Monthly Archives: December 2018

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James Packer’s Hollywood partner Steven Mnuchin joins Trump’s White House team

Steven Mnuchin, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Treasury Secretary, talking with reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower on Wednesday. Photo: Evan VucciJames Packer’s career as a pop groupie might be over, but his political influence is growing with one of his Hollywood business partners, Steven Mnuchin, announced as Donald Trump’s pick for the job of US Treasury secretary.

Despite Trump’s anti-Wall Street rhetoric, Mnuchin would become the third Goldman Sachs alumnus to head the US Treasury since the 1990s – the same firm that produced our Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

Mnuchin and other cabinet appointees will face senate hearings in the weeks following the January 20 presidential inauguration.

It was not a surprise choice by Trump. Mnuchin was in charge of fundraising for Trump’s election campaign.

But it has not always been a smooth relationship either. In 2008, a Mnuchin company was among a group that Trump sued over a luxury hotel and condominium tower he was developing in Chicago. The case was settled out of court.

But Mnuchin’s most recent career has been as one of Packer’s business partners in Hollywood.

In 2013, Mnuchin merged his company Dune Entertainment with Packer’s RatPac Entertainment – a joint venture with film maker Brett Ratner.​

Ratpac-Dune announced plans to finance up to $US400 million worth of Warner films that year having already scored a big hit with Gravity which starred George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.

The connection now spreads Packer’s political influence across three continents. He has close ties to the family of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Packer’s private company has not responded to reports from Israel about the extent of those ties – which apparently include the Israeli PM using Packer’s neighbouring home for meetings, Mariah Carey concert tickets and joint holidays.

There was also a report that Packer has been seeking permanent residency in Israel.

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Nestlé scientists find method to cut sugar in chocolate

Cutting down on sugar while keeping their products sweet is the Holy Grail for food giants under pressure from health advocates and governments. Photo: Supplied The discovery of the sweeter sugar could give the KitKat maker an edge over its rivals. Photo: Jason Adlen

Call it sugar lite.

Global food giant Nestlé announced on Wednesday that it had developed a type of sugar with markedly more sweetness, allowing the company to reduce the amount of sugar in its chocolates and lollies.

“It is sugar, but it is assembled differently so it can disassemble easily in your mouth with less going into your gastrointestinal tract,” said Dr Stefan Catsicas, the company’s chief technology officer.

The discovery could give the KitKat maker an edge as food producers face increasing pressure from governments, health advocates and shoppers to make products healthier.

Big food companies that also include Cadbury chocolates parent Mondelez International and PepsiCo are scrambling to create healthier products to reduce their reliance on treats laden with sugar and salt. It comes as the UK, Mexico and some US cities implement sugar taxes to help fight childhood obesity and diabetes, which affects four times as many people now than in 1980. The World Health Organization has said increasing the price of sugary drinks by 20 per cent would reduce consumption by a fifth.

Locally, both the Australian Medical Association and the Committee of Presidents of Medical Colleges called for a sugar tax to tackle rising rates of obesity last month, fuelling the public debate of a sugar levy. ‘Holy grail’

Nestlé declined to fully explain the process as it is pursuing patents for it. But Catsicas compared a normal crystal of sugar to a shoe box, where the box is made of sugar and everything inside it is also made of sugar. The new sugar, he said, will be processed to have the same sugar exterior – though it may be a globe instead of a box – to dissolve in the mouth. Because less sugar is inside, less goes to the stomach.

Nestlé said the new sugar would be introduced in products starting in 2018, and that more details about it would be released next year.

If the new sugar lives up to its billing, it would represent a milestone in the food business’s never-ending quest for more healthful ways to sweeten products. Nestlé will initially use the product to reduce sugar in its confectionery lines by as much as 40 per cent, Catsicas said.

“Reducing sugar is the Holy Grail of food companies these days – but does it work?” said Marion Nestle, a professor in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University.

