Morrison government gave more than $13 billion of taxpayers’ money as JobKeeper to firms with rising revenue.
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 https://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 31 in our series for 2021 and today’s date is Friday September 3.
First, I’ll be talking to Cat Long, the CEO of Trace, a company set up to help businesses and individuals reduce and/or offset their carbon footprint. And I’ll be talking to economist Nicholas Gruen about ways to manage our superannuation, But now, let’s talk to Cat Long.
Global investors have queried the government’s funding arm over the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns, a relatively low vaccination rate, the deteriorating trade relationship with China and a slowdown in population growth. In recent talks with some of the world’s major central banks, hedge funds, insurers, pension funds and banks, the Australian Office of Financial Management fielded questions on a range of pandemic-related issues – including whether slower population growth may tighten the jobs market – as well international trade, while touching on Australia’s environmental and climate-related commitments. The AOFM uses the roadshows to borrow tens of billions of dollars to fund Canberra’s budget shortfall. Fixed interest fund managers generally have an extremely low appetite for risk which makes the sessions a sounding board for the mood of global investors. Australia has nearly $840bn bonds and treasury notes on issue, with 54% held by offshore investors. Following the May budget, offshore investors were generally upbeat on the outlook for the Australian economy amid an improvement in the budget position and forward projections compared to the mid-year economic and fiscal update last December. But as the meetings progressed, discussions focused on “both upside and downside fiscal risk” – the latter brought about by the recent resurgence of Covid-19 due to the spread of the Delta variant and lockdowns in some parts of Australia, including Sydney and Melbourne.
The Australian economy expanded by 0.7% in the June quarter, beating market expectations, to be 9.6% larger than a year ago
Chief executives from 80 companies, employing almost one million people, placed an open letter in major newspapers on Wednesday, calling on state premiers to “stay the course” on the national reopening plan. The letter includes the leaders of BHP, the banks, retailers such as Wesfarmers, Woolworths and Coles, Telstra, Qantas, insurers and property companies. It says the Doherty Institute-informed plan struck the right balance between keeping people safe and the risks of indefinitely keeping the country divided and cut off from the world.
Australia Post’s acting chief executive warns lockdowns are putting significant pressure on supply chains and the transport of essential goods, as the rules for interstate freight drivers also cause chaos across state borders. Acting CEO Rodney Boys said lockdowns were putting significant strain on their delivery services with the passenger flights used to transport parcels suspended or reduced, up to 500 staff in isolation and up to 100 post offices closed by COVID-19. Major distribution centres have been shut down, including the key Sydney International Gateway last week, and the Thomastown distribution centre in Melbourne, which it was forced to close on Tuesday following another closure in Melton.
More than $13 billion in JobKeeper payments were given to businesses which recorded increases in revenue, fuelling accusations from Labor that the wage subsidy was the biggest budget waste in Australia’s history. New figures from Parliament’s budget watchdog reveal that almost 200,000 firms which received JobKeeper payments posted rises in business revenue during the first six months of the program last year. Overall, more than 13% of the $98 billion wage subsidy went to entities earning increased turnover between April 1 and September 30 in 2020, compared to the same period a year earlier. To ensure speed of payment, the wage subsidy was targeted at businesses which forecast a 30% decline in revenue in any single month or quarter out of six months. The required decline in forecast revenue was 50% for large businesses turning over more than $1 billion.
BHP Group is considering making Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory at its operations in Australia, and will help the national rollout by offering jabs on-site as the country grapples with its worst outbreak of the virus. The global miner said it would complete a technical assessment of the policy in September and likely start enforcing it in early 2022, once people have had the opportunity to get fully vaccinated. BHP is the first big resources company to consider such a step, though other Australian companies, including Qantas Airways Ltd. and Healthscope Ltd., have already said they will make inoculation compulsory.
Virgin Australia will follow the lead of rival Qantas in making COVID-19 vaccinations required for all frontline staff from mid-November and office-based workers from the end of March. The airline said a consultation process would start with unions and employees soon, with a more detailed policy to come later on.
Stationery chain Kikki.K has fallen victim to the impact of lockdowns in NSW, Victoria and ACT, announcing it has collapsed for the second time in 17 months, putting 300 Aussie jobs in jeopardy. Last March, the company collapsed owing $20 million to creditors but was rescued by a US-based lifestyle products company, called Erin Condren Designs (EC Designs), which took control last August. But Kikki.k’s co-founders Kristina Karlsson and Paul Lacy released a message to staff on Monday about the “sad day” revealing that they were going into voluntary administration again. Ms Karlsson and Mr Lacy blamed the collapse on the latest lockdown in Kikki K’s home state of Victoria, NSW and the ACT, saying the company was heavily dependent on sales from its retail stores, which sell diaries, calendars, planners, notebooks, cards and wrapping paper, saying there was no clear end in sight to lockdowns.
