Briscoe Group announced a $73.2 million annual net profit yesterday, well exceeding its earlier guidance of at least $70 million. Its shares rose more than 6 percent on the news.

The result to the end of January was 17 percent higher than the $62.6m the retailer reported for the previous year.

Revenue increased 7.5 percent to $701.8m while online sales surged almost 80 percent, accounting for 19 percent of revenue.

The result did not include a contribution from Briscoe’s investment in Kathmandu, compared with the $9.5m in dividends and rights entitlements it received the previous year.

The company also fully repaid its $11.5m government wage subsidy last year.

Managing Director and majority shareholder Rod Duke said he was pleased with the result considering the significant challenges the business faced over the past 12 months.

“Navigating the twists and turns encountered this year really has been like riding a retail roller-coaster. It is a priority for the business that the momentum established this year continues as the basis for on-going growth and success.”

Briscoe confirmed it will pay a 13.5 cents per share final dividend, taking the annual payout to 28.5c.

Its shares closed yesterday up 5.5 percent at $5.80 having gained almost 150 percent since the market bottom in March last year.

Mill closure latest setback for Whakatāne

More than 200 workers are set to lose their jobs following confirmation yesterday that the Whakatāne Mill will close in late June.

The 85-year-old mill is one of the town’s largest employers.

The announcement is a further setback for a region still recovering from the Whakaari White Island eruption in 2019 which devastated the local tourism sector.

Union groups said they were still holding out hope a new buyer would repurpose the existing plant.

Jared Abbott, First Union’s secretary for transport, logistics and finance appealed for potential buyers to come forward.

“We are inviting potential buyers to ask for our assistance to get the support needed to make the most of the existing skills and infrastructure available.”

Employers and Manufacturers Association CEO Brett O’Riley said the announcement was “terrible news for the management team, employees, and the wider community”.

O’Riley said it was extremely disappointing no viable option had emerged from its consultation process, and that without a buyer the only option had been for the mill to close.

FMA boss to step down later in the year

Financial Markets Authority chief executive Rob Everett is stepping down towards the end of the year after seven years leading the organisation.

Chair Mark Todd said Everett had done an outstanding job as the FMA’s second chief executive, overseeing the implementation of the Financial Markets Conduct Act as well as helping to lead a national discussion around the need for conduct regulation in financial services.

“Rob has been, and will continue to be, a truly outstanding leader of the FMA, who will leave a lasting legacy. He has the greatest respect both within the FMA and among our many stakeholders.”

Todd said the FMA’s regulatory remit is expanding, with the implementation of financial adviser reforms and the introduction of new legislation to provide for the regulation of conduct for banks and insurers.

Everett was proud the FMA was seen as a “high performing organisation that punches above its weight.”

He said he hadn’t made any decisions about his next role.

Facebook finalises two more deals with Australian media heavyweights

Facebook has finalised content deals with Australia’s two largest media companies — Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and Nine Entertainment Co —following the introduction of media bargaining laws.

News Corp Australia announced on Tuesday it had signed a multimillion-dollar deal with Facebook for use of news articles from publications such as The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun and videos from Sky News Australia.

Nine, the owner of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, has also signed a letter of intent with the tech giant for use of its news articles.

Both deals are confidential and neither side are elaborating on what they contain, or the amounts involved.

The agreements follow months of difficult negotiations between media companies and Facebook which had previously temporarily suspended its news feeds to Australian users, sparking a strong backlash.

It’s understood News Corp will be paid for the use of articles in Facebook’s soon-to-launch ‘News’ product and Facebook video product, Facebook Watch. It follows a global deal reached between News Corp and Facebook in October 2019.

Another $2 trillion in infrastructure spending could be on the way in the US

While there has been plenty of focus in the past week on the passing of US President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package, Wall Street is already looking ahead to his administration’s next spending priority: infrastructure.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has indicated no time will be wasted getting to work.

“Infrastructure, education and training, climate change and other longer-run priorities will be on our list to address next,” Yellen said in a television interview last week.

But the administration has so far released few specifics on its plans, leaving investors to consider a wide range of options on exactly how ambitious the legislation will be.

Goldman Sachs expects the White House to propose at least US$2 trillion for infrastructure but believes the price tag could reach as much as US$4 trillion if the next fiscal package also tries to tackle issues relating to childcare and health care.

And how does the new Biden administration plan to pay for all this additional expenditure?

Increases in the corporate and capital gains tax rates to finance a portion of it are now expected, though Goldman strategists believe it will be difficult for Congress to agree on more than around $1 trillion in such offsets.

China’s tech giants in the spotlight as regulators crack down on their growing influence.

Chinese tech giant Tencent has seen more than US$60bn wiped from its market value after its share price fell sharply this week over growing concerns of greater regulatory scrutiny.

Media reports suggest rival tech giant Alibaba may have to sell some of its media assets under the crackdown.

Chinese regulators have signalled a tougher approach towards tech firms in recent months

China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) said last week it had fined 12 companies over 10 deals that violated anti-monopoly rules.

The companies include well-known names such as Tencent, Baidu, SoftBank as well as a businesses owned by TikTok funder ByteDance.

Investors appear to be worried Tencent could be the next company in the crosshairs of China’s regulators, who have taken an increasing interest in how major tech companies operate.

China’s President Xi Jinping ordered regulators on Monday to step up their oversight of internet companies, crack down on monopolies and promote fair competition.

In October, Chinese regulators stepped in to block the share market launch of Alibaba-backed Ant Group, which was tipped to be the year’s biggest IPO.

Online payments provider becomes the most valuable private company in Silicon Valley

Stripe, an online payments business, this week became the most valuable private company in Silicon Valley.

Founded in 2010 by Irish brothers, Patrick and John Collison – now aged 32 and 30 respectively – the business has an estimated valuation of US$95bn, a tripling in value in less than a year and higher than Facebook and Uber before they joined the stock market.

The two brothers, who moved from Limerick to San Francisco to establish the business, have, in just over a decade, created one of the most successful tech companies in recent years.

Customers range from software companies such as Zoom to service providers including Shopify and social media platforms such as Instagram.

Its earlier growth had been helped by it becoming the payment processor of choice for fellow start-ups such as delivery company DoorDash and Lyft, Uber’s major rival in the US.

In the past year, the business has been boosted by the growth of ecommerce under lockdown. More than 200,000 new companies in Europe have signed up to the platform since the start of the pandemic and its systems handled almost 5,000 requests a second in 2020.

It’s estimated around one fifth of the world’s purchases now take place online, so there is still plenty of room for Stripe to grow rapidly in the future. Its annual gross transaction volume exceeded US$300bn last year.

Andrew Patterson is Newsroom's Markets Editor and has worked for decades as a financial journalist, radio presenter and editor with Australia's ABC, Radio Live and NBR.

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