In its 20th year, the survey examined and ranked S&P/ASX 200 A-REIT Index trusts.The niche Australian real estate investment trusts (A-REITs) were the key performers for the 2014 financial year, reflecting demand for high-yielding, income-generating and conservatively managed stocks.
Shanghai night field

Ingenia Communities, which owns, operates and develops a portfolio of seniors living communities, won the top ranking for the third year running.

The others included Generation Healthcare REIT (healthcare property), Charter Hall Group (diversified – office, retail and industrial), ALE Property Group (pubs) and Folkestone Education Trust (early learning), accounting and advisory firm BDO’s 2014 A-REIT Survey showed.

The takeover activity of DEXUS with the Commonwealth Property Office Fund, the demerger of Westfield to create Scentre, and Fraser Centrepoint’s bid for Australand also boosted the cashflow circulation in the sector, the survey showed.

In its 20th year, the survey examined and ranked S&P/ASX 200 A-REIT Index trusts based on key financial and investment indicators like returns, operating cash yields and net tangible assets (NTA) in the 12 months to June 30, 2014.

BDO’s national leader of Real Estate and Construction, Sebastian Stevens, said the sector’s superior performance this year against the broader All Ordinaries Index was also underpinned by a return to conservative management.

This year was the first time S&P/ASX 200 A-REIT Index trusts delivered annualised returns of more than 14 per cent over the previous year and over three and five-year periods, he said.

“As a group, A-REITs have benefited from the low-interest-rate environment in terms of asset valuation, posted solid yields and demonstrated a refocus on low gearing levels, de-risking of asset portfolios and active capital management, which are all attractive qualities for investors,” he said.

A trend in the top A-REIT performers this year was the number of trusts that invested in non-traditional asset classes, such as pubs, healthcare, senior living and childcare, he said.

“The rise of the specialist A-REIT has been evident in the sector since the global financial crisis.”

There are suggestions that the six months to the end of the 2015 financial year will be dominated by traditional, yield-driven trade, with less merger and asset activity, particularly among the bigger A-REITs.

There could be some consolidation with the smaller trusts and management internalisation deals.

Instead, demand will be focused more on buying big-ticket assets, with the local and overseas super funds competing head to head.

More than $23 billion of funds changed hands this calendar year, and next year it is expected the sale of a share in the remaining commercial towers by Lend Lease at Barangaroo will boost the turnover. CBRE’s head of research, Australia, Stephen McNabb said next year would be a year for balancing the risks as growth divergences continued.

“Looking at markets in a broader, geographical context, the differing economic outlook between states will influence underlying tenant demand and ultimately the attraction for investors,” Mr McNabb said.

“NSW’s strong economic performance should continue in 2015, underpinning demand in occupier markets. Conversely, Western Australia will face headwinds as the mining construction boom unwinds and lower commodity prices erode state income.”

Read More →

Gallagher Shiraz 2013 Gallagher vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District NSW $30 Four-and-a-half-star/96
Shanghai night field

Canberra’s perfect vintage conditions in 2013 produced a great number of really outstanding shirazes across the district, including Gallagher – a gold medallist at the 2014 regional wine show. The best show greater richness and ripeness of fruit and tannin than normal, while retaining their fine-boned, spicy, medium bodied regional style. Gallagher 2013 excites from the first sniff of juicy, red berries, overlaid with the black pepper of cool-grown shiraz. The bright, intensely fruity palate reveals more of the spicy side of shiraz, cut through with fine, ripe, soft tannins.

Gallagher Riesling 2014 Barton Estate vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW $22 Four-star/92

Like other Canberra 2014 vintage rieslings, Greg Gallagher’s new release delivers highly perfumed, floral aromas, with generous, juicy, citrus-like varietal flavours. However, there’s a gentle delicacy to the palate and a racy acidity that makes it impressively vibrant and fresh. A modest alcohol content of 11.4 per cent adds to its summer drinking appeal. Based on many earlier vintages, you can enjoy this wine for its youthful fruitiness now, or follow its flavour evolution over the next four or five years – perhaps longer in a cool, dark cellar.

Mount Pleasant Mount Henry Shiraz Pinot Noir 2013 Rosehill and Mount Pleasant vineyards, Lower Hunter Valley, NSW $43.50 Four-and-a-half-star/96

The McWilliam family, owners of Mount Pleasant, first produced this retro-labelled shiraz–pinot noir blend in 2011. They followed up with a second vintage in 2013. The wine salutes winemaker Maurice O’Shea (1897–1956) from whom the McWilliams bought   Mount Pleasant in two trenches, in 1932 and 1941. O’Shea named Mount Pleasant after buying existing vines there in 1921. He subsequently planted pinot noir at the winery site in 1922 and shiraz at the nearby Rosehill vineyard in 1946. These historic vineyards provide the fruit for this wonderfully elegant red, made by Jim Chatto. The bright, limpid colour and delicate, vibrant, fruity-spicy aroma lead to a gentle, sweet and complex palate, reflecting the aroma. This truly is history in a bottle – perhaps reflective of the superb, long-lived reds O’Shea made in the 1940s and 1950s. (Available at cellar door and mountpleasantwines上海龙凤

