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Sep 1, 2008

Black Friday: we'll never see another day like it for losses

Who would have thought that almost 10% of the biggest losses announced over the past two decades could happen on the one day. Stephen Mayne charts last Friday's historic action.

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The last day of the profit reporting season is a bit like the annual deluge of political donations figures on February 1 each year – no media outlet ever really properly gets the enormity and detail of what is released.

Last Friday was quite historic in terms of the $5.22 billion in net losses that were announced by ten different ASX-listed vehicles which all dropped more than $100 million.

I’ve been tracking losses of more than $100 million over the past 20 years by financial year and from biggest to smallest and what we’ve just seen is unprecedented.

With Fortescue Metals and ABC Learning still to come, we’ll finish up with almost 30 losses exceeding $100 million. Before this year, 2001-02 was the biggest with 15 thanks to the US recession and the dotcom bust. These lists now include 74 companies that have delivered 105 losses exceeding $100 million in a year.

And who would have thought that almost 10% of the biggest losses announced over the past two decades could happen on the one day. This is how it unfolded on Friday:

9.37am: Allco Finance Group opens proceedings with a net loss of $1.73 billion, the fourth biggest in Australian history behind News Corp’s $12 billion in 2001-02, AMP’s $5.54 billion 2003 and BHP’s $2.3 billion in 1998-99.

9.45am: Not to be outdone, Centro Properties Group claims fourth position, unveiling a $2.05 billion loss, the fourth biggest in history behind

9.49am: sister company Centro Retail backs up its parent with a net loss of $867 million.

9.58am: ERG comes through with a $103.3 million net loss, its third contribution to the biggest losers club.

1.33pm: Babcock & Brown Power joins the club, disclosing a net loss of $426 million for the year.

3.33pm: National Leisure and Gaming slashes the value of its 38 pubs to produce a net loss of $112.6 million. James Hird must be relieved he quit the board last year.

4.35pm: The Allco-managed Rubicon Europe comes up with a $218 million loss for the June half.

4.36pm: Allco’s Rubicon America Trust delivers a $140.6 million loss for the half year.

4.48pm: Allco’s Rubicon Japan Trust reports a full year loss of $185.7 million.

7pm: Allco Hybrid Investment Trust rounds out this record-breaking day with a $149 million net loss for the year.

7.12pm: Allco HIT unveils a $322 million net loss for 2007-08.

By jingo, this means the Allco family started the day with a pre-opening $1.73 billion loss for the parent and then contributed another 5 after the close that added $1.14 billion.

Even better, Allco’s Record Realty, which owns the symbolic ASX headquarters in Sydney, came clean this morning with a $209 million net loss, so the Allco family have just produced $3 billion in losses across seven vehicles.

I’m having a drink with Allco Finance Group CEO David Clarke tomorrow night. As a shareholder in every listed Allco vehicle, it will be his shout.

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