Monthly Archives: October 2018

Hiking Rota Vicentina in Portugal with a donkey

Chiquito. Photo: Kate Armstrong Chiquito. Photo: Kate Armstrong
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Chiquito. Photo: Kate Armstrong

Hiking with donkeys: Sofia with Chiquito, a seven-year-old donkey. Photo: Kian Barker

Hiking with donkeys: Sofia with Chiquito, a seven-year-old donkey. Photo: Kian Barker

Hiking with donkeys: Sofia with Chiquito, a seven-year-old donkey. Photo: Kian Barker

Hiking with donkeys: Sofia with Chiquito, a seven-year-old donkey. Photo: Kian Barker


There’s nothing like a disagreement between travelling companions to test your friendship. Especially when he happens to be a donkey. I’ve just hit the road with Chiquito, my four-legged walking buddy for the next three days. I stride out purposefully. Chiquito follows behind. Suddenly, he stops. I pull on his rope. He refuses to budge. We’re not going anywhere in a hurry.

We are hiking sections of the Rota Vicentina (St Vincent’s Route), a stunning 350-kilometre hiking route that runs the western coast of Portugal in a protected strip known as the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina. The route starts at the tiny seaside village of Porto Covo and ends at Cabo de Sao Vicente (St Vincent’s Cape), one of Europe’s most southwestern points. Route – singular – is a slight misnomer; it comprises two paths – the “fishermen’s trail” that hugs the actual coast for 100 kilometres, and the “historic trail”, an undulating path slightly inland that links various villages for 230 kilometres. Both trails are divided into signposted sections; these vary between 15 and 25 kilometres. And, like a sweet shop of hiking trails, you can select how and where you will hike: sections of each trail; the entire trails from start to finish; or, as we do, a combination of the two (sometimes they intersect). There’s no such thing as a bad choice here: numerous village and country accommodation options and excellent eateries dot the routes.

Unlike Spain’s Santiago de Compostela trail, Rota Vicentina holds little religious significance to hikers today. It was a different story in the past, however, when pilgrims journeyed through the area to visit the body of Iberian Saint Vincent at Cape St Vincent (Lisbon’s patron saint – his body was moved to the city in 1173). Nevertheless, the route is equally as captivating for other reasons, not least for the spectacularly rugged coastline which has changed very little since the fifteenth century when Henry the Navigator established his navigation school near the cape.

My own exploration of the area begins with an afternoon’s donkey briefing, a compulsory part of any trek with the company “Burros & Artes” (“Donkeys & Art”), based in the small village of Aljezur and run by Sofia von Mentzingen, a gentle German-Portuguese woman. We like her immediately. She is mother to 12 donkeys, all of which have been rescued from mistreatment. “Donkeys are nervous for a reason – it’s to do with the way of life they had before, their age, being hit on the ears. I can always tell what they’ve had done to them, such as when I use a brush to clean them, or have a broom in my hands, and they don’t like it,” she says.

Chiquito, our designated donkey, is only seven years old. He is curious and frisky, the result perhaps of having been tethered by rope to a stake for five years before Sofia took him in. He seems a little unsure of us and turns to face the other way when we approach. It’s not a great start but Sofia assures us he’ll warm up. I hope so.

Sofia meticulously drills us about Chiquito’s equipment: halter, rope, brush, blanket. Plus the French saddle, an X-shaped, wooden contraption from which we hang our cotton saddle bags (30 kilograms’ maximum of luggage). We learn when to tighten and loosen the back strap and how to tether, feed and water him near our accommodation in the evenings.

Even though Sofia will accompany us she advises: “Remember: the first job of the donkey is not as a luggage transport, but as a travel companion. Donkeys enjoy walking but we have to adapt ourselves to their rhythm. You must learn to go at Chiquito’s pace.”

Our route – from Praia de Monte Clerigo, near the pretty medieval village of Alejezur, to the tiny rural  settlement of Vilarinha – will cover a distance of 55 kilometres. It will take us along the coast over the undulating hills forests and cork trees and continue slightly inland before hitting the coast again.

Our first day – from Praia de Monte Clerigo to Praia da Arrifana – covers only 12 kilometres. We head first to the beach, a stunning sweep of sand. Chiquito shies from the sea: donkeys, we discover, dislike water. From here we wind our way up a narrow path until we are atop golden-coloured cliffs. Chiquito, trailing behind, pricks up his ears. The Atlantic Ocean rages below, a drop of several hundred metres. My first surprise is the region’s pretty coastal plants: camarinha (wolf) berries, wild garlic and bushman’s fig.

