Crikey is building a list of Australia’s biggest ever corporate losses ands we’ve got almost 70 above $100m already. Send in your additions folks and anyone who can come up with two is entitled to a free subscription. Our interest in this now stems from the fact that Friday was the deadline for profit reporting for all listed companies with June 30 deadlines and there were many shocking results brought down, including Anaconda’s near $1 billion loss and Powerlan’s $146 million trip into the red which is included in the list below.
The exclusive $2 billion-plus club
News Corp: write down on Gemstar, European pay-TV and the value of US sports rights sent Rupert’s company to a record $12 billion bottom line loss for the year to June 30, 2002.
BHP: When Paul Anderson and finance director Chip Goodyear took the reigns in the late 1990s they cleared the decks and declared a then Australian record $2.3 billion loss for BHP in 1998-99 with write-offs across the board but especially in the Magma Copper division.
Between $1 billion and $2 billion
Westpac: plunged to what was then a record loss of $1.6 billion in the year to September 30, 1992, forcing a $1 billion rights issue as the bank almost went broke due to massive bad debts, especially in Queensland and Melbourne property developments.
Adsteam: the group of companies put together by John Spalvins together wracked up losses of $1.58 billion in the year to June 30, 1991as all the cross shareholdings in different companies plummeted under a pile of debt and the recession.
BHP: directors bit the bullet and wrote off $3 billion in the 1997-98 year which caused a then record $1.47 billion loss before they sacked CEO John Prescott.
Air New Zealand: The collapse Ansett sent it to a net loss for the 2001-02 financial year of $NZ1.4 billion.
Fletcher Forests: this Kiwiw based outfit qualifies by also being listed on the ASX and they managed a commendable loss of NZ$1.34 billion in 2000-01 due to huge forestry write-downs amid various legal disputes.
$500 million to $1 billion
Anaconda: the controversial nickel company plunged to a bottom line loss of $920 million in 2001-02 which included a $297 write down on its Murrin Murrin nickel operation.
Elders Resources NZFP Ltd: the resources and forest products group formerly controlled by Elders IXL and run by Geoff Lord managed a stupendous bottom line loss of $880 million in 1989-90 thanks to huge asset write-downs.
Brierley Investments: a savage $1 billion in write-offs sent the once feared corporate raider to a record $800 million bottom line loss for the year to June 30, 1998.
News Corp: The collapse of One.Tel helped drive News Corp $746 million into the red during the last 2000-01 financial year after almost $2 billion in write-offs.
Pasminco: this was after the administrators were appointed but will still count as a $715.7 million loss for the 2001-01 financial year, largely due to hedging exposures, is hard to beat.
Austar: the pay-TV industry is a nightmare and the regional player took huge asset writedowns to come up with a $682 million bottom line loss for the 2001 calendar year.
Kingstream Steel: the company which boasted Ken Court as chairman was going to create the Whyalla of the West Coast but it all went pear-shaped and in 1998-99 they cleared the decks and announced a $664 million loss.
ANZ: when Don Mercer replaced Will Bailey as CEO in 1992 he cleared the decks and reported a $600 million loss due to a huge surge in bad debts caused by Paul Keating’s recession we had to have.
Northern Star: the controller of Channel 10 reported a write-down induced $514 million loss in 1988-89 just as Frank Lowy was dumping the debt-laden and loss-making network onto Steve Cosser’s Broadcom Australia.
PMP: chairman Ken Cowley and his mate, CEO Bob Muscat, did a shocking job running the magazine and printing company, eventually plunging to a $500 million loss in 2000-01 when they wrote down the value of the magazine division.
$200 million to $500 million
Air New Zealand: rather than Ansett problems it was tax-related accounting changes which sent the Kiwi carrier to a bottom line loss $460 million in 1999-2000 despite claiming a trading profit of $509 million.
Adsteam: Wracked up several years of losses and in 1992-93 it was an impressive $484.36 million thanks to a pile of write-offs.
Jennings Industries: huge write downs on assets like Southbank in Melbourne and Daydream Island in the Whitsundays sent the once proud Melbourne-based developer to a bottom line loss of $433 million in 1991-92 as controlling shareholder Fletcher Challenge walked away and allowed the company to go broke thanks to the efforts of CEO Ashley Goldsworthy, who was rewarded with the Federal presidency of the Liberal Party a couple of years later.