Leo Buring Leopold DW R20 Riesling 2014 White Hills vineyard, Tamar Valley, Tasmania $40 Four-and-a-half-star/96

Leo Buring’s reputation for fine, long-lived Eden Valley and Clare rieslings emerged in the 1960s and 1970s under the ownership of Lindemans and the winemaking skills of John Vickery. Today the Leo Buring brand belongs to Treasury Wine Estates, with winemaking in the hands of Peter Munro. Munro continues sourcing riesling from the Eden and Clare Valleys (both on South Australia’s Mount Lofty Ranges). But the exciting new frontier for the variety is Tasmania. Munro’s 2014 Leopold shows extraordinary flavour intensity and weight for a young riesling – with finesse, despite the flavour intensity and rich texture. The wine should age well for many years in a good cellar.

Schmolzer and Brown Pret-a-Rosé 2014

Beechworth, Victoria $26 Four-star/92

Rosé styles range from sweet and sickly to dry and svelte; and their colour spectrum moves through light and vibrant pink, to light red, to mauve and even onion-skin brown. They can be made from any red variety,  though paler skinned ones like grenache, pinot noir and sangiovese seem to work best. Tessa Brown and Jeremy Schmolzer make theirs from pinot noir and sangiovese, wild fermented (and matured briefly) in old oak barrels. The resulting pale pink wine offers a mouth-caressing, smooth texture with an undercurrent of bright fruit pushing through its savoury flavours. A gentle bite of tannin completes the finish of a very good rosé.

Hardys Sir James Pinot Noir Chardonnay Cuvee Brut Riverland, Limestone Coast, Sunraysia and Adelaide Hills, SA and Victoria $9.95-$16.65 Three-and-a-half-star/88

Failing Dom Perignon for $10, where do we go for a sparkling quaffer that sits in the sweet spot, between cheap and nasty and good but expensive? It’s most rewarding, I believe, to head for the big companies making top-end wines as well as cheaper, large-volume products. The quality trickle-down effect – combined with strong competition among retailers for popular brands – keeps quality high and prices low. In this instance Hardy’s Sir James delivers the flavour and structure of a bubbly made from the right varieties by someone who knows what they’re doing. With a recommended retail price of $16.65,  now discounted to $9.95, it’s an excellent buy.


Read More →

Rev Fred Nile.► Initial rail finding: Delay truncation
Shanghai night field

THE Coalition still governs comfortably on the main floor of State Parliament – the ‘‘bear pit’’ of the lower house. But things are not so clear in the upper house, where it holds just 19 of the 42 seats, the same number as Labor and the Greens combined.

While the cross-bench members of the Shooters and Fishers Party and Reverend Fred Nile’s Christian Democrats will often side with the Coalition, this is not always the case, as an upper house select committee investigation of the planning process in Newcastle and the broader Hunter Region clearly shows.

The committee was established in September with broad terms of reference but its understandable focus is the truncation of the Newcastle rail line, which the Coalition is determined to see done on Boxing Day.

For its part, a majority of committee members are equally determined to ensure the rail services remain. The two Liberal Party members of the six-person committee are expected to dissent from the majority view but the chairman, Reverend Nile, is scheduled to hand down an interim report on Thursday that will recommend the Boxing Day truncation not go ahead.

Not surprisingly, Premier Mike Baird and his government have repeatedly criticised the committee and its inquiry – which took three days of evidence, including two in Newcastle – as politically motivated.

Even if this is correct (and as Mr Baird and his fellow parliamentarians are all politicians, it follows that their work-related actions are indeed political), it does not negate the Legislative Council’s ability to legitimately investigate government decisions where it sees fit, and where it has the numbers.

After an ICAC-dominated year from hell, Mr Baird should accept that any days of railroading the public – excuse the pun – are surely over. The government must not only run the state with integrity, it must be seen to do so.

Instead, it has adopted a crash-or-crash-through approach on the rail line. In response, its critics are exploring the potential for an 11th-hour court injunction, which could in turn result in a legal examination of the disputed need for an act of parliament to close the line.

Given the degree of community unrest, it might benefit the government to accept the sometimes annoying delays that democracy can entail, and to meet the requests of the Nile committee.

At the same time, Mr Baird might also remember that the Legislative Council, as a house of review, has a legitimate role in examining and hopefully improving the decisions of the lower house.

Because if there is one thing that the two sides of the rail debate agree on, it’s that nothing less than the future of the Newcastle central business district is at stake.

Read More →

TRIBUTE: Tony Abbott and wife Margie about to lay wreaths. Picture: James Alcock.PRIME Minister Tony Abbott says Australians are right to ask how the Sydney siege gunman, Man Haron Monis, was ‘‘entirely at large in the community’’.
Shanghai night field

Mr Abbott admitted the national security committee of cabinet had asked itself, when it met on Tuesday, the same question after the tragic events in Martin Place had unfolded.

But the Prime Minister said that even if Monis had been ‘‘front and centre on our watch lists, even if this individual had been monitored 24 hours a day, it’s quite likely, certainly possible, that this incident could have taken place’’.

