Sunday, April 19, 2015

Fung listing through the backdoor for Aquis

A chance encounter with the hardcopy edition of the Weekend Compost led to the discovery on Page 18 of yet another Aquis report from Nick Dalton. I don't think this has yet been posted online.  Update: Now posted online Tony Fung floats Canberra casino on Australia share market

Fung has done a deal announced on Friday for a backdoor ASX listing of Canberra Casino via Discovery Resources. Dalton describes Discovery as a Namibian oil & gas explorer. So it's just as well they are getting out of that business as their handful of Namibian exploration tenements are all metals related. Discovery recently reported net assets of just $1.6 million. The current board includes a Tom Pickett who is presumably the same Tom Pickett who also appears with our old friend Michael King and our new friend Narelle McBain on the board of Diversified Mining.

Yes, it's the ghosts of MFS Octaviar again, but wait, there's more! Fung acquired a substantial stake of 17.3% in Discovery via an off-market transaction back in February. This was through his 4JS Pty Ltd which has previously been the vehicle for his rural interests. The 4JS website is no longer and I understand the Mt Garnet property may have been sold or was on the market.

The seller to Fung of that stake in Discovery Resources was Twin Oaks Investments Pty Ltd with notification signed by director Paul Manka. Yes, it's that old MFS Octaviar crew yet again:  Deals made after collapse, court told

If you are unfamiliar with the colourful background of the MFS Octaviar imbroglio there is plenty available via google but here are just a few links from the past pertaining to the relevant identities: How Michael King's dream turned to dust; Inside the MFS EGM fiasco; Avenue’s conflicted connection to troubled MFS

I went looking for any background to the Twin Oaks holding in Discovery but couldn't find an initial notice of becoming a substantial holder. That was because Manka filled out the wrong form for a change to an existing substantial holding. In fact he filled out the wrong form twice after an 'arithmetical error' the first time, by which he means he forgot to include a small portion of the holding.

Twin Oaks acquired the substantial holding of 4,450,000 shares in Discovery for a total consideration of $597,951.61 in February 2013. Just three weeks later they flipped the lot to Michael King for $614,383.63. King held onto them until June 2014 when he then flipped them back to Twin Oaks again, also for $614,383.63. That parcel has now been flogged to Fung in February also for $614,383.63 consideration. It's an interesting history. At least the price has been stable!

Anyway, Discovery Resources is set to become Aquis Entertainment Limited listed on the ASX. Aquis will be issued shares for the transfer of Canberra Casino and Fung will end up controlling 89% of the company following this transaction. There is also a capital raising planned for $2 -$3 million.

Alex Chow will become a new director. Chow's most prominent career background seems to have been with New World China Land Limited which has previously known some controversy in Hong Kong: Leung Chin-man appointment controversy. His previous executive career at New World seems to have gone missing in the bio. New World group has also made an appearance in a previous post here: Tony Fung: Past business deals and the BVI

The full announcement released to ASX on Friday includes further details, a pro-forma balance sheet and comment that the company may consider "other potential projects in Queensland and elsewhere".

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Dredge report dredged

The release finally of the Trinity Inlet dredging report. I don't think there is much credit to be attributed anywhere on this one. More than two years and unexplained delays for this? Could I possibly suggest someone should be showing solicitor Brett Moller at Ports North which way the door is?

As always Pete Faulkner at Conus has provided a good summary of the economics: Cairns Port dredge EIS finally sees the light of day…and it kills the project

The economic aspects come in Appendix 9 from Bill Cummings who should have perhaps been more circumspect re comments he made on talkback radio re environmental aspects as a consultant to the project.

I could post lots here but what's the point? I could also post on the veracity of economic models used to support anything but we already know these are suspect.

The political situation is interesting because the economics would stack up except that the Fed Environment Minister Hunt has canned any dredge spoil dumping in the GBRMP area. So it's actually the LNP in Canberra which has destroyed the viability!

Note that the alternative offshore dredge disposal site outside the GBRMP closer to shore is way worse for sediment dispersal environmental outcomes.

