Choice urges government to come clean over TPP

With the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), completed, consumer group Choice has urged the Federal Government to make all details publicly available as soon as possible and for the Productivity Commission to conduct a full cost-benefit analysis of the agreement.

 “At about midnight last night, Trade Ministers confirmed that the TPP negotiations were finished, however, the text of the agreement still won’t be publicly available for a number of weeks,” says Choice Campaigns Manager Erin Turner.
 
More than 7,400 Australians signed a petition calling for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to release the text of the TPP.
 
“The agreement has the potential to impact every aspect of the Australian economy. It’s too big to ignore the fine print which is why we need a dull and transparent assessment of its impact before its impact.”
 
TPP has described the transformation as a modern agreement that will deliver huge benefits to citizens of nations involved.
 
“Now the agreement has been signed in the dark, all Australians will be waiting nervously to see what the government has traded away,” Ms. Turner says.
 
“Choice urges the Government to commit to a full cost-benefit analysis of the TPP before Australia signs on to complex new rules, governing everything from financial regulations to copyright provisions,” says Ms. Turner.

Merger threatens global beer diversity

According to the Washington Post, the world's two biggest beer makers are considering merging in what is being touted as the biggest deal in brewing history.

Budweiser giant Anheuser-Busch InBev said it has offered a takeover of SABMiller in a deal that would create a US$245 billion brewing empire.

"What a terrible, terrible idea. This should be dead on arrival at the DOJ," (Department of Justice), said Diana Moss, president of the American Antitrust Institute.

"There would be grave concerns over their power to control price . . . and the effects on the craft-brewing industry would be devastating."

The long-speculated merger would combine Budweiser, Coors, Miller, Peroni and other brands, providing control to about one-third of the world's beer supply.

Anheuser-Busch InBev was itself born of the world's biggest beer merger, in 2008, after it was taken over by InBev – also a product of the 2004 merger of Belgium's Interbrew and Brazil's AmBev.

Because both brewers are so big, and the industry is already so consolidated, it could be hard to find another firm powerful enough to compete on production, distribution, marketing and everything else, according to the Washington Post.

"Who would be able to even buy any of those assets, and have an actual competitive presence in the market?" Moss said. 

Coles gives farmers cash to innovate

Three Australian farming families will invest in innovation and help to replace food imports into Australia after being announced as the first-ever recipients of Coles’ $50 million Nurture Fund.

The Clark family from Westerway Raspberry Farm in Tasmania, the Wiese family from Yarranabee in Western Australia, and the Moon family from Moonrocks in Queensland were announced by Coles Managing Director John Durkan as the first recipients of Coles’ grants.

Westerway Raspberry Farm will become the first growers in Australia to adopt new freezing technology, which will allow them to supply Tasmanian frozen raspberries to customers on a large scale.

Yarranabee will build the first-ever large-scale quinoa processing plant in mainland Australia, which will enable them to process their locally grown quinoa at Narrogin in Western Australia.

Moonrocks will help to replace imports of garlic by growing and packing garlic in Queensland with new storage, machinery and equipment installed at their farm at St George.

David and Andrew Moon from Moonrocks at St George have received a grant, which will help them to replace imports of garlic at a time when Australian-grown garlic is not available to meet customer demand.

Speaking six months after he launched the Coles Nurture Fund to support small businesses in the food and grocery sector, Mr Durkan said the three local businesses were great innovators in the food industry and deserving recipients of the first Coles Nurture Fund grants.

“These three businesses are breaking new ground by supplying Australian customers with locally-grown products which are so difficult to source in Australia,” he said.

“We know Australians want to buy locally-grown produce and these first Nurture Fund recipients will use the funding to make this happen.”

Businesses with less than $25 million in annual revenue and 50 or fewer full-time employees can apply for the next round of funding from the Coles Nurture Fund as from September 25. More information is available at www.coles.com.au/nurturefund

Planners target growth through diversification

The outlook by Australian investors’ on Australian shares continues to deteriorate since the beginning of 2014, with the typical investor expecting the share market to grow by just 3 per cent in the next 12 months (versus 7 per cent at the end of 2013). But this cooling outlook has not yet deterred planners from investing in growth assets, according to the latest findings in the Investment Trends September 2014 Adviser Product Needs and Marketing Needs Report.

Interestingly, the average planner invested only 15 per cent of new client flows into cash products over the last year; the lowest level seen since the end of 2010 and significantly below the 2012 highs of 31 per cent of new client flows.

Planners are also actively investing their clients’ excess cash holdings, with short-term cash held by planner clients collectively down from a high of $78 billion in 2012 to $47 billion in 2014.

“We’re currently going through an interesting period where the average investor’s capital gain expectations from domestic equity markets is deteriorating, but at the same time there are many more who are seeking growth in their portfolios, perhaps because of suppressed yields,” said Investment Trends senior analyst, Recep Peker.

“Planners are addressing this need by targeting growth through diversification, with an increased preference for simpler products and passive strategies.

“Planners’ usage of indexing/passive investing is now at the highest level observed since Investment Trends began measuring this in 2010.”

According to the results of the study, as a result of demand from investors, planners placed a third (33 per cent) of new client investments in international assets over the last year, up from lows of 26 per cent just two years ago.

Interest in multi-region funds have increased in popularity, with 70 per cent of planners intending to use these in the next 12 months, up from 62 per cent in 2013 and 49 per cent in 2012. This has led to a decrease in interest by planners in using single-region global investments, with only 28 per cent of planners saying they intend to use US specific funds in the next 12 months. This is a drop from the six-year high of 40 per cent last year.

“The US is no longer as hot a destination as it used to be for financial planners,” said Peker. “Considering the significant gains achieved by the Dow over the past few years, it’s natural for some to feel it’s near a peak and seek to diversify their exposure.”

Underpinning these findings was a growth in the demand for information by planners from their fund managers, with 74 per cent of planners saying they want more information than they are currently receiving, up from 58 per cent in 2012 and 39 per cent in 2013.

“Planners want to make the most of the current increase in demand for financial advice from Australians, and one way of doing so is to have access to tools and collateral that helps them effectively get clients on board,” said Peker. “We’ve seen planners’ demand for information and educational material increase across the range of products they use, including from fund managers.”

The Investment Trends September 2014 Adviser Product and Marketing Needs Report is based on a survey of 768 financial planners in September 2014.