One of the best indicators of Australia’s economic boom and the healthy
state of corporate Australia is perhaps the dearth of companies
reporting losses of more than $100 million.

Multiplex joined Crikey’s $100 million loss club list
last week when it revealed that more blowouts and delays at Wembley had
sent it $120 million into the red for the six months to 31 December.
However, it might yet claw this back by the time the full-year results
are revealed.

Before that we had Miller’s Retail slashinginventory and restructuring to produce an after tax
loss of $103.4 million in 2004-05, while credit agency firm Baycorp Advantage lost $138 million after tax over the same period.

Hutchison Telecommunications is due to report this week and it really
has been a sorry tale for investors given that net losses have been as
follows since it floated in 1999:

2000: $93m loss

2001:
$137m loss

2002:
$197m loss

2003:
$410m loss

2004:
$552m loss

2005:
Dropped $305m in first half and full year result due this week

No other Australian listed company has managed to lose more than $100
million five times, let alone five times in a row. It just goes to show how
hard it is to compete against Telstra, as Telecom New Zealand’s recent
$1 billion AAPT write-off demonstrated once again.

Hutchison and One.Tel both bought 3G spectrum in the same 1999 Federal
auction as they strove to become the fourth and fifth mobile carriers.
It was too much for the Murdoch and Packer family but Asia’s richest
man, Li Ka-Shing, continues to bankroll Hutchison which has poured
millions into the Australian cricket team promoting its 3 brand.

We now have almost 80 $100 million-plus losses listed
but for there to be only three reported in 2005 was quite amazing and
it will probably be similarly low by the time 2006 is finished.

Peter Fray

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