Cable & Wireless Optus: start-up costs and the pay-TV wars sent Australia’s second telecommunications carrier to a bottom line $450 million loss in 1996-97.
AMP: For the year to December 31, 1999, AMP recorded a net loss of $403 million thanks to a $1 billion write off of its investment in GIO.
National Consolidated: the efforts to untangle itself from the Adsteam empire saw this heavy engineering company report a bottom line loss of $390.1 million for the 1990-91 financial year.
Normandy Poseidon: The key companies in Robert Champion de Crespigny’s group posted a combined $370.7 million net loss for the 1994 calendar year due to write-downs.
Qantas: the merger with Australian Airlines ahead of the float led to huge write-offs which caused a $370 million net loss for the 1992-93 financial year.
Wormald International: the company formerly run by Bob Mansfield shocked the market a devastating bottom line loss of $348.4 million for the year to June 1988.
Brierley Investments: in 1999-2000 they managed a NZ$305M loss partly due to the Air New Zealand tax write-downs.
Baycorp Advantage: managed to lose $299 million in the 2001-02 financial year after the merger of two debt collection and business information houses.
Australis Media: the pay TV outfit went broke and in 1996-97 managed to lose $297.5 million before proposing a merger with Foxtel which was subsequently rejected by the ACCC so the business went under.
Fletcher Forests: following on from the previous year’s $NZ1.34 billion loss, these Kiwiw tree murders followed up with a mere NZ$249 million loss in 2001-02.
One.tel: the final set of accounts for the doomed telco showed a $291 million net loss for the 1999-2000 financial year and this was operational as there was only $33 million in abnormal losses.
Sausage Software: the IT company has now been renamed SMS Management and Technology but with the likes of Steve Outtrim, Wayne Bos and Gil Hoskins out the door, new CEO Lloyd Roberts cleared the decks in 2000-01 reporting a net loss of $264 million.
Smorgon Steel: This is what CEO Ray Horsbrough said about the $247m loss in 200-01: “A change in the accounting standards this year requires the disclosure of the intangibles writedown to be recorded as a “corporate expense”. This has resulted in the Company’s trading profit of $20 million being reported as a loss of $247 million.”
ERG: The ailing fare collection technology company has just unveiled a $244 million loss for 2001-02 due to heavy write-downs of several joint ventures totalling $165 million.
Davids Holdings: once again, it was the new broom CEO in action as former Packer finance man Don Bourke took over the running of the company and came up with massive write-downs and a $240 million net loss in 1996-97.
MIM: The perennially struggling miner recruited Nick Stump from Comalco and he did the usual thing and cleared the decks in his first outing to announce a $216 million bottom-line loss for 1994-95.
ANI: Asset write-downs sent Australia’s largest heavy engineering group into the red with a $213 million annual loss in 1995-96 just a couple of years after Kerry Packer sold his stake for a big profit.
TNT: a net operating loss of $62.9 million was exacerbated by asset write downs which caused a $200 million bottom line for the year to June 30, 1991 as the empire put together by Sir Peter Abeles teetered under a pile of debt.
James Hardie Industries: reported a $200 million bottom-line loss in 2000-01 after heavy abnormal losses stemming from the setting up a trust fund for asbestos victim, and provisions on the sale of the windows business and Asian operations.
The tiddlers: $100m to $200m
MIM: despite two years of cost cutting and asset sales of $370 million in the previous 12 months, the mining giant still managed a $195 million bottom line loss for 1993-94 thanks to write-offs.
Orica: the chemical giant reported a $195 million bottom-line loss for the year to the end of September 2001 after new CEO Malcolm Broomhead came in and cleared the decks with large write-offs and job cuts.
TNT: Hit by a cut-throat domestic aviation market and heavy costs of restructuring in a worldwide recession, TNT crashed to a net loss after abnormals of $195 million in fiscal 1992, matching the previous year’s effort.
Brierley Investments: This was third year in a row of disasters and in 2000-01 the bottom line loss was NZ$195.7 million, largley due to more Air New Zealand disasters.