By the second day – a longer 24-kilometre walk from Praia da Arrifana, slightly inland to Carrapateira – we are becoming more comfortable with our donkey, and he with us. Just as Sofia had advised, Chiquito’s pace varies: slow (when going uphill) and fast (when going downhill). It’s a rhythm broken only when we stop for unexpected delights such as an archaeological site: the ruins of a monastery dating to 1130, the time of the Moors who exploited the region’s wood for shipbuilding and mulberries for silk production. It also affords us brief rests in the shade and swims in the chilly Atlantic waters whose swells attract hoards of surfers and surf schools, and short detours to watch the occasional eagle. (Unfortunately, it’s June so there are few birds, unlike the European autumn when migratory species fly over the cape.)

The pace also allows a natural and unobtrusive entry into local life. At the small rocky cove of Praia do Canal we pass a small, ramshackle hut. Out shuffles Dom Joaquim, a former fishermen who, Sofia tells us, is 91 years old. He leans awkwardly on his walking stick and waves. His hand chops backwards through the air, reminiscent of the Pope’s greeting. It’s a beautiful welcome gesture. Dom Joaquim is used to foreigners; campervans occupy his “front yard”. (Camping is illegal in this protected region, though sadly, with no jurisdiction to fine the culprits, authorities seem to turn a blind eye.)

More appealing are the area’s varied plants. My favourites are the rock rose, a peculiar plant with  leaves that are sticky and shiny, plus wild lavender, Umbelliferae, Helichrysum and chamomile.

Lunches, too, are a treat. Each day we spread out a picnic cloth under tree shade, respite from the strong sun and dine on bread, chorizo and goats’ cheese. To reward Chiquito, Sofia removes his saddle so he can roll on the dusty road; donkeys do this as a way of cleaning and massaging themselves.

Fully sated, we plod on. At Carrapateira, whose beach is a  surfing mecca, golden dunes spread and beyond, calcareous rocks reveal layers of shell and coral fossils. We explore the ruins of an Islamic fishermen’s village, a reminder that people have been here for hundreds of years. Even today, fishermen perch with their rods on the perilous cliffs, hauling in massive fish which they eat themselves, or sell (informally) to local restaurants.

It is to these we head each evening, after tending to Chiquito, to feast on fresh local catches: grilled sea bream, red snapper and sole, always perfectly grilled and served simply, with boiled potatoes and a lemon wedge.

On our final evening at Monte do Sapeiro, a lovely converted farmhouse-cum-luxury accommodation, owners Pedro and Natercia prepare a meal of perceves (barnacles) that Pedro, a fisherman, has collected off the rocks.

After dinner, Pedro pulls out his home-brewed medronho, a feisty liquor. Its effect brings on nostalgia. I imagine I’m Robyn Davidson of Tracks fame who, unknowingly a proponent of Slow Hiking, walked alone for over 2000km with her camels across the Australian desert at her camels’ pace.

Of course, I’m ill-prepared for such extreme adventures and not a great fan of large animals, unless viewing them from a safari vehicle. But I think, Chiquito and I have become friends; he has even started to nudge me with his head. We’ve both come a long way since the first morning when, on watching our initial standoff, Sofia, the donkey whisperer, gently reminds me that you can never pull a donkey. Instead, you must push gently from behind. TRIP NOTESMORE INFORMATION 

visitportugal整形美容医院mGETTING THERE

Qantas flies to Lisbon via London. See qantas整形美容医院 TOURING THERE

Rota Vicentina’s official website  has maps and detailed stage descriptions of the historic and fishermen’s trails, along with accommodation listings. See

Burros & Artes in Vale das Amoreiras, Aljezur, rents out donkeys for guided and do-it-yourself hikes; costs vary according to the length of trips. You must arrange your accommodation in advance. See burros-artes.blogspot整形美容医院 STAYING THERE

There are numerous places to stay that cater to all budgets, including youth hostels, B&Bs and guest houses. The most upmarket stays are in Casas Brancas (White Houses), see casasbrancas整形美容医院m; Monte do Sapeiro, in Vilarinha, 8 kilometres from Carrapateira, has high-season doubles with breakfast for $143 a night. See montedosapeiro整形美容医院m.

