This is episode number twenty-nine in our series for 2020 and today’s date is Friday, August 21.
First I talk to Chris Balasz who runs Australian red meat company Provenir which has been granted a licence by the Victorian Food Safety Authority PrimeSafe to operate a vehicle-based abattoir – a first for Victoria.
And then I’ll be talking to Indeed economist Callam Pickering about the latest unemployment and wages figures.
But now, let’s talk to Chris Balasz.
Victorian businesses face a surge of workers’ compensation claims as a result of the second wave of COVID-19 infections across the state, and many are likely to be slugged with higher WorkSafe premiums in the coming year.
NSW businesses will also be hit after the NSW government passed laws in the early days of the pandemic that places the responsibility on the employer to disprove an employee’s claims that they contracted COVID-19 while on the job. State workers’ compensation schemes are already under serious pressure from the sharp sell-down in investment markets, while the slowing economy is expected to hit the collection of business premiums.
Workers’ compensation authorities have put employers on notice to minimise the spread of coronavirus. This includes stopping non-essential work activities that involve close personal contact as well as introducing controls, including barriers, to reduce direct contact with workers and customers. It also involves implementing controls to reduce environmental exposure, including inspecting and reviewing air conditioning and ventilation systems If an employee of a business dies as a result of contracting COVID-19 at the workplace their family may sue the employer if a case of negligence is established.
Victorian government data shows more than 1665 cases of COVID-19 have been linked to outbreaks in workplace settings. However, there are thousands of cases of COVID-19 in Victoria where the source of the infection is unknown. Abattoirs and warehouses remain the workplace hotspot when it comes to outbreaks, accounting for 990 cases between them, according to Victorian state government data. WorkSafe Victoria has so far accepted 75 claims from workers who had contracted COVID-19 as well as another 98 claims related to COVID-19 mental health and physical injury. While the issue, for now, is largely contained to Victoria, several other states have seen a rise in WorkCover claims by employees who were infected with the virus while on the job.
The COVID-19 pandemic has boosted home entertainment subscription services in Australia according to new research from emerging technology analyst firm Telsyte. Australians added 5.6 million new subscriptions to the end of June 2020, an increase of 18% from a year ago. This growth was across streaming video on demand (SVOD), streaming music, and games related subscription services.
The total number of subscriptions reached almost 37 million and is forecast to grow to 58 million by 2024. The Telsyte Australian Entertainment Subscriptions Study 2020 found SVOD and streaming music remained the top two largest categories with 16 million and 12 million subscriptions respectively. All of the major players saw a significant increase in subscribers, Netflix has grown its local subscriber base to 5.4 million people, a jump of almost half a million in the past year. Local rival Stan has hit 2.1 million members, up a similarly robust 400,000 subscribers for the year. Amazon Prime Video has 1.7 million, and Disney+ has accumulated 1.1 million payers since it launched last year.
More than 400 account holders withdrawing retirement savings through the government’s superannuation early access scheme are being investigated by the Australian Taxation Office. The ATO said the pilot reviews will consider whether individuals met rules for the expected $42 billion scheme, which has been dogged by allegations of misuse and even involvement by criminal organisations.
4 in 10 Australians dipping into their retirement savings under the second stage of the government’s super withdrawal scheme had experienced no drop in income during the pandemic. Recipients typically spent an extra $3618 during the first fortnight after receiving the lump sum compared with the same people’s average spending in a normal fortnight before the super withdrawal, analysis of banking data shows. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of the additional purchases were on non-essentials, including fashion, furniture, restaurants, alcohol, and gambling.
On average, 12% of increased spending in the two weeks after the super withdrawal was allocated to debt repayments. Analytics firm AlphaBeta, a part of Accenture, and credit bureau illion analysed the depersonalised banking data of more than 10,000 Australians who withdrew superannuation during the second tranche of the scheme, which commenced on July 1.
AMP says it is willing to release the investigation report undertaken by Andrew Burns QC into sexual harassment allegations against new AMP Capital boss Boe Pahari. But superannuation funds say Pahari’s position is increasingly untenable after details of a sexual harassment complaint lodged against him were made public. And former AMP Capital executive Julia Szlakowski, who left the company in 2018, has hit out at AMP over “persistent and misleading efforts” to downplay sexual harassment that she reported in a seven-page complaint to the company three years ago.
As a result of the investigation into the conduct of her then-manager Pahari, he was financially penalised as much as $500,000, while AMP settled the claim with Ms. Szlakowski. Mr. Pahari was controversially promoted this year to run AMP Capital. In a separate incident early this month, AMP Australia boss Alex Wade suddenly left the group due to inappropriate conduct, including sending lewd photos to a female employee. Ms. Szlakowski is represented by Maurice Blackburn locally and Golenbock Eiseman Assor Bell & Peskoe in New York.