Telecom NZ: wracked up a handy NZ$188 million loss for 2001-02 after writing down their AAPT investment by no less than NZ$850 million. Kiwis should learn never to buy anything off Rupert Murdoch after Ansett and AAPT.
Mitsubishi Australia: The Japanese car maker which relies on regular government bailouts reported a net loss of $186.4 million loss in 2000.
Caltex: lost $186 million in the 2001 calendar year mainly from a $147m write-off after buying back it’s own interest from Pioneer. There was also an $11.4m sting from the Ansett collapse.
Resolute Resources: the gold miner reported a $185.9 million loss for the year to June 2000 thanks in part to an $80 million write-off of exploration assets.
Mayne Nickless: New CEO Peter Smedley cleared the decks in the 1999-2000 financial year with $243 million in write-downs which produced a net loss of $174 million as the share price surged and then later plunged again as the Smedley miracle proved to be a mirage.
Burns Philp: huge write-downs on its ingredients business sent the company to a $173.3 million net loss for the year to June 30, 1997 as new largest shareholder Graham Hart watched his net worth almost disappear before a miraculous recovery.
Ampol Exploration: write-downs of $242.4 million and foreign exchange losses sent oil producer and explorer Ampolex to a net $169.4 million loss for the year to June 30, 1995. Mobil took it over the following year.
Normandy Mining: Robert de Crespigny’s company managed a bottom line loss of $154.6 million in 2000-0, its last year full year as a listed company, thanks to writedowns at its Kasese cobalt project in Uganda.
CSR: write-downs of its timber and sugar operations sent the company to a net $153.1 million for the year to March 1998 which eventually led to the sacking of CEO Geoff Kels and the recruitment of Peter Kirby from offshore.
Powerlan: the listed software company which used to have Neville Wran and Greg Barns on the board reported a bottom line loss of $146.4 million in 2001-02 after writing off several failed investments.
Crown Casino: construction cost over-runs, debt costs and losses to Asian high-rollers conspired to drag the world’s biggest casino a net loss of $142 million in 1998-99 before the Packer’s came in to save the day and transform PBL.
Pacific Dunlop: The last nail in the coffin for the once great diversified manufacturer managed a $139.4 million net loss in 2000-01 as more writedowns in tyres and other divisions hit shareholders yet again.
Hutchison Telecoms: lost $137 million operationally in 2000-01 after massively missing their forecasts trying to compete with Telstra in an overcrowded market.
Solution 6: The business software supplier Solution 6 reported a $136 million loss for the 12 months to June 30, 2001 after new CEO Neil Gamble wrote down the value of several failed investments by controversial American CEO Chris Tyler.
Pacific Dunlop: The rot really set in the 1995-96 when a $340 million write down on its pacemaker division sent it to a a bottom line loss of $133 million.
ANL: The Federal Government’s embattled shipping line has posted a massive $120 million loss for 1993-94, reflecting one-off restructuring costs and a series of asset write-downs, totalling about $100.
Davnet: the falling telco lost $119.80m for the year to June 30, 2001 and the result included one-off charges totaling $69.6 million.
Hoyts: Leon Fink paid some ridiculous prices for various radio licences in the 1980s and in 1989-90 he took an axe to the balance sheet and reported a bottom line loss of $116 million.
UECOMM: the telecommunications spin-off of Victorian Energy distributor United Energy, put out a wildly optimistic prospectus and then plunged to a bottom line loss of $115.4 million.
Delta Gold: reported a $114.7 million bottom line in 1999-2000 after writing down the value of its Zimbabwe and Solomon Islands mines by $143.7 million.
Iama: the Melbourne-based agricultural distributor booked a bottom line loss of $108 million for the year ended September 30, 2000 thanks to a raft of abnormals from its haphazard diversification into all sorts of businesses.
Smiths Snackfoods: we’re advised they plunged to a $102 million loss in 1998-99 but await advice as to what went wrong as they are no longer listed.
Prominent companies that almost made the list
Amcor: the post Wallis write-offs sent it to an $80m loss in 19.
PBL: the One-tel write-off dropped Packer’s listed flagship to a net loss of $84 million in 2000-01.