Interest rate rises are on the cards from May 3 when the RBA meets after Australia’s inflation soared to a higher than expected 5.1%
Welcome to Talking Business, a podcast produced in Melbourne Australia. The podcast is available on the Acast app, the Apple Podcast store or wherever you go to get your podcasts. Or you can get it at the Business Acumen website at www.businessacumen.biz.
I am Leon Gettler. My job is to review and monitor the week’s news in business, finance and economics. I bring it all to you, every week.
This is episode number 13 in our series for 2022 and today’s date is Friday April 29.
First, I’ll be talking Matt Keon, the CEO of GenieUs, He is building the most complete genomic map of the body to deliver faster and more accurate diagnosis and treatment of Neurodegenerative diseases in weeks, not years and he’s fuelling the next generation of pharmaceutical discovery for neurodegenerative diseases through partnerships with universities in Australia and abroad.
And I’ll be talking to economist Saul Eslake about the big economic issues in the Australian election.
But now, let’s talk to Matt Keon.
Twitter has agreed to sell itself to Elon Musk , the world’s richest man, in a $US44bn deal. The deal puts the Tesla chief executive in charge of a company with 217 million users and an influential role in shaping political and media agendas. Twitter’s initial reluctance to accept a transaction appeared to fade after Musk confirmed a funding package for the deal and shareholders warmed to it. The deal was unanimously approved by the company’s board and is expected to be completed later this year. Going private marks a dramatic change in direction for a company that began as a messaging service for sharing status updates with friends, but quickly blossomed into a way for people to broadcast short posts of 140 characters or fewer to a public following. Mr Musk secured $US25.5 billion of debt and margin loan financing and will provide about $US21 billion in equity to fund the deal, according to the statement. Musk has signalled that Twitter will be overhauled under his leadership, including changes in content moderation, having described himself as a “free speech absolutist”. Getting to yes with Twitter’s directors, though, is only the first step in what’s likely to be an arduous experiment for Musk. The outspoken entrepreneur has hinted at a long list of changes he wants to make at the social-media platform, including removing restraints on speech, while at the same time casting doubt on the advertising model that accounts for the bulk of Twitter’s revenue. User growth could also prove tricky. Musk’s promise to ease content-moderation policies is a welcome change for some people, but it has alarmed Black, Muslim, LGBTQ+ and other groups who have voiced worry about increased harassment on the platform. The deal comes after a dramatic few weeks of speculation about Twitter’s future, triggered by Musk’s emergence as the platform’s largest single shareholder on 4 April. He then declared a $43bn takeover bid on April 14 which prompted Twitter’s board to signal its displeasure at his overtures by adopting a so-called poison pill defence 24 hours later However, the apparent opposition of Twitter’s board faded after Musk drew up a $46.5bn funding package for the bid, including $21bn of his own money. According to reports, both shareholders and the Twitter board began to take the offer seriously once finance had been put in place. The deal is not expected to face serious scrutiny from US competition authorities because Musk’s major business interests – an electric car company, the SpaceX rocket business and tunnelling firm the Boring Company – do not compete with Twitter. However, the deal is likely to draw comment from politicians and campaigning bodies given Twitter’s influence as an information source and Musk’s stance on free speech.]
Netflix has reportedly cancelled multiple TV shows and films after suffering a recent loss of subscribers. The streaming service announced a loss of 200,000 users over the first three months of 2022, falling well short of predictions it would add 2.5 million subscribers. It is the first subscriber loss it has had in more than a decade, causing shares to plunge 25% in extended trading. The drop stemmed in part from Netflix’s decision to withdraw from Russia in protest over the war against Ukraine, while escalating inflaton over the past year has put a squeeze on household budgets which may have contributed to the loss. Netflix has projected a loss of another two million subscribers in the current April to June quarter.
Australia’s year on year inflation has soared to 5.1%, beating forecasts of 4.6% and following the 3.5% increase in the fourth quarter. This is the first time Australia has seen that sort of inflation number since the early 2000s. The March quarter consumer price index was reported at 2.1%. Why does it matter? Because the RBA said it would movethe cash target rate once inflation began rising, which means interest rate rises are on the cards as early as next week when the RBA meets.
