Is it the curse of former Telstra tech guru, Ted Pretty, or the abandonment of its iconic Hills Hoist that has been haunting Hills Ltd.
The company had a rare spot of good news earlier this month when the company confirmed that its “back to basics” strategy had “gained traction” with underlying earnings for the second half expected to be “better than the first half”.
It offers the first glimmer of hope since Hills ended the Pretty era “with immediate effect” last May and put the brakes on the former Telstra dotcom guru’s debt-fuelled expansion plans.
This came just six months after Pretty offloaded the Hills Hoist business to Woolworths’ renovation disaster, Masters.
It appears the breaks might not have been applied soon enough.
The Hills stock price continued its rapid descent despite the company replacing Pretty with an operations guy, Grant Logan, who has had a bit of trouble getting the new tech business to “gain traction”.
CBD was particularly spooked by the news, in the quiet lull between Christmas and New Years Eve, the company announced that its finance facilities had been amended by its banks: it had been halved to $55 million and the facility was now “secured”.
That’s right, the banks get first dibs – something they failed to get at Arrium before it went belly up.
It also said the parties had agreed to work on refinancing its new facilities by the end of February – which also meant any debt related to the facility was now “current”.
At its half-year results that deadline was pushed back to the end of April, which means we should be hearing from the company this week.
Those results gave some idea of why the negotiations had been extended. The company debt had reached $38 million, the headline loss was $69 million, and operating cash flow was a paltry $400,000.
The stock, which traded above $2 as recently as 2014, last changed hands at just 20c. Heavy metal
The resource sector is understandably feeling a bit of wage pressure at the moment.
The good news is, it is coming from investors who are rather upset that the pressure is not being felt in the pockets of certain chief executives.
Anglo American’s Australian boss, Mark Cutifani, felt the wrath of shareholders at its UK shareholder meeting late last week with investors getting their knickers in a twist over the fact that his remuneration has not reflected their financial suffering.
Almost 42 per cent of investors voted against the remuneration report at the company’s annual meeting over his £3.4 million package in a year where the company was the worst performer on the FTSE 100 – edging out “Aussie” Ivan Glasenberg’s Glencore.
This delivered a rather perverse bonus to Cutifani.
His share awards are doled out as a proportion of his salary. His salary remained the same while the share price tanked, which means he effectively received three times as many shares for each “dollar” he was awarded.
At least he can still claim kudos for offloading the $50 million Gulfstream G550 private jet when he took the top job in 2013.
“It is symbolic and it’s a powerful message regarding costs,” he said at the time.
His predecessor insisted that the long trips to its far flung mines in Africa, Chile and Brazil were to get an awful lot of work done in the peace and quiet.
Cutifani, a surfie from Wollonggong did not seem to be impressed with this justification.
“Look, I’ve got seven kids. I can work in the middle of a soccer stadium watching England play Chile without any problems,” he told a UK publication soon after his appointment at Anglo.
“As a kid, I’d be reading The Lord Of The Rings, listening to Led Zeppelin and doing my matric study [final school year] in between pages. It used to drive my parents nuts.” Top Brass
Defence and space outfit Electro Optic Systems, chaired by textile millionaire, Fred Bart, has been on the rise again over the past few years after marketing itself as the solution for space junk to avoid scenarios as in the science-fiction thriller, Gravity.
So it was obviously time to splash out on some fresh military credentials to open the right doors.
On Friday the company recruited Australia’s former air chief, Geoff Brown, to sit alongside our army chief, Peter Leahy.
It’s a pity they won’t be able to compare notes with an earlier recruit, former US general John Gordon, who was Homeland Security Adviser to US President George W. Bush when he was appointed in 2004. He only lasted two years.
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