The writer was a guest of Monte do Sapeiro and Casas Brancas: Herdade do Telheiro and Casa Vicentina. She was also assisted by Muxima Guest House.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

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Hospital waiting time improvements in emergency departments a ‘reorganisation of people and numbers’

The NSW health system has been under pressure to lift its performance, with only 69 per cent of patients meeting the four-hour target in the most recent Bureau of Health Information figures.Overstretched emergency departments are meeting their performance targets by creating separate spaces where the usual rule for patients to be treated within four hours does not apply.
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The areas – known as short stay units – are intended for patients who need to be under longer observation, to free up beds in the main department for acute patients.

But they have also raised concerns that hospitals are using them to circumvent the national benchmark for 90 per cent of patients to remain in the emergency department no longer than four hours.

The NSW health system has been under pressure to lift its performance, with only 69 per cent of patients meeting the four-hour target in the most recent Bureau of Health Information figures.

An emergency physician at one hospital said short stay units were a good initiative in principle because they gave emergency departments a more rapid turnover.

“It’s not harming the patients and it’s not necessarily gaming,” the physician said.

“But it means that the apparent improvement is to some extent a reorganisation of people and numbers.”

Since the federal government introduced the four-hour target in 2012, the number of NSW hospitals with short stay units has risen from 22 to 29, with some of the greatest improvements occurring in those that introduced them.

Coffs Harbour Hospital cleared fewer than half its emergency patients within four hours before it introduced a short stay unit, rising to nearly three quarters in the latest statistics.

Mona Vale Hospital improved its clearance rate by 20 percentage points.

Bankstown Hospital recorded an improvement of 14 percentage points in a single quarter after it began staffing its short stay unit in 2013.

Labor health spokesman Walt Secord said the units undermined the veracity of the government’s data on emergency department treatment times.

“This calls into question all of the government’s claims about meeting emergency department targets,” Mr Secord said.

“I think it’s absolutely duplicitous of the government to set up second-level emergency departments just to get around benchmarks.”

But NSW Health Systems Relationship director Luke Worth said short stay units were a deliberate strategy to improve patient flow and were monitored to ensure they were not abused.

Along with the fast-tracking of patients with straightforward conditions, they had resulted in many more people accessing timely care.

“We’ve probably filled the Sydney Cricket Ground almost eight times over in terms of people who now get their treatment and care in an ED within four hours, compared to two years ago,” he said.

Health Minister Jillian Skinner said thousands of patients were benefiting.

“Short stay units represent world’s best practice because they recognise not all patients have the same degree of critical need,” Ms Skinner said.

“Labor’s comments show it has no clue what is good for patients or the broader health system.”

NSW Health issued a policy directive to hospitals in November reminding them that short stay units are intended only for patients who are anticipated to need observation for a maximum of 24 hours.

“[Short stay units] are not a temporary ED overflow area nor used to keep admitted patients who are solely awaiting an inpatient bed nor awaiting treatment in the ED prior to medical assessment,” the directive said.

The Australasian College of Emergency Medicine’s immediate past president Sally McCarthy said short stay units generally provided good quality of care to appropriately selected patients, but no more than 15 per cent of emergency patients should be sent there.

“They’re not supposed to be used as holding bays for people who are known to need admission into the hospital wards,” Dr McCarthy said.

“Certainly on occasions in NSW, certain hospitals have admitted too many people to the short stay unit, which means they’re using it as a way of pretending they’re more efficient than they are.”

The federal government tied $15.8 million to a sliding annual benchmark for the proportion of patients cleared from the Emergency Department within four hours.

The funding was removed in the July budget, but the benchmark remains.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

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Government to start construction on two new Sydney bike lanes

Cyclists on King Street at the corner of Castlereagh Street in Sydney. Photo: Sahlan Hayes Cyclists on King Street at the corner of Castlereagh Street in Sydney. Photo: Sahlan Hayes
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Cyclists on King Street at the corner of Castlereagh Street in Sydney. Photo: Sahlan Hayes

Cyclists on King Street at the corner of Castlereagh Street in Sydney. Photo: Sahlan Hayes

Construction will start this month on two new bike lanes in central Sydney, helping to form a network of mostly separated bike lanes from the north end of the city to the south.

Roads and Maritime Services said the government received approval last month to start on the cycleways, which will run along Castlereagh Street and Liverpool Street in the Sydney Central Business District.

The construction of the cycleways represent a partial backdown by Roads Minister Duncan Gay.

Mr Gay had said he wanted to trial a “part-time” bike lane on Castlereagh Street, making the lane available outside peak hours as a loading zone.

He also said he would look at this strategy for the Liverpool Street cycleway.