Treasurer Curtis looks to have ditched it anyway. As far as I can see absent environmental aspects this project would be no less viable or more stupid than the Townsville super stadium subsidy to which $100m was committed in the election.

Links: Cairns Shipping Development Project; Trinity Inlet dredging canned after Environmental Impact Statement raises issues; Mounting evidence shows dredge spoil threat to the Great Barrier Reef; Dredging the dredge report; Ships Ahoy?; Cruise tourism reports diverge

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Aquis Broadwater?

Just browsing yesterday through the ASIC register for the Aquis companies associated with the Friendly Fung Family (FFF). Fung has shown a particular interest in the Gold Coast recently having bought the penthouse in the Soul building at Surfers Paradise and the horse racing properties from financially stressed boganaire Nathan Tinkler in the hinterland.
There were a couple of new companies registered earlier this year. Aquis Soul and Aquis Lake Orr. Lake Orr would appear to be the name of part of the Gold Coast waterways behind Mermaid Beach. Both these companies are registered to the Spence St office of Moore Stephens in Cairns which is home for most of the Fung Aquis stable.
A new addition is that a Narelle Louise McBain appears as a director of both these newly registered companies along with Fung. So it was curious yesterday when another new registration appeared for Aquis Broadwater Pty Ltd with Narelle as sole director and secretary as well as sole shareholder! No Fung! This company is also registered to the Moore Stephens office in Cairns.
Narelle would appear from a quick google search to have had some previous association with Octavian/MFS and Michael King.  You may recall that King was taken on by Fung last year during the bid for Reef Casino with some controversy and comment and then was reported supposedly to have been let go at the end of last year when the bid collapsed. King is facing contested charges from ASIC over the collapse of Octavian in 2008.
No judgement. I'm just curious?

Update in the Courier-Mail: Fung eyes Broadwater; Nick Dalton has caught up: Tony Fung registers new Aquis Gold Coast “acquisition” company

Sunday, April 12, 2015

When logs rool for graphs

It was noted this week that the monthly RBA Chart Pack had changed the scaling for property prices: The RBA is using new charts that make Sydney house prices look less bonkers
Today, the RBA released its Chart Packs updated to 2 April 2015 which revealed another insight into the lines of thinking at Martin Place.
Previously the “Housing Prices” chart in the Reserve Bank’s Chart Packs have been presented using a linear or arithmetic scale, with prices spaced equidistantly. On a linear scale, housing prices in Sydney were seen to be galloping towards the top of the chart.
In this month’s Chart Packs, however, the Reserve Bank has shifted seamlessly to a log scale, whereby equal percentage changes in housing prices are plotted as the same vertical distance on the scale.
That comes from Pete Wargent, a property buyers agent whose commentary I have some time for, which is a rarity. However I think this has been misinterpreted by some judging by comments seen elsewhere that a log scale is not 'real' or has been manipulated, and not sure this change or the timing really has much significance. The RBA chart is more illustrative than anything and a log scale is more appropriate for this purpose. The question should be why the RBA was previously using a linear scale.

A log scale, or rather semi-log scale, effectively represents changes with percentage on the Y-axis. So the distance between 100 and 200 will be the same as the distance then between 200 and 400, and then 400 to 800, etc. This is a far more 'real' way to represent changes in property prices over a period of time rather than a linear scale which will inevitably show prices heading for the stratosphere. If you look at HTW CairnsWatch you will see that Rick Carr uses a semi-log scale for his graph of Cairns property prices.

In the olden days about the only place one could procure semi-log graph paper was the bookshop at either the stock exchange or university. Early spreadsheets were pretty crude and can still be quirky. I have recently been playing with a log scale to analyse historical prices within my retro-bohemian Esplanade building following some recent sales, the first since 2008.

A linear scale with available data since 1987 looks like this:

The two series there represent the two different sized units within the building. The trendlines are Excel generated exponential which will curve upwards. Note that if I had excluded the most recent transactions it would have looked like valuations were heading to the stratosphere up to 2008.
If I graph the same data on a semi-log scale it will look like this:

A straight trendline can now be generated to make more meaningful sense for any analysis as a benchmark over time. Must do some work on those Y-axis gridlines though!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Northside Story continues to play

Conus has reported on this week's building approvals data from the ABS for February: Strong regional building approvals in FNQ again

It was a solid month all round for the various SA3 statistical regions within the Cairns SA4:

In Cairns itself the North continues to dominate with 41 approvals versus 19 in the South.

