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Archive for February, 2019

13 February
Comments Off on Hardware disaster continues to haunt Woolies

Hardware disaster continues to haunt Woolies

Woolworths’ disastrous foray into hardware continues to haunt the retail giant after law firm Maurice Blackburn revealed plans for a $100 million class action against Australia’s biggest supermarket chain.
Nanjing Night Net

Despite closing the doors on its loss-making Masters Home Improvement business last year, the proposed class action relates to alleged breaches of the Corporations Act dating back to Woolworths’ shock profit downgrade in early 2015 and attempts to stem big losses from its hardware operation.

By late 2014, analysts were reporting Woolworths was putting up margins at the supermarket chain, cutting staffing levels and leaning on suppliers in an attempt to make up burgeoning losses at its failed Masters Home Improvement chain and Big W.

Shopper backlash to price increases and a broader deterioration across the supermarket chain gained momentum between December 2014 and January 2015, eventually forcing the retailer’s management to cut its full-year earnings outlook in February 2015. Woolworths’ shares dived 13.7 per cent in the wake of the profit downgrade.

One analyst said Woolworths eventually confessed to being too focused on meeting short-term earnings targets but the insight came too late to prevent many shoppers abandoning the chain, creating an opening for Wesfarmers’ Coles business to exploit.

“They just kept on trying to meet earnings targets by going back to the milking cow that was the supermarkets business,” one analyst said.

The proposed class action could exceed $100 million, Maurice Blackburn said on Tuesday. It has opened a registration portal for shareholders to sign up to the claim.

While Maurice Blackburn’s investigation continues, the law firm alleged Woolworths knew that it was significantly behind its profit projections as early as October 2014 but continued to maintain its profit guidance until the publication of its half-year accounts in February 2015.

“When corporations don’t abide by the laws requiring they make timely and accurate market disclosures, these aren’t mere technical breaches – it causes loss to shareholders, undermines the integrity of the market and distorts the efficient allocation of capital that could go to more deserving companies,” Maurice Blackburn principal Andrew Watson said.

“The end result is that shareholders, both individual everyday Australians and large institutional investors entrusted with members’ savings such as large superannuation funds, unwittingly suffer the consequences and lose out in a major way.”

Fears the poor performance of Masters was hurting Woolworths’ core supermarket business surfaced after the supermarket chain reported soft first-quarter sales in late 2014, prompting a number of analysts to question whether the retail giant would meet its full-year net profit guidance.

In a research note from December 3, less than a week after Woolworths reaffirmed its full-year guidance, Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst David Errington slashed the earnings outlook for the retailer by 5 per cent for fiscal 2016 and 13 per cent for fiscal 2017.

Merrill Lynch forecast the 2015 full-year net profit after tax would grow by 4.5 per cent, at the bottom end of the retail giant’s guidance of between 4 and 7 per cent growth.

“The key reason for our earnings downgrade are our view of the continued deterioration of Woolworths’ non-supermarket business, notably Masters and Big W and the reduced ability in our view of Woolworths supermarkets to continue increasing margins,” Mr Errington said.

“In our view, continuing to drive margins higher in Australian supermarkets is seeing a loss in competitive position, leading to deteriorating sales and ultimately a fall in margins.”

Woolworths cut its full-year net profit after tax guidance to the “lower end” of analyst forecasts as part of its half-year results in February 2015.

The retailer’s 2015 full-year net profit before one-off costs inched up by just 0.1 per cent to $2.45 billion, while its full-year net profit slumped 12.5 per cent to $2.15 billion, thanks to big losses at the Masters chain.

IMF Bentham has proposed to fund the class action, which would deal with claims of alleged misleading or deceptive conduct and alleged breaches of continuous disclosure laws between November 27, 2014 and February 26, 2015.

Senior investment manager at IMF Bentham, Wayne Attrill, said like all shareholder class actions, it would proceed only if enough shareholders signed up.

“This is a chance for investors who believe they were deprived of information on the true state of affairs of the company standing up and being able to access a meaningful redress,” Mr Attrill said.

