How rich listers buy and sell property in Australia


The average Australian home buyer will spend endless hours inspecting properties, attending multiple auctions, missing out on many before they seal the deal and the details become public on settlement.

But rich listers operate in a different stratosphere that comes with having access to money and resources. They can often escape the public eye, allowing them to stay above the fray of the much-loved but sometimes brutal Australian public sport of home buying.

They become part of an almost secret club where they trade the same homes, almost exclusively, among themselves.

It starts at the initial stages of house hunting all the way to the last stage when they ink a deal that often makes it hard for the public to know what they own, even though ownership of properties is a matter of public record.

They begin with employing the services of a buyers’ agent who takes on the drudgery of shortlisting palatial-sized homes.

“They’ll use a buyer’s agent to heavily vet properties that are both on-market and off-market before they inspect it themselves,” said Ben Collier of The Agency Eastern Suburbs, adding that their personal networks make recommendations too.

Celebrities and high-net-worth individuals have always shown a great degree of discretion when it comes to selling property too, according to Mr Collier – but that is starting to change in today’s tough market.

“We are seeing an evolution in this when once upon a time vendors were less open to a more open or, dare I say, publicised process,” Mr Collier said. “They’re more open to the idea of doing so because they appreciate and understand the low levels of supply.”

Another reason rich listers were more open to listing their expensive properties more publicly was the opportunity to capture the market of expatriates living abroad who were keen to return home due to the pandemic, Mr Collier said.

“We’ve gone from a village to a more global market where it would be prudent to feel as though when you are considering an offer that you have broadly exposed and not missed anyone,” he said. “We have seen a number of high-end sales that have sold recently to expat Australians that are sight unseen.”

In other cases where sales exceed tens of millions, interested parties opt to deal with agents directly after signing confidentiality agreements, according to Bill Malouf, director and principal of LJ Hooker Double Bay.

“I’ve done deals in excess of 40 million where people come to you; they will approach you privately. They don’t mind making their name known to you,” Mr Malouf said. “We can’t protect them once the property settles unless they buy it in a company structure.”

Sometimes rich listers will choose to buy the property through their accountants or lawyers under a shelf company that they’re not directly connected to, Mr Collier said, in a bid for the sale to go undetected, but it is not the only way.

“A lot of people like to keep their property purchasers private,” Mr Malouf said. “They can do it through a company structure but remember they will pay capital gains tax. They can do it under family trust structures that do not necessarily go back to the owner; there are a number of ways lawyers try to protect their clients’ privacy.”

Many international purchasers who buy existing property need Foreign Investment Review Board approval or have Australian citizenship, Mr Malouf said.

One of the most notorious examples in which a foreign buyer attempted to conceal their property purchase through a company structure and failed was the Chinese developer who bought Point Piper’s Altona mansion for $52 million. The lavish property was purchased in a company trust of which the only director was Ding Xiuzhen but was later revealed to be ultimately owned by Chinese businessman Wang Zhijun.

For many rich listers, the buying process is often kept “really low key” to the point that an associate is sent to negotiate and sign documents, according to James Pratt, chief executive and auctioneer of James Pratt Auction Group.

“It doesn’t become apparent until the contract is signed where the purchasers come from,” Mr Pratt said.

“Unless they’re wealthy people who want attention, they would like to keep it that way,” Mr Pratt said.

But, he added, sometimes these real estate transactions are also business decisions.

“Often in business, it’s more than just one person’s decision. If someone has decided to make a substantial investment in something, they may not want to make note of that.”

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Rich haul for Malayalam cinema at 67th National Film Awards


Director Priyadarshan’s ‘Marakkar: Arabbikkadalinte Simham’ winning best Feature Film led the list of honours

Malayalam cinema had a rich haul at the 67th National Film Awards announced on Monday, scooping up eleven awards including the award for the best film and the best debut film.

Marakkar:Arabbikkadalinte Simham, Priyadarshan’s film on the life of naval chieftain Kunjali Marakkar starring Mohanlal, won the award for the best film. Mathukutty Xavier won the award for the best debut director for the survival thriller Helen on the travails of a young woman who gets caught inside a freezer room.

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Sajin Baabu got a special mention for the film Biriyani, which portrays the valiant fightback from a woman hemmed in from all sides by religion, society and circumstances. It was in the technical categories that Malayalam cinema had quite a sweep. Siddharth Priyadarshan won the award for best special effects for Marakkar, while Sujith Sudhakaran and V.Sai got the award for the best costume for the same film.

 

Gireesh Gangadharan won the award for best cinematography for the film Jallikkattu, for the powerful visuals capturing the night-time hunt for a buffalo that ran amock. Ranjith won the award for best makeup for Helen. Prabha Varma won the award for the best lyrics for the song Aarodum Parayuka Vayya from the film Kolambi. Kalla Nottam won Rahul Riji Nair the award for best Malayalam film, for its inventive theme of the world seen through the eyes of two boys who steal a surveillance camera from the neighbourhood store with unforeseen consequences.