Nestle, who has no connection to the company, said it was impossible to know how much promise the product has, particularly because sweets – which the food business prefers to call “confections” – are not the biggest source of sugar in the diet. The biggest culprits were soft drinks, and then “grain-based desserts”, she said.

Catsicas said Nestlé would have preferred to make the announcement after receiving patents and trademark protection. But he said the news was already leaking, and the company wanted to tell its own story rather than allowing someone else to do so.

Nestlé might eventually sell its new sugar to other food companies for use in their products, Catsicas said. But he added that “it is not something that can be mixed into your coffee.” It also cannot be used to sweeten soft drinks, the company said.

Nestlé, which, like many big food companies, is working to reduce the fat, salt and sugar in its products, previously developed a way to reduce fat in ice cream. Its “slow-churned” ice creams are processed in such a way that they require less fat.

“It’s all about thinking: How can I expose my sensory system to the taste I’m looking for but with the minimum of that ingredient – and without replacing it with something else,” Catsicas said.

The New York Times, with Bloomberg

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China to tighten controls on overseas investments

China’s central government has ordered tighter controls on offshore investments made by state-owned enterprises amid concerns over accelerating capital outflows.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, China’s State Council, or cabinet, said it would establish stricter supervision on the acquisition and financing of state assets overseas, including changes in shareholdings, to ensure “the safe operation of overseas assets and to increase the value of assets”.

The move comes amid an environment where Beijing has stepped up efforts to control the flow of money offshore, with a resurgence of outflows in recent weeks weakening the Chinese yuan, adding to concerns about the resilience of the world’s second-largest economy.

There are growing government concerns that overseas acquisitions are being used to disguise capital flight, with authorities also curtailing options for individuals to invest overseas. Contemporaneous crackdowns on underground banks and foreign casinos – including Australia’s Crown Resorts – have also been linked to China’s increased scrutiny on capital flows.

While China’s foreign-exchange reserves remain over $US3 trillion ($4 trillion), net outflows have reached record levels and the yuan has fallen to eight-year lows against the greenback.

While details of specific curbs were not contained in the State Council’s statement, the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg have reported the government planned to suspend most foreign investment deals worth $US10 billion or more. It would also restrict overseas investments of at least $US1 billion for companies making acquisitions outside of their core business, as well as foreign real estate deals of more than $1 billion.

The curbs would last until the end of September 2017, Bloomberg reported, adding that regulators would pay extra attention to deals by highly leveraged firms and companies with poor return on assets.

Several government agencies have issued public statements this week to flag the greater scrutiny, including SAFE, the foreign exchange regulator, which said it would step up efforts to authenticate outbound investments and crack down on fake overseas transactions.

Chinese outbound direct investment was up 53 per cent to $145.96 billion year-on-year in October, according to China’s Commerce Ministry.

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Justin Hemmes snaps up Tennyson pub for $37.5m

Justin Hemmes’ empire now stretches from Sydney’s northern beaches to the CBD, the east and the south. Photo: Anna Kucera Ray White’s Andrew Jolliffe has sold the Tennyson Hotel to Justin Hemmes. Photo: Supplied

Pub tsar Justin Hemmes has snapped up the Tennyson Hotel in Sydney’s Botany Road, Mascot, for $37.5 million – a record price for a hotel sale at a public auction.

It will cement the Merivale chain owner’s presence in Sydney’s suburban pub market, which is unaffected by the city-zoned lockout drinking regulations.

Mr Hemmes is expected to redevelop the site in the same way as his other properties to reflect the local demographic, which includes the nearby Green Square development.

His empire now stretches from Sydney’s northern beaches with his revamped Newport Arms, to the CBD with the Ivy and Establishment, the eastern suburbs with the Coogee Bay Pavilion and the recently re-opened Paddington Arms, and the inner-south with the Alexandria Hotel.

