Talking Business July 2 2021
The Morrison government spent an estimated $4 million on advertisements on Facebook in the past 12 months.
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 22 in our series for 2021 and today’s date is Friday July 2.
First, I’ll be talking to Scott Huntsman, founder and CEO of ALL-CAST PPE Supplies – one of the country’s largest PPE suppliers. He says that 80% of the masks available are not registered with the TGA and therefore are not identified as being able to stop the transmission of COVID. And I’ll be talking to CommSec chief economist Craig James about the market in the week ahead.
But now, let’s talk to Scott Huntsman.
The major banks have unveiled a suite of support measures for NSW customers struggling through the lockdown as business counts the cost of the strict two-week stay-at-home orders. The support from the major lenders, which includes loan deferrals, comes as estimates put the cost of the lockdown at $2bn and as Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the $500 Commonwealth disaster recovery payment would be available to Sydneysiders from July 1. Banks have also offered to provide tailored support to customers suffering financial hardship as a result of the lockdown. CBA’s retail customers can also access loan deferrals and have the option to restructure their home loan debt, switch to a fixed rate home loan and use funds in their offset accounts. NAB, Westpac and ANZ unveiled similar measures over the weekend as Sydney endured the tough Covid-19 restrictions. ANZ has extended its support for retail customers with measures including payment relief, waiving fees, restructuring home loan debt and switching to a fixed-rate loan. Its business customers can also access short-term payment relief on asset finance or business loans, receive a refund on merchant terminal fees and have some other fees waived.
Australia will be smaller and older than previously expected in 40 years with a large and ageing population and that will continue to put greater stress on welfare and health services. This is the first downward revision of official projections in an intergenerational report in 20 years. The much lower projections in Monday’s fifth five-yearly intergenerational report will mean indefinite budget deficits with no surplus projected for 40 years, only 2.7 Australians of traditional working age for each Australian over 65 (down from four) and average annual economic growth of 2.6%, down from 3%.The report says the pandemic has slowed both Australia’s birth rate and inflow of migrants. The 2015 intergenerational report projected an Australian population of almost 40 million by 2054-55. The 2021 update projects 38.8 million by 2060-61. The grim fact is that Australian business must start preparing for a workforce that is smaller and older than ever before, and automation is likely to be crucial to push up a productivity growth rate that is rather heroically expected to leap from 1.2% back to the 30-year average of 1.5%. This automation will take many forms: digitisation of back-end processes, use of artificial intelligence and data analytics to serve customers, and most likely the increasing use of robotics. Any technology that can reduce labour could create a competitive advantage for a firm, a new revenue stream or both.
Mining giant Rio Tinto has been accused of allowing hundreds of irreplaceable Indigenous cultural artefacts from the iron ore rich Pilbara region to be thrown away at a rubbish dump in Darwin, and failed to disclose the disposal to Aboriginal traditional owners for decades. Eastern Guruma traditional owners of Rio Tinto’s multi-billion dollar Marandoo mine, say they are “left with nothing” after finding out the company approved the destruction of artefacts salvaged from their important and sacred sites in the 1990s. The Wintawari Guruma Aboriginal corporation says Eastern Guruma elders discovered their artefacts had “ended up in the bin” after obtaining documents which describe their “accidental, and then deliberate discarding and destruction”, which they say has never been disclosed to them by Rio Tinto. Based on their discovery, the Wintawari Guruma Aboriginal Corporation – representing the Eastern Guruma traditional owners – has made a powerful new submission to the federal parliamentary inquiry into Rio Tinto’s destruction of Juukan Gorge, accusing Rio Tinto and the Western Australian government of keeping the matter “a secret” ever since.
Australia’s exports of resources and energy are set to crash through the $300 billion mark for the first time this financial year, buoyed by unexpectedly high prices for iron ore which is expected to account for almost half of the total.About $310 billion of export revenues are anticipated from mining and energy in 2020-21, according to the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, which has lifted its estimate for 2020-21 export revenues by almost 5% since March. A further strong gain is now expected next year, rather than the modest dip that was thought to be on the cards just three months ago. Federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt said the “incredible” results underscored the importance of the resources sector to the national economy through the COVID-19 downturn. Higher than anticipated prices for LNG, thermal coal and base metals were all contributing to the rosy outlook for this financial year. The forecast for 2020-21 export revenues represents a 7% increase from last year’s record of $291 billion and has now been upgraded over successive quarters including by almost 5% from March’s forecast thanks to runaway iron ore prices,. After topping the $100 billion mark in 2019-20, the first for any commodity, iron ore earnings are expected to surge this year to $149 billion. That makes the total resources and energy exports thanks to a surge in global steel production. China’s trade hostilities with Australia have failed to dampen thermal coal earnings, with miners pivoting to other markets helped by critical shortages after a freezing northern hemisphere winter, the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources reported in a quarterly assessment.