There are more ‘liar loans’ at ANZ than other banks according to a UBS survey. The number of homebuyers overstating their financial position when applying for a home loan has not materially decreased despite stricter lending standards, UBS’s latest so-called “liar loans” survey has revealed. UBS banking analyst John Storey said while the overall trend showed the number of factual misstatements made had declined somewhat to 37% in 2021, from a record 41% in 2020, ANZ had bucked the trend. More than half of respondents, or 55%, that had taken out a mortgage with ANZ in the six months to December 2021 indicated that they had lied in their application documentation.
The Coalition is up to a year behind delivering almost $20 billion worth of budget promises including recommendations from the aged care royal commission to deliver a new funding model and its efforts to boost the digital economy. Despite almost a year of parliamentary sittings, billions of dollars’ worth of promises dating back to last year’s budget are waiting for enabling legislation so they can be put into action. Caught up in the delay is one of the key arguments of the election campaign around providing registered nurses in aged care facilities, 24 hours a day, every day. In the final sitting days before parliament was dissolved for the election, the Coalition was unwilling to pass amended legislation that had won support in the Senate, and Labor sat on its hands ahead of a major pre-election promise. The result is likely a delay, potentially by months, in the implementation of the measures aimed at helping those in aged care. The Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Outlook (PEFO), released by the Treasury and Finance Departments last week revealed parts of a combined $54.3 billion worth of policy promises are on government press releases but not yet law. Of that $54.3 billion, $19.7 billion out to 2025-26 is tied up in proposals that were promised in either last year’s budget or December’s mid-year budget update. The rest was announced in the March 29 budget with no time to proceed with the items. Ten separate policy commitments account for most of the $19.7 billion, including five separate measures covering aged care. The most significant of those was debated on March 30, the day after Treasurer Josh Frydenberg handed down his pre-election budget.
The $3.3 billion medical gloves and protective suits make Ansell will shut its factory in Russia in June, a year after it opened the plant. The company has decided to close the plant in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, as it takes the final steps towards ending its business in Russia, where it had a market share in higher-end medical gloves of up to 80%. Ansell said it was now winding down the plant in western Russia, which it opened with much fanfare in June last year when demand was strong enough to warrant a new factory to service the Russian market. Ansell in March suspended imports of medical gloves and protective suits into Russia from factories in other countries in its network, but will now move to withdraw fully from being a local manufacturer. Ansell in June last year said the new Russian factory was in the town of Uzlovaya at Technopark JSC Plastik, and employed 120 people. The local production capacity was intended cover demand in Russia, along with Belarus and Kazakhstan. It planned to produce 2 million pairs of gloves annually in the first phase, and eventually reach 4 million pairs.
Coal miners will have to pay to reduce their carbon emissions from next year under a Labor vow to overhaul the government mechanism that regulates 215 big emitters, setting off a political dispute over the cost of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Labor climate spokesman Chris Bowen confirmed the impact on coal on Sunday in a key statement about the scope of the policy while saying the changes would be done gradually using a mechanism and targets backed by the Business Council of Australia. But Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce went on the attack by claiming the resources industry would be punished if Labor won the election and tightened the benchmarks in the government’s “safeguards mechanism” to require greater cuts to emissions. While the claims set the scene for another dispute over the cost of acting on climate change, Grattan Institute energy program director Tony Wood said the idea of setting new baselines in the safeguard mechanism was an effective way to proceed using a structure already in place. Minerals Council of Australia chief Tania Constable said the industry expected to be consulted on the changes to the safeguard mechanism as the Australian mining industry has committed to net zero emissions by 2050. With coal exports forecast to reach $110 biullion this year, the policy would see a Labor government ask 62 coal mines to reduce domestic emissions currently estimated to be about 33 million tonnes a year across the mines. Labor treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers nominated a potential cost of $24 per tonne for the cuts required. Bowen said the 215 emitters covered by the Labor policy across all sectors would be the same companies already covered by the government’s safeguard mechanism with changes decided by the existing authority, the Clean Energy Regulator.
