Australia Post has defended paying its top executives bonuses averaging more than $160,000, more than a few Cartier watches.
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 3 in our series for 2022 and today’s date is Friday February 18.
Today, I’ll be talking to Brisbane-based prestige property buyer’s agent, Lauren Moore. Lauren is an advocate for buyers who she felt were underrepresented in Brisbane. And despite “buyer’s agents” being quite a new service in Queensland, she saw a gap in the market and decided to go for it.
And I’ll be talking to CommSec chief economist Craig James about what’s ahead in the market for the week.
But now, let’s talk to Lauren Moore.
Australian motorists may soon have to dig a little deeper to pay for their fuel after global prices rose to fresh seven-year highs amid mounting worries about a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Oil prices rose more than 2% overnight, with benchmark indices near the symbolic US$100 a barrel mark. Brent crude, for instance, rose 2.2% to US$96.48 in US trading Australian’s retail petrol prices are already at record levels, averaging 176.9 cents a litre in the week to 13 February, according to the Australian Institute of Petroleum. Peter Khoury, the head of media at NRMA in New South Wales expects average prices to rise to 180 cents a litre or higher in coming days, noting Brisbane prices had already reached 192 cents for unleaded.
Australia’s biggest bank The Commonwealth Bank has brought its rate hike prediction forward from August this year to June. CBA now believes the Reserve Bank of Australia will hike rates by 0.15% in June, followed by three more 0.25% increases to finish the year with a 1% cash rate. CBA’s head of Australian economics, Gareth Aird, said CBA also expected another hike in the first three months of next year to bring the rate to 1.25%.
The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has criticised the management of a federal grants program used to improve community safety, finding it favours government-held seats and that decisions are often made without clear and recorded justifications. Peter Dutton was identified as a minister who approved two grants in 2018 which did not meet selection criteria An assistant minister was also found in the audit to award five applicants a total of $1.3 million for applications which did not meet the criteria The $184 million Safer Communities Fund was established in 2016 to address crime and anti-social behaviour by providing schools or at-risk organisations with money for more security cameras or streetlights. The ANAO found almost 60% of all projects funded since 2016 have been in Coalition-held electorates, compared to 27% in Labor electorates.
Australia Post has defended paying its top executives bonuses averaging more than $160,000, with Chief Executive Lucio di Bartolomeo saying the payments were part of employees’ remuneration packages. Under questioning from Labor in Senate estimates over average top-up payments of $168,000 for employees earning between $300,000 and $400,000 a year, Certainly worth more than a few Cartier watches. Mr Di Bartolomeo responded: “We certainly don’t see them as bonuses at all.” Tasmanian Labor Senator Anne Urquhart said the rise in some employees’ bonuses were six times the rate of inflation. Mr Bartolomeo said this was because performance varied year to year, and those with such an increase in pay had simply performed very well. He said the incentive payments were independently benchmarked against other industries and the remuneration was set to attract “quality people” to the organisation.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has made clear the federal government’s low and middle-income tax offset is not a “permanent” part of the income tax system, giving him scope to push back on pressure from within Coalition ranks to offer a pre-election sweetener to millions of voters in the Budget/ As Labor signalled it would not press to extend the offset itself ahead of the looming election and domestic petrol prices pushed all-time highs, Mr Frydenberg likened the tax refund to stimulus measures needed to support the economy through the COVID-19 recession. More than 10 million people receive the offset, which is worth up to $1080 a year and has been extended at the last two budgets as stimulus to support the economy through the coronavirus recession. The economy has recovered much more quickly from the recession than expected.
Supply shortages have hit super funds. According to estimates from leading superannuation research house SuperRatings, the median balanced option returned -2.1% in January following the market sell-off, despite some of the initial losses being recovered towards the end of the month reducing the negative impact. The supply shortages have seen the price of goods and services such as food, automotive fuel, and healthcare bearing the brunt of the impact.