The Morrison government spent an estimated $4 million on advertisements on Facebook in the past 12 months. The data comes from US-based Pathmatics, which is launching in Australia and New Zealand and provides brands, their advertising agency partners and media companies insight into where advertising dollars are being allocated across the digital ecosystem. Pathmatics co-founder Gabe Gottlieb says brands and advertising agencies can use Pathmatics data to “see what’s happening across the digital ecosystem”. According to the Pathmatics data, the spending on Facebook picked up from February this year, with $3.1 million of the $4 million over the past year being spent in the past five months. From April 2020 to July 2020, the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian government spent an estimated $72,000 on Facebook ads sharing information on overseas travel restrictions and pointing Australians to the smarttraveller.gov.au website for advice on returning to the country. The data is collected via a panel of people, who sign up to use an app to detect the ads they see in digital environments with Pathmatics applying a cost per mille (CPM – the cost an advertiser pays for 1000 views of an ad) obtained from Facebook’s public filings, or other public information, to estimate spend. From November 2020 to February 2021, the federal Department of Health invested in a series of Facebook ads encouraging people to see a doctor if they were feeling unwell, with the campaign published in a variety of languages including Arabic (estimated cost of $385,000), Chinese ($180,000) and Vietnamese ($99,000). The estimated spending on pandemic-related advertising comes as advertising experts urge the government to dial up the fear factor in COVID-19 vaccine campaigns in an effort to boost vaccination figures. The government investment in Facebook ads highlighted how its $110 billion infrastructure plan is better connecting various states including Western Australia ($190,000), ACT ($82,000) and Queensland ($63,000). From April 6 to June 25, the government spent an estimated $56,900 on campaigns on domestic violence against women. For the past 12 months it has spent an estimated $40,000 on desktop display advertising, $38,000 on mobile display, $284,000 on desktop video and $2000 on mobile video. After Facebook, the federal government spends the most on YouTube ($285,700), Realestate.com.au ($27,800) and Forbes.com ($22,600), according to estimates from Pathmatics.
CSL plans to devote several floors of its new 18-storey head office and research centre in Melbourne’s Parkville to a collaborative space for small biotech companies and researchers that need help to turn their ideas into businesses, chief scientific officer Andrew Nash said. The $340 million building is part of a wave of major expansion projects the global blood products and vaccines giant is undertaking in Australia. Others include a $900 million new fractionation facility at the existing Broadmeadows plant to create one of the world’s largest plasma processing plants, and an $800 million plant for producing vaccines at Tullamarine. Dr Nash said CSL and its partners in the incubator project – Melbourne University and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute – want to model the incubator on the world’s leading precincts for medical research commercialisation, such as Boston and San Diego in the US, and Toronto in Canada.
Retailers and logistics operators are seeking priority vaccinations and pop-up injection hubs for truck drivers, distribution centre staff and supermarket workers amid a spike in food and grocery sales and renewed panic buying in response to the rapid spread of the delta strain of COVID-19. The Australian Logistics Council, which represents truck drivers and freight handlers at a broad range of companies including Toll, Linfox, Sydney Airport, Coles, Woolworths and Amazon, said that while some 600,000 supply chain workers nationally were considered to be essential workers, they were not getting priority access to vaccines. Jeff Adams, the group chief executive of food, liquor and hardware wholesaler Metcash, said the company was in talks with governments about obtaining priority vaccinations for distribution centre staff. Discount supermarket chain Aldi also wants employees to have priority access to COVID-19 vaccines. “We will continue to advocate for this, with respect that there are thousands of vulnerable people and essential workers that should be prioritised,” said Adrian Christie, director of Aldi’s customer interactions. While governments are urging people to get vaccinated, members of the general public who go online in some states, including NSW, to book in for the Pfizer vaccine are told all available slots are full. The Toll Group, which employs about 20,000 people in Australia, said it would like to collaborate with health officials to set up on-site vaccination clinics for drivers, warehouse workers and operations teams at key sites. The Australian Airports Association has also called for airport workers to be prioritised.
