MIDDAY UPDATE: HK buyer pays $1/2 billion for Envirowaste

Jan. 15 (BusinessDesk) - Refuse disposal and recycling company Envirowaste has been sold by Australian private equity investor Ironbridge Capital to an offshoot of one of Hong Kong's most powerful companies for $501 million.

The purchase by Cheung Kong Holdings is significant as much for the further investment in New Zealand by the Chinese investor, which already owns the electricity network in Wellington, as well as water and other infrastructure assets here.

Ironbridge, which also owns the troubled MediaWorks empire including the TV3 and Radio Live networks, bought Envirowaste from local roading and construction firm Fulton Hogan for $259 million in 2007 for $259 million.

Business confidence up strongly in December

New Zealand businesses' confidence in the economy continued its yo-yo path at the end of last year, rising to its strongest showing since 2007, before the global financial crisis, according to the December results of the Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion, taken by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.

The New Zealand dollar rose on release of the QSBO outcome at 10am, from 84.02 US cents before the announcement to 84.19 US cents, and was trading at 84.21 cents at noon.

The rebound in activity was particularly marked in Canterbury, reflecting the accelerating post-quakes rebuild, but there was also a "very good lift" in Auckland, said NZIER principal economist Shamubeel Eaqub.

The survey's measure of business confidence rose to plus 19 percent in the December quarter from minus 1 percent in the previous quarter.

A positive reading indicates more optimists that pessimists.
"Capacity pressures are intense in Canterbury, but there is little pressure in the rest of the country," said Eaqub.

House price inflation stabilising at 6-7% annually, says ASB

House price statistics for December from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand suggest house price are settling down to an annual rate of increase of between 6 and 7 percent, say ASB economists.

The latest REINZ figures show stronger pressure in the Auckland and Christchurch markets, reflected in relatively small numbers of new house listings. However, the nationwide average time taken to sell a house in December remained stable at 36 days.

The national median house price for December stood at $389,000, up 9.6 per cent on December 2011.

The REINZ Stratified House Price Index, which smooths out peaks and troughs in median prices, rose 6.7 per cent over the same period.

The highest median price rise over the year was Auckland's 10.5 per cent increase, corresponding to a stratified index rise of 8.6 per cent.

Canterbury's median price increased by 8 per cent to a record high of $351,000, with the stratified index rising 11.8 per cent.

The Wellington, Otago and Queenstown markets experienced more modest price rises over 2012.

Toll puts $19M price tag on possible tax case loss

Toll Holdings says it could face tax payments of $19 million from its battle with the Inland Revenue Department over the use of optional convertible notes to shuffle trans-Tasman income between 2002 and 2005.

But the company has yet to include provisioning in its accounts for the possible loss of its tax dispute as a key Court of Appeal decision is still pending on the issue, which could see as many as 16 Australian companies with New Zealand subsidiaries hit with additional tax bills of up to $300 million in total.

Toll Group (NZ) declared a $35.9 million loss for the year to June 30 due to major changes in finance income and expenses between the last two financial years, in accounts lodged with the Companies Office.

In the 2010/11 year, Toll NZ declared finance income of $52.1 million, compared with just $1.4 million last year, while finance expenses rose from $28.3 million in the previous year to $42.8 million in the year under review.
Operating earnings before finance expenses and tax were roughly level with the previous year, at $7 million, against $7.3 million in the year earlier, with total revenue lifting to $383 million from $377.1 million the previous year.

Toll is one of 16 companies with trans-Tasman operations who are facing challenges by the IRD about the use of OCN's, a quasi-equity instrument, to reduce tax liability on this side of the Tasman between 2003 and 2011.



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