Within that 31 of the 41 Northside approvals were at Trinity Beach-Smithfield. On the Southside 10 of the 19 were at Edmonton. These are all houses with no additional unit approvals reported.

Among other data reported are the value of residential and non-residential as well as value of residential alterations and additions (including conversions to residential). I presume this relates to work substantial enough to require council approval. Anyway these are the numbers since 2012 for the entire Cairns SA4 area:

Note: Y scale is thousands (000's)
I'm not sure how good this data is or what it means but could be worth a closer look.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Weather Watch Note

Apart from a few bursts it doesn't feel like we have had much of a wet season really. This is monthly rainfall since 2007 at Cairns Aero with a 12 month moving average relative to the red line of the long term monthly average:

2013 certainly broke the run of previously wetter than average seasons. What period did the Australian Government Actuary use for his insurance study again? Oh, that'd be right!
Last year was boosted by a late season appearance from Cyclone Ita in April. The weekly tropical climate note doesn't seem too optimistic for a repeat this year:
With active convection from the MJO over the Indian Ocean, northern Australia has seen dry conditions. Most models agree that the MJO will weaken as it moves towards the Maritime Continent region toward the end of this week. If the MJO weakens it will have little influence on northern Australia; neither suppressing nor enhancing rainfall. However, storms will likely return to coastal parts of the tropical north where humidity remains high. Another burst of the monsoon over Australia is unlikely, although wet conditions and tropical cyclones can develop in April without the influence of the MJO.
A potential El Nino also remains ahead although tis seems to have been lingering for some time now:
However, history has shown El Niño does not always develop from the ocean trends currently observed. All international climate models monitored by the Bureau predict the tropical Pacific Ocean will reach or exceed El Niño thresholds by mid-year.
Tinaroo is still above the levels of this time last year before Cyclone Ita. Copperlode is just over 100% as it should be towards he end of the wet season.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Population growth slows in Cairns

As previously posted Queensland population growth is no longer outstripping the nation. There have been a few posts related to this at Queensland Economy Watch and Conus has commentary on the Cassowary Coast estimated population still at a virtual standstill .

In line with that broader trend the population growth rate in Cairns also slowed to 1.3% - 1.4%  in the year to June 2014 depending on whether you use the LGA, SUA or SA3 area. So that is just below the Queensland and Australian average growth rates. It is also just below most other larger regional centres in Queensland based on the SUA (Significant Urban Area) data from the ABS.


Noted among the smaller SUA centres was a population decline in Mt Isa. The SA2 area breakdown for the Cairns suburbs looks like this:

Well I would have expected the northern beaches to be near the top but somewhat surprised by the City and Westcourt-Bungalow given the absence of new residential stock in recent years.
Note: There is also some commentary on the updated population stats at the most recent Cairnswatch.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Weekend Post Blues

Two items in this weekend's Cairns Post I considered may warrant some closer analysis and response:

Housing and development on the rise in Cairns, outstripping rival cities, including Townsville

Mission Beach’s exorbitant rates need to be reigned in

Then I considered the personal consequences:

Why let the Cairns Post spoil my weekend?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Queensland no longer outstripping nation

26 March 2015
Embargoed: 11.30 am (Canberra time)
Queensland no longer outstripping nation

Queensland's population growth has slowed to its lowest rate in 15 years, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today.

"The sunshine state's growth rate was 1.5 per cent in the year to September 2014." said Phil Browning from the ABS. "While this is similar to the national growth rate, it is well below the state's 15-year average annual rate of 2.1 per cent,"

"This slower growth is due to a nine year low in the state's net overseas migration and one of the lowest net interstate migration increases in over 30 years.

"Western Australia's growth has also slowed considerably to 2.1 per cent in the year to September 2014 - its lowest rate in over nine years and down from a high of 3.7 per cent two years ago.

