PacBrands airs five-year plan

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By , 10/06/2019 20:06

Pacific Brands boss John Pollaers has committed to only modest net sales and earnings growth after 2015 and for the struggling clothing and footwear manufacturer to hit its full potential another two years after that as part of a five-year turnaround strategy.

Holding a briefing for analysts on the company’s underwear division, which owns brands such as Bonds, Berlei and which generates about a third of PacBrands’ annual sales, Mr Pollaers said he would explore overseas expansion opportunities that could one day see its underwear sold from London to Beijing. But that will take time.

”The imperative is to explore the potential for geographic expansion. People have to understand that it’s part of our five-year plan, but it’s likely to have an impact in the back end of that five-year plan,” Mr Pollaers said. ”From a brand potential some of them are ready now, but if you take the underwear business you have to consider the logistics of supporting it, the size of the range, the international labelling – so there is a job to be done on the background.”

Mr Pollaers said the company would likely, at best, stabilise its earnings and halt its downward profit trajectory over the next year or two, and then record modest sales and earnings growth.

The business would expand in the final two years of the five-year plan to post respectable growth.

Backing this up would be a pivot away from a reliance on the domestic market, which accounts for 95 per cent of sales, as well as its exposure to the wholesale market. Mr Pollaers plans to force through a structural change that will see a 50/50 split for sales across wholesale and retail, down from 65 per cent of sales which go through wholesale channels.

Mr Pollaers took over from former PacBrands boss Sue Morphet last September after the company unveiled its third loss in four years following more than $500 million in write-offs and restructuring charges. He took the reins promising a restructure of the group after a downturn in its key markets and the sting of a high dollar saw Pacific Brands post a full-year loss of $450.7 million for 2011-12.

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Lawsuit no more on Curtis’s mind

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By , 10/06/2019 20:06

Is there no limit to the magnanimity of Nick Curtis? On Tuesday the kindly rare-earth miner he chairs, Lynas, decided to drop defamation action against a Malaysian protest group.

Curtis vowed to ”shut down” criticism of Lynas’ Malaysian rare-earth plant in May last year, when the company launched its lawsuit against members of the Save Malaysia Stop Lynas group.

The group alleges radioactive waste from the processing plant is a risk to people and the environment.

Lynas said that, since start-up in November, emissions have come in under the limit set in its environmental paperwork.

Slam-dunk evidence to win that defamation lawsuit, right? Er, no. ”Now that the facts are available … there is no value in continuing disputes with members of our local community,” Lynas chief executive Eric Noyrez told the ASX.

While Curtis was front and centre when the lawsuit began, he was absent from the announcement bringing it to an end. Perhaps he has lawsuits closer to home to keep an eye on, such as insider trading charges that – if found guilty – potentially could jail his son Oliver Curtis, who is married to celebrity PR woman Roxy Jacenko.Corporate crooks

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison has been out and about talking tough about deporting foreign crooks but CBD has discovered he has gone soft on corporate crime.

A new Liberal Party policy unveiled by Morrison this week aims to ”protect our streets and communities from foreign criminals”, but apparently boardrooms will remain as dangerous as ever.

Under the policy any Johnny Foreigner convicted of a crime that can attract more than a year in jail will lose their visa and be deported, even if a kind-hearted beak decides not to send them to the big house.

However, the policy does not apply to ”other miscellaneous offences”, a category defined by the Bureau of Statistics to include financial offences.

This would seem to mean that, though many of the 13-odd pages of offences listed in the Corporations Act theoretically carry a year or more’s jail, foreign business types would be able to break them without fear of deportation. CBD asked Morrison’s spokesman to clarify the situation but has yet to hear back.

Undies briefing

CBD wonders if, when Pacific Brands boss John Pollaers was a lieutenant in the Royal Australian Navy, he ever imagined he would one day give a lengthy strategic briefing to a room of analysts about undies.

