Thursday, May 23, 2013

Aussie icons rank among world's top-100 brands

Four Australian companies have made the list of the world's 100 most powerful brands, with the top spot going to technology giant Apple.

The Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, ANZ Bank and Woolworths all made the Brandz Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands list, compiled by global market research firm Millward Brown and commissioned by marketing giant WPP.

The rankings are based on the views of potential and current buyers of a brand as well as financial data to calculate the brand's overall value.

Apple retained its title of the world's most valuable brand, worth $US185 billion, ahead of Google which was valued at $US113 billion and IBM at $US112 billion.

The Commonwealth Bank was the highest-ranked Australian brand, coming in at 48th spot, up 12 places from 2012 when it became the first Australian brand to make the list. Its brand value was calculated at $US17.7 billion – a 36 per cent increase on the previous year.

It is the first time the ANZ Bank (ranked 52), Woolworths (80) and Westpac (88) have made the global list. ANZ's brand value was listed as $$US16.5 billion; Woolworths at $US11 billion and Westpac at $US10 billion.

The significant presence of Australian brands, particularly in the newcomer rankings, reflected the strength of the Australian economy and the rise in the Australian dollar, according to the Millward Brown report.

"The growing brand value of brands from Australia indicates the strength of the country's economy relative to other developed markets, and how the country's proximity to fast-growing Asia markets is influencing growth," the report said.

The fastest rising brand on the list was luxury apparel brand Prada (95) which saw its value increase by 63 per cent, driven by the "impact of the Chinese consumer purchasing power".

The second-fastest growing brand and highest-valued apparel brand was Spanish fast-fashion chain Zara. Its brand value rose by 60 per cent to put it in 35th place, ahead of sportswear giant Nike.

The top 100 brands are now collectively worth $2.6 trillion, up 7 per cent from a year ago, according to the report.

Technology brands including Apple, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Samsung, Oracle and Facebook continue to dominate the top rankings, with the report describing them as the "lifeblood of the modern economy".

All but two of the 13 categories analysed in the report improved in brand value with technology and oil and gas declining modestly.

The greatest percentage brand value rise of all categories was beer – up 36 per cent. Consumer categories – including apparel (up 21 per cent), retail (up 17 per cent), luxury (up 6 per cent) and cars (up 5 per cent) – experienced the strongest brand value appreciation of all the categories.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Australian market up despite drag from mining stocks

THE sharemarket has opened slightly higher despite weakness among major resources stocks.

At 10.11am AEST the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 11.2 points, or 0.21 per cent, at 5221.5, while the broader All Ordinaries index was up 10.0 points, or 0.19 per cent, at 5204.8.

IG market analyst Stan Shamu said weaker commodities prices had weighed on mining stocks, especially gold, while the major banks were mixed.

“The main thing today is how the resources stocks fare, particularly on the back of slightly weaker commodities prices,'' Mr Shamus said.

It comes after a Wall Street closed relatively flat and ahead of the release of the Australian federal budget tonight.

The big mining companies all opened lower.

At 10.20am AEST BHP Billiton fell 10 cents to $34.44, Rio Tinto declined 38 cents to $57.21 and Fortescue lost three cents to $3.80.

Among the financial stocks, the big four banks were mixed.

Westpac fell 12 cents to $31.70, ANZ was three cents higher at $30.12, National Australia Bank dropped 17 cents to $33.01 and Commonwealth Bank gained 28 cents to $71.42.

In economic news, the Australia Bureau of Statistics will release lending finance figures for March at 11.30am AEST and the federal budget will be released at 7.30am AEST.

US stocks traded largely flat under the shadow of poor Chinese economic data and a slight gain in US monthly retail sales.

The S&P 500 managed to set a new closing record, but only on the back of an almost negligible 0.07 point gain from the previous mark on Friday, ending at 1633.77.

The narrower blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 26.81 points (0.18 per cent) to 15,091.68, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index added 2.21 (0.06 per cent) at 3438.79.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Noma no longer world's best restaurant

After three years in the No.1 spot, Noma is no longer the world's best restaurant, with Spain once again securing the prestigious title.

Danish chef Rene Redzepi's establishment has now slipped to second position in the 2013 S.Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants list announced overnight.

Top spot in the prestigious international list is now held by Spanish restaurant El Celler de Can Roca, which has finally moved to No.1 after a couple of years of placing second. The last Spanish restaurant to hold the No.1 spot was chef Ferran Adria's establishment El Bulli, which held the title for several years.

