Historic timber group makes ASX debut

One of Australia’s oldest timber and building products companies has made a solid ASX debut after 14 months in the hands of private equity owners.

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Big River, which manufactures and distributes construction timber across Australia, was bought by Anacacia Capital from its founders, the NSW-based Pidcock family, in 2016 and entered listed life on Monday following a $17 million initial public offering.

Big River’s four-man board boasts former agribusiness Elders managing director Malcolm Jackman as an independent non-executive director.

The company ended its first day of trade more at $1.51, up 3.4 per cent from its $1.46 issue price.

Big River manufacturers and distributes building and construction products, including timber and steel products, timber flooring, plywood and related timber products across Australia.

The group owns two manufacturing facilities in Wagga Wagga and Grafton in New South Wales.

Big River’s customers include major property developer LendLease, construction firm John Holland and furniture and electrical goods retailer Harvey Norman as well as smaller contractors.

The company’s prospectus said funds raised will provide the company with growth opportunities, including “greater flexibility” for its acquisition strategy and improved access to capital and debt.

Big River is expected to book a proforma net profit of about $6 million for 2016-17, up 1.3 per cent from $5.9 million a year earlier, on revenue of $201 million, according to its prospectus.

Big River sold 11.6 million new shares via the IPO, which was fully underwritten by brokerage firm Taylor Collison.

Titans halfback happy to give it to Hayne

Ash Taylor says he’s happy to cop a spray from Jarryd Hayne – and dish one out to his more senior Gold Coast teammate – if it’s in the best interests of the NRL team.

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Hayne and halfback Taylor have argued on-field at times prompting outside criticism of Hayne’s attitude and approach to teammates.

But Taylor on Monday dismissed it as natural tension between creative players trying to get a result for their team.

“He (Hayne) is just trying to do the best for our team and so am I, that’s just competitive nature,” said Taylor on Monday.

“There’s other players out there who speak a bit differently, but he’ll (Hayne) cop one back if he needs one.”

Mostly picked at fullback this season, Hayne has been bobbing up in the halves at times to get his hands on the ball in attack.

Interestingly coach Neil Henry posted him to centre in the last-round 38-8 drubbing of Newcastle, with Tyrone Roberts at fullback and Kane Elgey partnering the gifted Taylor in the halves.

Henry said it was the best fit with all of those key players available and Hayne responded by scoring two tries in another strong display.

Taylor insisted he was unconcerned at chopping and changing with his halves partner, whether it be Roberts, Elgey or Hayne.

“I try not to change how I play, that just makes it harder on me,” he said.

“I want to be consistent no matter who’s in the halves and play the best footy I can.”

There is set to be more changes for the Titans with injured centre Dale Copley (ribs) likely to return for the Gold Coast when they take on Melbourne next round.

His return will cause another welcome selection headache for Henry.

“All of the boys are playing out of their skin in their positions so it’s going to be hard to name the squad but it’s a good thing for us,” Taylor said.

“It shows we have a lot of depth at our club, it’s going to be pretty tough to get a spot in the side.”

Westpac stance on coal ‘disappointing’: PM

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says coal has a big role to play in Australia’s energy future, and he’s disappointed that Westpac has turned its back on the Adani mine and others in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

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“I am disappointed that Westpac has made that decision. I think these projects should be examined on their merits,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Townsville on Monday.

Westpac ruled out supporting the Adani mine and others in the Galilee Basin under its new climate change action plan announced on Friday, in a move savaged by Resources Minister Matt Canavan as anti-development.

Mr Turnbull echoed those sentiments on Monday, saying: “Coal has a big role to play for a very long time”.

“The idea that Australia, (as) the largest coal exporting nation in the world, would suddenly walk away from that enormous resource is extraordinary,” he said.

Modern, low-emissions coal fired-power stations would help ensure Australia had affordable energy, while renewable sources and storage options were ramped up, he said.

On Sunday, Senator Canavan suggested Westpac’s position on coal was anti-Queensland, and anti-growth.