Electric vehicles are powering more Australian small businesses as they adopt greener policies and attempt to dodge rising petrol prices, according to the latest data from the Commonwealth Bank. EVs have recorded the biggest investment uplift, rising by 156%, according to the CBA asset financing figures. It comes after separate research from the bank showed businesses in sectors most reliant on transport, distribution and construction had warmed to electric vehicles. A survey of more than 900 businesses revealed 32% of those in distribution and 37% in construction are considering adding electric vehicles to their fleets.
Westpac has been ordered to pay $113 million in penalties after the Federal Court found it had made widespread failures across its banking, wealth management, insurance and superannuation businesses, including charging fees to 11,800 deceased customers. The bank will remediate more than $80 million to customers following the Federal Court’s decision on Friday, following six separate civil penalty proceedings launched by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) in November 2021. Westpac agreed to pay the penalties in November 2021 following the ASIC action, with the agreed settlement previously flagged on Westpac’s balance sheet. They included fees charged for no service, with the bank charging $10.9 million in advice fees to 11,800 deceased customers, triggering a $40 million penalty from the court. Westpac was also issued a $15 million penalty for distributing duplicate insurance policies to more than 7000 customers, causing customers to pay for unneeded coverage. It was also charged penalties for inadequate fee disclosure to 24,000 advice clients, for selling consumer credit card debt to debt purchasers with incorrect interest rates, and for having charged members with Westpac superannuation subsidiary BT Funds Management insurance premiums, including banned commissions.
Price hikes slated to hit regional newspapers on July 1 from Australia’s sole remaining newsprint plant are worse than the industry has feared, with some publishers reporting price jumps of 80% over previous rates and orders going only half filled. Regional media representatives have asked the federal government for rapid help, fearing the cost rises could result in newsroom closures. Norwegian paper giant Norske Skog has closed its New Zealand and Albury mills in recent years because of a long-term decline in demand for newsprint, leaving only its Boyer facility in northern Tasmania making that type of paper in the region. But demand for paper is now outstripping limited supply as Australia recovers from the pandemic. International options are limited. Another major global wood products company, Finland’s UPM, is facing a crippling strike that has lasted about four months. Russia, a major supplier of wood, is under sanctions because of its invasion of Ukraine. And freight from Asian paper supplies has become more costly as a result of the global supply chain crunch. Country Press Australia, an industry association representing 190 papers, and Australian Community Media, a company that has a further 140 titles, wrote on Thursday to the Communications Minister Paul Fletcher and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce to ask for help through the price crunch.
US workplace and Tik-Tok-for business video communications unicorn Loom is putting boots on the ground in Australia for the first time as part of a major growth push in the region. The platform, which came from the idea of making a business version of fast growing video-based social media platforms, enables employees to make quick videos they can share with their colleagues, The company’s asynchronous video platform is based on patented video streaming infrastructure that enables users to record the content on their computer screens, while simultaneously recording themselves narrating the content. It also lets them quickly edit and send the footage with ease, and there is an app version of the platform. The company has raised more than $US200 million ($278 million) to date from top-tier VCs including Sequoia Capital, Kleiner Perkins, General Catalyst, Coatue and Point Nine. Slack has also invested, as has actor Ashton Kutcher, Instagram’s Kevin Systrom, and Jay Simons, a former Atlassian president turned general partner at Mary Meeker’s Bond. Its local expansion – Loom’s first major offshore market move outside of Canada and the UK – comes on the back of strong organic take up of the product from Aussie customers, the biggest of which is Atlassian
And that’s it for this week. And next week, I’ll be talking to Russell Martin, co-founder and CTO of digital expense platform DiviPay, who will share his 5 big lessons that small businesses can learn from.
And I’ll be talking to CommSec chief economist Craig James about his forecasts for the market in the week ahead.
Wishing you all a safe and healthy week. And looking forward to bringing you Talking Business next week.