THE DISTILLERY: DJs distress

There's concern for David Jones as it loses a top executive, while recent bank job cuts are given some perspective.

In no small way Mark McInnes was at the height of his powers in mid-2010 when he left the top job at David Jones in disgrace. Shares of rival Myer were in a funk less than eight months after their shaky reintroduction to the ASX by private equity. While the sexual harassment episode that heralded his departure was difficult for everyone involved – one person in particular – replacing him was not seen as an impossible task. Whether he was in fact one of a kind, or his departure coincided with a period of uncertainty for the company is close to unknowable, but the Sydney Morning Herald’s Elizabeth Knight says the company is facing yet another threatening executive loss – though a more PR-friendly one – with the departure of CFO Stephen Goddard amid concern on the company’s register. Meanwhile, fellow SMH writer Malcolm Maiden says the banks have little choice but to sack people when borrowing is out of favour, while the corporate regulator gets a good kick from another columnist.

But first, the Sydney Morning Herald’s Elizabeth Knight says David Jones boss Paul Zahra’s task of convincing a nervous shareholder register about the department store's strategy has been complicated by the pending departure of his trusted and respected CFO, Stephen Goddard.

"The stock fell yesterday as nervousness prevailed about how he and his new finance chief, Brad Soller, would navigate some of the major cyclical, structural, operational and confidence issues besetting the company. Goddard's departure has placed Zahra under enhanced pressure to come up with a solution to these issues, many of which are outside his control. His buffer and potentially his salvation is that the rest of the industry is in the same boat. Retailing is a war zone when consumers are not consuming. Zahra confided yesterday: ‘We know where the money is – the banks have it.’”

Speaking of the banks, Knight’s colleague over at the SMH, Malcolm Maiden, puts the latest round of bank job cuts into context.

"Basically, the big four have staff numbers that still reflect the period ahead of the global crisis, when mortgage credit was growing by 20 per cent-plus a year, and personal and business credit was growing at an annual rate of more than 10 per cent. Mortgage lending is now expanding at a 5 per cent clip, and business and personal credit is not growing at all. According to the NAB's business survey for January released yesterday, for example, two-thirds of companies surveyed reported that they did not require credit. Can anyone seriously suggest that the banks should maintain their pre-crisis employment capacity in these circumstances?”

The Australian Financial Review’s Chanticleer columnist Tony Boyd says the Australian Securities and Investments Commission has achieved something extraordinary. The columnist says the regulator has managed to unite ASX chief executive Elmer Funke Kupper and Chi-X counterpart Peter Fowler through their respective, yet to be publicly released, submissions to ASIC’s paper on proposals to allow more liquidity into dark pools – electronic venues where shares can be traded between investors, away from the exchanges.

"Of the two, Fowler’s criticism is far more strident. In fact it is one of the most scathing submissions to a regulator that Chanticleer has seen. It paints a picture of ASIC as being out of touch with international developments in equity market regulation and blissfully unaware of the costs involved in its proposed rules. That latter criticism is valid given the burden of technology costs that have been imposed on the industry over the past 12 months including the arrival of Chi-X, the launch of several new products by ASX, the shifting of the ASX data centre and the co-location of market participants’ servers in that new centre. At one point in its submission, Chi-X even claims ASIC does not understand the difference between a dark order, which is an order not displayed in a consolidated market display, and dark pools.

The Australian’s Barry Fitzgerald puts a bullet in the hopes of OZ Minerals shareholders and onlooking analysts hoping for a takeover run at Sandfire Resources.

"Sandfire Resources, headed by the bustling Karl Simich and already 19 per cent owned by OZ, remains the standout candidate for some extra loving from OZ. But recent share price outperformance by Sandfire suggests OZ may have missed its chance. OZ could have pounced when the share prices of all miners were looking crook in the second half of last year. But it didn't, and guess what: Sandfire has got more and more expensive by the day. Since the start of the year, it has rocketed some 24 per cent to $8.20 a share at the close of trade yesterday, making Sandfire a $1.2 billion company, up from $990 million six weeks ago. The reasons for Sandfire's strong performance of late are no mystery."

Staying with company news for the rest of this morning’s commentaries, The Australian’s John Durie offers his analysis of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s access pricing for fixed line broadband in the context of the looming structural separation agreement between the consumer watchdog and Telstra. The Age’s Michael West says Perpetual is going to have to embrace one of those horrid euphemisms like "reduce headcount”. The Australian’s Bryan Frith has some kind words for Tabcorp thanks to its corporate debt offering, while his colleague, Tim Boreham, looks over SAI Global, Tap Oil, GWA Group and Hills Industries in Criterion. The Herald Sun’s Terry McCrann delivers a piece this morning that has a not so subtle dig at two or his favourite targets – bank bashers and News Corp snubs.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Ross Gittins urges his readers to see through the doomsday scenarios being touted as a number of high profile job cutting programs take hold, particularly in the manufacturing and finance industry. The Australian dollar may have something to do with it, but it’s part of a never ending restructuring of our economy. Over at The Australian David Uren hits similar notes by arguing that the resources boom is boosting the importing power of every Australian citizen.

The Australian’s Peter Van Onselen says now that the banks have raised interest rates independently from the Reserve Bank of Australia, Treasurer Wayne Swan is in an awkward position because he went so hard at them without any bite to backup his bark.

And finally, the Australian Financial Review’s Alan Mitchell offers a very qualified defence of the private health insurance rebate.

{{content.question}}

SMS Code Sent…

Hi {{ user.FirstName }}

Looks like you've already taken a free trial

Please enter your payment details

We have sent you a code via SMS to {{user.DayPhone}}

please enter this code below to activate your membership

If you didn't receive SMS code please

Looks you are already a member. Please enter your password to proceed

Please untick this box when using a public or shared device


Verify your mobile number to unlock a FREE trial

Please sign up for full access

Updating information

Please wait ...

  • Mastercard
  • Visa

Related Articles