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Australian News

Scott Morrison shares Australia’s virus response


Scott Morrison is gearing up for day two of the virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit hosted by Saudi Arabia.

The prime minister is attending the meeting from his office at The Lodge in Canberra, while he quarantines following his trip to Japan last week.

The coronavirus pandemic was at the centre of leaders’ discussions during day one of the summit.

This included calls for more co-ordinated international action to respond to the crisis, greater preparedness for the next pandemic, and making a vaccine and treatment “safe, affordable and available to all”.

“No one is safe until we are all safe,” many leaders agreed.

The need to support the World Health Organisation’s work was deemed critical to identifying pandemics early.

Mr Morrison and several others also noted the key role hope would play during the pandemic recovery, adding the progress on vaccine trials were part of that.

He told the summit that Australia’s response had been “relatively successful” in terms of suppressing the health impact and cushioning the economic blow with unprecedented fiscal support.

“With 75 per cent of jobs coming back Australia is now looking to build for the future,” Mr Morrison said.

Most leaders supported extending debt relief for vulnerable countries, and there were calls to keep trade and supply chains open, and for safe cross-border travel to resume.

Changes to the World Trade Organisation to help boost economic recovery across the world were also discussed.



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Business

Universal Store still keen on physical stores as shares soar on ASX debut


Universal operates 65 stores around the country and sells a range of popular youth-focused fashion brands, including Patagonia, Dickies, Stussy, Lacoste and Wrangler.

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On Tuesday, the company enjoyed a strong, albeit delayed, debut on the ASX boards. Shares were originally intended to begin trading at noon on Monday, however, the bourse’s unexpected shutdown postponed the float.

Nevertheless, investors reacted enthusiastically to the retailer’s listing, with shares soaring 18.4 per cent to $4.50 on Tuesday, a solid rise from their issue price of $3.80. The company’s market cap is currently around $280 million and it holds the title of the third-largest IPO this year after Adore Beauty and Home Co Daily Needs REIT.

Universal’s top shareholders include retail veteran Brett Blundy’s investment vehicle, which holds 16.4 per cent, and Five V Capital with 5.5 per cent. The Myer family also holds 3.1 per cent.

Ms Barbery, who’s retail career includes stints at Colorado and Gap, said the strong showing was positive but noted it was “early days” for the retailer, which is currently preparing for the Christmas rush.

Universal’s primary demographic are shoppers under the age of 35, a cohort Ms Barbery believes will still be keen to spend this holiday season, especially as tourism opportunities remain muted.

“People can’t go on that ski trip to Japan or Switzerland this year, there’s a lot of expenses which would normally go to other things that will probably flow back through to gifting and buying that new outfit,” she said.

“Our customers are telling us that they just want to burn everything they’ve been wearing for the past several weeks, so I’m being cautiously optimistic.”

Ahead of its expected listing on Monday, Universal released a trading update showing comparable sales since the end of September had continued to grow, up 33 per cent, and its recently reopened Melbourne stores had also done well, with comparable sales up 23 per cent for the two weeks leading up to November 15.

Ms Barbery acknowledges that Universal’s core customers would have been major beneficiaries of the government’s JobKeeper and JobSeeker schemes, but isn’t worried about their pending removal in March, saying she’s bullish that the economy will be in a good state by then and young workers will be back in jobs.

“My job is to be the retailer of choice, and to take as much market share of whatever dollars are out there,” she said.

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Local News - Victoria

Sammy J shares his lessons from lockdown


The CBD tells a similar tale of wasted investment. It’s particularly brutal seeing all the Comedy Festival ads plastered over empty trams. I was one of many performers with a show planned in April.

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After rescheduling, then rescheduling again, I finally pulled the pin when our second lockdown arrived.

Despite that disappointment, I can’t complain about work during this pandemic. As a non-essential part of an essential institution I’ve had the huge fortune of a regular job, allowing me the freedom to leave home and present a radio show every morning.

So I haven’t experienced the worst of lockdown, and I can’t speak to the pain of those who have.

But I’ve still learnt some things during this weird time. I always thought doing radio would be like doing the comedy festival – prepare, rehearse, perform.

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In practice, you can’t “perform” for two and a half hours every day. Particularly at the crack of dawn after half a banana and an instant coffee.