House prices will fall 14% over 2023 and 2024 as strong inflation forces the Reserve Bank of Australia to start lifting interest rates from August this year, according to Westpac. After notching up 22% growth last year, spurred by the record low 0.1% cash rate, national house prices will eke out just 2% growth in 2022 as early gains are offset towards the end of the year.
James Packer is set to become $3.26bn richer after Crown Resorts accepted an offer to sell its entire Australian casino empire to a US private equity firm. Crown Resorts has accepted an $8.9 billion takeover offer from the world’s largest private equity firm Blackstone. Under the terms of the offer, Crown shareholders will receive $13.10 a share, at a 32% premium to Crown’s closing price on November 18, 2021 when the offer was first made. The Crown board has unanimously recommended shareholders vote in favour of the transaction. The $8.9 billion Valentine’s Day engagement between casino giant Crown Resorts and US private markets giant Blackstone comes after the end of a period of deal-making that has been at times exhausting, exhilarating and excruciating for all of the parties involved. If shareholders and state-based gambling regulators approve the deal, Crown Resorts will be delisted, with Blackstone taking control of the flagship Melbourne Southbank complex, its Perth property, and the $2.3 billion hotel and casino tower at Sydney’s Barangaroo. Some observers have expressed concern over Crown falling into the hands of private equity, which does not face the scrutiny of a publicly listed company. Packer’s hand was effectively forced, given last year’s Victorian royal commission recommended cutting his stake in Crown from 37% to less than 5% , which the state government accepted along with all other recommendations. The NSW government also backed all suggestions stemming from its explosive 2020 inquiry, including limiting stakes in a casino licensee to 10% unless approved by a new, powerful Independent Casino Commission. Both recommendations came after Mr Packer’s influence on Crown was labelled “disastrous” by the NSW investigation, as he was the driving force to secure more of the Chinese high-roller junket tours at the centre of the gaming giant’s money laundering scandal. Mr Packer has been steadily retreating from public corporate life, stepping down as Crown’s chairman in 2015, quitting the board in 2018 and then trying to sell a 19.9% interest in the company to Hong Kong gambling giant Melco Resorts, an ill-fated transaction that only got halfway through when the NSW inquiry was launched. Mr Packer’s shareholding is worth around $3.2 billion and represents his last major financial link to Australia. The Packer family has been a major shareholder of Crown and its forerunner, Publishing & Broadcasting Limited, since the mid-1990s. Though Mr Packer once hoped to make Crown a luxury brand spanning casinos in Australia, Macau and the United States, the regulatory scrutiny caused by the group’s misconduct led to him ending his involvement in Crown’s affairs.
Former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian has been appointed Optus’ new managing director of enterprise, business and institutional, as the telco looks to take a greater share of the enterprise market. Berejiklian, who resigned from politics after the state’s anti-corruption watchdog revealed it was investigating her over a potential breach of public trust last year, will take up the newly created role on February 28. The role will focus on “unlocking a greater share of the multi-billion dollar enterprise, business and institutional markets”, Optus said. Berejiklian spent almost five years in office, becoming premier in January 2017 after serving as treasurer in the Baird government and transport minister in the O’Farrell government. She also worked for the Commonwealth Bank prior to being elected as the Member for Willoughby in 2003.
Libby Chaplin heads up the new battery recycling scheme, B-cycle. B-cycle will initially cover the smaller alkaline and lithium batteries that come inside common household items like television remotes and power tools. It has teamed up with major retailers including Woolworths, Coles, Bunnings, Officeworks and ALDI to put battery collection bins at thousands of their stores.
