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The $70 billion question for Queensland business: Will they invest, or won't they?

Business

Business investment is expected to boom next financial year with double-digit growth forecast by Deloitte,  almost $70 billion waiting for the green light and almost $100 billion of investment in various planning stages throughout Queensland.

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It follows a significant downturn in the March quarter but there was now $42 billion worth of projects under construction in Queensland. Another $10 billion had been committed and there was $70 billion under consideration.

And there may not be a more favourable time to take the plunge. The ANZ said in a separate report that business investment conditions were the most favourable in a decade and a half.

“Banks have healthy balance sheets, equity markets provide a favourable source of financing, consumers and labour markets are in better shape than could have been expected, and the Fed has committed to retain an easy policy stance well into the recovery,” the bank said

“If capacity utilisation can keep recovering, and return to pre-GFC levels in a breadth of countries, business investment may well be the surprise that sustains the global economy’s upside as COVID-19 stimulus finally winds back.”

Deloitte’s report said investment in Victoria and NSW would dominate over the short term but in other states and territories was expected to increase by more than 25 per cent by the end of 2023.

“All up, there is $35 billion worth of engineering projects currently under construction in Queensland, with $96 billion worth of projects in the various planning stages,’’ Deloitte’s Stephen Smith said.

It said the notable projects added to its database in the March quarter included the $633 million Agripower rail line and fertiliser plant near Townsville and the $600 million Majors Creek solar far south of Townsville.

Work was expected to start soon on the $709 million third stage of the Gold Coast light rail from Broadbeach to Burleigh Heads as well as the $777 million Kidston Pumped Hydro project.

But the economic engine room of the coal sector has effectively stalled.

Although Australia-wide coal exploration expenditure grew by more than one quarter over the past year, it had not flowed to project investment. Only $3 billion worth of coal projects were listed as under construction.

“And although there are $46 billion worth of coal projects across the various planning stages, many of these developments have remained in planning for several years,’’ the report said.

In his analysis, Smith said private business investment would fall in 2020-21 before accelerating at double-digit rates in both 2021-22 and 2022-23 – adding almost three percentage points to economic growth over this period.

Public investment would grow by 20 per cent in 2020-21 before moderating thereafter.

“Infrastructure investment is expected to drive activity over the coming years. There are currently more than $180 billion worth of public infrastructure projects underway across Australia, a 40 per cent increase from the trough seen six years ago.

“And further gains are expected in coming years with most governments announcing increases to infrastructure investment pipelines in recent budgets.

“This will see the total value of projects underway in our Investment Monitor database surpass a quarter of a trillion dollars in 2022,” Smith said.

“To put that in perspective, it’s the equivalent of building the NBN five times over.

The value of work done in Queensland’s commercial construction industry grew over the past year, led by gains in the offices, education, health and entertainment and recreation industries.

But the value of work commenced and building approved fell over the past year, pointing to a slowdown in activity in coming quarters.

Construction has started on the $654 million second stage of the Southern Queensland Correctional Precinct and a $425 million Coles automated distribution centre in Redbank. The pipeline was boosted by plans for a $670 million office tower at 200 Turbot Street and a $375 million office tower at 31 Duncan Street in Brisbane.

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