The three Michelin-starred El Celler is run by three brothers - Josep, Jordi and Joan Roca. It had been ranked No.2 for the past two years.

Opened in 1986, El Celler is known for dishes that blend innovative cooking techniques with traditional ingredients, such as lobster parmentier with black trumpets and Iberian suckling pig with pepper sauce and garlic and quince terrine, according to Associated Press.

Two Australian restaurants have been included among the top 50: Attica (21) and Quay (48).

It is the first time Melbourne establishment Attica has placed in the top 50; it had been among the top 100 in previous years.

Attica, whose executive chef is Ben Shewry, also received the Best Restaurant in Australasia award and the Highest New Entry award.

Quay was ranked 29th last year.

Chef David Chang's Sydney restaurant Momofuku Seiobo joined the list at No.89.

Once rated among the top 10 best restaurants in the world, Sydney establishment Tetsuya's has missed out on a ranking in this year's list.

It is the first time since the prestigious awards began in 2002 that Tetsuya's has not been listed. But its owner, Sydney-based Japanese chef Tetsuya Wakuda, will still be celebrating because his Singapore restaurant, Waku Ghin, took out 68th position.

Australian-born chef David Thompson's success at Nahm in Bangkok (32) comes hot on the heels of a No.3 spot in this year's inaugural Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list.

Aussie chef Brett Graham took out 13th spot with London restaurant The Ledbury.

Celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal's London restaurant, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, came in at No.7 while his other establishment, The Fat Duck, took out 33rd spot.

"Six US restaurants made the list, but only one broke into the top 10 - Daniel Humm's Eleven Madison Park in New York was No.5, up from 10th place last year," AP reported.

"Thomas Keller's Per Se in New York fell from sixth place to 11th, and his California restaurant The French Laundry came in at No.47, down from 43rd.

"The French Laundry held the top spot in 2003 and 2004.

"Grant Achatz' ulta-modernist Alinea in Chicago fell from seventh to 15th this year. It had been in the top 10 since 2009.

"Eric Ripert's seafood-focused Le Bernardin in New York held fast at No.19, while Daniel Boulud's Daniel in New York slipped from 25th to 29th."

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Top Australian netballers threaten strike action

Australia's world champion netballers are threatening industrial action if pay talks with Netball Australia fail to achieve a satisfactory deal.

The players' union is to meet with Netball Australia tomorrow with players asking for an increase from $250 to $500 a day when on national team duty.

On average, players spend 50 contact days with the Australian team a year, earning about $12,500 which would rise to $25,000.

Netball Australia's offered a 20 per cent pay increase.

The Australian Netball Players Association director John-Paul Blandthorn says playing for the Diamonds and in the trans-Tasman competition earns a player about $43,000 a year.

But Netball Australia chief executive Kate Palmer says seven of the current Diamonds earn more than $125,000 from netball and related activities, with four of those earning over $185,000.

If the Diamonds decide to strike, the move could effect other national teams including New Zealand, with Australia due to play here later this year.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Australians caught in spin as Shane Watson returns

Watson hit back saying the cricket chief was from a rugby background and further denied Howard’s claims of tensions between he and Clarke.

The vice-captain also let it be known he thought that being banished from the third Test for not completing an assignment was excessive.

A press release by Cricket Australia with quotes from all parties attempts to extinguish the flames as all sides claimed that things were much better than a week ago.

“I’ve had several constructive discussions with team management back in Mohali over the past few days,” Watson is quoted as saying.

“We've spoken about how we are going to work together to move forward, as Australia attempts to climb back to the top of the ICC rankings. I’ve a burning ambition to be an Australian Test player for as long as I can be and help Australia win those big Test series’ as well as the big ICC tournaments.
“I have also had a number of chats with Pat Howard over the last week and we are both now on the same page and are really looking forward to working together to get Australia to be the best team in the world.
“I’m looking forward to getting around the boys again and concentrating on moving forward. I’m entirely committed to the team and being the best player I can be.”

Howard too was quoted as saying the pair had moved on.

"Shane and I have had a number of positive conversations. I am glad to say that Shane will return from compassionate leave and rejoin the squad in India as the team prepares for the fourth Test in Delhi,” the high performance manager said.

Coach Mickey Arthur also joined the happy chorus.
“It’s been a big week for us all – both on and off the pitch,” he said. “The whole Australian cricket team  congratulates Lee and Shane on the safe arrival of baby Will.
"Covering all the bases while preparing for any Test match is key to both us and Shane’s recommitment to the team in his chats with me this week have been really positive. We’re looking forward to having Watto back and around the group as we prepare for the fourth Test.”