“We are trying to develop the north, we are trying to develop our country and get behind new products like opening up the Galilee Basin with 16,000 jobs,” Senate Canavan told Sky news.

“Here we have a bank which should be a proud Australian … they are not going to finance stuff that is going to develop our country.”

He also branded Westpac hypocritical, being itself a big polluter with its data centres for its own products.

Home prices near flat in April: CoreLogic

Sydney home prices stagnated in April, leading to the lowest rise in capital city prices in almost a year and a half.

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Australian capital city home prices rose a mere 0.1 per cent in April, according to the CoreLogic Hedonic Home Value Index.

CoreLogic director of research Tim Lawless said the biggest weight on overall prices was a Sydney prices flat at a median price of $860,000 for the month, while Melbourne prices were up just 0.5 per cent to $650,000.

“The two hottest housing markets in the nation have shown signs of slowing down in April, with the CoreLogic Hedonic Home Value Index recording a rise of just 0.1 per cent over April, the lowest month-on-month rise in capital city dwelling values since December 2015,” he said in a note.

Despite subdued rises on other cities – Hobart was the strongest with a rise of 1.0 per cent to $363,200 – Mr Lawless said the trends in the overall housing market remain positive.

He said Australian home prices were up 2.9 per cent in the three months to March 31, and 11.2 per cent in annually, to $625,800.

Mr Lawless noted the subdued April result came amid public holidays, mortgage rates edging higher and a tightening of lending standards, especially to investors, by the bank regulator APRA.

“We need to be cautious in calling a peak in the market after only one month of soft results,” he said.

“April, in particular, coincides with seasonal factors including Easter, school holidays and ANZAC Day long weekend.”

He added that the softer results should also be viewed against a backdrop of ever-evolving regulation aimed at slowing investment and interest-only mortgage lending.”

Adelaide home prices were up 0.8 per cent at $430,000, Brisbane prices were up 0.6 per cent at $481,000 and Darwin prices were up 0.5 per cent at $467,000.

Meanwhile, Canberra prices slumped 2.8 per cent to $605,000 and Perth prices were down one per cent to $472,000.

Major university cuts may be part of next week’s Budget

A strong Chinese economy and two Reserve Bank interest rate cuts last year have delivered a boost to Australia’s coffers.

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But a leading economist warns the $100 billion surge in national income this year will not make much difference to the Budget.

Deloitte Access Economics’ Chris Richardson says that is partly because the money has already been counted.

“It won’t terribly translate into better news for the Budget, partly because the Treasurer’s previous update was more or less on the money there and because wage growth remains pretty weak and that’s weighing on the tax take.”

Mr Richardson warns the return to surplus could be slower than Treasury is hoping.

He says that is because the official modelling is counting on big improvements to the way tax is collected.

“Treasury’s still of the view, and it may be right, that the tax system will get a bunch healthier in the next few years. In the last seven years, total revenue went up by an average of $17 billion a year. In the next three years, Treasury says it’ll jump to $30 billion a year, not because of a decision to tax more but because of underlying repair in the tax system.”

The Government is reportedly considering major cuts to university funding which could include a rise in fees for students.

The education minister is meeting with university leaders to discuss it.

The move follows a Government-commissioned report, also by Deloitte, that shows federal funding has risen faster than the actual cost of educating students.

Treasurer Scott Morrison says universities are banking the difference in profit.

“What I do know is, in the figures that have been released by the education minister today, that funding growth has been at 15 per cent, the costs have been growing at 9.5 per cent, there is the effective profit equivalent of 6 per cent for these institutions, but, for businesses at large, it’s at 1 per cent. So I think those three figures tell you something about the capacity, I think, for the sector to deliver better value, even better value, for the students.”

The Opposition has attacked the Government for raiding the education sector for savings, though.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says it is a question of priorities.

“No nation can be an innovation nation when you’re cutting funding to education. Why should university students have to pay much more to go to university at the same time as the Government is giving corporate tax giveaways of $50 billion over the next 10 years?”