Spotify’s market capitalization fell about $2.1 billion over a three-day span this week, coming after folk rocker Neil Young yanked his songs from the audio-streaming giant to protest Joe Rogan’s misinformation-spreading podcast.
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 1 in our series for 2022 and today’s date is Friday February 4.
First, I’ll be talking to Yair Miron, founder and CEO of Israeli start-up Rise.ai which has been making gift cards available to purchase on Facebook and Instagram, allowing small and medium businesses and enterprises (SMBs/SMEs) to boost sales, loyalty, engagement, and traffic. This lets small and medium businesses and enterprises (SMBs/SMEs) sell digital gift cards to their local community through Facebook and Instagram using the customers’ geo-location. This will enable businesses to reach many new customers, increase traffic and maintain their activity during the COVID-19 crisis.
And then I’ll be talking to economist Saul Eslake about what’s ahead for the economy in 2022.
But now, let’s talk to Yair Miron.
Spotify’s market capitalization fell about $2.1 billion over a three-day span this week, coming after folk rocker Neil Young yanked his songs from the audio-streaming giant to protest Joe Rogan’s misinformation-spreading podcast. Shares of Spotify fell 6% from Jan. 26-28. Over the same time period, the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index rose 1.7% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 1.1%. For the sake of comparison, Netflix’s stock recovered a bit, up 4.9% over the last three days, after getting hammered following its Jan. 20 earnings report. Spotify stock closed Thursday (Jan. 27) at a 19-month low of $171.32/share. That came after Young said that he was demanding the company drop his music , saying that Spotify “can have Rogan or Young. Not both.” Spotify removed Young’s songs on Jan. 26. In a post Wednesday, Young wrote that “Spotify has recently become a very damaging force via its public misinformation and lies about COVID” and referred to an open letter from doctors and health professionals issued earlier this month. calling on Spotify to crack down on coronavirus-related falsehoods on “The Joe Rogan Experience.” To be sure, Spotify’s stock price was already on the slide — having plummeted 25% year-to-date as of Jan. 25, the day before Young’s catalog was pulled off Spotify. Investors have been rattled by signals that Spotify’s growth may be slowing, particularly after Netflix’s warning of a significant cooldown in first quarter subscriber net adds (which precipitated a 24% drop in its share price). Rogan, whose exclusive multiyear distribution deal with Spotify for his podcast is estimated to be worth more than $100 million, hosted the No. 1 most-listened to podcast on Spotify in 2021, according to the company. His flirtation with alt-right figures and his anti-vax and anti-masking commentary has previously drawn fire from critics — including Dr. Anthony Fauci — but the controversy over Rogan has blown up to a new level with Neil Young’s protest.
More than a quarter of female workers at Rio Tinto Group have experienced sexual harassment and almost half of all staff have been victims of bullying, according to a new report that’s set to raise fresh investor questions over the mining giant’s governance. A total of 21 women reported actual or attempted rape or sexual assault at company sites over the past five years, and racism was found to be widespread across operations in Australia and South Africa. The report is the result of a company-commissioned study that surveyed more than 10,000 employees on workplace culture. Coming less than two years after the world’s second-largest miner apologized for the destruction of ancient Aboriginal Australian heritage sites, the latest revelations over the extent of Rio Tinto’s toxic work culture threaten to stoke new investor unrest. The external review, initiated last year after a spate of reports over misconduct at remote mine sites in Western Australia, will also undermine the industry’s often loudly proclaimed ambitions to achieve better gender balance in historically male-dominated workforces and to champion broader diversity aims. Rio said it would implement all 26 recommendations contained in the findings of a team led by former Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick. Measures include making worker camps safer and creating an environment where people feel secure to report unacceptable behavior. While the study covered Rio workplaces in locations including Canada, the U.S., Mongolia and Singapore, most attention will be focused on Australia, which is home to iron ore mines that generate the bulk of profits and where almost half of the firm’s 45,000 staff and contractors are based. About 20% of Rio’s workforce is female, according to the firm’s most recent annual report.
Rio Tinto is yet to settle a $400m royalty dispute with the traditional owners of a major Pilbara iron ore mine more than 18 months after identifying significant underpayments to the Gumala Aboriginal Corporation. The ongoing argument over the extent of Rio’s underpayments under the Yandicoogina Land Use Agreement risks overshadowing the 25th anniversary of the landmark royalty deal in March, and is the backdrop to the company’s efforts to modernise other Pilbara royalty agreements with traditional owners. The dispute between Rio and the GAC over payments due from the Yandicoogina mine first flared in mid-2020, when Rio identified more than $40m in underpayments under the country’s oldest royalty deal with traditional owners, as the company scrambled to deal with the fallout from its disastrous decision to blast 46,000-year-old heritage sites at Juukan Gorge. But an audit conducted on behalf of GAC in 2021 claimed the underpayment could have been worth up to $400m over the life of the agreement – with Rio’s best offer to resolve the dispute believed to be worth less than half of the GAC claim.