Back at the cricket Australia is trying to hold off defeat in the third Test but the loss of three wickets in the first session has made that task more difficult.

Resuming on 3-75, the visitors lost nightwatchman Nathan Lyon to the spin of Ojha with the total 89.

Michael Clarke, whose back injury has added an intriguing subplot to the Watson drama, came in at No6 but was obviously struggling. He lasted almost an hour before being dismissed caught at the wicket of Ravi Jadeja’s bowling.

Replays suggested it might have been a no-ball, but the umpire’s stuck with their original decision.

The best news of the innings to date was Phil Hughes batting as struggled hard to reach 69.  But his dismissal - adjudged LBW by umpire Aleem Dar to Ravi Ashwin - was harsh as it appeared to be sliding down leg.

Mitchell Starc (35), Xavier Doherty (18no) and Brad Haddin (30) offered some resistance taking the total to 223 in the afternoon session.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Western Australia in world's top two for shark attacks

THE waters off Western Australia, with five unprovoked shark attacks, were best avoided last year. 
For the second year running, WA and Reunion Island, off Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, were identified as two of the world's "hot spots" for multiple shark attacks on humans.

Australia had 14 of the 80 unprovoked shark attacks worldwide in 2012, according to the report released this week by the University of Florida.

The results were an "average year" for Australia, despite including two of the seven fatalities around the world.

Attack file director George Burgess said a sudden surge in shark attacks was usually due to human factors such as changes in behaviour or population.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Nation's $1.5 trillion in super assets the fourth largest

AUSTRALIA'S $1.5 trillion ($US1.555 trillion) superannuation fund pool is now the fourth-largest in the world, according to the latest Towers Watson Global Pension Assets study.

The nation's total superannuation market, now bigger than the Australian economy, compares with the $US16.8 trillion in pension fund assets in the US, $US3.7 trillion in Japan and $US2.7 trillion in Britain. It is just ahead of the $US1.48 trillion market in Canada.

Australia's rise to fourth position follows a compound annual growth rate of more than 18 per cent over the past decade in US dollar terms, a result of the federal government's compulsory super levy regime and the rise of the Australian dollar.

GRAPHIC: Top pension pools

The survey shows Australian super funds have the strongest bias to investing in shares of the top 13 markets surveyed, with 54 per cent of assets in shares compared with 52 per cent by US pension funds, 45 per cent by British funds, 43 per cent by Canada's pension funds and only 27 per cent in The Netherlands, the sixth-largest pension fund market.

The survey shows that Australia still has the highest proportion of defined contribution super funds at 81 per cent, compared to only 19 per cent of fund assets in defined benefit funds. Elsewhere there is a far stronger bias towards defined benefit super schemes, ranging from the US where 42 per cent of funds are in defined benefit pension plans, to Japan, The Netherlands and Canada, which are almost 100 per cent defined benefit systems.

Martin Goss, senior investment consultant at Towers Watson in Australia, said yesterday that Australia's dominant regime of defined contribution pension plans "enables trustees to place priority on long-term, risk-adjusted returns".

"In countries with a greater bias towards defined benefits, matching liabilities is a greater priority, leading to lower equity and higher bond allocations, despite the historically low bond yields currently on offer," he said.

The survey confirms recent comments that Australian super funds have a strong bias towards investing in local shares.

Of the seven largest pension fund markets surveyed, only the US funds had a higher bias towards domestic shares.

Australian funds had the lowest home country bias when it came to investing in bonds.

The survey showed that Australian superannuation assets have now outstripped the size of its economy, now representing 101 per cent of gross domestic product compared with 96 per cent in 2011.

This means that Australia has now joined the ranks of The Netherlands, Switzerland, Britain and the US as countries that have pension fund assets larger than their economies. Towers Watson said the assets of the pension funds in the 13 major markets surveyed grew by 9 per cent last year to reach a new high of $US30 trillion.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Publishing icon Ita Buttorse has been named 2013 Australian of the Year.

The 71-year-old former magazine editor was officially awarded the prestigious title by Prime Minster Julia Gillard on the lawns outside Parliament House at 6pm this evening.

The Alzheimer's awareness advocate, was given the honour for a groundbreaking media career and her role in raising awareness of health and media issues.

The Nine Network personality began her career as a 15-year-old copy girl at The Australian Women's Weekly and quickly became a cadet journalist on the women's section at the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph.

