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Top business destinations: Australia

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The sixth largest country in the world and bigger than all the countries of Western Europe put together, Australia's  23.9 million  people have plenty of space to grow into.

Consider that you could fit more than 31 United Kingdoms into Australia, and yet the latter is home to only a third of the population, and you get some idea of just how vast and sparsely populated great swathes of the 'island continent' is.

In light of this, considerations like the level of local competition and demand, and proximity to large conurbations, key suppliers and transport hubs, while always important, carry even more weight if you're choosing a business for sale in Australia.

Sixty percent of the country's population is concentrated around the mainland state capitals of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. The most populous states are South Australia and its eastern neighbour, New South Wales.

Tasmania's Hobart aside, all of Australia's state capitals can credibly claim to be internationally competitive, affluent cities, with dynamic, diverse economies with advanced infrastructure. Many towns emanate from these hubs offering lower living costs and a more laidback lifestyle, but just enough proximity to the capitals' large consumer markets, facilities and resources.

Unless you're brave enough to pitch up in say, Somerset in Queensland, 1,057km from the nearest city and 2,713km from the state capital, here are the five major conurbations.

Sydney and New South Wales

Sydney, Australia's largest and most populous conurbation (4.8 million inhabitants) ranks number 1 in PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC)’s Cities of Opportunity report for both sustainability and liveability and ranks consistently in safety friendliness and quality of living.

Alongside its obvious benefits benefits like its abundance of beaches, great weather and its typically Australian work life balance it is also the financial, cultural and manufacturing hub of Australia.

New South Wales is the leading Australian economy according to CommSec’s quarterly report earlier this year as the strong housing market helps to prop up the state’s finances. Sydney also ranks as the second wealthiest city in the world in terms of per-capita purchasing power.

As in the rest of the developed world, manufacturing has declined rapidly in importance since the 1980s, a gap filled by property and business services, retail, health and community services, to name a few industries.

The city is blessed with iconic architecture like the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, which help attract nearly three million international visitors a year.

Australia's financial and economic hub also draws in huge numbers of economic migrants, particularly from the UK, China and New Zealand.

New South Wales' biggest export is coal and related products. Agriculture also accounts for a sizeable proportion of GDP, with the state home to one-third of the country's sheep, one-fifth of its cattle and one-third of its pigs. There are 40,200 hectares of vineyards and the state produces approximately 99% of the country's rice.

Melbourne and Victoria

Melbourne, the state capital of Victoria, recovered from the global financial crisis better than any other Australian city, evidenced by its creation of more jobs during 2009 than the next two fastest growing cities, Brisbane and Perth, combined.

Melbourne, has a keen rivalry with the neighbouring state's capital, Sydney, whose population is only 400,000 larger. Melburnians will therefore be pleased to know that their city is the fastest growing in Australia according to the ABS. Growing faster than Sydney over the past decade it is predicted to be Australia’s most populous city by 2053 with a population of 8 million. It was also named ‘the most liveable city 2015’ for the fifth year running by The Economist in their Global Liveability Rankings (whereas Sydney came 7th).

Melbourne's diversified economy excels in finance, manufacturing, automotive, IT, logistics and transportation, research and development and education. Tourism is also a huge contributor to revenues, with around eight million tourists visiting the city every year.

Home to Australia's largest and busiest seaport, the Port of Melbourne has over 3,050 commercial ship visits each year. It also handles almost 7,000 containers per day making up 36% of the country's container and generating $72.8 million in profit. It also boasts the world's largest tram network and four airports.

Moreover, heavy investment in conference facilities has helped the city become a major destination for exhibitions and events.

The steady decline of the manufacturing industry, which remains Victoria's biggest income producer and employer, leaves Victoria vulnerable. Finance, insurance and property services help pick up the slack.

Perth and Western Australia

With most of the population clustered around the eastern seaboard, a glance at a map of Australia might lead the ignorant to surmise that Western Australia is a rural backwater. But while the sparsely populated state has only has one city in the top 20 for population, 'Sandgropers', as Western Australians are called (after a burrowing insect prevalent in the region), enjoy a higher mean income than any other state's residents (11 per cent higher than the national average).

According to the ABS 78 per cent Western Australia’s inhabitants live in the capital, Perth, for whom 4,000km distance from Australia's two largest cities doesn't hamper it noticeably. It has also seen unrestrained growth in the last 40 years, seeing a 152 per cent increase of approximately 1.2 million people.

The explanation lies in its rich abundance of minerals and petroleum, demand for which has soared along with China's inexorable rise.

Western Australia is thus more capital intensive and produces a higher gross domestic product than other Australian states. Its gross state product (GSP) was $243 billion between 2012 and 2013, contributing 16% of Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP) and GSP per capita was $98,069 (48% higher than the national average of $66,397).

Barley, peas, wool, lamb and beef are major agricultural exports. In Perth, finance, insurance and property industries have mushroomed, while the smattering of towns throughout Australia's largest state draw income from tourism, mining and, on the coast, fishing.

Brisbane and Queensland

Like Western Australia, Queensland's impressive economic growth is buttressed by revenues from vast mineral deposits. There's more to 'the Sunshine State' than mining, however.

Other major industries include IT, financial services, higher education, aerospace, petroleum refining, stevedoring, paper milling and metalworking, while the state government has endeavoured since the late 1990s to foster growth in the technology and science industries.

A smaller proportion of Queensland's population lives in the capital city than any other mainland state. Brisbane, nevertheless, is the third most populous city in Australia with 2.3 million inhabitants and the largest Australian economy between Sydney and Singapore.

Steady economic growth has fuelled an above average influx of economic migrants in recent decades, and 28.3% of Brisbanites are now foreign-born, most commonly in the UK, New Zealand and South Africa.

The city is a popular tourist destination in its own right, but also acts as a gateway to the rest of Queensland, which a growing number of tourists have flocked to over the last couple of decades.

Adelaide and South Australia

Adelaide is Australia's fifth largest city (population 1.3 million) and fifth ‘most liveable’ city in the world according to The Economist’s Global Liveability Rankings. With wide, multi-lane roads constituted in a commonsense grid layout, it is a planned city circled by an attractive green ring of parks known as Adelaide Parklands.

But while Adelaide, which used to be known as the '20-minute city' because commuters could travel from the city centre to the suburbs in 20 minutes, has inevitably fell victim to the blight of congestion like all modern cities, it nevertheless, it remains more easily navigable than most.

Situated in the heart of the country, South Australia is ideally located for east-west and north-south routes. Major industries include manufacturing, defence technology, agriculture (producing wheat, wine, wool and sheepskins), fishing, machinery, automotive, and petroleum products.

Long before the rest of the advanced world descended into financial turmoil, South Australia had to slash public spending when the state bank collapsed in 1992. The austerity measures worked, however, and the state has since recovered its AAA+ credit rating.

Now the economic powerhouse of the State, Adelaide generates approximately one fifth of South Australia’s Gross State Product. And according to Adelaide City Council, the state envisages an increase of 50,000 workers by 2040 ‘taking the total from around 118,000 to around 170,000 in the city per day’.

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