Daniel Grollo’s luxury penthouse, taking up a whole floor of Melbourne’s Eureka Tower, has been listed for sale in the fallout from the Grocon collapse. It is being sold under instructions from KordaMentha as administrator of Grocon ET 80 Pty Ltd, which is subject to a deed of company arrangement. Offers close March 15 for the 80th floor apartment that had been home to the building tycoon and his former wife, Kat. Their indicative selling range is $10m to $11m. The Grollos paid $6.25m for their shell in 2007. The four-bedroom apartment has multiple living and dining zones, study, fitness room, five bathrooms, and eight car spaces. There are exquisite stone, marble and timber finishes, plus hi-tech home automation along with Wolf, Subzero, Boffi and Miele appliances. There are mosaic frescoes by French artist Mathilde Jonquiere. It’s set in the iconic 300m high-rise with a 24-hour concierge, residents’ pool, gym, sauna and cinema.
Sales of new electric cars in Australia have more than tripled in the past 12 months, growing to more than 24,000 off the back of state government rebates, discounts and a more competitive domestic market driving down prices. The Electric Vehicle Council (EVC) revealed the latest sales figures tomorrow, showing there were 24,078 EVs sold in Australian last year, up from 6900 in 2020. Data reveals battery and plug-in hybrid electric car sales grew to a 2.39% market share of new vehicles. That was still well short of traditional petrol-guzzlers but up from 0.78% in 2020. Tesla topped the list, selling 15,054 Model 3s. Sales in NSW eclipsed the 6900 electric cars sold nationwide in 2020, with 7430 new registrations. There were 6396 sales in Victoria despite fierce criticism of the state government’s proposed road-user charging system. Almost 1000 sales in the ACT increased the market share in the capital to 5.87%. The Electric Vehicle Council data shows five of the top 10 highest-selling models in Australia last year retail under $50,000 drive-away. Chinese-owned MG ZS SUV was the second highest with 1388 cars sold. The MG HS model, which retails for about $46,990 was fourth while the electric Mitsubishi Outlander, Hyundai Ioniq and Nissan Leaf also made the top 10.
Australia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Future Fund, has invested more than $90m in weapons manufacturer Raytheon Technologies, whose laser-guided bomb was allegedly used in an airstrike on a detention centre in Yemen this month killing nearly 100 civilians. Documents released under freedom of information laws show the Future Fund, which invests on behalf of the Australian government, had $91.22m invested in Raytheon as of December last year. Amnesty International said that a laser-guided bomb was used in an attack by the Saudi-led coalition on a detention centre in Sa’adah in north-west Yemen on 21 January that killed at least 91 people and injured 200 more. It was described by the UN as “the worst civilian-casualty incident in the last three years in Yemen”.
From explosives experts to truck drivers, labour shortages are becoming an increasing challenge for mine operators across Western Australia after the state abandoned plans to end COVID-related border controls. The state’s resources industry which is a crucial source of revenue for Australia, relies on flying in workers to remote sites. Many of the workers come from other states and it has become increasingly difficult for them to travel given border restrictions enforcing quarantine on arrival in Western Australia, which is more than three times the size of Texas and comprises mainly of barren Outback. The impact is also being felt beyond the mining and energy industries, with some top executives based in the Western Australian capital Perth signalling they intend to leave the state permanently. They’re exasperated by Premier Mark McGowan’s decision this month to back-flip on a plan to reopen domestic and overseas borders on Feb. 5, extending an isolation from the rest of the world that began at the pandemic’s start two years ago.
The RBA board kept the official cash rate at a record low 0.1% at its first board meeting of the year on Tuesday and terminated its $350 billion pandemic bond buying program, citing significant improvements in the jobless rate and the broader strength of the economy. The central bank also revised up its inflation forecasts following a surprisingly strong December quarter. It now expects underlying inflation to peak at 3.25% later this year before moderating in 2023.
And Future Fund chair and former treasurer Peter Costello has thrown his support behind an inquiry into the Reserve Bank of Australia, claiming recent efforts to keep interest rates at historic lows had cast doubt over the credibility of its policies. Speaking during a portfolio update for the Future Fund on Tuesday morning, Mr Costello called on the RBA to end quantitative easing and release a plan for increasing the cash rate, which he said was “inevitable” as inflationary pressures grow.