But that’s exactly what took place on Tuesday when Pollaers, who once would sink seven or eight black coffees a day, briefed the market about his plans for PacBrands key Y-fronts, jockeys and knickers operation.

Part of his ”dacks day” presentation was an idea to take Aussie brands such as Bonds, owned by PacBrands, to the world. Its a kind of Fosterisation of the world, which is apt given Pollaers’ last job was chief executive of Foster’s.

It is unclear if ”wedgies” were part of some kind of secret initiation ceremony when Pollaers was in the Navy, or if he was ever the victim of the much-feared ”rear admiral” wedgie. Nonetheless, analysts reportedly were happy with Pollaers’ plans to lift underwear.Advice to trust

He’s under siege from politicians of all stripes over the Commonwealth Bank financial planning scandal, so where was ASIC deputy chairman Peter Kell on Tuesday?

Why, as far away from Canberra as possible, launching a website for 16-to-25-year-olds at Sydney’s University of Technology. According to Kell, the MoneySmart Rookie website will help young people make financial decisions by answering questions including: ”Who can they trust to give proper advice?”

That’s a question alleged victims of the CBA’s financial planners probably also would like answered.

Got a tip?

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Holden warns of exit if pay cuts rejected

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By , 10/06/2019 20:06

Holden will ask employees at its Adelaide plant to accept a pay cut, in a bid to slash its labour costs – or risk the company’s manufacturing arm leaving Australia.

”Australia is among the most expensive places to build cars anywhere on the planet,” Holden managing director Mike Devereux said on Tuesday in Melbourne, announcing the plan.

”Our geographic isolation, the cost of sourcing local components and our high labour rates mean we pay a significant premium to manufacture cars here compared to importing,” he said.

Mr Devereux said it cost $3750 more to build a Holden car in Australia than it did at the company’s other plants worldwide – with $2000 of this due to ”pure labour costs”.

”We are more expensive than Germany, the UK and Spain – let alone Asia,” he said.

The union representing workers at the plant signalled it would be willing to work with Holden – but also demanded that the Coalition lay out its plans for the nation’s car industry if it wins office in September.

Coalition industry spokeswoman Sophie Mirabella last week repeated the Coalition’s pledge to cut funding to auto makers in Australia by $500 million if elected.

Ms Mirabella could not be reached on Tuesday for comment.

Over the past 12 years, Holden has received $1.8 billion in government assistance.

Mr Devereux said any cuts to the wages and conditions of Holden employees would require a vote by the workforce, most likely in August.

He did not say how much employees might lose a week. The average salary for production staff in Adelaide is about $55,000. And a spokesman for the company could not say whether Mr Devereux would also take a pay cut as a result of the negotiations. Dave Smith, national secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union’s vehicles division, said the announcement ”smacks of the Coalition behind the scenes”.

Holden was going through ”pretty tough times”, Mr Smith said, because the high Australian dollar and the devaluation of the yen by the Japanese government, and Australia’s very low tariffs on imported vehicles had made locally made cars less competitive.

”We are standing naked in the front of the world, and everyone else has got their clothes on.”

The union would meet with the car company to discuss potential savings, Mr Smith said.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the Victorian and South Australian governments last March offered a $275 million lifeline to Holden, in return for the company agreeing to stay in the country until 2022.

Mr Smith said this ”co-investment” deal had not been given to Holden. ”If they can’t turn soil on their [proposed] body shop in Adelaide by the end of this year, they are out of the country.”

Mr Devereux said the company’s current wage levels were not sustainable if the car maker was to continue producing its Commodore and Cruze vehicles until at least 2022.

Mr Devereux also said that, over the 12 years that the company had received $1.8 billion in government assistance, Holden had injected $32.7 billion into the Australian economy. Holden last month posted a $153 million loss.

The pay-cut proposal follows Ford’s announcement that it would close its Broadmeadows and Geelong plants in 2016, after 88 years of local vehicle production.