But the cycleways to be built from this month on Liverpool Street and on the southern end of Castlereagh Street will be “full-time” cycleways, separated from the street by a raised barrier.

A northern stretch of Castlereagh Street, between Liverpool Street and King Street, will still be looked at for a part-time cycleway over a six-month trial. But the government has not yet worked out a design for this stretch.

When built, the two new projects will mean that a cyclist entering the city from the south at Hay Street and Castlereagh Street will, via Liverpool Street and Kent Street, be able to traverse to the northern edge of the city.

However the plans for the Liverpool Street cycleway include a number of sections where cyclists will have to share street space with pedestrians.

Mr Gay said: “We think the new designs strike the right balance to meet the needs of cyclists and businesses, working in the confines of the CBD.”

“We have the ability in Liverpool Street to provide a dedicated cycleway on the northern side and a loading zone on the southern side, removing the need for a part-time cycleway,” he said.

The communications director at Bicycle NSW, Sophie Bartho, said it was “excellent” that construction would soon start the two cycleways, but said she was “extremely disappointed in the lack of consultation through this process.”

Ms Bartho said she did not support the eventual trial of a part-time cycleway further north on Castlereagh Street.  “Surely there’s an alternative way than testing this with humans.”

David Borella, the president of advocacy group BikeSydney, criticised the design of the Liverpool Street cycleway. The cycleway will force cyclists and pedestrians to share space near Kent Street and George Street, and does not provide a complete east-west connection across the city.

“These half-baked, unsafe, disconnected cycleway stubs won’t achieve anything but conflict and incidents,” Mr Borella said. “It’s astounding that we can’t even achieve a ‘minimum grid’ CBD cycleway network.”

The bike lanes are being paid for by the City of Sydney, but being built through a contract managed by RMS.

The design of the two bike lanes was included in the state government’s City Centre Access Strategy, but businesses along Castlereagh Street and Liverpool Street have raised concerns about the removal of loading zones.

When further sections of the Castlereagh Street cycleway are built, the government plans to remove an existing bike path on College Street to provide more room for bus traffic.

A spokeswoman for the City of Sydney said the council was pleased construction would soon begin.

“Completing this section of the Castlereagh Street cycleway will create the first safe, separated north/south route through the city centre, and will mean people can ride from North Sydney to Central Station,” the spokeswoman said.The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

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Saviours of Summer – Sydney’s Festival volunteers are treasured

Saviours of Summer – Festival Volunteers
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John Bayley, head of production for the Sydney Festival is responsible for directing those people who  are its very heart and soul – the volunteers.

Without these hundreds of volunteer workers, the festival as we know it could simply not exist.


Volunteers arrive at their unique locations before the crowds are allowed in for the day.

The task – to clean up, rinse down and get this year’s attractions ready for the excited public.

The two-storey high MC Escher-esque ‘higher ground’ piece of architecture in Sydney’s Hyde park takes an exceptional amount of effort to clean, as it can be touched, climbed on, and played with by festival goers. 


As the day begins to heat up, many attractions are now open to the public and in full swing.

Volunteers are posted at their allocated stations and are there to manage the growing crowds, and assist with safety, both for the people as well as the artworks. Under John’s coordination, the volunteers have in fact worked countless hours leading up to the festival to help create these artworks themselves.


The crowds are bustling, the sun is shining, and the giant waterfall swing in Darling Harbour is hitting a peak in popularity.

With long lines of curious people, the volunteers’ job is to make sure that everyone understands safety and proper protocol regarding the interactive artwork.

This particular artwork has been fitted with a special wheelchair seat, and it’s up to the volunteers to help make sure that those who are disabled get access to the attraction too.


As crowds of people move in and out of various attractions around Sydney, certain volunteers are strategically placed at information points around the festival.

These volunteers are in charge of making sure that festival goers understand what there is to see and where they can see it. John describes the volunteers as the “face of the festival”, and it’s not hard to see why.

The smiling faces of the friendly volunteers are just one of the ways in which they make the Sydney Festival the summer icon that it is.


The hot Sydney summer sun is now down, and the main attractions are closed to the public.