At just 23 she was appointed women’s editor of these two newspapers and, in 1971, created Cleo magazine for Sir Frank and Kerry Packer.

Three years later she was appointed editor of The Women’s Weekly.

In 1980 she became the first woman editor of an Australian metropolitan newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, and later the Sunday Telegraph.

She was the first woman appointed to the News Limited Board in 1981.

In parallel to her media career, Buttrose continues to champion social and health issues.

Since 2011 she has been National President of Alzheimer’s Australia and is also Vice President Emeritus of Arthritis Australia.

She has been Patron of the Macular Degeneration Foundation since 2005 and now uses her profile to raise awareness of breast cancer, HIV/AIDS and prostate cancer.

Emeritus Professor Ian Maddocks was named Senior Australian of the Year for his efforts to advocate peace and his work in palliative care.

He has been a key leader for many years in both the Medical Association for the Prevention of War and the International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War - an organisation which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its work in 1985.

After promoting the development of palliative care in southern Adelaide for some years, Professor Maddocks was appointed Professor of Palliative Care at Flinders University in 1988, pursuing a rigorous teaching and research program as well as caring for his patients.

He was elected first President of the Australian Association for Hospice and Palliative Care and first President of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Palliative Medicine.

Recognised internationally for his work in palliative care, tropical and preventative medicine, Professor Maddocks’ texts are used world-wide.

25-year-old Afghan refugee Akram Azimi was added to the National Honour Roll as 2013 Young Australian of the Year.

Azimi arrived in Australia in 1999 and is now studying a triple major - law, science and arts - at the University of Western Australia.

He now uses his leadership and pastoral skills to help young people in remote and rural Western Australia and in 2011 co-founded a student-run initiative to raise awareness about Indigenous issues in universities.

Australia’s Local Hero 2013 is Indigenous community leader Shane Phillips of Redfern, Sydney.

At 48, Phillips is a respected member of the Redfern Aboriginal Community in Sydney and is regarded as the voice of the community on issues including juvenile justice and Aboriginal deaths in custody.

He is the full time CEO of the Tribal Warrior Association, a non-profit organisation directed by Aboriginal people and elders that offers training for employment and helps at the grassroots level with emergency relief for struggling families.

Phillips also operates a mentoring program to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Elks top Australian team in Castleberry Tournament

Playing as unfamiliar of an opponent as possible for a high school basketball team, the Burleson Elks opened the Castleberry Holiday Tournament with a 44-31 victory over Australia Southwest on Tuesday.

The Elks led throughout the contest against their opponents from another continent as the Australia Southwest team, comprised of high-school age players from multiple regions in Australia, is participating in a basketball tour. It was this particular group of Aussies’ first game together.

Burleson snapped a lengthy losing streak and improves to 4-10 on the year, and Coach Ted Tomchesson said it was just what the Elks needed.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had one of those,” Tomchesson said. “To get a win against somebody from another continent, I guess that makes it that much better. It’s good for us. Hopefully this will help get us some confidence going into the meat of district.”

Southwest had six players come in at 6-foot-4 and taller, but the Elks used their speed and athleticism to keep the bigger Slammers at bay.

Burleson opened the game on a 9-2 run and held a 15-4 lead after the first quarter of play as the Slammers took some time getting adjusted to the speed of the American game.

“Generally, the game is played at a little bit different speed over here than it is over there, so we tried to take advantage of that as much as we could,” Tomchesson said. “But I’ll say this, they made a great adjustment playing at our speed in the second half and it made it a little interesting then.”

The Elks forced Southwest into seven first quarter turnovers. Burleson turned the ball over only four times in the first half while Southwest committed 12 turnovers.

Zach Bonham’s 3-pointer midway through the second quarter gave the Elks their largest first-half lead at 23-7, but the Slammers ended the half on a 7-3 run to pull to within 26-14 at the half.

After a 3-pointer by Doug Mullendore to open the third quarter, Southwest scored six straight points to make it a 29-20 game, the first time since early in the first quarter it was less than a double digit deficit. The Elks scored only eight points in the third quarter, but the Slammers managed only six points, and Burleson held a 34-20 lead heading into the final frame.

The Elks extended their lead to 39-20 to open the fourth quarter. Midway through the final period, however, the Slammers went on a 8-0 run to get to within 11 points, but it was a case of too little, too late for the Australians. Burleson was able to run the final couple of minutes off the clock to preserve the hard-fought victory.

Southwest committed 21 turnovers in the game compared to only 10 for Burleson. The Elks also out-rebounded Southwest.

