Monthly Archives: October 2018

NIB shines through health insurance gloom

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Insurance has certainly been in the news recently, with QBE Insurance (ASX: QBE) feeling the wrath of investors who are getting impatient with the company’s seemingly endless earnings downgrades.
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Private health insurers are also under the microscope as the impacts of the federal government’s changes are being assessed.

Making insurance more expensive

First we saw a means test introduced for the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate, and then the government announced they were going to index the income level at which the rebate ceases to be available. The indexation will be based on the lesser of the premium increase or the CPI.

Those changes have increased the uncertainty for private health insurers, as consumers reassess their need for insurance or their level of insurance, with some likely to reduce their level of cover.

One publicly listed insurer in the firing line is NIB Holdings (ASX: NHF).

From strength to strength

NIB began operations in 1952, covering steelworkers at BHP in Newcastle. It’s gone from strength to strength since then, demutualising and listing on the ASX in 2007.

The company is now worth $850 million based on its market capitalisation, and has grown profits strongly since listing.

Premium revenue grew 11.5 per cent in the 2012 financial year, with a 4.7 per cent growth in policyholders and an average premium increase of 12.8 per cent.

NIB also continues to diligently reduce management expenses as a percentage of revenue.

The good news for current shareholders is that NIB shares have gone from strength to strength over the past 12 months, despite the potentially bad regulatory news. In fact, the share price has risen almost 25 per cent in that time.

Much ado about nothing?

NIB’s own modelling, released by the company, suggest there isn’t too much to worry about from the changes to the private health insurance rebate. It believes policy non-renewals will be around 0.6 per cent and policy downgrades (to lower levels of cover with cheaper premiums) to be around 2.2 per cent of its policies in force. While not ideal, those numbers are eminently manageable.

NIB has shown an interest in acquisitions to drive economies of scale, this month announcing the acquisition of the New Zealand business of Tower insurance, after being unsuccessful in a late-2010 takeover offer for Geelong-based GMHBA.

It has also looked to expand into new product lines, being active in the health insurance market for companies recruiting overseas workers on temporary work visas, and has taken a similar approach to international students.

Small can be beautiful

While the industry will likely experience relatively slow growth (likely broadly in line with population growth), small innovative players have the opportunity to grow market share in the “traditional” health insurance industry as well as pursue the type of expansion that NIB is undertaking. It also has plans to pursue international expansion.

NIB currently trades at a trailing price earnings ratio of 13.9 and a dividend yield of 4.9 per cent, fully franked.

Foolish takeaway

NIB is a well-run, shareholder-friendly business that is putting its best foot forward in a category that could otherwise be assumed to be somewhat sleepy and slow-growing.

While there are still questions about the impact of the changes to the private health insurance rebate and its success in diversifying its business, NIB is continuing to deliver, and wouldn’t be out of place in many portfolios.

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Scott Phillips is a Motley Fool  investment analyst. You can follow Scott on Twitter @TMFGilla. The Motley Fool’s purpose is to educate, amuse and enrich investors.

This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691).

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‘Thuggish’ police face action over death of Brazilian student

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A coroner has recommended five police officers face disciplinary action and others go before the Police Integrity Commission for their “thuggish” role in the death of a Brazilian student.
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In a scathing critique of many of the 11 officers who arrested Roberto Laudisio Curti in the early hours of March 18, the NSW Coroner, Mary Jerram, said they acted like “schoolboys inLord of the Flies”, with no idea what the problem was, or what threat or crime was supposedly being averted by the chaotic and violent struggle.

Mr Curti was tasered multiple times and sprayed with OC spray.

“The actions of a number of the officers were … reckless, careless, dangerous and excessively forceful,” she said.

“They were an abuse of police powers [and] in some instances even thuggish. Roberto’s only foes during his ordeal were the police … Certainly, he had taken an illicit drug, as has become all too common in today’s society. But he was guilty of no serious offence. He was proffering no threat to anyone.”

Ms Jerram handed down 35 pages of findings in Glebe Coroner’s Court on Wednesday morning following a two-week inquest into the death of the 21-year-old Brazilian student and football player.

While stopping short of recommending criminal charges, Ms Jerram delivered a damning indictment on the entire episode. “It’s impossible to believe that he would have died but for the actions of police,” she said.

Mr Curti was chased by police down Pitt Street, tasered several times, sprayed with almost three cans of OC spray, handcuffed and restrained by seven officers on the ground.

He had earlier jumped the counter of a convenience store in a paranoid, LSD-induced psychotic state and taken two packets of biscuits. It was reported over police radio as an armed robbery.

Ms Jerram said many officers had lied to the inquest and “conveniently forgotten” evidence.

She said the most senior officer present during the violent struggle on Pitt St, Inspector Gregory Cooper, gave evidence that was so conflicting and self-serving it “hardly deserves narration”.

He claimed that he told the junior officers to stop using their Tasers. None of those officers heard the order and the Coroner said it was likely he never made it but was seeking to shift the blame onto other officers in court.