Retail trade eased 4.4% lower in December after spiking in October and November as lockdown restrictions lifted across NSW, Victoria and the ACT, and economists tip a rocky start to 2022. Retail trade was 8.7% higher over the quarter and, at $32 billion, turnover was 4.8% higher through the year with post-lockdown consumption buoyed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Sales fell across all industries except food retailing. Department store sales were down 21.3% in December, followed by clothing and accessories (down 17.3%) and household goods (down 9.3%). Spending on dining out remained steady and slightly ahead of pre-pandemic levels. Ben James, the director of quarterly economy-wide statistics at the Bureau of Statistics, said the 4.4% fall was the largest monthly drop since April 2020, but sales remained elevated compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Hundreds of BHP miners could face the sack for not handing over proof of their COVID-19 inoculation status after mining unions lost a critical challenge to the company’s vaccine mandate. BHP confirmed on Monday that more than 91% of its Queensland employees at mines in the Bowen Basin had provided evidence of double jabs after the company’s deadline passed at midnight on Sunday. But that still left at least 400 of the state’s 11,000 employees and contractors who had not yet provided proof. The deadline came as the Fair Work Commission rejected Queensland mining unions’ challenge to BHP’s vaccination mandate on the grounds that the company’s collection of workers’ sensitive data breached privacy laws. The mining giant expects the proportion of vaccinated workers to continue to rise, with the numbers growing significantly since late December, when as many as 40% had not consented to confirming their vaccination status. However, Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union Queensland mining division president Stephen Smyth said BHP had refused to extend its deadline.
The federal government is being warned that one-off cash payments to aged care workers will not stem a flood of staff leaving the industry. The Prime Minister used a speech to the National Press Club to announce two $400 payments will be made to aged care workers across the country, in recognition of the extraordinary pressure the sector is under. The union movement strongly criticised Scott Morrison’s plans amid the omicron surge in deaths and infections. More aged care residents died of COVID-19 in January this year than in total last year. Last month unions and industry groups made a combined call for federal intervention, suggesting cash payments to workers and even the deployment of the military to ease staffing pressures. They argued the Omicron wave had exposed “unresolved systemic funding and workforce issues” that pre-dated the pandemic. Critics and the Health Services Union say the PM’s one-off bonuses are too little, too late to stop the problem,. Aged care workers have described staffing shortages compounding as pressures force staff out of the industry, potentially for good. Some in the industry say they are watching with concern as staff leave to take up other options in the healthcare sector, particularly around the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
And it’s the profit reporting season again. Mining and exploration company IGO has reported a 21% increase in revenue to $378 million while underlying EBITDA was $226 million, resulting in an EBITDA margin of 60%.. Medical gloves and protective suits maker Ansell forecasts first-half sales for 2021-22 to be $US1.01 billion ($1.45 billion), and that earnings before interest and tax would be $US111 million. Accessories manufacturer ARB’s sales revenue rose 26.5% to $359 million in six months ended December 31 from the year-earlier period. ARB said it expects pre-tax profit to be between $90 million and $92 million. Credit Corp’s net profit after tax increased 8% to $45.7 million in the first half of the 2022 financial year, with its consumer loan book growing 9% to $200 million. Small-cap market darling Aussie Broadband still expects full-year EBITDA to finish between $27 million and $30 million including the contribution from its Over the Wire acquisition. Workplace software platform ELMO expects FY 2022 adjusted EBITDA between $1.5 million and $6.5 million on revenue between $91 million and $96 million. Centuria Industrial REIT has lifted its accounting profit 209% to $308.1 million, after including a $256.7 million upward revaluation of its property assets for the six months to December 31, 2021. The Future Fund hit a record $204bn in the December quarter after returning 19.1% for 2021 against a target of 7.5%. Genworth Mortgage Insurance said unaudited total investment income was a loss of $10.6 million for FY21, including a loss of $11.6 million in the second half. Amcor’s adjusted EBIT was up 5% to $US769 million on a comparable constant currency basis.
And that’s it for this week. And next week, Friday February 11, I’ll be talking to Pete Ceglinski, the Co-Founder and CEO of the Seabin Project which makes light work of some of the thousands of pieces of floating debris and plastics that enter Sydney’s waterways. And I’ll be talking to KPMG senior economist and partner Sarah Hunter analysing the RBA’s latest moves to keep interest rates on hold.
In the meantime you can catch me on Facebook, Twitter Instagram and 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.