Thursday, April 30, 2015

Context on female participation rates

Following the last post and a query this is the long term female participation rate in context. This is the difference between the male and female trend participation for Australia and Queensland since the ABS series began in 1978. Cairns is the SA4 area since 1998 from the Conus Trend.

Cans = Conus Trend

Cans. Previously a city of workforce female participant Amazons reverting to the mean? Just for you Leigh Dall'Osto and thanks for provoking the idea!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Do you see what I see?

A recent post was noted at Conus on a favourite topic: A look at the gender split in Cairns’ jobs market .

This related to a recent post by a former politician and alleged journalist (or should that be the other way around) at Cairns Now: Is it getting harder for women to find jobs in Cairns compared to men?
If you're female and looking for a job, Cairns was a tough place to be in March. While economists prefer the trend rate when it comes to employment statistics, increasingly the month of March is showing more women are giving up looking for jobs in Cairns with last month's participation rate at its lowest point for women than at any time in the past decade.
There are some issues I think with this analysis and conclusion. I will ignore the dodgy king-parrot-nomics methodology of comparing the raw data female participation rate for the single month of March over the past decade. Lets start with the Cairns SA4 participation rate:

The decline in the Cairns participation rate has been a concern and significant relative to broad declines both nationally and in Queensland over the period. Not without irony the ex-member for Cairns only seems to have discovered this problem since becoming an ex-member.
The gender split in the Cairns labour force data has been a subject of interests and previous posts at Loose Change. Pete has kindly forwarded his Conus Trend gender data and I have overlaid this to update my existing graphs. This is the spread between the male and female participation rates for the series:

Blue = Conus Trend; Red = 12 month average
The male participation rate is typically higher. The early part of the series here shows part of the structural trend increase over several decades in female participation. The trend spread has been relatively stable and ranged sideways over the past ten tears which is also the period chosen by Cairns Now. The green line is the ten year average. The current numbers are sort of very average. The trend spread has been just below that average and very stable for some time.
Diversion: Note that as we break down data into sub-sectors it becomes increasingly more volatile even on a trend or moving average basis. The ABS data comes flagged with sample size warnings. The combined data for Cairns is sometimes flagged. The subsector male-female data is only sometimes not flagged. Also note that the trend data can appear more volatile at times than the lagging 12 month average but is also a better indicator of any turning points. I think Pete has posted on this before at Conus.
I find it difficult to justify that there is some kind of significant relative deterioration in the female participation rate in Cairns. Lets look at the unemployment rate differential:

Blue = Conus Trend; Red = 12 month average
Clearly there was a period around a year or so ago that was somewhat unusual when the two rates split with a low female unemployment rate diverging and opened up a wide spread against the male rate. Yes, participation rates can play a role in that. I think at the time I posted that this threw up more than usual caution for me on the sample. Lets look at female employment as a proportion of total employment:

Blue = Conus Trend; Red = 12 month average
As Pete has noted at Conus, the trend female data has shown some deterioration since last July. However that also comes off previous relative highs and remains in line with or above average. Again, some of those monthly raw data numbers in 1H 2014 throw up sample concerns. Could the proportion of female employment really have been 49% in May 2014?
Lastly, the male and female employment estimates for the series. In this one the Conus Trend is a dotted line and the solid line a 12 month average as used by the Qld Gov't Statistician.

Blue = Conus Trend; Red = 12 month average
I can't see any basis for comparative weakness in female employment here. What I see, or think I see, looks more to me like signs of a reversion to the mean in some of the  recent data.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Regional rental trends updated

RTA have updated their rental data for the March quarter based on new bonds lodged. The same trends remain apparent with continued weakness in Mackay taking rentals there below both Townsville and Cairns. Cairns continues to establish its position as the high rent capital.

A comparison with Darwin may also be interesting to watch with some warning bells starting to be rung for that property market.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Board contest at Reef Casino

Reef Casino (RCT) posted AGM details today. This is normally boring stuff but interest this time is that the largest individual shareholder Gary Mauric, with about 5.3%, is contesting a board position. That means there will be three candidates for two positions with existing directors Keith DeLacy and Richard Haire nominated for re-election. Both are prominent pillars of the Queensland business boys club.
Mauric has no chance given that Casinos Austria and Accor with a combined holding of 70% control the board and the board have recommended a vote against his election:

Board recommendation
The board recognises that having a range of different skills, backgrounds and experience amongst its directors is important. The board considers that the directors standing for re-election demonstrate commitment to their role and continue to make a valuable contribution to the board. The board recognises that a range of tenures amongst the directors provides a valuable perspective on the Trust and its operations. In particular, the board values Mr DeLacy’s deep understanding of the Trust, its investments and the environment in which it operates because of his long tenure as a board member and because he is based locally in Cairns. The board recognizes Mr Haire’s extensive experience in listed public companies and his corporate governance experience including his tenure as President of the Queensland Division of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
The board has considered Mr Mauric’s work experience and formed the view that he would be a suitable director were there three vacancies available on the board. However, in light of the limited vacancies on the board, only two of the three candidates can be appointed. Given the substantial contribution that Mr DeLacy and Mr Haire make to the board and their proven track record as directors, the directors of Reef Corporate Services Ltd (excluding Mr DeLacy and Mr Haire in respect of their own re-election resolution) recommend that unitholders vote in favour of the election of Mr DeLacy and Mr Haire and against the election of Mr Mauric.
The chairman of the meeting intends to vote undirected proxies in favour of the election of Mr DeLacy and Mr Haire and against the election of Mr Mauric.
The top twenty holders are listed in the annual report with Mauric holding 2,507,465 units in his own name. Spouse Rita is also listed with 150,000. Most recent trades in RCT have been up to $3.35 which is $1 below the Aquis bid. So Mauric would have been some $2.5 million better of had the bid been completed.
I have no idea what Mauric's motivation may be. Subject to further research KS Corporate Advisory anticipates recommending a vote for Mauric. My own holding of 1,000 RCT acquired via SMSF the week the bid collapsed will provide at least moral support. Perhaps I should lobby for proxies?
There remain questions arond the performance and management of the casino last year during the takeover bid, the probity delays by Fung and whether this breached the implementation agreement, as well as issues related to continuous disclosure by Fung.
Could be an interesting AGM at the casino on 25th May and there is also a 20% discount voucher at Tamarinds.
Reef Casino 3 year chart

Climate and Water Outlook, May–July 2015

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.