Bonham led the Elks with 10 points while Chance Pennington added nine points off the bench and hauled in eight rebounds. Vincent Spradley scored six points for Burleson and Adrian Rodriguez added five points.

After the game, the two teams posed for a group picture and Australia gave the Burleson players gifts.

“I think that’s the opportunity of a lifetime,” Tomchesson said. “Very rarely do you get to play anybody out of state, let alone out of the country or out of the continent. That was a great opportunity for both teams and I’m glad my kids enjoyed it.”

The Elks play at 7:30 p.m. today.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Top Australian cleric apologises for abuse

Australia's most senior Catholic cleric on Monday apologised to those who "suffered at the hands" of priests and religious teachers, in a Christmas message issued after a turbulent year for the Church.

In the video message broadcast on television, Sydney Archbishop George Pell said he was shocked and ashamed, following a series of paedophile allegations against priests and claims they were hushed up.

Pell said his heart went out to "all those who cannot find peace at this time, especially those who have suffered at the hands of fellow Christians, Christian officials, priests, religious teachers".

"I am deeply sorry this has happened," he added.

"I feel too the shock and shame across the community at these revelations of wrongdoing and crimes."
Without specifically mentioning child sex abuse, Pell said the hurt caused was "completely contrary" to Christ's teachings.

"We need our faith in God's goodness and love to cope with these disasters, to help those who have been hurt," he said.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard last month ended more than a decade of growing pressure by ordering a royal commission to investigate the responses of all religious organisations, schools and state care to allegations of abuse.

Her announcement came after a senior police investigator claimed the Church had covered up sexual abuse of children in the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney, to protect paedophiles and its own reputation.

The government in Victoria state is already investigating allegations of sex abuse by the clergy, with the Church telling a state parliamentary hearing in September that at least 620 children had been abused since the 1930s.

When Gillard announced the royal commission, Pell welcomed it as an opportunity to help victims, "clear the air" and "separate fact from fiction".

"We are not interested in denying the extent of misdoing in the Catholic Church," he said at the time.
"We object to it being exaggerated, we object to being described as the only cab on the rank. I don't think we should be scapegoated."

Pell's Christmas message drew mixed reactions from victim support groups, with some saying it represented a "major shift" in the Church's position while others said it did not go far enough.

"It's pleasing that he's opening up his heart to these people," Wayne Chamley, a spokesman for victims support group Broken Rites, told ABC television.

"They seem to now appreciate the scale of it. I don't think we've seen a statement in the past which was reflecting on the scale of what's gone on."

But Adults Surviving Child Abuse president Cathy Kezelman called it "an absolutely minimal response to express regret".

"It's very important that we also acknowledge the failure of religious organisations, including the Catholic Church, to respond appropriately to victims," she said.

"To have that ultimate betrayal by someone not only you should trust but is meant to be setting a moral compass."
Gillard has refused to put a deadline on the royal commission, but said the government had taken the first steps towards shaping the terms of reference.

Child sex abuse allegations have rattled the Catholic Church across the world, particularly in Ireland but also in the United States, Germany and Belgium.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Andrew Bogut, Mark Webber Top Australia’s Highest Paid Athletes

Business Review Weekly released its annual highest earners list for the year earlier this week and NBA player Andrew Bogut and Formula 1 driver Mark Webber found themselves as the highest paid athletes in Australian sports.

The oft injured Bogut of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors has yet to make much of an impact during the still young 2012-13 season, playing just four games after struggling to make it back from offseason ankle surgery. Despite having just played 16 games in the past two seasons, Bogut is Australia’s top paid athlete earning $13.5 million per year.

Second the list is Mark Webber- the Red Bull teammate of recent F1 champion Sebastian Vettel. Webber made $12 million last year while golfer Adam Scott rounded out the top three with an income of $10.5 million.

Other notable names include now retired Moto GP champ Casey Stoner (4th, $8 million) Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke (5th, $5.5 million), Dynamo Moscow’s Luke Wilkshire (6th, $5 million) and 2011 Tour de France champion Cadel Evans (7th, $4 million).

World No.9 women’s tennis player Sam Stosur came in at just number 20 ($2.5 million), but the former US Open champion didn’t have her best year, while just a handful of AFL and no NRL players made the top 50.
Gary Ablett, Chris Judd, Tom Scully and Israel Folau were the 2012 AFL players to make the list, however both codes appear to have arguments to offer for an increased salary cap after analysing the numbers from BRW’s new 50.