Grant Blackley defends SCA’s use of JobKeeper as company’s profits almost double
Southern Cross Austereo’s (SCA) CEO, Grant Blackley, has defended the company’s use of the Federal Government’s JobKeeper stimulus program.
Yesterday, SCA posted a financial year profit of $48.1 million, up over 90% on the year prior. Throughout the course of the year, however, the company received $31.9 million in JobKeeper, and a further $8.6 million from the Public Interest News Gathering (PING) program, totalling $40.5 million in subsidies and grants.
There has been media spotlight on some large-scale companies which benefitted from payments as part of the program to subside staff wages and then went on to post record profits.
In some instances, such as with Harvey Norman, politicians and pundits have called on companies to return the money.
Blackley, however, resisted this pressure and noted SCA’s contribution to the economy via its taxes.
“Over the course of [the year], one must remember that we pay substantial taxes back to the Government, well in excess of JobKeeper,” he said. “Our shareholders lived through a capital raising and the suspension of dividends. So our shareholders, the company and the Government had all acted I guess in unison to try and create a very balanced outcome. So, you know, I think JobKeeper did its job on the way through.”
He also highlighted the difficulty of the situation Australia’s media found itself in, through no fault of its own.
“We would say that through no fault of our own, nor the Government, we had a health crisis,” he said. “The Government responded accordingly for all businesses to support those businesses, and the media sector was hit very hard because we do operate on consumer and business confidence. And when borders are shut by the Government, restrictions are put in place and confidence falls, naturally the Government wanted to ensure that we, for the most part, kept operating and kept our people employed for the most part over the course of the period.
“So JobKeeper, in its own right, did the job.”
Blackley said he views the money from PING as a completely separate issue.
“We do see PING as completely different. There is always interaction between industry and Government in relation to certain grants and awards to industry – whether it’s the reduction of license fees or the awarding [of a grant such as PING]. And it just happened to present itself in the middle of COVID. But it’s something that the industry’s been talking about for a long time. It’s something the Government recognises as a vital tool for both national and local communities.
“So PING was just another instalment in a set of measures over a very long time, pre-COVID and during COVID, that presented itself to the market.”
As for how the company will survive this financial year in the absence of JobKeeper but with lockdowns and restrictions rolling on for much of the country, Blackley said it was different this time around.
“So we only had JobKeeper for the first six months. We delivered $51 million of earnings in the second six months. So to that end, we lived without JobKeeper exceptionally well as the market improved and our share of market improved on the way through. So that resilience now has obviously set us up to deal with this current lockdown at this point in time.”