After a hard day of helping out at their various posts, the volunteers help clean up the attractions and make sure everything is ready to go for the next day, knowing that they are helping to create something special for all of Sydney to enjoy.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

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Richie Porte puts national time trial victory celebrations on ice to focus on road title

On Friday morning, Richie Porte will get on his bike and train as he normally would two days out from the Australian elite road championship. Before he does, he will press the pause button on any memory of how great he felt the day before when he won the 40.9-kilometre men’s elite national time trial at Buninyong, Victoria, which will have entrenched his billing as one of the favourites for Sunday’s 183.6-kilometre road title.
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The 29-year-old Tasmanian realises he has a terrific opportunity to win two national titles, and that to achieve that he will need to be as focused as he was on Thursday. In rainy conditions, Porte clocked 51 minutes 50 seconds on the hilly course and beat two South Australians soon to attempt the world hour record – second-placed Rohan Dennis (51:58) and Jack Bobridge (52:17) who was third.

“I would like to enjoy this one [win] for the moment, but [Friday morning] eight o’clock, I’m back out on the road bike 3½ hours,” Porte said. “Sunday is a bit more of a lottery but I think … see how the race plays out, but I can take confidence from this.”

For Porte (Sky), Thursday’s win was his best against the clock since March 10, 2013 when he won the Col d’Eze mountain time trial in Paris-Nice that he also won overall. While Porte won the stage two time trial of the Criterium International on March 23 that year, the Paris-Nice win was the standard he wanted on Thursday.

“I am a happy boy …to win this time trial in such a class field, it’s fantastic,” said Porte whose season last year was marred by illness and health.

Porte praised Andrew Christie-Johnston, boss of the Avanti national road series team he raced for when named “Praties” before he went to Europe in 2009. Without full Sky team support in Australia until the Tour Down Under on January 17-25, Christie-Johnston has helped Porte prepare for the titles under the guidance of Sky trainer Tim Kerrison. “It was great to have Andrew Christie-Johnston [and] Avanti racing behind me … it was like being back in the old days,” Porte said.

Porte, who is off contract this year and hopes to lead Sky in the Giro d’Italia on May 9-31, realises what is at stake for him this year. “You can count on one hand the number of nights I’ve had out, drinking or whatever, letting the hair down. I’m focused. It’s a big year for me,” he said.

Meanwhile, after winning the women’s elite time trial, Shara Gillow was accused by second-placed Bridie O’Donnell of “sitting on” her wheel. Queenslander Gillow won the 29.3-kilometre race in 44 minutes 21 seconds from O’Donnell (Victoria) who clocked 45:22, while Taryn Heather (South Australia) was third in 45:30.

Asked how the two riders finished so close to each other – Gillow, 27, passed O’Donnell just before the line – 40-year-old O’Donnell, who started before Gillow, said: “I was in front, so she was probably benefiting from having me just in front. She made up all the damage on the way out. It’s very helpful to have someone to sit on the way back.”

“She should be ashamed of herself … a full-time professional athlete sitting on an old woman with a job like [mine].”

Gillow defended her ride, saying: “I was riding my own race …”

*Rupert Guinness is covering the Australian road championships courtesy of Cycling Australia

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

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Saviour of summer: NYE cleanup crew

Bruce Pardey on the job. Photo: Sophia PhanAfter a big night out on December 31, not many people can remember how they spent their night before, let alone how the streets have managed to be rid of rubbish so quickly. But it’s all thanks to people like Bruce Pardey, who at 46,  has been cleaning up after Sydney’s New Year’s Eve celebrations for 25 years.
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9.30pm: Pardey leaves home. He has to leave a bit earlier because of all the road closures around the city.

11.30pm: Pardey arrives at the Bay Street Depot in Ultimo. People are starting to arrive and are being allocated into different work teams.

12am: At midnight Pardey and his team are still at the depot. They may get a glimpse of the fireworks, but definitely hear them because of all the noise. The team wish one another a happy new year and the bursts of light and sound signal the start of the hard yards ahead.

12.30am: Pardey and his team are ready to set off into the city. They take a staff bus to The Rocks accompanied by large roadway sweepers, compactors, high-pressure cleaners and all the other equipment needed.

1am: The team starts from the top of George Street under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Most years they’ve had to wait for the police to arrive as they can’t start the cleanup until the revellers have moved on. Generally, everyone is in a good mood, shouting “Happy New Year!”.

2am: Once the people have been moved on, the mess all over the roads and footpaths is revealed. Pardey and his team sweep all the litter on to the road, then the sweepers pick it up and they pressure-clean the pavements and streets. Within an hour or so the section is sparkling.

6am-7am: Pardey and his team try to have the city nice and clean by 7am. This is when their bosses come through for an inspection. The city needs to look good before the cafes start to open and the joggers start coming by.

9am: Pardey and the night crew are preparing to be relieved by the next shift. They’ll make sure the city is maintained through the day and touch up any areas that need it. Back at the depot, Pardey and his team have a breakfast barbecue, a chance to refuel and catch up on the night’s events.