At some point you have to be yourself, be vulnerable, and – in perhaps the cruellest blow of all for a comedian – be sincere.

We’ll all take something different from 2020. For me, that’s my lesson – not everything has to be a joke, and not everything can be.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve still worn a mankini in the studio and obnoxiously played musical theatre songs over Mick Malthouse as he tries to give me footy tips.

But at other times I’ve had to put stupidity aside and chat to people who are struggling, people whose families are far away, and people who – like all of us – still don’t know how to process this dumpster fire of a year.

Because when we couldn’t get together in person, radio helped us hold on to a sense of community. I’ll be forever grateful that I was part of that community this year, and I suspect it meant more to me than the listeners much of the time. See that? I was sincere just then. You wouldn’t have heard that in 2019, I guarantee it.

I can also happily report that after a lifetime of peak-hour gridlock frustration, cycling down an empty Hoddle Street is quite cathartic. And now that we’re finally easing ourselves out of lockdown, l might just treat myself to some gourmet yoghurt.

Sammy J hosts the breakfast show on ABC Radio Melbourne, 5.30am-8am weekdays. His new album, Cross Country, is released on November 5 through ABC Music.

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Shares of Chinese retailer Miniso rise in Wall Street debut


The stock opened at $US24.40, and ended Thursday up 4.4 per cent, or 88 US cents, at $US20.88. It had been has high as $US24.90 earlier in the day.

“We chose to list in the United States … because many global companies list there,” Ye said in a phone interview on Thursday, ahead of the company going public on the New York Stock Exchange.

“We are aiming for continuous development of our business model and are not after short-term profit, and we hope the market will see this.”

Backed by Chinese gaming company Tencent Holdings, which also owns social media company WeChat, Miniso found success in brick-and-mortar retailing by modelling itself after Japan’s 100-yen stores, which sell a variety of products at about $US1 each. The company has over 3000 stores globally, more than 60 per cent of them in mainland China.

Miniso stores typically sell a range of goods, from cosmetics to small household appliances, mostly crafted by an in-house team of designers. The company positions itself as a retailer that sells high-quality products at an affordable price – shoppers can pick up waterproof eyeliner for as little as $US1.50, perfume for $US3, or a pair of sunglasses for less than $US8.

It also partners with brands to sell products with intellectual property licensed from Disney or Marvel, offering various items such as wallets, bags and toys featuring Marvel superhero characters and Mickey Mouse.

Ye was inspired to start Miniso in 2013, after he travelled to Japan with this family and was impressed by the Japanese design aesthetic.

“I realised that there are many lifestyle specialty stores in Japan selling household products and home furnishings, and we didn’t have such stores in China,” Ye said.

Ye wanted to harness China’s manufacturing prowess and meld it with good design, to offer quality products at attractive prices to consumers.

Miniso entered the offline retail scene at a time when e-commerce was winning market share. Ye said he decided to take the brick-and-mortar route because he was more familiar with the industry, having had retail experience for over a decade prior to founding Miniso.

“For the products that we offer, it is more suited to an offline shopping experience as consumers can touch the products and get a feel of them, it is an experience that you cannot get online,” he said.

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Although the company will still focus on offline retail, Miniso has previously launched some of its products on Chinese e-commerce platforms like Taobao and JD.com. Ye said that they will not exclude e-commerce as a sales channel in the future.

Miniso stores became popular among consumers because they have raised the bar for design and quality, while maintaining a commitment to competitive prices, said Michael Norris, a research and strategy manager at Shanghai-based AgencyChina.

“They’ve been a trailblazer in reimagining discount retail,” he said. “An offline-first approach works for Miniso because it debuts new products almost every week, so every time shoppers browse the store they will see something different.”

“That level of discovery and serendipity is difficult for online-only retailers to match,” Norris said.

Like many other retailers, Miniso’s business has suffered during the coronavirus pandemic. Stores in China were closed for about two months between January and March, and the company reported a 4 per cent decline in revenue to about 9 billion yuan ($1.9 billion).

Its global network of stores, both self-operated and franchised, also weathered temporary closures between April and June this year, impacting the company’s sales to overseas distributors, according to the Miniso prospectus.

