanding food group lifts profit forecast

    The owner of Gloria Jean's and Michel's Patisserie expects earnings to continue to rise despite sluggish consumer confidence. Retail Food Group, which also owns the Crust pizza chain and Brumby's bakeries, achieved a 24 per cent rise in half year net profit to $21.5 million. The profit growth was driven by its purchase of new businesses, including Gloria Jean's and Cafe2U. Retail Food Group's coffee roasting operations have more than tripled in size, taking annual production to 5.9 million kilograms.

  • California's plastic bag ban suspended by ballot referendum Associated Press - Wed, Feb 25, 2015 1:45 PM NZDT
    California's plastic bag ban suspended by ballot referendum

    California's first-in-the-nation statewide ban on plastic shopping bags was put on hold Tuesday when state election officials confirmed a trade group had turned in enough signatures to place the issue ...

  • Utah governor wants to leave liquor laws untouched this year Associated Press - Wed, Feb 25, 2015 12:25 PM NZDT
    Utah governor wants to leave liquor laws untouched this year

    Gov. Gary Herbert says state lawmakers should back off efforts to change Utah's liquor laws this year, including a proposal to repeal a requirement that some restaurants mix and prepare drinks out of customers' ...

  • Rothman replaces Pascal as film chief at Sony Associated Press - Wed, Feb 25, 2015 9:02 AM NZDT
    Rothman replaces Pascal as film chief at Sony

    Former 20th Century Fox chief Tom Rothman has been named chairman of Sony's Motion Picture Group, replacing Amy Pascal as studio head and effectively concluding Sony's shake-up following the damaging hacking ...

  • Rothman named co-chair of Sony Pictures, replacing Pascal Associated Press - Wed, Feb 25, 2015 7:55 AM NZDT
    Rothman named co-chair of Sony Pictures, replacing Pascal

    Former 20th Century Fox chief Tom Rothman has been named chairman of Sony's Motion Picture Group, replacing Amy Pascal as studio head and effectively concluding Sony's shake-up following the damaging hacking ...

  • The 3 Most Awesomely Absurd Campaigns on Kickstarter Right Now Entrepreneur - Wed, Feb 25, 2015 6:34 AM NZDT
    The 3 Most Awesomely Absurd Campaigns on Kickstarter Right Now

    The power of the crowd is real. And so is people's ability to create the wackiest things possible.

  • Cadillac recalls ATS cars to fix hair-trigger sunroof switch Associated Press - Wed, Feb 25, 2015 5:11 AM NZDT
    Cadillac recalls ATS cars to fix hair-trigger sunroof switch

    General Motors is recalling about 67,000 Cadillac ATS compact sports sedans to fix a problem with the power sunroof controls. The recall affects cars from the 2013 through 2015 model years. GM says the ...