"This is partly due to a drop in net interstate migration from 11,400 people two years ago to just 300," said Mr Browning.

Australia's total population increased by 354,600 people to reach 23.6 million by the end of September 2014, a growth rate of 1.5 per cent.

Over the year, natural increase contributed 150,700 people to Australia's population, made up of 303,000 births (3.0 per cent lower than the previous year) and 152,300 deaths (3.3 per cent higher than the previous year).

In the same period, overseas migration contributed 203,900 people to the population (12.8 per cent lower than the previous year), and accounted for 57 per cent of Australia's total population growth.

Further information is available in Australian Demographic Statistics, September Quarter 2014 (cat. no. 3101.0).

For population estimates at the regional level, please see Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2013-14 (cat. no. 3218.0) and Population by Age and Sex, Regions of Australia, 2013 (cat. no. 3235.0), available for free download from

Population at end Sep qtr 2014
Change over previous year
Change over previous year

New South Wales
7 544.5
5 866.3
4 740.9
South Australia
1 688.7
Western Australia
2 589.1
Northern Territory
Australian Capital Territory
Australia (a)
23 581.0

(a) Includes Other Territories comprising Jervis Bay Territory, Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

Video: Take a look at the latest Demography video (available from 12:30pm today).

Queensland Economy Watch: Net interstate migration to Qld remains at low levels

Friday, March 20, 2015

Insights from the Australian Tourism Industry

Following on from the February traffic update for Cairns Airport are similar reports for Sydney and Melbourne: Sydney Airport traffic grows in February

There is also a link at that post to an article in the current March Quarter RBA Bulletin: Insights from the Australian Tourism Industry

This is a good summary of recent history and current state of play and status of tourism :

There is a particular focus on China. It also contains a large number of (sometimes perplexing) graphs:


Whitsundays and no TNQ in the leisure quadrant? Oh dear RBA. Hang your head in shame!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Chinese new year boost for airport

With the Chinese New Year falling entirely in February there were some big increases in both domestic and international traffic at Cairns Airport. Domestic was up 10.1% and International up 12.6% compared to the previous February. While this follows on from a negative month in January there is some positive commentary from the airport on the international performance which may finally be turning around:
International passenger growth was driven by Chinese New Year flights and more passenger flying between Cairns and Japan.
Combined, passengers on flights to Guam, Hong Kong, Osaka and Tokyo increased 4,400 (+17%) compared to February 2014.
Between December and February, 18,800 Chinese passport holders used T1, which was an increase of 4,300 (+30%) to the same period last year (Department of Immigration data).
The growth of Chinese New Year visitors means that the number of passengers using T1 each day in February is now comparable to the traditional peak month of August.
The domestic passenger growth was supported by the strong international performance.
Counter-seasonality remains a key feature of Chinese tourism for TNQ.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Dalton Atlas

The Cairns Post tries to locate Century Mine:
A MINE north-west of Cairns in the process of shutting down is the star of Hong Kong-based MMG Ltd’s 2014 financial performance.
The annual report says the mine, which is in the Gulf of Carpentaria, achieved annual records in mining and processing last year, which helped alleviate decreasing zinc feed grades that were expected from the final stages.

Well I guess Nick Dalton gets something right. If Century was north-west of Cairns it literally would be "in" the Gulf of Carpentaria. o_O

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Jumbo jets arriving via Bruce Hwy

The Domestic Visitor Survey was out this week and Conus has posted that the numbers are not really too flattering for Queensland despite some spin from TEQ: Domestic visitors rise but QLD slips even further
In TNQ the story gets worse. Although visitor numbers were up 5.7% (marginally better than the QLD average, but well below the national rate), average visitor expenditure fell by 8.1% over the course of the year. Bear in mind that these are nominal expenditure figures and do not therefore account for inflation. The real fall in average visitor expenditure is therefore close to 10%. Total expenditure rose just 1.3%.
Nick Dalton certainly did his bit for a more positive spin at the Cairns Post:  Aussies visiting tropical north top 1.7m and spend $1.7bn
MORE than 3400 jumbo jet-loads of Aussies visited the Far North last year, totalling 1.7 million people, with 90,000 travellers – or 180 jumbos – more than visited in 2013.
Total visitors were actually 1,683,000 so didn't quite "top 1.7m". Never mind, all we need now is a mode of transport breakdown to be able to work out how many jumbo jets arrived along the Bruce Highway.