With the funds raised from the IPO, Miniso plans to expand its network of stores and invest in warehousing and logistics, as well as technology and information systems.

ADRs of the company are listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker “MNSO”.

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Business

Don’t want shares? Investors could soon trade frequent-flyer points


Investment banking giant JPMorgan Chase wants to help turn airline and hotel loyalty points into an asset class akin to stocks or corn futures.

The bank is working with Affinity Capital Exchange (ACE) to let companies turn rewards programs into a standardised, exchangeable currency to be traded by fund managers and used as collateral to raise capital, according to a statement on Thursday. Through the partnership, massive loyalty programs can be converted into pieces, or “reserve points,” sold to investors like hedge funds or banks on the ACE marketplace, and later traded on the same venue.

“We’re essentially creating an asset class,” Andreas Pierroutsakos, a managing director at JPMorgan, said in an interview. Traditionally, companies sell points directly to banks. “But there are many other investors that want access,” he said. “This is opening the door for that.”

United Airlines sold $US6.8 billion of bonds and loans backed by its MileagePlus program in June.

United Airlines sold $US6.8 billion of bonds and loans backed by its MileagePlus program in June.

Frequent-flyer programs generate billions in revenue for the largest airlines through agreements in which carriers sell their points to banks which award them to credit-card customers.



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Business

Zip, Sezzle brush off PayPal concerns as shares savaged


The chief executives of Australian buy now, pay later companies have batted away investor concerns over payment giant PayPal’s entry into the highly competitive sector, arguing the market is large enough for numerous successful competitors.

Shares in Australian buy now, pay later (BNPL) operators plummeted on Tuesday and continued to fall on Wednesday, with high flyers such as Afterpay down 13 per cent and Zip falling 26 per cent.

Zip co-founder Larry Diamond said he was not concerned about payment "elephant" PayPal.

Zip co-founder Larry Diamond said he was not concerned about payment “elephant” PayPal.Credit:Peter Braig

Investors were reacting to a new offering from $245 billion payment giant PayPal which will allow users to pay for items in four instalments, dubbed ‘Pay in 4’, which will cost merchants and consumers less than other services and will be available to the company’s 190 million US users.

Analysts flagged concerns that operators reliant on US expansion such as Afterpay and Zip, which recently completed a $400 million acquisition of US BNPL company Quadpay, could be dwarfed by PayPal’s massive size and market dominance.



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Telstra shares dive as investors get jittery about dividend


However, Sean Fenton, managing director at Sage Capital, said the future outlook was below where the market was.

“Their outlook range was below where the market was and they were looking a bit weaker,” he said. “There is some concern that they may cut [the annual dividend payment] back to 14c… for where the profit is.”

Meanwhile, telecommunications analyst Ian Martin said a decline in revenue for Telstra’s mobile business and the ongoing pressure of high wholesale NBN prices on its fixed line margins further weighed on investor sentiment on Thursday.

“We have got to the end of [NBN] rollout program, but it is pretty clear there is going to be an upgrade program and they’ll still need cash flow. Long-term that is still going to be a negative for Telstra and TPG,” Mr Martin said. “It’s the outlook for the next year and the three year outlook that has really spooked the share price not the result itself.”

“There’s a bigger question mark over next year’s dividend,” Mr Martin said. “They can probably cover than again because of NBN payments, but beyond that they need to earn $7.5b EBITDA to pay a 16c dividend and next year’s guidance is well below that. They have a lot of earnings to get out of T22 and mobile in order to recover that gap and that’s basically the issue and the market is not confident they can do that.”

Mobile revenue fell $461 million, or 4 per cent, for the full financial year to $10.1 billion, due to declines in average revenue per user for postpaid and prepaid customers and fewer people buying mobile phones. International roaming fell by $75 million, also contributing to the revenue fall.

Fixed revenue fell by 12.1 per cent, hit by customers’ migration to the NBN. The telco also reported an 8.9 per cent decline in media revenue, due to the performance of its subscription TV offer Foxtel from Telstra. Foxtel from Telstra revenue fell 5.9 per cent to $625 million and had 98,000 subscriber exits.

Telstra chief executive Andrew Penn said the result highlighted the telco’s resilience. Outside of headwinds caused by customers moving to the NBN, the telco has faced a number of financial challenges related to the bushfire crisis and the pandemic.

