Housing finance falls 1.2% in January, Sensis chief resigns: Midday roundup

The number of home loans granted in January fell a seasonally adjusted 1.2% on the previous month, according to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The figures show the number of home loans granted fell to 47,768.

The result comes despite expectations home loans would rise 2% from the previous month.

Total housing finance fell by 2.3% in value in January to a seasonally adjusted $20.73 billion.

Sensis chief executive Bruce Akhurst resigns

Sensis chief executive Bruce Akhurst has resigned this morning after Telstra moved last year to integrate the company with its own management.

Telstra released a statement this morning thanking Akhurst for his service.

“I have enjoyed my time as CEO of Sensis. It is time now for a change and I look forward to exploring new opportunities.”

“I have been amazed and inspired by the commitment and resourcefulness of our people. The Sensis team is executing a significant transformation and building an exciting future for a once traditional print business. Their talent, customer focus and dedication has been exceptional.”

Rick Ellis will act as Sensis chief executive until a permanent replacement is found.

Telstra chief executive David Thodey said “despite a challenging print environment, Sensis has managed to maintain strong print revenues compared with its global peers and has started its transition into a fully digital capable media business”.

Shares open higher on mixed offshore leads

The Australian sharemarket has opened higher this morning despite a mixed offshore lead with investors remaining cautious in the US as they wait on news of the country’s troubled economy.

News that Italy has fallen into recession has also shaken the markets.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 42 points or 1% to 4238.7 at 12.00 AEST, while the Australian dollar fell to $US1.05c – a seven-week low after the release of weak Chinese trade data.

In the United States, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 37.7 points or 0.3% to 12,959.

Fitch cuts Macquarie Group rating

Ratings agency Fitch has cut the credit ratings of investment bank Macquarie, citing the market-oriented nature of its businesses plus the group’s reliance on wholesale funding.

“An uncertain global economic environment and increasing regulation mean that absolute returns from these businesses are likely to be subdued relative to pre-2008 levels in the short to medium term,” Fitch said.

“Also, market-oriented businesses have a more volatile earnings profile than traditional commercial banking businesses.”

But Macquarie Group says the cut is not reflective of any developments specific to Macquarie, but rather the result of a broad global review.

Gunns enters trading halt, flags capital raising

Shares in timber business Gunns have been suspended for trading, as the company flags a fresh capital raising following the departure of mooted cornerstone investor Richard Chandler.

Gunns said in a statement that: “The company’s negotiations regarding the capital raising have not been finalised and will not be completed prior to expiry of the current trading halt.”

“Based on discussions to date, the company is confident of obtaining necessary commitments for the offer to proceed.”

Chandler withdrew his offer to invest $150 million in Gunns following due diligence.


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