And Mr Abbott vowed that if a review of Australia’s counter-terrorism measures found that a further strengthening of laws was needed, ‘‘I’ll be doing more. My job is pretty simple, to try and protect and ensure the community is safe.’’

‘‘How can someone who has had such a long and chequered history not be on the appropriate watch lists and how can someone like that be entirely at large in the community?

‘‘These are questions that we need to look at carefully and calmly and methodically, to learn the right lessons, and to act upon them. That’s what we’ll be doing in the days and weeks ahead.’’

Mr Abbott said that while he believed the federal government had responded appropriately to intelligence reports of ‘‘terrorist chatter’’, ‘‘we do have to ask ourselves the question, could it have been been prevented?’’

Mr Abbott said that Monis had been ‘‘well known’’ to the Australian Federal Police, spy agency ASIO and the NSW police ‘‘but I don’t believe that he was on a terror watch list at this time’’.

‘‘There was nothing consistent with this individual’s life except he was consistently weird.’’

During the siege, Monis issued three demands – including for direct contact with Mr Abbott.

He forced three female hostages to record videos spelling out those demands, which he then uploaded to video-sharing website YouTube.

The three demands were for an Islamic State flag to be delivered in exchange for the release of one hostage; for media to broadcast that the siege was an attack on Australia by the Islamic State; and third, for Mr Abbott to contact ‘‘The Brother’’ – understood to be Monis – on a live feed in exchange for five hostages.

On Tuesday, after the siege had ended, Mr Abbott’s office would not formally confirm whether Monis’ demand to speak to the PM had been met. However, it is understood that, acting on the advice of intelligence and security agencies advice, Mr Abbott did not directly engage Monis.

Late on Monday night, the Prime Minister left his office for a few hours but continued to monitor developments in Martin Place through official channels and the media. He was alerted immediately the siege moved towards its conclusion and returned to Parliament House just after 2am.

After the siege came to its tragic conclusion, Mr Abbott and key advisers including chief of staff Peta Credlin and foreign affairs adviser Andrew Shearer received rolling updates from NSW Premier Mike Baird, NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione and Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin.

Early on Tuesday, a lengthy meeting of the National Security Committee was convened.

Read More →

Tori Johnston.TORI Johnson’s final, selfless act embodied so much about the way he lived.
Shanghai night field

In his last moments, the 34-year-old manager of the Lindt Chocolat Cafe tried to wrest the gun out of the hands of Man Haron Monis, as hostages faced their 17th hour of the siege.

‘‘To me, that’s 100 per cent Tori,’’ said restaurateur Peter Manettas, who worked with Mr Johnson at the Adria Bar and Restaurant in Darling Harbour until 2012.

‘‘He was an extremely selfless person.

‘‘He always put his staff first.

‘‘He was a leader in all senses of the word.

‘‘He was a very proud person and a very ambitious person and a mentor to a lot of staff.’’

At a Mass for the victims in St Mary’s Cathedral on Tuesday, Archbishop Anthony Fisher told the congregation of Mr Johnson’s bravery.

‘‘Apparently seeing an opportunity, Tori grabbed the gun,’’ Archbishop Fisher said.

‘‘Tragically it went off, killing him. But it triggered the response of police and eventual freedom for most of the hostages.’’

Mr Johnson’s family released a statement expressing both their grief and pride.

‘‘We are so proud of our beautiful boy Tori, gone from this earth but forever in our memories as the most amazing life partner, son and brother we could ever wish for,’’ the statement said.

‘‘We feel heartfelt sorrow for the family of Katrina Dawson.

‘‘We’d like to thank not only our friends and loved ones for their support, but the people of Sydney; Australia and those around the world for reaching out with their thoughts and prayers.

‘‘Let us all pray for peace on earth.’’

Friends and family were comforting Mr Johnson’s partner Thomas Zinn at the apartment the couple owned on a bright, leafy street in Redfern. It is understood Mr Johnson’s brother was flying to Sydney from Canada.

A woman who answered the intercom at the apartment block said Mr Zinn was not ready to speak to the media.

Mr Johnson had worked at several regarded cafes and bars in Sydney since 2000, including the Observatory Hotel, and Rydges in Jamison Street.

He also worked in hospitality in the US and the Maldives, according to his LinkedIn page.

A former barista at the Lindt Chocolat Cafe, Jeremiah Mar, wrote of his sadness on Facebook.

‘‘It honestly feels like yesterday that you were telling me to tuck in my shirt and remind me to smile and greet customers: You went out how you are. A hero.’’

In a statement, Lindt Australia chief executive Steve Loane said Mr Johnson was a passionate ambassador for the cafe.

‘‘He was a dedicated professional who always built a great rapport with his customers and was much loved by the Lindt team.’’

One little boy in Wollongong will never forget the kindness Mr Johnson – a complete stranger – showed him at Easter.

Mercedez Hinchcliff said Mr Johnson organised a chocolate egg to be made for her son Henry, who suffers severe food allergies.

‘‘It’s definitely something that stuck out in [Henry’s] mind as being one of his best days,’’ she said.

‘‘It taught him that people go out of their way for people.’’

with Lisa Visentin and Patrick Begley

Read More →