“It says a lot about the strength of our business and strategy that through all this we were able to meet guidance, maintain the dividend and provide guidance for the year ahead,” Mr Penn said.

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Telstra is still pushing ahead with its T22 transformation strategy despite the challenges this year. However, Mr Penn said he would keep redundancies on hold for permanent local and international employees until February next year.

“We are all concerned about the pandemic and how it will impact us all…and what second and third waves look like,” Mr Penn told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

“We have had some economic impact – Vicki has called about $600 million over a two year period – but most of that is relatively one-off and part of it is the productivity delays we’ve put in place. Telstra is very much a defensive stock.. because we are a core service that is going to continue to be in demand. We are so far through our T22 program..that we are very well equipped to provide services to customers.”

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Business

Traders eye a more positive start for local shares


Wall Street closed higher on Friday amid simmering tensions between Washington and Beijing and fears over the nation’s ability to recover from the pandemic. US futures were flat on Sunday.

NAB’s markets research teams says investor focus is likely to remain on the virus count in Victoria and, importantly, whether it spreads to other states, especially NSW.

Pepperstone head of research Chris Weston said equities markets, much like governments in their virus response, were at a crossroads.

“Do we pull back? Do we continue to rally from here? There are a lot of unknowns,” Mr Weston said.

“It feels like everyone is pausing for reflection now with what is happening with COVID globally.”

Another heavy week of data begins with the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ latest COVID-19 household impacts survey, which will add colour for the period to the end of June.

NAB business conditions follow on Tuesday with the lender expecting an improvement from their April low. The Westpac-MI Consumer Sentiment Index on Wednesday will help gauge the initial impact of the Melbourne virus shutdown, while weekly payroll jobs and wages for the week ending June 27 should shed a more timely light on the jobs situation than Thursday’s labour force print will.

Economist expectations for June employment figures are mixed.

ANZ says employment should rise by 70,000 in June, and the unemployment rate shift up from 7.1 per cent to 7.3 per cent, while NAB is forecasting a 175,00 increase in employment.

“We think that many more people will rejoin the labour force, such that unemployment will rise to 7.8 per cent despite the lift in employment,” NAB said.

In the US, virus numbers across southern states will remain a focus.

US core CPI on Tuesday is expected to ease further to 1.1 per cent through the year to June, while Wednesday’s readings from the Empire State manufacturing survey for July, as well as industrial production for June, are expected to improve.

Thursday’s retail sales for June are expected to rise 5.6 per cent after a 15.6 per cent leap in May. Consumer sentiment and housing is also expected to gain.

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Australian News

Big W Toy Mania: Mum shares massive $5465 sale receipt


Christmas might be six months away but it has not stopped parents from spending up big in preparation at Big W’s Toy Mania.

The annual event changed this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the sale starting online on Tuesday before moving in-store yesterday. There was also no midnight store opening to prevent a crowd rush like previous years.

Yesterday, when toy sale stock hit stores, parents took to Facebook to proudly share their hauls.

One revealed in the Big W Mums Australia Facebook group that she spent $5465 on her six children and niece, saving $1497 in the process.

Others shared pictures of their trolleys chock-a-block with toys for their children, with several warning that the line for lay-by had snaked throughout the entire store.

Big W’s chief toy buyer Christine Faulkner said in a statement that there was a “real mix” of toys that proved popular with parents.

“This is the first time we’ve run an early online-only sale and the launch was one of our busiest days of digital trading, with thousands of savvy parents logging on to secure their toy wishlist,” she said.

“Our bestsellers during the first 24 hours of the sale have been a real mix, reflecting the current trends kids and families across the country are loving, including nostalgic brands such as Care Bear, Aussie preschoolers favourite pup, Bluey and pocket-friendly items such as Barbie’s latest Colour Reveal Doll.

“Lego is consistently a top seller year-round so it’s no surprise families are grabbing the latest releases at these hot prices.”