In the non-feature film category, Sharan Venugopal’s Oru Pathira Swapnam Pole won the award for the best film on family values. Vipin Vijay’s Small Scale Societies won the special jury mention in the non-feaure film category.

The National Awards for the year 2019 which was supposed to be announced last year, was postponed due to the outbreak of COVID-19 last year.

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How Silicon Valley’s newest millionaires are celebrating getting rich during a pandemic


People have shifted their focus from vacation homes and flashy cars to suburban homes and schooling, said Newman, who now runs Wave Capital, a venture capital firm. “It is just different,” he added.

Over the past six months, at least 35 companies that were founded in the San Francisco Bay Area — including Airbnb, DoorDash and the data warehousing company Snowflake — have gone public for a combined market value of $US446 billion, according to a tally by The New York Times. Those companies’“lockup periods,” which prevent insiders from selling most of their stock soon after an IPO, will expire in the coming months, unleashing a wave of wealth.

Just a handful of those IPOs could mint an estimated 7000 millionaires, according to an analysis by EquityBee, a platform that facilitates startup equity transactions. The stream of IPOs has been large enough that the tax income from them may wipe out some of California’s projected budget shortfall.

Gourmet bark

When tech startups went public before the pandemic, they celebrated with rocket-shaped ice sculptures and fleets of 1980s bands.

Now companies are sending their employees party boxes for Zoom gatherings.

Daniel Figone, owner of Handheld Catering and Events, has recently delivered boxed dinners and snacks to homes for a number of workers at Silicon Valley companies that went public. The boxes — which cost $US45 to $US100 each — can include housemade rubs, finishing salts, hot cocoa mix, gourmet bark, fancy cheeses, fruit and champagne. Inside, printed cards rivalling a wedding invitation detail the login code for a Zoom gathering.

Top executives get even more: floral arrangements, three-course meals and an on-site chef to finish the cooking and plate it, Figone said. At some small outdoor gatherings, he has offered individual “grazing cones” filled with snacks, instead of buffets and passed appetisers.

But all-company Zoom celebrations can feel a lot like all-company Zoom meetings. So companies are also adding virtual Q&As with famous authors or Saturday Night Live cast members, inspiring talks from TED speakers, and even group meditation sessions led by famous practitioners, said Jay Siegan, who runs Jay Siegan Presents, an entertainment agency in San Francisco.

If there’s a musician — Alicia Keys, Train and John Legend are top requests — the set is kept to one or two songs, he said.

Over the past six months, at least 35 companies that were founded in the San Francisco Bay Area — including Airbnb, DoorDash and the data warehousing company Snowflake — have gone public for a combined market value of $US446 billionCredit:AP

Sprinter Vans

For Palantir, a data analytics company that went public in September, February 18 was “giraffe money” day. That was the first day that current and former employees could cash out all of their shares after the company went public.

In a Slack channel for former employees called Giraffe Money — an apparent reference to wealth that can support casual giraffe ownership — many anticipated their windfalls by sharing links, mostly in jest, to absurdly expensive home listings and boats, one former employee said.

But in reality, techies are spending in very different ways.

Instead of fine art, they are buying NFTs, or non-fungible tokens that represent ownership in pieces of digital art, memes or artefacts of internet history.

Instead of round-the-world travel, they are piling into Sprinter vans, the pandemic vacation essential.

Instead of designer dresses, they are hunting for new outfits that look good on Zoom calls, virtual makeup lessons for the camera and makeovers for their Zoom backgrounds.

And instead of luxury condos, they are after houses with outdoor space, home gyms and good “Zoom rooms.”

J.T. Forbus, a tax manager at Bogdan & Frasco, a tax accounting firm in San Francisco, said his clients had mostly avoided showoff splurges. Their biggest expense, other than a house, is their financial advisor.

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“If they do get crazy and spend, it’s investing in crypto,” Forbus said, referring to digital currencies.

Last year as Airbnb went public, former employees started Equity for Impact, a program in which employees pledge to donate an unspecified portion of their IPO proceeds to charity. So far, more than 400 people have committed around $US50 million of shares, which is halfway toward the group’s goal of $US100 million by the time Airbnb’s lockup period expires in June.

The focus on charity at the time of their windfall is a change from past waves of the newly rich, Forbus said.

“Granted, they will get a tax deduction,” he said.

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Art prices drop as rich favour wine


Art

Art prices drop as rich favour wine


From left: African Golfing Lady by Kioko Mwitiki, Bust of African Queen by Robison Kamwathi, and A girl and her pet by Kioko Mwitiki at the Kioko Art Gallery. PHOTOS | POOL

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Summary

  • The wealthy’s appetite for artworks has been growing over the years as most seek to spruce up their homes with rare pieces or buy to resale, but it is gradually dropping.

The super-rich bought fewer artworks, compared to rare whisky, wine, classic cars, coins, and jewellery, a new wealth report has shown.