Woolworths on Tuesday said it had not been served with proceedings and would defend any action.

“Woolworths considers that it has, at all times, complied with its continuous disclosure obligations,” the company said in a statement.

The class action follows failed action against Woolworths by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

According to Maurice Blackburn, Woolworths said in its defence to the ACCC proceedings that it had forecast in October 2014 that there would be a variance in its gross profit before freight of $53 million.

The competition watchdog’s case was launched in December 2015 and related to the company’s dealings with suppliers to plug a profit shortfall after discovering a $50 million hole in its books. The Federal Court last year ruled the conduct towards suppliers was not unconscionable.

Australian Shareholders’ Association director Allan Goldin said he would watch the case closely. “If continuous disclosure didn’t happen, then we are obviously very concerned,” he said.

Class actions need seven or more people to run, but their financial viability depends on the size of shareholder losses.

Maurice Blackburn would not say whether any institutional shareholders were behind the action.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

13 February
Comments Off on Oroton CEO follows Rose Byrne out the door

Oroton CEO follows Rose Byrne out the door

Struggling boutique handbag retailer OrotonGroup has appointed its major shareholder as interim chief executive after its boss resigned fresh from a disappointing half-year result.
Nanjing Night Net

Mark Newman, who has held the top job for four years, will be replaced temporarily by director Ross Lane, who is the company’s biggest shareholder with a 21 per cent stake.

Combined with fund manager Will Vicars, the pair own 38.5 per cent of the company, which has a market capitalisation of just $68 million.

The stock is not broadly covered by the market. A privatisation would depend on the major shareholders’ appetite for further investment. It’s understood Oroton has not been shopping its brands around.

Dean Fergie, director and portfolio manager at Cyan Investment Management, said Oroton’s recent first-year sales were “poor to say the least, with negative like-for-like sales and an earnings before interest and tax margin that halved.” Oroton also halted dividends.

Chairman John Schmoll said Mr Lane’s “intimate knowledge” of OrotonGroup and his “broad retail experience” meant he was “ideally qualified to lead the company during this important period of transition.” Mr Schmoll is a former chief financial officer of Coles Group.

In early trade, OrotonGroup shares closed up 1??, to $1.62.

Oroton recently blamed its disappointing first-half result – when net profit dived 52 per cent to $1.8 million for the six months ending January 28 – on its unprofitable GAP brand, unseasonable weather, “a structural change in shopping habits,” the exit of discontinued categories, lower factory outlet sales at Oroton, lower foot traffic and foreign exchange problems.

It is seeking to target a younger and broader customer, through using “influencers” to promote its products, putting more money into social media, and promotions such as its “Great Barrier Reef Collection.”

OrotonGroup recently dumped Bridesmaid actress Rose Byrne as its model, and paid $4.5 million for a 30 per cent stake in accessories brand The Daily Edited.???

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

13 February
Comments Off on Cbus offers affordable housing at Newmarket Randwick

Cbus offers affordable housing at Newmarket Randwick

Cbus Property has entered into an agreement with Randwick City Council to construct a minimum of 10 apartments for affordable housing on the site of the Newmarket Big Stable area, near Randwick Racecourse, which has been designated for community use.
Nanjing Night Net

The plan to offer the more affordable units comes from negotiations with Randwick City Council for Cbus Property to dedicate the community facilities under a voluntary planning agreement.

Cbus, as part of the agreement, will also offer the council, what is known as the stable area, being a 5000-square-metre public park and six new roads. It is all part of the redevelopment of the William Inglis & Sons property, to be marketed as Newmarket Randwick.

The five-hectare Newmarket property in Randwick was sold to Cbus Property for $250 million in 2015, and there are plans to build more than 750 apartments on the site.

The Inglis group will move its headquarters to new premises at Warwick Farm, in Sydney’s west.

Cbus Property chief executive Adrian Pozzo said the planning agreement was a “great step forward for its Newmarket Randwick project and the wider community”.