KPMG has revealed it substantiated 27 complaints of workplace misconduct last financial year, as it takes an industry-leading approach to disclosure around culture and safety issues.The complaints resulted in “appropriate and proportionate” consequences ranging from financial penalties to dismissals, according to a report by the firm. The firm said three cases involved sexual harassment. The bulk of complaints received by the firm in recent years were either bullying allegations against senior leaders or sexual harassment complaints against junior staff. About 44%, or more than 3000, of the firm’s roughly 8000 full-time staff are younger than 30. The disclosure will be made annually in the firm’s “Impact Report”. Workplace health and safety experts and lawyers largely advocate taking a transparency-centred approach to workplace harassment complaints since the Harvey Weinstein scandal exposed the dangers of non-disclosure agreements.
Fortescue Metals Group chairman Andrew Forrest has called on the federal government to set a target date for carbon neutrality, declaring a firm target was “critical” to encouraging business investment.. Dr Forrest has already committed the mining major to ambitious carbon reduction targets, promising Fortescue’s giant Pilbara iron ore operations will be carbon neutral by 2030, and saying that the company will set goals for the reduction of emissions from its customers by the end of September. Through its Fortescue Future Industries subsidiary, the iron ore major is also seeking to become the biggest renewable energy company in the world, promising to invest 10% of its annual profits in new projects focused on the production of green hydrogen and other forms of renewable energy.
Officeworks is planning to install solar panels and batteries at a distribution centre in Melbourne to power a fleet of robots and help achieve ambitious sustainability targets. Officeworks managing director Sarah Hunter said the batteries, to be installed at the Truganina centralised fulfilment centre (CFC) in conjunction with Officeworks’ robotics partner Korber, would be a first in Australia. Officeworks also plans to install solar panels on at least 20 stores this year, taking the number of stores powered by renewable energy to almost 30, while switching lighting to LED and using materials such as light reflective paint so stores and distribution centres absorb less heat and use less energy by Officeworks’ landlords. It is part of the group’s strategy to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2025 and net zero carbon emissions by 2030. It is also targeting zero waste to landfill by repairing, recycling or reusing about 17,000 tonnes of material by 2025, ensuring all packaging is recyclable or reusable and, with Greening Australia, planting two million trees to replace trees used in the production of paper product
Coca-Cola Australia is gearing up for arguably its most challenging new product launch in years as it makes its first foray into alcoholic beverages in the middle of a pandemic. Coca-Cola Australia, the marketing arm of The Coca-Cola Co, will next week launch Topo Chico, an alcoholic hard seltzer based on the top-selling Topo Chico mineral water brand, which has been bottled in Mexico for 126 years. The Coca-Cola Company bought Topo Chico for $US220 million in 2017 and launched an alcoholic version of the beverage in Latin America in 2020 and in North America earlier this year amid a boom in sales of hard seltzers.
Tech company Canva has unveiled a new workplace policy that asks workers to come to the office at least “twice a season” or eight times a year once pandemic restrictions lift. Rather than mandating when employees are expected to be in the office, Canva will let its 2000 workers around the globe choose where and when they work based on their needs. According to a staff survey, 79% of Canva employees feel productive working from home and that 81% would like to continue balancing this flexibility while having regular opportunities for in-person collaboration. The company is the latest to provide workers with clear guidelines about what life will be like when it is safe to reopen offices. Canva’s new policy is not as radical as Atlassian’s “Team Anywhere” policy, unveiled this year, that permits staff to work anywhere in the world and come into the office just four times a year.
The corporate regulator has warned the nation’s 13 worst super funds against providing their 1.1 million members with “misleading” information about their performance. Thirteen funds have failed the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority’s inaugural superannuation performance test, including Commonwealth Bank’s in-house super product for its employees and the industry fund for Victorian independent school employees. The largest default super providers that have fallen foul of the new test are Colonial First State and BT, with the pair managing 777,000 member accounts across their two underperforming products. The 13 funds, which collectively hold $56 billion in assets, will be forced to send a pro-forma letter to the 1.1 million affected members by the end of September telling them their super is sitting in a product that “has performed poorly”. “As a result, we are required to write to you and suggest that you consider moving your money into a different superannuation product,” the letter will say.