The wealthy’s appetite for artworks has been growing over the years as most seek to spruce up their homes with rare pieces or buy to resale, but it is gradually dropping.

“The art market did not fare quite so well, dropping 11 percent in 2020. The problem was compounded by the slowing in the supply of quality works as consigners who could afford to wait preferred to sit it out at home,” noted the Knight Frank Wealth Report.

While traditional collectors’ tastes have been driven by art history, newer collectors are opting for what is trending on social media, and this shift has contributed to a drop in auction sales and prices.

Kioko Mwitiki, a sculptor and owner of Kioko Art Gallery in Nairobi says, last year, the auction market struggled due to declined footfall in galleries, an occurrence seen globally.

“There has been a strong appreciation of African art because it has come of age, and with so, the auctions were doing well pre-Covid times,” Mr Mwitiki says.

“However, with the reduced footfall, artists tend to lower prices and through this the art market is affected directly. There was some buying under the carpet though as people took advantage of the lower prices,” he adds.

The market, the artist says, witnessed a strong preference from primary collectors who helped push up the artwork sales, and young artists who were able to sell online.

The Kenyan art market has grown thanks to developers making homes with fitted furnishings, the boom in the construction industry, establishments of fancy restaurants, and millennial interior designers.

In a landscape of stocks, bonds, government securities, and real estate, Mr Mwitiki says the artworks are turning to be an investment option for some Kenyans.

Local pieces that can be regarded as investment range from Sh500,000 to Sh1 million. This can go up to Sh2 million – Sh5 million for an entire collection of an artist, or bulk buying.

“However, we need more curators and valueers for people to know they own something of value,” Mr Mwitiki added.

Private sales

According to Knight Frank, the changes seen globally included a shift towards private sales at major auction houses and a drop in the volume of collectible items by even close to half compared to the previous year.

In the Wealth report, handbags, especially designer bags – the Hermes, formed the largest chunk of luxury investment by the super-rich last year, retaining its position as an asset class since 2019. Fine wine made to the second position of the top investments. The wine markets recorded a growth of 13 percent that the report attributed to consolidation in the US winery business.

Super Tuscans – that include old vintages such as Castello Banfi Centine Toscana 2005, Antinori Tignanello Toscana 2004 and Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo Toscana 2004 – saw an annual growth of 18 percent.

Back vintages of Champagne gained by 14 percent while Burgundy was up by 11.5 percent.

“More than ever, this year has been about timing in the capital markets and, if you got that wrong, then chances are you got it expensively wrong. Not so for wine. Unlike after the global financial crisis, the wine market has held its nerve, merchants did not mark down prices and the market has been stable. Investors are about, and even Bordeaux prices feel like they are firming up,” it said.

Rare whisky formed the 10th position in the luxury investments rank for the year with prices dropping by 3.5 percent. This was attributed to the dip in values of the market leader, The Macallan.

Despite this, Bonhams whiskey auction specialising in the sale of old, rare, and collectible whisky achieved a record-breaking Sh87.2 million ($795,000) for a bottle of Yamazaki 55-year-old Japanese whiskey.

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Bill Gates: Rich nations should shift entirely to synthetic beef


In his new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, Bill Gates lays out what it will really take to eliminate the greenhouse-gas emissions driving climate change.

The Microsoft cofounder, who is now cochair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and chair of the investment fund Breakthrough Energy Ventures, sticks to his past argument that we’ll need numerous energy breakthroughs to have any hope of cleaning up all parts of the economy and the poorest parts of the world. The bulk of the book surveys the technologies needed to slash emissions in “hard to solve” sectors like steel, cement, and agriculture.

He stresses that innovation will make it cheaper and more politically feasible for every nation to cut or prevent emissions. But Gates also answers some of the criticisms that his climate prescriptions have been overly focused on “energy miracles” at the expensive of aggressive government policies.

The closing chapters of the book lay out long lists of ways that nations could accelerate the shift, including high carbon prices, clean electricity standards, clean fuel standards, and far more funding for research and development. Gates calls for governments to quintuple their annual investments in clean tech, which would add up to $35 billion in the US.

Gates describes himself as an optimist, but it’s a constrained type of optimism. He dedicates an entire chapter to describing just how hard a problem climate change is to address. And while he consistently says we can develop the necessary technology and we can avoid a disaster; it’s less clear how hopeful he is that we will.

I spoke to Gates in December about his new book, the limits of his optimism, and how his thinking on climate change has evolved.

Gates is an investor either personally or through Breakthrough Energy Ventures in several of the companies he mentions below, including Beyond Meats, Carbon Engineering, Impossible Foods, Memphis Meats, and Pivot Bio. This interview has been edited for space and clarity.

Q: In the past, it seemed you would distance yourself from the policy side of climate change, which had led to some criticisms that you are overly focused on innovation. Was there a shift in your thinking, or was it a deliberate choice to lay out the policy side in your book?