TOP 10 ITEMS AT BIG W’S TOY SALE

Bluey’s Family House Playset ($69)

Barbie Dreamhouse Playset ($249)

Barbie Colour Reveal Doll ($19)

Nerf Ultra One Motorised Blaster ($49)

Nerf N-Strike Elite Titan Blaster ($59)

Lego Technic Car Transporter ($149)

Lego Creator 3 in 1 Pirate Ship ($119)

Care Bears Tender Heart Limited Edition ($99)

Luvabella Newborn Doll ($49)

Nintendo Switch Console ($449)

‘WAS NOT EXPECTING A QUEUE’

Big W’s toy sale hit a snag when it launched at midnight on Tuesday, with frustrated customers shared screenshots of the waiting page to get onto the store’s website.

“Was not expecting a queue at this time of the morning,” one annoyed shopper wrote at 2am.

Other disappointed parents flooded the Big W Mums Facebook group, reporting glitches and errors with their orders as well as multiple claims the website had crashed.

“Sites crashed. It’s added my wish list like 900 times!! And I can’t go to edit my cart. Anyone else having this problem?” one said alongside a photo of her cart with more than $17,000 of items in it.

“Grrr … Added everything to my cart without issues, go to edit cart or checkout and I get this … Come (on) Big W, kids will wake up any minute,” another said.

While another woman said glitches meant that the three items in her virtual shopping cart cost more than $3000.

One frustrated mum shared on Big W Mums Australia how she had checked her order status afterwards to find multiple items for her click and collect order cancelled.

“Anyone else logged on this morning to check on the progress of their order to see this? All items still showing as available on website,” she asked.

A Big W spokesman told news.com.au that most customers hadn’t experienced issues with their orders, but any that did were “swiftly resolved”.

“At the strike of midnight, thousands of customers jumped online,” they said.

“We anticipated our online launch would attract a large number of savvy parents and introduced the BIG W Waiting Lounge to manage the virtual queue, much like they would experience in store.

“Most shoppers checked out without a hitch but for a small number, there were a few technical glitches online that were swiftly resolved.”



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Australian News

Cardinal George Pell shares tips with students for handling suffering


Cardinal George Pell has recalled his time behind bars while addressing university students at an online retreat and issued five tips to survive suffering.

The 79-year-old was released from prison in April after the High Court ordered his child sexual abuse convictions to be quashed and “judgments of acquittal” to take their place.

Pell spoke to the students from across Australia over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, sharing five “basic rules” for those experiencing grief, loss and/or suffering, according to Catholic Weekly.

“Good habits of mind and habits of practice encourage you in the right direction whereas if you’ve been sloppy and ill-disciplined and selfish all your life, it makes it so much harder to rise to the challenge,” he said.

The Cardinal suggested waking up at a fixed time each day, getting a certain number of hours of sleep every night, eating regularly, exercising daily and avoiding excessive consumption of alcohol.

He encouraged the students to use such good routines to prepare them for future suffering, or “moments of extremity”, telling them he had found walking to be therapeutic.

RELATED: The reasons why George Pell’s convictions were quashed

Pell was the most senior Catholic in the world to be convicted of child sexual abuse before his successful final appeal bid to the High Court.

The full bench of seven judges were unanimous in their decision, finding that the jury, acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have entertained a reasonable doubt as to Pell’s guilt.

After spending 13 months behind bars, Pell penned a piece for The Australian in mid-April.

He said Easter provided the Christian answer to suffering and living.

“Every person suffers. None escapes all the time,” he wrote.

“Everyone is confronted with a couple of questions. What should I do in this situation? Why is there so much evil and suffering? And why did this happen to me?”

In his Easter piece, he said he knew God was with him.

“But I didn’t know what He was up to, although I realised He has left all of us free,” he said.

“But with every blow it was a consolation to know I could offer it to God for some good purpose like turning the mass of suffering into spiritual energy.”

RELATED: Pell breaks silence after 405 days behind bars

Over the weekend in early June, he told the students he had been through a “difficult and unpleasant” ordeal “but it was far from the worst”.

“My suffering was not like that, for example, of parents who have lost children,” he said.

Pell said he was there to tell them that the Christian message he teaches “works”.

“Not in the sense that I was acquitted, but that this Christian teaching helped me survive.”

Speaking of the Cardinal’s presence at the retreat, Australian Catholic Students’ Association president Alex Kennedy said he was a great inspiration.

“His humility, strength and good humour were unchanged,” Mr Kennedy told Catholic Weekly.



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