10am: It’s time for Pardey to go home to  get some well-deserved sleep and to celebrate the new year with his family.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

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Revolving door at Seven as Worner makes content king

Sources close to Seven deny rumours of a row between chief operations officer Nick Chan and Kerry Stokes. Photo: Alex EllinghausenTo misquote Oscar Wilde, to lose one senior executive might be regarded as a misfortune, but to lose another within six weeks looks like carelessness.
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The revolving door at Kerry Stokes’ Seven West Media headquarters in Sydney’s Pyrmont had barely stopped whirring after the shock departure of chief operations officer Nick Chan in December, when it took another unexpected revolution on Monday.

Chief financial officer Dave Boorman made a News Year’s resolution and tendered his resignation. It was “reluctantly accepted” by Mr Stokes and Seven West Media’s charismatic chief executive Tim Worner.

“Careless” might be unfair, but the timing looked far from ideal for the company, which owns Australia’s top-rating television network, Pacific Magazines, West Australian newspapers and half of Yahoo!7.

In November, Seven warned of a 10 per cent slide in its first-half profit, because of the softer television advertising market. Its shares, which closed at $1.29 on Thursday, have almost halved from $2.25 a year ago and analysts have raised concerns privately about the company losing so much executive experience at such a challenging time.

But Seven is  very confident in the strength of its bench. Fairfax Media can reveal that Seven is close to promoting a veteran internal executive to be take up a new role as director of television operations. It has also promoted deputy chief financial officer Warwick Lynch, who has been key in financing content creation deals, to acting chief financial officer, and its first chief digital officer, Clive Dickens, starts this month.

All three appointments speak to the crucial and growing role that television and video content plays in the company’s strategy as it confronts the digital revolution – and also to an apparent culture clash that industry sources believe contributed to the departures of Mr Chan and Mr Boorman.

Both men are highly regarded executives. The outspoken Mr Chan, whose 25-year career has been focused on publishing magazines for the likes of Eric Beecher and billionaires James Packer and Mr Stokes, was promoted to Seven chief operating officer from chief executive officer of Pac Mags in September 2013. Mr Worner paid Mr Chan a lengthy tribute in the announcement when he left. Mr Stokes was brief, saying simply: “Nick has done a great job”.

Mr Boorman was appointed in April 2013 by the media group’s then chief executive Don Voelte, who now runs Stokes’ Seven Group Holdings. He joined from Vodafone Hutchison Australia, where he also had the role of strategy director.

Mr Boorman’s achievements included successfully refinancing of all of Seven’s debt facilities and overseeing a permanent repayment of more than $100 million, resulting in $1.4 billion of revolving bank facilities with an initial repayment date of October 2017.

But observers have pointed out that neither he nor Mr Chan had a background in television, which has been Worner’s career, contributes 69 per cent of Seven’s revenue and 72 per cent of its underlying profits, and was the only division to grow revenue and profit in its 2014 financial year. Worner has described TV as the “beating heart” of the business. It is is also an industry that dances to its own rhythm.

Some sources have suggested that Mr Boorman, a procurement expert with a telco background, had grown frustrated with trying to make certain changes that it is rumoured included cuts to production and talent, which sources say are sacred at Seven. Mr Boorman could not be reached for comment and sources close to Seven deny suggestions of any row over the company’s cost-cutting programme.

Sources close to Seven deny rumours of a row between Mr Chan and Mr Stokes. Mr Chan would not comment and referred inquiries to Seven. Mr Boorman could not be contacted. Seven declined to comment and the full story of their departures remains unclear.

But investors can be sure that Seven will do more to create and distribute content this year, as it faces new competition for eyeballs from the likes of United States streaming giant Netflix.

Seven already does more production in-house than any other network and has expanded into its own production in the US and Britain, with joint ventures 7Beyond and 7Wonder.

The moves have upset some independent production companies but have been welcomed by the market as a savvy response to the proliferation of platforms for content distribution fostered by the internet. Seven has also teamed with Foxtel on streaming.

As they ring in the changes, Mr Worner and his new team have it all to play for in 2015.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

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Macquarie acquires $1 billion stake in German wind farm

Macquarie Capital has signalled plans to make further investments in the renewable energy sector, after using its balance sheet to acquire a $1 billion stake in a wind farm from Germany’s Energie Baden-Württemberg (EnBW).
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As part of the purchase agreement, Macquarie is buying 49.9 per cent of the shares in offshore wind farm EnBW Baltic 2, the companies said in separate statements. The project is being constructed 32 kilometres north of the Baltic island of Rugen, where 34 wind power turbines have been installed.

