IMF alert. The International Monetary Fund was paid 450 million euros by Greece overnight — cue smiles of relief in the IMF’s Washington bunker ahead of Joe Hockey’s arrival next week for his second spring meeting soiree of the IMF and the World Bank. Greece says it can also repay the 420 million six-month bond maturing next week (April 14), but beyond that date? It has a 950 million euro payment to be made to the fund later next month, plus salaries and pension payments. And there’s that April 24 deadline for some sort of reform deal with the eurozone Finance Minister. So the sense of relief at the IMF is likely to be short-lived. Will our Joe say yes if Australia is asked to agree to bail out the Greeks a third time? The IMF meeting will also bring the release of the latest World Economic Forecast — after the IMF’s glum warning this week about how the developed and emerging economies face years of low growth, weak employment prospects, rising debt and a lack of revenue growth (sounds familiar, Joe?), don’t expect any good news from next week’s reports. — Glenn Dyer
Things controlled with Coke. Bottling and marketing associates of The Coca-Cola Company around the world, such as Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) in Australia are kept under control by the parent’s supply of the syrup and its secret recipes used for all those nasty fizzies (like Coke, Diet Coke, Fanta etc). The supply is a sort of syrupy handcuffs (it’s actually a funny way to transport lots of sugar and corn fructose sweetener) and effectively make companies such as CCA takeover-proof (along with a 29% shareholding). Remarkably, the amount of syrup (by value) CCA has bought from the Coca-Cola Company has changed remarkably little in the decade from 2004 to 2014, according to CCA’s annual reports. In 2004, CCA paid the Coca-Cola Company $730.6 million. That had barely risen to $796.8 million in 2014 — that’s an increase of just 9.7% in a decade. That was on revenue up 43% in the same time, from $3.33 billion to $4.94 billion (although CCA has added other non-carbonated products to its roster, such as coffee, new water products, alcohol- and fruit-based products from SPC Ardmona). But look a bit deeper into the reports and sales of beverages (including water, and in 2004, including South Korea), only rose around $800 million from 2004 to 2014 ($3.45 billion to $4.25 billion, a rise over the decade of just 23%), which isn’t much. In 2014, CCA had $695 million of sales of coffee, grog products and fruit products, in 2004 there was none of that, so the increased sales of fizzy drinks and water in the decade is even less impressive. — Glenn Dyer
A stale taste on the board? Long time CCA chairman David Gonski is standing again at the AGM in May, but has let it be known that he will probably step down before his three year term as a director and chair are up. Seeing he joined the board in 1997, that’s probably not before time. After all, he is also chair of the ANZ Bank, which is one of the plumb gigs in corporate Australia. Gonski has a lot to answer for in CCA’s recent loss of performance in the dying 18 months of the long reign of Terry Davis as CEO of CCA. The company drifted and then turned down as the management and board lost control of its marketing effort and missed significant changes in the marketplace. Gonski helped Davis on his way at the end of 2013 and found new CEO Alison Watkins, who was given a big axe to try to cut away the deadwood (hundreds of jobs, including a clutch of senior managers, who with Davis were paid more than $5 million in bye-bye payments in 2014). Seeing Gonski and Davis arrived in their jobs around 2001, the chairman has to wear some of the blame for the way the company lost focus, sales and earnings, and the slashing of dividends to shareholders, who may have something to say about his decision to stand again at the AGM on May 12. — Glenn Dyer
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Helloooo Barbie (and Ken). Mattel the toymaker used to be primus inter pares among the younger set, thanks to the dominance of its Fisher-Price toys, as well as Barbie and her toyboy, Ken. But lately Mattel, like its peers, has been levelled by Lego, not to mention smartphones and the internet. So the desperate company’s board has turned to chairman Christopher Sinclair, who has been acting CEO since the last one abruptly quit without notice in January. Sinclair, though is 64 years old, which hardly fits him to oversee the turnaround of a once-great company that has been completely outflanked by Lego and by the net and all things techo. Lego is now the world’s biggest toy group by revenues. Mattel’s fourth-quarter profits recorded a 60% slide in earnings, so the first-quarter figures, due for release on April 16, will be keenly watched. Sinclair though says he has a “clear game plan for what needs to be addressed” and he has promised “a rapid turnaround”. The new CEO says: “By moving quickly to reduce bureaucracy that has slowed decision making and diffused accountability, we are already beginning to benefit from greater energy and focus throughout the Company.” In other words, old-fashioned cost-cutting. But Mattel doesn’t sell energy, or cost-cuts, it sells toys … to that end, it is at least introducing a new-look Hello Barbie. She’s going all interactive with voice recognition software and wi-fi connectivity. Shades of Siri. How about a selfie Barbie, or a Barbie watch? — Glenn Dyer