Ray White Hotels Asia-Pacific director Andrew Jolliffe said bidding for the Tennyson was “spirited” and the final price tag was the highest paid at auction for a freehold going concern to date.

“Justin Hemmes completely dominated the 250-person crowd,” Mr Jolliffe said.

He said the Tennyson was a popular multi-level hotel with 30 gaming machines. Notwithstanding its latest ranking at 87 in NSW, it required an upgrade and renovation plans designed by architect Paul Kelly had recently received development approval.

“Only a very small number of Top 100 gaming hotels have changed hands over the past few years, such is the vice-like grip the ever-diminishing number of consolidating ownership bodies hold on this particular asset class,” Mr Jolliffe said.

“The hotel, even in its currently unrenovated state, attracts in excess of $8 million in annual receipts from predominantly high gross profit margin revenue centres.” */]]>

The pub market is currently one of the hottest sectors in the property industry.

To take advantage of the demand, businessmen Geoff Dixon and John Singleton are selling two prized assets, the Marlborough Hotel in Newtown and Kinselas at Taylor Square, in Darlinghurst.

Mr Jolliffe, who is working on the two pub sales, said operators and traditional pub owners such as Mr Hemmes were coming back into the pub industry, which had once been dominated by investors.

He said the yields and the development upside that many of the pubs being sold were offering was the attraction.

Mr Jolliffe this week also sold Queensland’s largest hotel, The Acacia Ridge in Brisbane’s south west, to a Sydney-based fund for about $26 million.

Originally bought in 2014 for $16 million by Sydney hoteliers Peter Calligeros and partner Steve Farley, the hotel was marketed by Mr Jolliffe, together with CBRE Hotels agent Glenn Price.

Mr Jolliffe said the sale price was “directly indexed to the Acacia Ridge Hotel’s huge 18,000 square metre block, situated prominently on the very active Beaudesert Rd in the blue-collar industrial precinct of Acacia Ridge”.

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UFC superstar Conor McGregor ‘licence’ a step closer to Floyd Mayweather showdown

UFC living legend Conor McGregor has reportedly been issued a professional boxing license in the state of California.

The move, if true, intensifies speculation that mixed martial arts king McGregor could lure undefeated square-ring champion Floyd Mayweather Jr out of retirement for an epic showdown. McGregor and Mayweather are two of the biggest names in world sport and a meeting between the two would go close to breaking all-time pay-per-view records.

Mayweather has featured in the three biggest boxing pay-per-views of all time including the record-breaking “Fight of the Century” in 2015 when he defeated fought Manny Pacquaio with 4.6 million paying TV viewers generating $400 million.

McGregor has headlined three of the four biggest UFC pay-per-view events, including the record-breaking UFC 202 when he took on Nate Diaz in a rematch of their first meeting in the welterweight division.

That event reportedly produced an unprecedented 1.65 million paid views.

The 28-year-old McGregor created UFC history last month when he became the first fighter to hold both the lightweight and featherweight titles when he defeated Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205.

Mayweather, 39, is one of the greatest boxers of all time. A five-division world champion, he remained undefeated in his 49-fight career.

On Tuesday, he posted on social media a photo of a $100 million cheque in his name, received after the Pacquaio fight.

“Y’all still have to work however, I’m happily retired,” Mayweather wrote.   Gotta love these backseat drivers so worried about another man’s legacy instead of trying to write their own. Ultimately, I will always have the last laugh. This is just one of my many checks, a cool $100,000,000.00 that I still have every dime of. Y’all still have to work however, I’m happily retired. At the end of the day, it’s them Benjamin Franklins that matter to me, so the jokes on you. I’ve made smart investments, sorry for those who thought that I couldn’t read, write, or count. Y’all call them watches, I call them time pieces. Y’all call them boats, I call them yachts. Y’all call them houses, I call them mansions. Y’all charter jets and we own jets. #TMTA photo posted by Floyd Mayweather (@floydmayweather) on Nov 28, 2016 at 11:42pm PST

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