Australia’s newest low-cost airline Bonza will base itself on the Sunshine Coast with an ancillary aircraft base at Melbourne Airport when it launches flights mid-year on 20 routes not serviced by the major carriers. Founded by former Virgin Blue executive Tim Jordan, the budget carrier will forgo the lucrative “golden triangle” routes between Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne for under-served leisure locations in hopes of stimulating new demand. The routes are mostly from regional centres such as Mildura and Albury to key tourist destinations in North Queensland, flying two to four times a week. The full route map includes 25 trips to 16 destinations across Queensland, NSW and Victoria. About 80% of the routes are not currently served by any carrier, and even more are not served by a low-cost option such as Jetstar.
And it’s the profit reporting season. Fortescue reported underlying EBITDA of $US4.8 billion for the six months ending 31 December. BHP’s revenue from continuing operations rose 27% to $US30.5 billion while profit soared 144% to $US9.44 billion. Cardinale Property Trust reported statutory profit of $14.1 million for the half year to December 31. Its funds from operations rose 16.6% to $12.9 million. GWA Group’s revenue rose 2.1% to $201.3 million while EBIT firmed 1% to $30.2 million. Net profit rose 0.3% to $18.6 million. Sims reported a 73.9% increase in sales revenue from the prior corresponding period with an EBIT of $361.7 million in HY22, 541.3% higher than the previous year. Adore Beauty’s interim revenue increased 18% to a record $113.1 million and the EBITDA margin came in at 3.3%. Personal and auto loan lender Money3 has reported a net profit up 29.6% to $25.8 million on income up 34.5% to $91.4 million for the six months to December 31, 2021. Beach Petroleum grew net profits after tax 66% to $212.9 million for the six months to the end of December from the same period in the prior year, following a surge in the price of oil.Boral reported sales revenue from continuing operations of $1.5 billion for the half, up 1%, while EBIT (excluding property) was down 23% to $78 million. Praemium reported EBITDA for the half of $7.5 million, up 6%.JB Hi Fi’s revenue slid 1.6% to $4.9 billion while net profit fell 9.4% to $287.9 million. Aurizon’s revenue rose 1% to $1.5 billion while EBITDA fell 2% to $726.9 million. Net profit slid 4% to $256.9 million. Audinate reported a 33.3% ncrease in revenue for the half-year ending December 31, to $US14.8 million ($20.2 million), while gross profit increased 30.2% to $US11.2 million. Keypath Education confirmed it will hit its prospectus forecasts for the 2022 financial year after reporting first-half revenue of $US56.9 million and a net loss of $US13.5 million. Carsales.com’s revenue rose 21.6% to $241.9 million while profit for the half-year climbed 22.3% to $74.9 million. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank’s revenue climbed 8.5% to $965.1 million and net profit rose 31.7% to $321.3 million. SkyCity’s revenue fell 35.6% to $NZ289.8 million ($270 million) and net profit slid 143.3% to a $NZ33.7 million loss. Diversified property giant GPT Group turned in a $1.42bn annual profit. Tech company Reckon posted a 7.8% increase in net profit after tax of $7.9 million on the prior corresponding period. EBITDA were $29.5 million, up 1.4% driven by cloud-based products. Revenues increased 1.6% to $71.3 million with subscription-based revenues accounting for $65.3 million. Ansell’s sales rose 7.6% to $1.01 billion but EBIT fell by 24.3% to $111 million. Seven West’s revenue from ordinary activities rose 27% to $818.4 million while net profit firmed 3.2% to $120.5 million. Group EBITDA was up 30.5% to $215.3 million. Atomos reported first-half revenue of $40.9 million, a record interim result and up 25%. ELMO Software reported group annualised recurring revenue at the end of the first-half of $98.3 million. Property group Dexus increased net profit after tax by 82% in HY22 to $803.2 million. SEEK’s sales revenue from continuing operations rose 59% to $517.2 million while reported profit from continuing operations was up 152% to $126.7 million. Total reported profit rose 32% to $88.1 million. Lifestyle Communities (LIC) reported an 83.4% jump in revenues to $93.9 million in 1HFY22, with earnings before