The latter firm represented former anchor Gretchen Carlson in her suit against Fox News boss Roger Ailes. AMP shares have fallen as concerns grew within the investment community about cultural issues at the wealth manager, which has in recent months been hit by successive scandals. “I can’t see how his position as CEO is tenable,” Australian Council of Superannuation Investors chief executive Louise Davidson said. “It concerns me particularly that the company has tried to downplay the seriousness of the sexual harassment [allegations].” Vas Kolesnikoff, head of research for proxy advisory firm ISS, said AMP shareholders were concerned about further erosion of company value.
“Governance does have a cost. The market sells risk.” Mr. Kolesnikoff said cutting bonuses for allegations of this nature was insufficient. ACSI represents 38 major super funds, which collectively manage about $2 trillion of investments, on environmental, social, and governance issues. Mr. Pahari was promoted to lead the wealth giant’s capital management arm after being penalised $500,000 – or one quarter of his annual bonus – after the company settled the sexual harassment complaint in 2017. The company has consistently defended the promotion, claiming Mr. Pahari’s conduct was a lower level breach, the penalty was appropriate and Mr. Pahari had shown remorse.
However, Pahari has appointed himself as chairman of the company’s “Inclusion and Diversity Council”, as the company refused to discuss whether it made “persistent and misleading” efforts to downplay the executive’s alleged sexual harassment of a female colleague. Mr. Pahari told staff members he would chair the council, which was set up to help the business become “an ultimate destination for talent”. In an all-staff email, Mr. Pahari said the council would help build “an inclusive culture that embraces the diversity of our workforce” and that he would co-chair the role with AMP Capital senior employee Julie Tanner.
China has launched an anti-dumping investigation into Australian wine exports, as trade tensions between Beijing and Canberra continue to escalate. China is investigating whether Australia is “dumping” wine at low prices. Wine is the third Australian industry to be hit by China this year, with beef and barley facing trade sanctions. China’s government has also warned both tourists and students not to travel to Australia as the relationship between the two countries sours. The move has already sent tremors through the industry. Last year Australian wine exports to China were valued at $1.25 billion, more than a third of the whole wine export market.
BHP Group will broaden plans to exit coal operations and review opportunities to shed aging oil and gas assets under new CEO Mike Henry’s more urgent push to reshape the world’s top miner’s portfolio for a low-emissions future. The producer aims to sell, or spinoff, its 80% share in the BHP Mitsui Coal joint venture, which owns two coking coal operations in Australia, along with exiting thermal coal mines and some oil and gas operations, the company said Tuesday when reporting annual profits held steady at $9.1 billion, cushioned from virus impacts by higher iron ore prices.
Henry, installed as the chief executive officer in January, is focusing BHP on supplying higher-quality iron ore and coking coal to capture China’s shift to prioritize premium raw materials for its steel sector. At the same time, he’s laying the ground for a longer-term transition to favor growth in copper and nickel to meet expected rising demand from renewable energy and the electrification of transport.
As the profit reporting season continues and the pandemic continues to affect profits. But e-commerce companies are doing well out of coronavirus. Tabcorp Holdings has unveiled a $870 million full-year loss after taking a $1.09 billion writedown on both its wagering and media business and its gaming services unit.
Crown Resorts reported a financial year net attributable profit of $81.9 million, down from $402.9 million a year ago.
Australia’s largest steel company Bluescope’s net profit after tax plunged by 91% to $96.5 million for 2019-2020 as steel margins in the United States slumped because of industries such as car-making cutbacks production.
Fletcher Building has reported a $NZ196 million loss for the 2020 financial year. The listed funerals provider Invocare reported a 22.7% decline in operating EBITDA to $48.6 million because of the cost of continuing to do business under social distancing restrictions.
Australia’s largest owner and manager of office buildings Dexus reported a net profit of $983 million for the FY20 year, down by 23.3% in 2019.
Rare earth producer Lynas profit slumped to a full-year loss of $19.39 million – down from an $83 million profit last year – after being hit hard by COVID-19, weak commodity prices and soft demand in the automotive industry.
Viva Energy’s net profit excluding one-time items slid 32.6% to $34.3 million in the June half compared with the same half last year. But refining slumped into the red, to the tune of $49.4 million.
Global construction and development giant Lendlease has plunged to a $310m annual net loss, as it absorbed costs tied to the exit of its engineering business and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Cochlear’s net profit became a statutory net loss of $238.3 million – a fall of 186%.