Macquarie wants to capitalise on Germany’s status as one of the world’s leaders in renewable energy adoption.

“Given the strong regulatory renewable energy regime, we see Germany as a key market for this type of investment going forward,” said Mark Dooley, head of infrastructure, utilities and renewables for Macquarie Capital in Europe. He added that the transaction with EnBW Energie signified the first of what he hoped would be “many investments” in offshore wind.

Macquarie’s interests in the industry include a £150 million ($281 million) investment to help fund United Kingdom solar projects and financing for a waste-to-energy project in Dublin.

Local fund managers were, however, somewhat perplexed that Macquarie opted to draw on its balance sheet rather than making the current purchase via its infrastructure funds.

The deal was funded through a combination of Macquarie Capital’s equity and debt financing from several commercial banks. Macquarie said it structured and arranged the debt package as a large tranche of holding company debt, without giving further details.

The €720 million ($1.05 billion) transaction is subject to antitrust approval and the full commissioning of the offshore wind farm. If that occurs, the project will have 80 wind power turbines and a total capacity of 288 megawatts, and financial close of the deal will happen in June. EnBW Energie will manage the farm and maintenance.

“While Macquarie [Group] has excess capital, I wouldn’t describe that position as excessive,” Arnhem Investment Management’s Mark Nathan said. “They must have a pretty attractive yield that they believe they can achieve [from the wind farm investment].”

Another fund manager, who declined to be named, said it was “a bit surprising” Macquarie didn’t make the wind farm acquisition by deploying cash sitting in its infrastructure funds.

Macquarie has participated in a spate of energy sector deals through its unlisted and listed infrastructure funds. In November, one of its European infrastructure funds agreed to acquire the Spanish and Portuguese businesses of Germany’s E.ON for €2.5 billion.

On announcing the Macquarie deal, EnBW also outlined plans to invest more than €7 billion to restructure its activities. About half of that will go to the expansion of wind energy. Macquarie’s equity investments in transport, industrial and infrastructure assets had a carrying value of $335 million as at September 30, down from $364 million six months earlier.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

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Programmed chairman Bruce Brook dangles merger carrot to Skilled Group

Ready to talk: Programmed chairman Bruce Brook, left, says the position of CEO in any merged entity – previously earmarked for Chris Sutherland, right – was ‘up for discussion’. Photo: Pat ScalaProgrammed Maintenance Services chairman Bruce Brook has implored Skilled Group to engage with his merger proposal and hinted at a concession about who would fill the chief executive and chairman’s roles in a new entity.
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Mr Brook has not spoken to Skilled chairman Vickki McFadden since a courtesy call regarding Programmed’s “merger of equals” proposal letter sent to Ms McFadden on December 17.

Under the proposal both sets of shareholders would own 50 per cent of a combined entity worth about $700 million. Skilled shareholders would receive 0.5032 Programmed shares and 25¢ for every Skilled share.

“I really want to implement the discussion. We think this is the best and most value accretive opportunity for us and for Skilled,” Mr Brook said.

“I have attempted to speak [to Ms McFadden] subsequently. But, probably for good tactical reasons, our correspondence has been by email. If their chair wanted to call me I’d pick up the phone any time.”

When the offer became public on December 29, Skilled responded with a short statement saying the offer was “opportunistically timed” because of its recent share price weakness.

Skilled said it is assessing the proposal and there is no certainty of a deal being completed when it does respond.

Mr Brook, who also serves on the boards of CSL and American gold giant Newmont, said all companies try to make sensible strategic moves and the term “opportunistic” is hackneyed.

“I can’t think of any offer, no matter how reasonable, that the target hasn’t said is opportunistic and low ball. This merger is value accretive to shareholders, and it reduces risk,” he said.

Programmed said in the merger letter that its chief executive Chris Sutherland would serve as CEO of the combined business and that the new board would include “significant representation” from Skilled directors.

The management team would be comprised of executives from both companies on a “best for job” basis.

Mr Brook said the CEO position, chairmanship, and board composition are all up for discussion with Skilled.

“Absolutely all of those things are up for discussion. We would not want those matters to stand in the way of a really accretive merger,” he said. “We think Chris is the logical person … [but] that would be a topic for negotiation.”