“Housing affordability is a significant issue in our society and we know how crucial it is for housing to be accessible for all so it was important for us to include these affordable housing apartments as part of this voluntary planning agreement,” he said.

“We have worked closely with council during the thorough planning and assessment process for our Stage 1 Masterplan DA to arrive at a development proposal that will create a new sustainable and sensitive redevelopment of this iconic property whilst retaining and celebrating its remarkable heritage.”

Cbus also plans to pay tribute to the past by including the restoration and adaptive reuse of Newmarket House and retention of historically significant vegetation on the site including Moreton Bay Fig, Norfolk Island Pine and Port Jackson Fig trees.

Newmarket Randwick will be developed in three stages, with completion expected in early 2021.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

13 February
Comments Off on Banks lift ASX to another high

Banks lift ASX to another high

The Australian sharemarket defied weak offshore leads and falling iron ore prices to push higher again on Tuesday, with strength in the major banks helping keep the benchmark index at its highest level since early 2015.
Nanjing Night Net

The S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.3 per cent to 5929.3, while the broader All Ordinaries Index added 0.3 per cent to 5964.6.

“The highlight was a bit of support for the banks, which have been toing and froing between believers and disbelievers for a while,” said Paterson’s Securities economist Tony Farnham.

The big four banks rose between 0.4 and 0.7 per cent, with the exception of Westpac, which soared 1.2 per cent. With all other sectors trading in the red or narrowly in the black, the financials sector as a whole made up almost all the index’s upward movement, rising 0.8 per cent as a whole.

Meanwhile, the materials sector was the major drag on the market, largely due to BHP Billiton giving up some of yesterday’s outsized gains. On Monday, BHP shares soared 4.6 per cent to their highest levels in two years after a hedge fund that owns 4.1 per cent of the company’s London-listed stock urged the board to separate its petroleum arm and collapse its dual listing.

On Tuesday, BHP shed 1.2 per cent, which Mr Farnham put down to “a bit of profit-taking after the run-up yesterday”.

Rio Tinto, however, closed up 2.0 per cent. Fortescue Metals dipped 1.5 per cent. Most gold miners were up, though Saracen Mineral Holdings plunged 4.2 per cent after informing the market its March quarter gold production fell short of guidance due to heavy rainfall.

Shares in Asaleo Care plunged 8.4 per cent, their biggest fall in 9 months, after a Credit Suisse note cut the toiletries manufacturer to ‘neutral’.

Ardent Leisure also had a bad day, down 1.0 per cent, after it revealed on Monday a 34.3 per cent fall in revenue at its parks due to the impact of Cyclone Debbie. UBS downgraded the stock on Tuesday, which may have played into its fall. ???

Woolworths was 0.7 per cent lower after news broke of a $100 million class action being brought against it by Maurice Blackburn over its shock 2015 profit downgrade. Wesfarmers was also dragged lower, closing down 0.3 per cent.

While market turnover was “reasonable” on Tuesday, “you’d expect to see it thinning out towards the end of the week because of the Easter holidays”.

Stock watch: Costa Group

Shares in horticultural company Costa Group hit an all-time high on Tuesday, soaring 7.1 per cent to $4.69, after Goldman Sachs lifted its price target for the stock. Goldman reiterated its ‘buy’ rating and raised its price target by 27 per cent to $5.10, saying Costa’s move into the avocado market last year and the positive outlook for blackberries will lift earnings. “The avocado market has experienced robust growth over the past decade. We expect steady volume and value growth driven by increased consumption and potential expansion into the export markets over the medium term,” the analysts write. Three analysts have a ‘buy’ rating on the stock and one a ‘hold’, with an average price target of $4.44, according to Bloomberg. Market movers

Coking Coal

Premium coking coal prices surged above $US300 a tonne as the damage from Cyclone Debbie continued to sideline Queensland coking coal exports. Aurizon’s share price surged 3.6 per cent on Tuesday as the first shipment of coal reached Gladstone port via Aurizon’s Blackwater rail line, which transports 15???20 per cent of cross border coking coal. But other lines remain damaged. Aurizon estimates it will take another four weeks to repair its Goonyella rail line, which transports 35???40 per cent of global coking coal exports.