BHP reported a $US9.06 billion underlying profit, which was below the $US9.418 billion underlying profit expected by analyst consensus compiled by VUMA.
Westpac’s cash earnings rose to $1.32bn for the three months ended June 30, compared to a quarterly average in the first half of $497m, due to lower impairment charges. The earnings result was up 19% when “notable items” such as customer refunds and costs linked to legal action by financial crimes regulator Austrac were taken into account.
Spirit Telecom widened its net loss after tax to $1.5 million, from $0.9 million a year ago Monadelphous reported a 28% drop in annual profit to $36.5 million.
Cash profits at Bendigo and Adelaide Bank fell 27.4% to $301 million for the year while net profit fell 48.8% to $192.8 million. The bank maintained its COVID-19 provisions made at the first half for $127.7 million, which weighed heavily on the result.
Point of sale business Tyro Payments has more than doubled its net loss to $38 million on revenue up 11% to $210.6 million.
Argo Investments financial year 2020 profit fell 31.8% to $199.5 million, with earnings per share at 27.8c, from 41.1c a share, a year ago. Income from operating activities declined to $225.2 million, from $315.2 million last year.
Beach Energy’s underlying net profit was down 18% to $461 million. Sims reported a net loss of $265.3 million, from $152.6 million a year ago.
Mt Gibson’s net profit after tax slid 37% to $84.2 million for the year.
Money3’s profit fell 14.7% to $24.2 million, with the company incurring a $10.1 million non-cash economic outlook provision.
Estia Health recorded a full-year net loss of $116.9 million after asset values were reduced by $144.6 million, including a $136.1 million cut to goodwill.
Virtus Health has taken a $14.6 million profit hit from COVID-19 restrictions, with the company reporting a profit for the financial year of less than $500,000.
Coles’ net profit from continuing operations rose 7.1% to $951 million in 2020 – the first profit growth in four years – as strong food sales during the pandemic offset COVID-19 costs and losses in the convenience business as fuel sales fell.
Moelis Australia’s net profit rose by 19.4% to $8.9 million although “Government trading restrictions placed on its hotels” reduced revenue by $7.2 million.
JB Hi-Fi’s net profit soared 21% to $302.3 million in the 12 months ending June, buoyed by demand for laptops, monitors, and appliances from consumers forced to work, learn and dine from home during the coronavirus pandemic. Underlying net profit growth before one-off costs was even stronger, rising 33.2% to $332.7 million – beating consensus forecasts around $328 million – as strong sales growth in the June-half more than offset increased operating costs.
Gold miner Oz Minerals says the rising gold price helped its half-year net profit soar 82% on the prior corresponding half to $80 million.
Kogan.com’s net profit soared 55.9% to $26.8 million in the year ended June as the online retailer reaped the benefit of a consumer shift to e-commerce during the pandemic. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation rose 54.5% to $46.5 million as strong sales offset increased investment in marketing and customer acquisition. Digital gift card business EML Payments reports its FY 2020 net profit after tax and amortisation grew 17% to $24 million.
Silver Lake Resources reported a 3,852% increase in statutory net profit after tax of $256.9 million, but that included a tax benefit of $123.7 million arising from the recognition of prior-year tax losses on the balance sheet.
Redcape Hotel Group’s profit rose to $11.2 million, from a $4.9 million loss in the 2019 financial year.
NRW Holdings reported a full-year profit of $73.7 million. Funds platform Netwealth has posted a net profit of $43.7 million for FY 2020, versus $34.3 million in FY 2019.
Hygiene product manufacturer Asaleo Care has reported a 50% increase in underlying profits as it met strong demand for tissues and toilet paper at the height of the COVID-19 panic buying.
Car accessory manufacturer ARB Corp’s profit rose 0.3% to $57.3 million.
IT services business Empired has posted a full-year net profit of $6.1 million, versus a net loss of $15.9 million in the prior year.
Pact Group reported a full-year net profit after tax of $88.8 million, from a loss of $289.6 million, a year ago.
Retailer McPherson’s says underlying profit before tax from continuing operations grew 33% to $23 million.
And that’s it for this week. And next week, I’ll be talking to Jarron Aizen, the founder, and CEO of OneFitStop. Jarron is an entrepreneur immersed in the health and fitness industry with a passion to leverage technology to create efficiencies and experiences. And I’ll be talking to AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver about the profit reporting season.
In the meantime, you can find me on Twitter at talkingbizz, on Facebook, and on LinkedIn. And if you want, leave a comment. Wishing you all a safe and healthy week and looking forward to bringing you Talking Business next week