Skilled is in the middle of a CEO transition and on Monday said new boss Angus McKay would start immediately, two weeks earlier than planned, so he could “participate in the detailed review of the unsolicited, conditional, and opportunistic proposal put to the company by Programmed”.

The two companies have held on-and-off discussions about a merger several times over the years. The companies came close to doing a deal in the middle of 2014 but talks fell apart over how synergies should be shared.

Programmed CEO Chris Sutherland said he has previously engaged with Skilled management on synergies and he is “very confident” that $20 million of synergies could be realised in a merger.

He said the merged company would have a database of 1 million people, allowing the right person to be matched with the right job very effectively. He said the diversified earnings of a merged group would reduce risk and could lead to a share price re-rating.

Skilled and Programmed both have big exposures to the mining and oil and gas industries, which are under pressure from falling commodity prices.

“Scale is very important with pressure from large customers coming on…we need to manage our [earnings] volatility,” said Mr Sutherland, who is an engineer with past oil and gas experience at Clough and WorleyParsons.

He said that based on current share prices both companies are being valued at similar enterprise value multiples.

“We are proposing a true merger,” he said. “No one is questioning the industrial logic. The valuation of both companies is similar. The idea is to put the two companies together and make one plus one equal three.”

But Celeste Funds Management chief investment officer Frank Villante said the difference in the earnings bases of both companies makes it difficult to talk about a merger of equals.

“We don’t need a deal to get over the line,” he said. “We are happy with our Skilled shareholding. Sure synergies are attractive but synergies often don’t pan out as people expect.”

Celeste owns 7.5 per cent of Skilled but is not an investor in Programmed.

Mr Villante said Programmed’s offer of cash as well as shares implies recognition this is not a merger of equals.

Mr Brook described the 25¢ cash as “a sweetener” for an offer already “marginally on the generous side”.

“It is very easy to say ‘increase the sweetener’ but the merged company will be saddled with the debt and it is risky times with unexpected outcomes from the oil shock,” Mr Brook said.

Mr Sutherland said that six weeks after he started as Programmed CEO the 2008 financial crisis hit. “We had $235 million of debt. I’ve been cautious about debt ever since,” he said.

He also said he is calm about the oil price collapse because energy demand is rising and he believes oil and gas exploration will continue. He is confident the long-term contracts in the property and infrastructure sectors give Programmed earnings stability.

Programmed is currently eyeing $3 billion worth of work associated with new infrastructure projects, including five public private partnerships.

In December Programmed won a $270 million, 39-year contract to provide maintenance services to student accommodation at the University of Wollongong. The company is also bidding alongside Decmil to build eight new schools in Western Australia.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

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Scorchers’ Carberry smashes Heat in BBL victory

Scorchers set the tone with the ball before Michael Carberry batted them to victory Photo: Will Russell Scorchers set the tone with the ball before Michael Carberry batted them to victory Photo: Will Russell
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Scorchers set the tone with the ball before Michael Carberry batted them to victory Photo: Will Russell

Scorchers set the tone with the ball before Michael Carberry batted them to victory Photo: Will Russell

Perth Scorchers batsman Michael Carberry hit his straps at the WACA Ground on Thursday night, easing his side to an eight-wicket Big Bash League win over Brisbane Heat.

Chasing just 135 for victory, Carberry smashed six fours and six balls over the fence on his way to 77 off just 37 balls.

It is the highest score by an international in Scorchers colours in the four years of BBL, beating Herschelle Gibbs innings of 71 of 36 balls in the BBL01 semi-final win over Melbourne Stars.

Carberry batted at number 4 on Thursday night and arrived at the crease when Perth were struggling at 2-23. He dominated a 114-run partnership with his captain Adam Voges, who also remained unbeaten on 35 runs from 37 balls.

The Englishman particularly enjoyed the one over bowled by his fellow countryman Andrew Flintoff, taking 18 runs from it, before hitting the winning runs with 25 balls to spare.

It typically came with another boundary as he hit Mark Steketee for four – taking the Scorchers to 2-137 and ultimately a comfortable win.

After a slowish start to his career in Perth, Carberry has now scored 206 runs in six visits to the crease, at an average of 41.2.

The win also gives the defending champion four wins from six games.

Earlier, evergreen left arm spinner Brad Hogg was again at his miserly best with the ball.

His 2-14 from four overs went a long way to keeping the Heat to 7-134. Jason Benhredorff also chipped in with 2-28.

Nathan Reardon formed the backbone of the Heats innings, scoring 52 from 40 balls – which was much needed after struggling to 6-76.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

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