A: No, that’s absolutely fair. In general, if you can do innovation without having to get involved in the political issues, I always prefer that. It’s more natural for me to find a great scientist and back multiple approaches.

But the reason I smile when you say it is because in our global health work, there’s a whole decade where I’m recognizing that to have the impact we want, we’re going to have to work with both the donor governments in a very deep way and the recipient governments that actually create these primary health-care systems.

And my naïve view at the beginning had been “Hey, I’ll just create a malaria vaccine and other people will worry about getting that out into the field.” That clearly wasn’t a good idea. I realized that for a lot of these diseases, including diarrhea and pneumonia, there actually were vaccines. And it was more of a political challenge in getting the marginal pricing and the funds raised and the vaccine coverage up, not the scientific piece.

Here, there’s no doubt you need to get government policy in a huge way. Take things like clean steel: it doesn’t have other benefits. There’s no market demand for clean steel. Even carbon taxes at low costs per ton aren’t enough to get clean steel on the learning curve. You need like a $300-a-ton type of carbon tax. And so to get that sector going, you need to do some basic R&D, and you need to actually start having purchase requirements or funds set aside to pay that premium, both from government and perhaps companies and individuals as well.

But, you know, we need a lot of countries, not just a few, to engage in this.

Q: How do you feel about our chances of making real political progress, particularly in in the US, in the moment we find ourselves in?

A: I am optimistic. Biden being elected is a good thing. Even more encouraging is that if you poll young voters, millennials, both who identify as Republican and Democrats, the interest in this issue is very high. And they’re the ones who will be alive when the world either is massively suffering from these problems or is not, depending on what gets done. So there is political will.

But there’s a lot of interplay [between politics and innovation]. If you try and do this with brute force, just paying the current premiums for clean technology, the economic cost is gigantic and the economic displacement is gigantic. And so I don’t believe that even a rich country will do this by brute force.

But in the near term, you may be able to get tens of billions of dollars for the innovation agenda. Republicans often like innovation.

I’m asking for something that’s like the size of the National Institutes of Health budget. I feel [it’s politically feasible] because it creates high-paying jobs and because it answers the question of—well, if the US gets rid of its 14% [of global emissions], big deal: what about the growing percent that comes from India as it’s providing basic capabilities to its citizens?

I just imagine a phone call to the Indians in 2050 where you say, Please, please, build half as much shelter because of the green premium [for clean cement and steel]. And they’re like, What? We didn’t cause these emissions.

Innovation is the only way to [reduce those price premiums].

Q: You’ve said a couple of times you’re optimistic, and that’s sort of famously your position on these things. But of course, optimism is a relative term. Do you think we can realistically hold warming to or below a 2 °C increase at this point?

A: That would require us to get the policy right, to get many, many countries involved, and to be lucky on quite a few of the technological advances. That’s pretty much a best case. Anything better than that is not at all realistic, and there are days when even that doesn’t seem realistic.

It’s not out of the question, but it requires awfully good progress. Even something like, do we get [an energy] storage miracle or not? We can’t make ourselves dependent on that. Batteries today can’t, within a factor of 20, store for the seasonal variation that you get [from intermittent sources like wind and solar]. We just don’t make enough batteries; it would be way too expensive. So we have to have other paths—like fission or fusion—that can give us that reliable source of electricity, which we’ll be even more dependent on than ever.

IMPOSSIBLE FOODS

Q: In the book you cover a broad array of hard-to-solve sectors. The one I still have the hardest time with, in terms of fully addressing it, is food. The scale is massive. We’ve barely begun. We fundamentally don’t have replacements that completely eliminate the highly potent emissions from burping livestock and fertilizer. How hopeful are you about agriculture?

A: There are [companies], including one in the [Breakthrough Energy Ventures] portfolio called Pivot Bio, that significantly reduce the amount of fertilizer you need. There are advances in seeds, including seeds that do what legumes do: that is, they’re able to [convert nitrogen in the soil into compounds that plants can use] biologically. But the ability to improve photosynthesis and to improve nitrogen fixation is one of the most underinvested things.

In terms of livestock, it’s very difficult. There are all the things where they feed them different food, like there’s this one compound that gives you a 20% reduction [in methane emissions]. But sadly, those bacteria [in their digestive system that produce methane] are a necessary part of breaking down the grass. And so I don’t know if there’ll be some natural approach there. I’m afraid the synthetic [protein alternatives like plant-based burgers] will be required for at least the beef thing.

Now the people like Memphis Meats who do it at a cellular level—I don’t know that that will ever be economical. But Impossible and Beyond have a road map, a quality road map and a cost road map, that makes them totally competitive.

As for scale today, they don’t represent 1% of the meat in the world, but they’re on their way. And Breakthrough Energy has four different investments in this space for making the ingredients very efficiently. So yeah, this is the one area where my optimism five years ago would have made this, steel, and cement the three hardest.

