Hockey signals hard line on farmer fund; REA Group profits up: Midday Roundup

Treasurer Joe Hockey has signalled he won’t bow to a push by Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce to increase financial assistance for farmers unable to repay debt, The Australian Financial Review reports.

Joyce addressed a meeting of farmers in rural Queensland on the weekend, reportedly stating he was in favour of setting up a rural reconstruction bank to assist with around $7 billion he thought drought-stricken farmers were unlikely to pay back.

However, following the rejection of SPC’s request for $25 million in government assistance, Hockey is holding a hard line on assistance.

“Interest rates are historically now are at all-time lows. If people are having problems coping with interest rates now, then there is a bigger systemic issue at play,” the AFR reported.

“The age of entitlement is over; the age of personal responsibility has begun.”

Hockey said there were “swings and roundabouts in agriculture all the time”, indicating the hard line applied to farmers.

REA Group profits up

REA Group has lifted its first-half net profit by 37% to $70.7 million, which the company says justifies its long-term strategy.

In the first six months of the financial year the company’s revenue grew by 30% to $209.4 million, compared to the previous corresponding period.

The group has announced a fully franked dividend of 22 cents a share.

REA Group chief executive Greg Ellis said in a statement the first-half profit was the result of taking a long-term view of the business.

“We saw where the property advertising market was headed and made a deliberate decision to shift our focus from subscriptions to depth products which meet specific market needs,” he said.

“This strategy is now delivering excellent growth and returns for our shareholders. In Australia revenue from listing depth products grew by 67% this half, and we continued our depth product rollout in Italy and Greater Luxembourg.”

Shares tank on open

Aussie shares have opened down more than 1.3%, following the biggest losses on Wall Street since June, as investors responded to poor manufacturing data.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark was down 71.2 points to 5116.7 at 12:18pm AEDT. Overnight the Dow Jones dropped 326.05 points, down 2.08% to 15,372.80.

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