Commonwealth Bank and National Australia Bank have extended banking arrangements with Australia Post by a decade, a move that gives the banks a broader reach into regional communities and Australia Post income to maintain its sprawling network. Westpac has taken an option to extend its deal with the post office for another year as talks about a longer agreement continue. ANZ is not part of the arrangements with Australia Post, which allow customers of the other three big banks to conduct basic banking including withdrawals, deposits, credit card repayments and bill payments. There are about 1600 communities around Australia without a bank branch, where the post office is the only financial services retailer.
Corporations face a crackdown on disclosing climate risks after major investor groups held briefings with Treasury and the nation’s financial watchdogs to introduce a mandatory reporting system by 2024, in the latest warning to business on the risk of climate change. The Investor Group on Climate Change, which represents institutional investors in Australia and New Zealand with $2 trillion in assets, wants to make permanent a scheme – known as the Taskforce for Climate Related Financial Disclosure – aimed at giving shareholders more information about the risks presented by climate change. The regime would initially be created under a voluntary “if not, why not” approach, before moving to a strict mandatory system by 2024 to protect national economic stability and help investors properly price assets as financial markets grapple with how to address climate risk. Talks have been held between the IGCC and its investment partners with Commonwealth Treasury, the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority, Australian Securities & Investments Commission and the ASX Corporate Governance Council. The plan would initially target Australia’s top 300 listed companies and large unlisted businesses in the hope that the powerful Council of Financial Regulators would provide oversight of the investor scheme.
The cost of hiring skilled software developers, security specialists and data experts has gone up by about 30% in Australia in just 12 months, and the policy of trying to eliminate COVID-19 from the country is a large part of the reason, software companies claim. Australia needs to rethink its closed border policy, and make it easier for seasoned technology workers and global talent to either return home or migrate here, if the country’s nascent tech boom is going to continue and without costs spiralling out of control, some leaders in the sector have said. Part of the reason, according to IT companies, was that demand for their services had increased dramatically during COVID-19, when many of their customers accelerated plans to modernise their IT systems. That led to an increase in demand for skilled technology staff, especially senior ones, pushing up wages. But another factor was that Australia’s closed border policy was making it practically impossible to fill those vacancies with seasoned expatriate workers wanting to come home, or overseas workers hoping to migrate.
Covid has caused Kathmandu profits to take a hike. The retailer became the first company to issue a revenue and profit downgrade because of the renewed threat from Covid-19 and its Delta variant. Kathmandu says group total sales for the 2021 financial year are expected to be below its original expectations as a result of the COVID-19 lockdowns across Australia. The company said 40 stores are closed in NSW for a minimum of two weeks and 26 have closed in Western Australia for at least four days. This follows the two-week lockdown in Victoria which impacted 62 stores in early June. Subsequently, group total sales for financial year 2021 are expected to be $930 million and underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) is estimated at $120 million. The impact of the NSW and recent Victorian lockdowns and associated movement restrictions is estimated to be around $13 million on EBITDA.
Medibank will return more than $100m in Covid-19 savings to customers as part of its pandemic financial relief package, with two million policyholders set to benefit. In a statement issued on Tuesday, the private health insurer said it would hand back around $105m in net claims savings to Medibank and ahm customers who held hospital and/or extras cover in the 2021 financial year. The premium relief will see up to $52 returned for extras-only policies and up to $175 returned for hospital and extras policies. On average it works out to be $25 for extras only policies and $60 for hospital and extras policies, the insurer said. The premium relief will be applied to policies automatically by the end of September this year and will be funded through a partial release of the Covid-19 deferred claims liability as at 30 June 2021, as well as permanent claims savings since 31 December 2020.
AGL Energy will split itself in two separately listed businesses to better handle the rapidly transforming energy market, dividing its baseload coal plants into a new company, Accel Energy, to be headed by existing interim CEO Graeme Hunt. The retail business backed up by renewables generation and gas power, will be called AGL Australia and will be headed by AGL’s existing chief customer officer Christine Corbett as CEO.
And that’s it for this week. And next week. I’ll be talking to Simon Sheikh, founder of fossil-fuel-free super fund, Super Future. And we’ll be talking about Scott Morrison’s promise to reach net zero emissions preferably by 2050” but vowing he won’t “sacrifice our traditional industries” in regional areas by taxing emissions to reach the goal. But, why wait until 2050 to reach net zero emissions when these could be met tomorrow through where you invest your super? What does net zero by 2050 even mean aside from a lot of empty promises? And I’ll be talking to AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver.
In the meantime you can catch me on Facebook, Twitter 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