Now I’ve said I can actually see a path. But you’re right that saying to people, “You can’t have cows anymore”—talk about a politically unpopular approach to things.

Q: Do you think plant-based and lab-grown meats could be the full solution to the protein problem globally, even in poor nations? Or do you think it’s going to be some fraction because of the things you’re talking about, the cultural love of a hamburger and the way livestock is so central to economies around the world?

A: For Africa and other poor countries, we’ll have to use animal genetics to dramatically raise the amount of beef per emissions for them. Weirdly, the US livestock, because they’re so productive, the emissions per pound of beef are dramatically less than emissions per pound in Africa. And as part of the [Bill and Melinda Gates] Foundation’s work, we’re taking the benefit of the African livestock, which means they can survive in heat, and crossing in the monstrous productivity both on the meat side and the milk side of the elite US beef lines.

So no, I don’t think the poorest 80 countries will be eating synthetic meat. I do think all rich countries should move to 100% synthetic beef. You can get used to the taste difference, and the claim is they’re going to make it taste even better over time. Eventually, that green premium is modest enough that you can sort of change the [behavior of] people or use regulation to totally shift the demand.

So for meat in the middle-income-and-above countries, I do think it’s possible. But it’s one of those ones where, wow, you have to track it every year and see, and the politics [are challenging]. There are all these bills that say it’s got to be called, basically, lab garbage to be sold. They don’t want us to use the beef label.

Q: You talk a lot in the book about the importance of carbon-removal technologies, like direct air capture. You also did come out and say that planting trees as a climate solution is overblown. What’s your reaction to things like the Trillion Trees Initiative and the large number of corporations announcing plans to achieve negative emissions at least in part through reforestation and offsets?

A: [To offset] my own emissions, I’ve bought clean aviation fuel. I’ve paid to replace natural-gas heating in low-income housing projects with electric heat pumps—where I pay the capital cost premium and they get the benefit of the lower monthly bill. And I’ve sent money to Climeworks [a Switzerland-based company that removes carbon dioxide from the air and stores it permanently underground].

For the carbon emissions I’ve done—and I’ve gotten rid of more than what I emit—it comes out to $400 a ton.

Any of these schemes that claim to remove carbon for $5, $15, $30 a ton? Just look at it.

The idea that there are all these places where there’s plenty of good soil and plenty of good water and just accidentally, the trees didn’t grow there—and if you plant a tree there, it’s going to be there for thousands of years—[is wrong].

The lack of validity for most of that tree planting is one of those things where this movement is not an honest movement yet. It doesn’t know how to measure truth yet. There are all sorts of hokey things that allow people to use their PR budgets to buy virtue but aren’t really having the impact. And we’ll get smarter over time about what is a real offset.

UNSPLASH

So no, most of those offset things don’t stand up. The offset thing that we think will stand up is if you gather money from companies and consumers to bootstrap the market for clean steel and clean cement. Because of the learning-curve benefits there, putting your money into that, instead of on tree planting, is catalytic in nature and will make a contribution. We need some mix of government, company, and individual money to drive those markets.

Q: I do have to ask this: Microsoft is in the process of trying to eliminate its entire historic emissions, and there was a Bloomberg article that had a figure in there that I was a little surprised by. The company apparently wants to do it at $20 a ton? Do you think we can achieve reliable permanent carbon removal for $20 a ton eventually?

A: Very unlikely.

I mean, if you’d asked me 10 years ago how cheap solar panels would become, I would have been wrong. That went further than anyone expected.

Science is mysterious, and saying that science can do X or can’t do X is kind of a fool’s game. In many cases, it’s done things that no one would have predicted.

But even the liquid process, which is Carbon Engineering’s approach, will have a very tough time getting to $100 a ton.

With all these things, you have capital costs and you have energy costs. So getting to $20 a ton is very unlikely. There are a lot of current offset programs that claim they’re doing that, and that needs a lot of auditing because to eliminate carbon, you have to keep it out of the atmosphere for the full 10,000-year half-life. Most people have a hard time economically costing out 10,000 years of costs. Believe me, these tree guys make sure that if it burns down, they find another magic place where no tree has ever grown, to replant.

But it’s not to say that there aren’t a few places you can plant trees, or that a few of these offset things will work, like plugging certain methane leaks—that’s a high payback. We should use regulations; we should go fund those things.

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Rich countries are stockpiling coronavirus vaccines and poor nations are lagging behind


Millions of coronavirus vaccinations have already been administered globally as countries race to fortify themselves against the global pandemic. 

But as the scramble to secure vaccines intensifies, there are fears that poorer countries will miss out as richer nations stockpile crucial supplies. 

For two months, the US-based Duke University Global Health Innovation Centre has been keeping track of which countries are buying vaccines and comparing these figures with where disease burden is the greatest.

The centre’s research shows that, of the 7 billion doses bought world wide, more than 4 billion have been snapped up by high-income countries.