I expect an imminent report from the Cairns Post on how many Olympic swimming pools of water fell on the city yesterday.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Yes we still have bananas

Perhaps we have become immune to continual threats and media hype related to medical and biosecurity threats. So the recent reports of Panama disease among the Cassowary Coast banana crop was something I hadn't really looked at.

Banana industry braces for biosecurity battle against deadly Panama tropical race 4

Wikipedia is not the most authoritative source but the disease has an interesting history. The Gros Michel banana variety which had been the principal commercial variety before WW2 was all but wiped out by Panama disease.

The impact of the disease was apparently even responsible for the song "yes we have no bananas". The Cavendish banana was apparently introduced for its resistance. Some interesting issues related to the genetics of bananas.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Cairns land valuations 2015

2015 Annual Land Valuations were released this week. The median residential land valuation in Cairns LGA increased by 12.9% and the spread between suburbs looks like this:

I was surprised to see Edge Hill listed with an increase of 18% this year as it led the way last year with an increase of 21.1%. However there is a problem with this based on my data from last year:
              Properties          Current Median        New Median       Change
2014          1,203                 $177,500                  $215,000           21.1%
2015          1,311                 $200,000                  $235,000            18%

There are a couple with an anomaly like this and substantial differences between the number of properties listed for each suburb so it would be nice if the Valuer-General could at least post comparable data. Perhaps there was a subsequent adjustment for valuation objections after last years hike?

Machans, Holloways and Yorkeys led the way this year although they all missed out on any increase last year when there were modest increases elsewhere on the north side and beaches. Palm Cove increased by 9.8% last year but there is also an anomaly in the median data here also and an increase over two years around 18%.

Those valuations relate only to residential land which doesn't include multi-unit properties. The reported increase across all land classifications in Cairns was 8.9% in total value and details of the different classification are published in the Valuer-General’s 2015 Report on land values . Change in total value by classification:

Multi-unit:      +1.7%
Commercial:  +0.7%
Industrial:       +0.6%
Primary:         -0.5%

A quick browse through some of the data and it appears that despite the residential land increases at Yorkeys the multi-unit valuations along Sims Esplanade didn't shift. There are some increases up to around 10% along Vasey Esplanade at Trinity Beach. In the city Esplanade multi-unit values remain stuck in the cellar about 35% below the peak *sob*.

An interesting comparison between local government areas from the V-G's report:

Further commentary including the Cassowary Coast at Conus: Valuer-General’s 2015 Report on land values 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Not so wow Macau

The Chinese New Year didn't save Macau gaming revenues in February which were down 48.6% on the previous year. However that apparently was better than some were expecting in Hong Kong: Macau Casino Revenue Has Record 49% Slump on Weak Demand

That now takes the 12 month rolling average well into negative territory down 12.2%

The previously released quarterly data which provides a breakdown of different games shows the downturn in gaming revenues has been pretty much all VIP Baccarat with the mass market segment continuing to grow in 2014: 

Meanwhile in other news this week the Friendly Fung Family have bought the Gold Coast horse racing properties of boganaire Nathan Tinkler: Tony Fung purchases Nathan Tinkler’s Gold Coast horse racing operation

These were previously passed in at auction where it had been reported that Michael King had been bidding for unnamed Hong Kong interests. King has recently been moved on from his role at Aquis and is still to face charges from ASIC over the collapse of his MFS group.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Internet job ads for F&NQ

The Department of Employment internet job ads series has been updated for January. The DoE provide this info as a 3 month average and also indexed to 100 from 2010 to enable better comparisons between regions which is what I have used here:

Unfortunately the regions in this series don't correlate with the ABS labour force survey. The 'Far North Queensland' region here also annexes Townsville into FNQ. Pete Faulkner has recently commented on some divergence in the ABS labour stats at Conus: Trend Unemployment rates improve but Cairns and Townsville is a “Tale of Two Cities”

The data does also provide a breakdown into employment classifications indexed here for F&NQ:

Data may require further analysis and manipulation for useful commentary.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Insurance: The case of the TIO revisited

Ever since NQ insurance premiums became in issue with a failure in the strata insurance market in 2011 the pet shop parrots have been spruiking the virtues of the TIO in Darwin.