tax of $40 million, up 87.8%. Net profit after tax rose 95% to $27.5 million. Tassal Group’s revenue rose 43.3% to $419.1 million while EBITDA climbed 14.1% to $89.5 million and net profit firmed 10.3% to $31.2 million. EBOS Group reported revenue of $5.3 billion for the first half, up 12.8%, while its underlying net profit after tax climbed 15.8% to $109.3 million. Statutory net profit after tax was up 9.7% to $101.9 million. Fletcher Building reported revenue of $4.06 billion for the first half of financial year 2022, up 2% from the prior year, leading to a net profit after tax of $171 million which was 41% higher than the prior year. Breville’s revenue rose 23.6% to $878.7 million while EBITDA firmed 16.6% to $125.5 million and net profit advanced 25.1% to $77.7 million. Emeco’s revenue climbed 16% in the first half, compared to the prior half, to $373 million, while its operating EBITDA rose 2% to $122 million. CSL’s revenue rose 5% to $US6.04 billion however profit slid 3% to $1.76 billion. On a constant currency basis, profit fell by 5%. Prospa reported record half-yearly originations of $315.1 million for the first half, up 75% on the prior corresponding period. SG Fleet’s revenue rose 79.9% to $433.4 million however profit only rose 16.6% to $29.7 million. Treasury Wine’s reported earnings before interest, tax, SGARA and material items (EBITS) declined 7% to $262.4 million in the first half. Nearmap’s revenue rose 23% to $67.6 million while its net loss grew by 27% to $11.9 million. Vicinity Centres’ revenue from ordinary activities fell 0.1% to $581.5 million in the six months to December 31, but the company reported a $650.2 million statutory net profit after tax for the period – a 265% improvement on the prior year’s $394.1 million loss. Santos’s revenue rose 39% to $US4.7 billion while net profit soared 284% t to $US658 million. Underlying profit climbed 230% to $US946 million. Redbubble reported first-half revenue down 18% to $341.6 million, including artist revenue of $53.5 million, down 17%. Its net loss was $1 million, from a profit of $41 million in the previous corresponding period. Software business ReadyTech has reported a net profit up 336.2% to $5.8 million on sales up 63.7% to $35.7 million for the half-year period to December 31. EML Payments grew revenues by a fifth to $114.4 million in the six months to the end of December compared to the same period in the prior year while earnings eased slightly. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation eased 4% to $26.9 million. Netwealth’s revenue rose 17.1% to $84.7 million however net profit slid 1.8 % to $27.1 million. Orora’s underlying net profit after tax before significant items climbed 12.9% on the prior corresponding period to $102.7 million. Evolution Mining’s revenue slid 9% to $898.6 million while EBITDA dipped 24% to $393.3 million and statutory net profit slid 60% to $90.8 million. Pact Group’s statutory net loss after tax was $20.8 million, compared to a statutory net profit after tax of $49.9 million in the previous corresponding period. Underlying net profit after tax for the half was $39.3 million, compared to $52.1 million in the previous corresponding period. Revenue for Health Medicus rose 40.3% to $44.3 million while net profit climbed 52.7% to $20.7 million. Corporate Travel Management reported a net loss of $8.6 million for the first-half, narrowing from $36.4 million, after revenue more than doubled to $158.1 million from $56.5 million. Hotel booking software company SiteMinder has entered a new chapter, turning the page on the travel industry’s pandemic doldrums to record an 8.9% revenue jump to $55 million in the first half. While SiteMinder’s revenue increased, so too did its statutory net loss for the six months to December 31. This hit $87 million thanks to a revaluation of derivatives on preference shares when it was still a private company. On an underlying basis, the company’s net loss was $18.6 million as it continues to invest to accelerate growth.
And that’s it for this week. And next week. I’ll be talking to Jussi Karjalainen at Valtatech with his tips for Business Resiliency and Future Proofing Your Procurement Operations. And I’ll be talking to Indeed economist Callam Pickering about the latest jobs figures.
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.