A woman opens her mouth for a heath worker to collect a sample for coronavirus testing in South Africa.In stark comparison, low-income nations have secured just 270 million doses.

The global COVAX initiative, which uses pooled funding to buy vaccines for poorer countries, has purchased an addition 1.07 billion doses. 

In other words, rich countries which account for around just 14 per cent of the world’s population have secured 53 per cent of doses for the most promising vaccines.

“All the data would show you that equitable distribution of vaccines line up with best results from a health, economic and humanitarian perspectives but it really goes against what many countries are starting to do and what their populations are demanding which is trying to get as many vaccines for themselves as quickly as possible,” said Krishna Udayakumar, the founding director of Duke’s Global Health Innovation Centre. 

Canada has ordered the most vaccines (362 million) relative to its population, enough to jab each Canadian five times.

New Zealand has ordered enough (18.32 million) to vaccinate its people three times, but it plans to give free doses to neighbouring Pacific Island nations.

The US will have enough doses (1.2 billion) to vaccinate their population twice over.

Australia has enough (114.8 million) to give citizens at least four doses each.

Meanwhile the African Union has ordered less than half of what’s needed to reach herd immunity – or just 670 million doses.

Latin American countries – excluding Brazil – only have 150 million doses, which would supply one jab each for less than half the population. 

“Demand has greatly outstripped supply so in a scenario like that you will generally find the powerful and most richest countries getting to the front of the queue quickest,” said global health researcher Michael Head.

Another issue is that vaccines aren’t going to countries where the infection rate is highest.

For example – Japan, Australia and Canada have reserved 1.03 billion doses, but the three countries combined account for less than 1 per cent of all current COVID-19 cases.

“It does look like low and middle income countries are going to be waiting 2, 3, 4 years to reach herd immunity through vaccination,” Dr Udayakumar said.

He predicts the next test of global equity that will emerge over the coming months is how quickly richer nations will donate excess doses to poorer nations.

“Norway is the only country that has come out and said they will donate doses in parallel to vaccinating their own populations,” he said.

“So the question becomes – are high income countries willing to donate to make sure that frontline health workers and vulnerable populations in low and middle income countries actually get access to vaccines before low risk populations like healthy young adults in their own countries do.”

While vaccine nationalism appears to be gaining traction around the world, Dr Udayakumar said it’s in the interest of every person that vaccine globalism becomes the priority.

“What we’re already starting to see with new variants is that they may be less susceptible to our current vaccines so to the extent that the virus continues anywhere in the world it really poses a threat for all of us even those who have vaccinated,” he said. 

“Our hope is that by pointing this out as quickly and as repeatedly as we can, we can create more of a semblance of a clear global and coordinated response before we start to see things that look like the wild west of vaccines.”

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others.

Check your jurisdiction’s restrictions on gathering limits. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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The Rich and Famous at the Melbourne Cup Carnival – Easy Meals with Video Recipes by Chef Joel Mielle


Flemington is Australia’s premier and oldest continuing racecourse.  It started in 1840 when the city of Melbourne was barely five years old.  The Melbourne cup has also risen as the a social and fashion event attracting crowds of over 100,000 for Cup Day.  It’s been a public holiday since 1875 and is now celebrated as a special day around the country.

Let’s go to the cup!

I thought I’d brave it and catch a helicopter, yes I had to pay for my own flight, but if I’m trying to grab a glimpse  to see how the other half lives, I thought I’d treat myself, purely for research of course!

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I was provided with a media pass to go and visit some of the exclusive marquee or “Bird Cages”, it was a privilege for me as it’s strictly reserved for special guests or full VRC members.  The prices aren’t cheap especially in the restaurant quarters, but when you’re a billionaire such as Gina Rinehart, then why not have the best such as the Emirates birdcage has to offer.  Decorated with an Australian theme representing a tropical Queenslander house,  the food certainly complemented the decor with that Aussie flair.

Now I’m a converted Youtuber, and although there were many celebrities at the cup, I’ll be honest and state that I didn’t have the faintest idea of who half of these celebs were, I simply don’t watch reality TV or Australian soapies.  Since everyone was dressed to kill, every person was a celebrity in my eyes.

There were a lot of other interesting birdcages, such as the Sensis, Tabcorp, Bar Schweppes and Mumm.  Plenty of entertainment, people having a great time  and some very loud music, sometimes a little too loud if you want to mingle and chat.  However the food was my interest, and there was plenty there to satisfy my curious taste buds.

I met the duo Chef and Mixologist from Schweppes who marry and pair refreshing cocktails with food.  You will find spicy Mexican, Asian style cocktails with mint, chilli and refreshing sparkling flavours that’s Schweppes is famous for.  Celebrity Chef Jacques Reymond inspired a strong influence over the food at the Tabcorp marquee resulting in a Contemporary French cuisine with Asian influences.

If you’ve never experienced the Melbourne Cup, I highly recommend it, it’s a worldly even that won’t disappoint, there’s something for everyone.