Sales of Australian-built cars have been in free fall for more than a decade.

with Toby Hagon and David McCowen

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Elders digs in after sale plan shelved

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By , 10/06/2019 20:06

Elders chief executive Malcolm Jackman says the debt-laden company can trade itself out of trouble and denies the failure to sell its rural services business means the group is closer to falling into administration.

The company announced on Tuesday it had rejected an offer for its rural services business because it fell short of its expectations.

”The bid delivered nothing to shareholders and hybrid holders and required banks to take a haircut, so it was clearly way off the mark,” Mr Jackman said.

Shares in Elders plunged 2¢ (22 per cent) to 7¢ after it emerged from a trading halt. Mr Jackman said that while originally Elders was under pressure from its lenders to sell both its rural services arm and its car parts business Futuris by September, the banks now supported Elders investigating alternatives.

”Our financiers are supporting us,” he said. ”We have some work to do with them clearly in terms of working through how the next 12 to 18 months play out.

”It’s not that we’re in a distressed business, we’re in a business where everybody prefers we have less debt.”

Mr Jackman has been fighting to stave off receivership for the past five years, but a tough year of adverse weather and underperformance in Futuris has meant he has been forced into asset sales to pay off mounting debt.

”We’ve got a very detailed time frame in terms of what we need to do in the next few weeks,” he said.

”The banks are clear they want to do things quickly but we are under no pressure from the banks per se.”

The 174-year-old company slumped to a $303 million loss at its most recent half-year result in March and its shares have lost more than three-quarters of their value in the past six months.

But Mr Jackman said the rural services industry as a whole had suffered because of hot and dry weather, and was banking on a turnaround in performance.

Elders declined to provide any detail on the bid it rejected, but it is understood Ruralco’s bid was about $250 million, which would have forced financiers, including ANZ, Commonwealth Bank and NAB, to take a loss.

Elders said it had made progress with the sale of Futuris, which is expected to attract a price of about $75 million, despite the blow of major customer Ford ceasing production in Australia.

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AusSuper acquires Queensland fund

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By , 10/06/2019 20:06

The country’s largest superannuation fund, the not-for-profit AustralianSuper, has quickened the pace of consolidation in Australia’s $1.6 trillion retirement savings sector by agreeing to take control of a Queensland industry fund.

AustralianSuper, which has 2.1 million members and $62 billion under management, has reached an in-principle agreement to merge with AUST(Q) Super, which services the construction, engineering, maintenance and allied industries.

The deal with AUST(Q) Super, which has more than 17,000 members and $204 million of funds under management, follows AustralianSuper mergers in recent years with the multibillion-dollar funds Westscheme and AGEST.

AustralianSuper chief executive Ian Silk last week tipped a spate of mergers as funds sought to take on the banks’ wealth arms.

”It’s pretty clear that the regulators and public policy is pushing in the direction of a smaller number of large funds rather than a large number of smaller funds,” Mr Silk said. ”The public policy rationale for that is economies of scale should be able to be produced in large funds, and those benefits should be available to members.”

Mr Silk said there would eventually be a ceiling to the size of the AustralianSuper fund, but the limit related to performance rather than member numbers or assets.

”If we are true to our label and true to our beliefs that we exist only for the benefit of members, then we should continue to grow so long as that growth adds value for members,” he said.

AUST(Q) Super chairman Bob Henricks said in a statement: “With growing competitive pressure and increasing demands on the super fund industry, we believe our members will be best served by the scale of a larger fund such as AustralianSuper [with] a strong Queensland presence.”

Alex Dunnin, director of research at super research group Rainmaker, said recently that corporate funds in particular were consolidating. There were 344 funds in Australia, excluding self-managed funds, down from 463 four years ago.

He said that the average return for big funds were the same as smaller funds, but ”if you look at the incidence of outperformance there is a definite scale effect”.

”A smartly run small to medium fund will always outplay a big goofy fund. A smartly run big fund, though, is unstoppable,” he said.

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