Company profits and wages have both risen during the June quarter from the previous three month period. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, company gross operating profits rose 7.1% seasonally adjusted while wages and salaries rose 2% seasonally adjusted. The data is among the final few pieces of partial data ahead of the second quarter GDP on Wednesday.
And the profit reporting season continues. Biotech researcher Mesoblast has widened its financial 2021 net loss to $US98.8 million on sales down 77% to $US7.5 million. Harvey Norman’s profit before tax climbed 78.8% to a record $1.18 billion, with its Australian franchising operations segment delivering a record profit result of $628.2 million, up 80.2%. Crown Resorts revenue slid 31.3% to $1.54 billion, leading to a $261.6 million loss for the year. Online fashion retailer Cettire slipped into the red in 2021 even though sales rose four-fold amid a boom in new customers buying international luxury brands such as Gucci, Burberry and Valentino online. The e-tailer, which listed in December, reported a maiden net loss of $251,000, compared with a profit of $1.5 million in 2020, after booking $800,000 in costs associated with its initial public offering Freedom Foods has narrowed its financial 2021 net loss to $38.8 million, versus $136.4 million in the prior year. Liberty Financial’s statutory net profit after tax jumped 38% to $185.4 million. Altium’s profit soared 246.4% to $US107 million. EBITDA slid 2.9% to $US60 million. Temple&Webster’s net profit after tax came in at $14 million, which, on a normalised basis was up 165%. Active customers also climbed 62% to 778,000.Fortescue’’s net profit climbed 117% to $US10.3 billion.Adore Beauty’s profit soared 168% to $845,000. Underlying profit climbed 64% to $6 million. Booktopia has widened its financial 2021 loss to $18 million on revenue up 35.1% to $223.9 million. Cash Converters International returned to profitability in financial 2021, with a bottom line of $16.2 million from a 2020 loss of $10.5 million. Aussie Broadband’s revenue rose 84% to $350.3 million, 3.6% ahead of forecasts, while EBITDA climbed 433% to $19.1 million, 55% ahead of forecasts. Healius full-year earnings increased to $266.5 million on an underlying basis from $129 million, and net profit rose 179% to $148.4 million. Controversial tech float Nuix has swung to a $1.6 million statutory loss in financial 2021, versus a profit of $23.6 million in financial 2020. Revenue rose 0.1% to $176 million. InvoCare reported a statutory profit after tax attributed to shareholders of $44 million for the half, a turnaround from the $18 million loss reported in the prior corresponding period. Japara Healthcare reported a loss of $14.1 million, an improvement on the $292.1 million loss from a year ago. Duratec’s revenue dipped 4.7% to $235.7 million while profit slid 45.2% to $7.1 million. Personal lender Harmoney’s pro forma total income was down 8% to $NZ79.1 million, while its cash net profit after tax dropped from $NZ2.8 million in FY20 to a loss of $NZ400,000 in FY21. Pointsbet reported a loss of $187.1 million, more than 4 times the loss it reported a year earlier. Non-bank lender Resimac Group reported a normalised net profit after tax of $104.0 million, up 87% on the prior year. Statutory NPAT came in at $107.6 million, which was 92% higher. Cloud services distributor Rhipe’s operating profit climbed 31% to $18 million. IGO’s revenue rose to a record $919 million while net profit climbed 254% to a record $549 million. Bubs Australia reported a loss before tax of $77.8 million, compared a $16.1 million loss in FY20. Regis Healthcare’s net profit soared 2886% to $19.9 million. Australia Post announced FY21 group revenue of $8.27 billion, a new record up 10.3%, and a profit before tax of $100.7 million. Total revenue was boosted by the continued growth in eCommerce brought about by COVID-19, with strong parcel growth. Parcels & Services revenue grew 17.7% to $6.48 billion, on the back of a 27.1% increase in Australia Post branded parcels, and StarTrack volumes up 12.1%. Regional Express reported an $18.4m operating loss after tax. Debt collector Pioneer Credit’s statutory net loss narrowed to $19.7 million from $40.1 million.
And that’s it for this week. And next week, I’ll be talking to Karen Vivarelli, successful local business woman and virtual assistant, who is coaching others on how to thrive working for yourself at home, and who has been named a finalist for the 2021 AusMumpreneur Awards. And I’ll be talking to economist Saul Eslake about how Australia will fare in this recession.
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