 

Joel Mielle

 

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Oxfam report says rich getting richer and poor getting poorer amid coronavirus pandemic


In the initial months of the pandemic, a stock market collapse saw the world’s billionaires experience massive reductions in their wealth.

But this setback was short lived. Within nine months, the top 1,000 billionaires, mainly white men, had recovered all the wealth they had lost.

Conversely, it could take more than a decade for the world’s poorest people to recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic.

That is the upshot of Oxfam’s latest report, The Inequality Virus, which highlights how the coronavirus crisis has exacerbated inequality and deepened poverty around the world.

It found the pandemic had ushered in the worst job crisis in more than 90 years, with hundreds of millions of people now underemployed or out of work.

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The world’s 10 richest men have seen their combined wealth increase by half a trillion dollars since the pandemic began — more than enough to pay for a COVID-19 vaccine for everyone and to ensure no-one is pushed into poverty by the pandemic.

In an Australian context, 31 billionaires have seen their fortunes increase by nearly $85 billion since pandemic was declared.

The report’s release came as the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda meetings kicked off on Monday under the theme A Crucial Year to Rebuild Trust.

The World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda meetings have kicked off under the theme A Crucial Year to Rebuild Trust.(Reuters: Denis Balibouse)

World’s billionaires increased wealth by $US3.9 trillion

After the global financial crisis in 2008, it took five years for billionaire wealth to return to its pre-crisis highs.

But this time around, with unprecedented support from global governments, the stock market has boomed, driving up billionaires’ wealth, even while the real economy has faced the deepest recession in a century.

Worldwide, billionaires’ wealth increased by $US3.9 trillion ($5.04 trillion) between March 18 and December 31.

Their total wealth now stands at $US11.95 trillion, which Oxfam says is equivalent to what G20 governments have spent in response to the pandemic.

Globally, women are over-represented in the sectors of the economy that have been hardest hit by the pandemic.

The report said if women were represented at the same rate as men in those sectors, 112 million women would no longer be at high risk of losing their incomes or jobs.

501 million people could be living on less than $5.50 a day

Since the beginning of the 21st century, wealth concentration at the top has steadily increased.

The total number of billionaires nearly doubled in the 10 years after the financial crisis of 2008, and between 2017 and 2018 a new billionaire was created every two days.

Such extreme inequality meant billions of people were already living on the edge when the pandemic hit.

“They did not have any resources or support to weather the economic and social storm it created,” the report said.

International bodies including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) also fear the pandemic will further exacerbate inequality.

According to the World Bank, 501 million more people will be living on less than $5.50 a day in 2030 if governments allow inequality to increase by just two percentage points annually, and the total number of people living in poverty will be higher than it was before the virus hit.

But if governments choose to act to reduce inequality by two percentage points annually, the IMF estimates we could return to pre-crisis levels of poverty within three years, and 860 million fewer people will be living in poverty by 2030 than if it were left to increase.

A woman in Nigeria is pictured carrying her baby on her back in the middle of a poverty stricken town.
The World Bank paints a grim picutre of what will happen if governments allow inequality to increase.(Supplied: Josh Estey, CARE)

The end of JobKeeper could spell chaos

In an Australian context, coronavirus wage subsidies have helped keep Australians afloat, but as they come to an end Oxfam fears many people will fall into poverty.

“We stand to witness the greatest rise in inequality since records began,” Oxfam Australia chief executive Lyn Morgain Oxfam said.

She said the JobSeeker payment had been a critical lifeline for millions of Australians thrown into unemployment.

“While the Government should be congratulated for acting quickly to implement wage subsidies and other social protection measures last year, the inappropriate and unfair reversal of the increase to JobSeeker payments is a cruel blow to the poorest Australians,” she said.

Ms Morgain called on the Federal Government to further invest in public services and low-carbon sectors. She said this could help create millions of new jobs and a sustainable social welfare safety net.

She also called on the richest individuals and corporations to contribute their fair share of tax to pay for it.

Oxfam’s report said that between 1985 and 2019, the global average statutory corporate tax rate fell from 49 per cent to 23 per cent.

The Tax Justice Network estimates countries are losing more than $US427 billion in tax each year to international corporate tax abuse and private tax evasion.

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WHO tells rich countries: stop cutting the vaccines queue



FILE PHOTO: World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference in Geneva Switzerland July 3, 2020. Fabrice Coffrini/Pool via REUTERS

January 8, 2021

By Emma Farge and Matthias Blamont

GENEVA (Reuters) – The head of the World Health Organization said on Friday there is a “clear problem” that low- and middle-income countries are not yet receiving supplies of COVID-19 vaccines and urged countries to stop striking bilateral deals with manufacturers.

“Rich countries have the majority of the supply,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in strongly-worded comments on vaccine nationalism at a Geneva news briefing.

“No country is exceptional and should cut the queue and vaccinate all their population while some remain with no supply of the vaccine,” he added.