Ms Jerram suspected that some officers were angry and emotional because they had been hit by Taser shots and inadvertently sprayed during the botched arrest.

However she said it was not right to refer them for criminal charges as it was about “policing issues warranting investigation by policing bodies”.

Ms Jerram recommended five officers, including Probationary Constable Daniel Barling, who tasered Mr Curti five times after he was handcuffed, be disciplined.

She also called for an immediate review of the vague and confusing standard operating procedures relating to the use of OC spray, Tasers, handcuffs, restraint and positional asphyxia, particularly the use of multiple taser shots and its “drive stun mode” as a pain compliance tool.

Roberto Laudisio Curti.

Gamers get sneak peek at new Corvette

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A screenshot from Gran Turismo 5 of the new Corvette.Gran Turismo 5 has given a sneak peek of the new Corvette.
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General Motors has taken new model sneak peeks to the next level by including a glimpse of its new Corvette in an update of the popular car game Gran Turismo 5.

The next Chevrolet Corvette (codenamed C7) has found its way into millions of homes through Gran Turismo 5, but the game doesn’t give much away about how the car looks.

Screensavers used throughout Gran Tur-ismo 5 now feature a heavily camouflaged prototype of the upcoming C7 Corvette.

Players cannot yet drive the car but a virtual spin in the V8-powered flagship can’t be far away.

Gran Turismo has a history of flirting with disguised prototypes.

Nissan’s GT-R also appeared in the game, with plastic covers in pixel form covering key design details, before the car’s final look was revealed to the public.

The Corvette scoop is timely for the Gran Turismo team, as the Forza Motorsport and Need for Speed game series have launched titles in the last month.

Digital drivers should not expect to see Corvette in its final form until it is revealed in the flesh, possibly at the 2013 Detroit motor show in January.

The look of SRT’s Viper, Corvette’s main domestic rival, was leaked in the form of a children’s hot wheels today before the real machine was unveiled in February.

The new Viper was released to gamers through Forza Motorsport 4 before it went on sale in June this year.

Both General Motors and Chrysler only plan to sell the new Corvette and Viper with steering wheels on the left, ruling them out for sale in Australia. As with previous iterations, though, local conversions to right-hand-drive will make them available. Like Drive南京夜网.au on Facebook Follow Drive南京夜网.au on Twitter @Drivecomau

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Company bosses still pessimistic about economy

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Australian directors are more pessimistic about business conditions now than they were two years ago, and still believe regulation and personal liability for directors is excessive.
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The biggest challenges for businesses are national productivity, a lack of government investment in infrastructure – primarily roads, telecommunications, water supply and ports – and the high Australian dollar.

And the biggest hurdles to fixing these problems are general economic conditions, workplace laws, excessive regulation and skills shortages, according to a survey of 540 directors by the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD).

Overall, the director sentiment index now sits at just 56.3 points, compared to 93.6 points at the start of 2011. A score of 100 is “neutral”, while 200 would be “optimistic”.

The directors’ outlook for the Australian economy is dire, with 56 expecting growth over the next year to be weak or very weak. They expect the value of the Australian dollar, the official cash rate and wages growth to decline while unemployment rises.

Their outlook on economic growth in Asia is generally good, but only 7 per cent think growth in Europe will be at least “OK”.

For the first time directors were asked to name their top three impediments to productivity. The top responses were “general economic conditions”, followed by “workplace laws” and “government policy”. The availability of credit was of least concern.

Asked about uncertainty in federal politics, directors said they were mostly concerned that it was

making consumers pessimistic.

“Perception of the current Federal Government remains negative. Most directors maintain the belief that the current Federal Government lacks understanding of business and government performance is negatively impacting consumer confidence and business decision-making,” the survey report said.

“Pessimism regarding government regulation also remains. Most directors believe that the level of red-tape and board commitment spent on regulatory compliance has increased over the last 12 months. Admin costs and time spent complying with regulations are identified by directors as having the most impact on their business, with employing workers and workplace health and safety identified as aspects of their business most affected by ‘red-tape’.”

However, directors are now more confident in the government’s National Broadband Network than they were a year ago.

In 2011, 55 per cent disagreed the NBN was a positive thing for Australia and 10 per cent were undecided. That has now fallen to 44 per cent disagreeing and 13 per cent undecided.

Chief executive and managing director of the AICD, John Colvin, said directors’ personal liability was a big concern and that Australia’s laws were far too onerous compared to those of other countries.

He said there were 700 state laws making directors personally liable, even for events that occurred before they joined the board. This was affecting the culture of entrepreneurialism and risk-taking that was needed to kick-start the economy, he said.

The survey, conducted during September and the first week of October, found liability was impacting directors’ willingness to join new boards, with 55 per cent claiming it had a negative impact.

“Directors are more pessimistic regarding the impact of legal judgment on director liability. More than 40 per cent of directors believe that legal judgments negatively affect their business decision-making and willingness to continue on a board, and more than half believe that legal judgments negatively affect their willingness to accept new board appointments,” the survey found.

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