This led to the somewhat embarrassing incident at the parliamentary inquiry in Cairns where it turned out neither the Insurance Council or the politicians had any idea that the TIO was not regulated by APRA and that the Australian Government was effectively the underwriter of last resort if anything went wrong.

The TIO always claimed an objective to comply with APRA standards anyway but that probably shouldn't be taken for granted given the standard of governance in the NT. Despite some economic prosperity in recent years the NT is effectively a basket case failed state propped up by Canberra. This was noted today on the recent TIO privatisation:
Former TIO CEO Richard Harding told the meeting TIO had $30 billion of insured assets, of which 80% were in greater Darwin. It could not diversify its risk because of government ownership and was competing against national insurers with access to global markets.
TIO had to spend about 30% of its premium dollars on $700 million of reinsurance that would cover a one-in-250-year event. Cyclone Tracy, which devastated Darwin in 1974, was a one-in-600 or 700-year event, so another storm of that size would mean costs falling onto the Government.
Cyclone Tracy often pops up by people trying to equate risk between the NT and NQ. You only have to go to the Bureau of Meteorology to find the NT northern region does indeed have lower cyclone risk relative to the eastern region. The insurance cost of Cyclone Tracy in 2011 dollars was $4 billion.

There were good reasons why state governments abandoned exposure to private insurance risks concentrated within their state as the concentration and value of privately insured property grew. I continue to be perplexed by the number of people confidently spruiking unsubstantiated anecdotal 'evidence' and simple solutions to something complex and poorly understood.

The role particularly of reinsurance, capital and prudential standards were totally lost on the parliamentary committee which simply didn't have the expertise or support to properly address the issue in their inquiry. Information on costs submitted by the Insurance Council to the parliamentary inquiry was that reinsurance comprised about 6% of the premium on a national basis which is way less than the TIO at 30%.

Anyway, Bill Shorten was in town last week and proclaimed that NQ property insurance was a market failure. Never mind that it was he who was actually the responsible minister at the time in 2012 who responded thus when the first inquiry by the Australian Government Actuary instigated by Bill himself found there was no market failure: Australian Government Actuary Report Investigation into Strata Title Insurance Price Rises in North Queensland

Note: At the time insurance premiums were increasing rapidly between 2010 and 2012 APRA was reviewing and implementing revised standards around insurance concentration risk capital at a time when global reinsurance markets were stressed. This was the Suncorp experience in the 2011 reinsurance market: Suncorp burnt by reinsurers.

Previous post: Reinsurance and FNQ

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Does Cairns Airport pay tax?

While in company reporting season mode it is noted that the results for NQ Airports can be found embedded in the results of Auckland International Airport which holds a 24.5% stake. The assets of NQ Airports are the Cairns Airport and the smaller Mackay Airport.

This the extract from the half year to December 31 2014 released by AIA this week:

The last column is percentage change from the previous corresponding half. While the profit after tax bottom line has jumped by 20.8% that is based on a revenue increase of a more modest 3.2% which was mostly attributed to domestic growth at Cairns.
The bottom line profit is also a relatively small percentage of the EBITDAFI so we need to go back to the more detailed 2014 annual report for a look at the components in here:

I wasn't sure what EBITDAFI was. It sounded more like a former Libyan finance minister. However the confusing FI relates to fair value adjustments and investments in associates. Depreciation, Amortisation and Interest then take a big whack out of EBITDA to get to the bottom line profit E.
The tax expense here in FY2014 for NQ Airports is actually a benefit. That doesn't necessarily mean NQA wont effectively pay tax as it distributes the profit as dividends which may then be taxable in the hands of the holders. 
Some background reading here may be a post from Michael West back in 2013 related to Sydney Airport with some mention of Auckland and NQ Airports:  Sydney Airport and the magical mystery tour.