Iron ore

Iron ore’s descent into bear-market territory may herald further weakness. Barclays pinned the blame for the slide on lower steel demand in China driving a shift from mills toward lower-quality ore, and raised the prospect of a drop into the $US50s. Ore with 62 per cent content in Qingdao fell 1 per cent to $US74.71 a tonne overnight, following a 6.8 per cent drop on Friday that pushed the commodity into a bear market from a February peak. Iron ore futures in Dalian are trading flat at 523 yuan

AUD/CAD

Short Aussie against the Loonie: that’s the way currency traders are playing the contrasting fortunes of two key commodities – iron ore and oil. While the price of the latter, Canada’s main export, has been boosted by Middle Eastern tensions, iron ore has dropped into a bear market. The Australian dollar dropped below parity against the Canadian dollar on Monday night for the first time in two months, and was fetching 99.95 Canadian cents. in late trade on Tuesday, having declined 2.2 per cent in the past two weeks.

NAB survey

Business conditions jumped in March to highs not seen since before the global financial crisis with sales, profits and employment all at levels that bode well for a pick up in economic growth in coming months. NAB’s monthly survey of more than 400 firms showed its index of business conditions climbed 6 points to +14 in March, well above the long-run average of +5. The survey’s measure of business confidence, however, dipped a point to +6 which was in line with its long-run average. The major services sectors and wholesale reported the strongest conditions.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

13 February
Comments Off on Australia should consider Republicans’ tax plan: Garnaut

Australia should consider Republicans’ tax plan: Garnaut

Australia should consider a tax plan being pushed by Donald Trump’s Republican Party which could stop multinational corporations avoiding tax, prominent economist Ross Garnaut says.
Nanjing Night Net

Professor Garnaut said that while it was difficult to know what President Trump intended to with corporate tax rates, despite campaign promises of a cut to 15 per cent, there was merit to the Republican Party leadership’s proposal to fund rates cut of between 15 and 25 per cent by scrapping deductions.

“Our existing tax base for the corporate income tax is in deep trouble,” Professor Garnaut told the Melbourne Economic Forum on Tuesday.

“It’s subject to egregious avoidance or evasions, with two of the main instruments of avoidance being arbitrary use of interest on debt to reduce taxable income and, more importantly, arbitrary use of payment for import of services as deductions.

“You have a lot of what must be fundamentally some of the most profitable enterprises in Australia paying no corporate income tax.

“Google and Microsoft and Uber, they manage to generate very large sales in Australia … but somehow make no profit from it because of payment for intellectual property, payments for services.”

Professor Garnaut said opportunities for international tax avoidance had prompted a “race to the bottom” on tax rates between nations, which had compounded the issue and led to greater erosion of tax bases in all jurisdictions.

“So I wouldn’t be frightened by the possibility that Trump will take up the Republican proposals,” he said. “In fact I think we should look very carefully at whether we should be looking at it for ourselves.”

Miranda Stewart, director of the Tax and Transfer Policy Institute at Australian National University, said the extent to which the corporate tax base had been eroded had been understated.

She said Australia was not competing with havens like the Bahamas, and it had to be assumed multinationals were already structuring their businesses so as much as possible was in low-tax jurisdictions.

“Us reducing the rate will have an effect on base erosion because it reduces the value of the expenditure deductions,” Professor Stewart said.

She said there was a “win-win” scenario where the base was broadened while rates were cut by reducing deductions.

“We estimate you could fund a cut to 25 per cent by denying interest deductibility. Potentially if you go a bit further you could fund an investment allowance.”

The Turnbull government last month secured a cut to the corporate tax rate from 30 per cent to 25 per cent for businesses with turnover under $50 million a year, at a cost of $24 billion over the medium term. The government has not been able to pass similar cuts for businesses of all sizes.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.