He asked countries and manufacturers to stop making bilateral deals and called on those who have ordered excess doses to immediately hand them over to the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility.

While Tedros did not name countries, the European Union said it reached a deal with Pfizer and BioNTech for 300 million additional doses of their COVID-19 vaccine in a move that would give the EU nearly half of the firms’ global output for 2021.

The scramble for shots has accelerated as governments also struggle to tame more infectious variants identified in Britain and South Africa, which are threatening to overwhelm healthcare systems.

‘SPREADING AT ALARMING RATE’

Emergencies chief Mike Ryan echoed comments from Tedros, stressing the need to give doses to vulnerable groups and frontline healthcare workers first, no matter where they live.

“Are we going to allow those people who are vulnerable and those people who are most at risk to get sick and die from this virus?” he asked.

WHO officials also urged vaccine manufacturers to provide it with data in real-time in order to expedite the rollout.

Earlier this week, the WHO said the COVAX facility had raised $6 billion of the $7 billion that it has sought in 2021 to help finance deliveries to 92 developing nations with limited or no means to buy vaccines on their own.

Until now, wealthier nations including Britain, European Union members, the United States, Switzerland and Israel have been at the front of the queue for vaccine deliveries from companies including Pfizer and partner BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

Nearly 88 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and around 1.9 million have died since it first emerged in China in December 2019, according to a Reuters tally.

Cases have been surging in many countries in recent weeks with not enough vaccines distributed yet to slow transmission, WHO officials said.

“The virus is spreading at alarming rates in some countries,” Tedros said. “The problem is that not complying a bit becomes a habit. Not complying gives the virus opportunities to spread.”

(Reporting by Emma Farge and Matthias Blamont; Editing by Nick Macfie and Alex Richardson)



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The COVID trades that made debt investors rich in 2020


Airbnb

Silver Lake and Sixth Street Partners more than doubled their money on a $US1 billion ($1.3 billion) lifeline they threw Airbnb in April.

The second-lien loan they underwrote for the company came with warrants, which delivered outsized returns once the company completed its initial public offering. In just eight months, the two firms are sitting on paper gains well over 100 per cent.

Brian Chesky, co-founder and chief executive officer of Airbnb, speaks virtually during the company’s initial public offering on the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York. Credit:Bloomberg

Less adventurous investors who preferred to stick to more senior debt were still able to take part in the rally. Airbnb’s first-lien loan, also syndicated in April, has returned about 17 per cent over the span.

Fresh Market

Before businesses were ordered shut across the US in March, Fresh Market was struggling under the weight of $US1 billion ($1.3 billion) in debt it had accumulated after its takeover by Apollo Global Management in 2016. Its bonds were already trading at roughly half of their face value.

But as homebound consumers began stocking up on groceries en masse, the company experienced a 25 per cent increase in revenue in the second quarter. The company’s 9.75 per cent notes due 2023, which dropped to as low as 39 cents on the dollar at the end of March, have since recovered to 103. That’s a total return of more than 175 per cent for investors who timed it right.

Tupperware

A boom in home cooking and an aggressive cost-cutting plan pushed by new chief executive officer Miguel Fernandez gave Tupperware Brands Corporation a much-needed boost in 2020, pulling the company back from the brink.

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Tupperware’s shares have soared more than 300 per cent this year, but its debt has also been a boon for investors. The company’s $US600 million ($791 million) of 4.75 per cent bonds due 2021 traded as low as 30.125 cents in May after it announced plans to buy back only some of the notes at deeply discounted prices.

Investors who scooped up the securities on the cheap and held out were handed a windfall in December, when Tupperware obtained a new loan from Angelo Gordon & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., and called the remaining bonds at around par, for a total return of over 230 per cent.

Cruise Lines

As the pandemic took hold, few industries were in more desperate need of capital than cruise lines.

Not only had travel across the globe ground to a halt, but vessels had emerged as a key hot spot for contagion, casting doubts as to when sailing would be allowed to resume.

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Carnival Corporation was the first to raise capital in the bond market, offering $US4 billion ($5.2 billion) of three-year bonds secured by ships and intellectual property with a coupon of 11.5 per cent, one of the highest ever by an investment-grade company.

The debt, which was issued at US99 cents, has returned around 25 per cent.

Secured bonds that lower-rated Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean Cruises offered in May have returned around 29 per cent and 27 per cent respectively.

Golden Nugget

Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta was among the first to tap debt markets when credit began flowing again in April. But Golden Nugget, the umbrella company for much of his restaurant and casino empire, had to offer investors one of the highest yields ever seen in the US leveraged loan market to get a deal done.

The loan was issued at US96 cents and pays annual interest of 12 percentage points over Libor. Two months later, half of it was repaid at a dizzying premium of US116 cents via proceeds from the sale of Golden Nugget’s online betting business to a blank-check company. The remaining outstanding amount has returned over 30 per cent.

Bloomberg

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