Kaboom, $700 million plus gone. Vocation, once the poster child for privatised education (and indeed chaired at one stage by John Dawkins, the former federal education minister) was placed into voluntary administration, with Peter Gothard of accounting firm Ferrier Hodgson appointed voluntary administrator. The company said in a statement to the ASX this morning that senior management “intend to work with Mr Gothard to explore all options to allow the operating entities to continue as going concerns to protect the interests of students, employees and other stakeholders”. Vocation’s share price reached $3.40 in late September 2014, valuing it at more than $700 million, before it crashed to below 10 cents after it was stripped of almost $20 million in funding by Victorian authorities over poor-quality training in two of its Victorian businesses, which have since have gone by the wayside. Vocation floated in December 2013 at $1.89 a share, but mad investors chased the shares up and up in the next few months, In August 2014, in the wake its results, the shares closed the day of $3.05, despite rising concerns about a couple of parts of the business. The shares started falling and lost 60% in value from September 2014 onwards as more questions arose. The shares eventually went south at a rate of knots after Vocation was forced to admit the loss of the Victorian funding and other problems. The shares closed at 12 cents yesterday (valuing the company at $27 million), which, even though the market concerns about the business were justified by the sharp fall, tells us there were optimists to the end about its business model. — Glenn Dyer
News blinks. According to Fairfax Media’s website, News Corp (aka Fox Sports and Foxtel), has blinked and done a deal to nail down the pay-TV rights to the NRL, especially for the key fifth game on Saturday night. It’s going to cost News around $35 million a year, or $175 million (Foxtel subscribers will pay more). And TV industry sources say News is almost certain to follow its AFL lead and commit to simulcasting every NRL game each round, which will cost it another $25 million a year. All up, that’s a potential $300 million and News hasn’t even bought the four other games each round from the NRL, which will cost it around $200 million a year or more. Nine and the NRL (under former CEO Dave Smith) did a deal on the free-to-air rights for $925 million for five years from 2018. That will be reduced by the deals News is doing for the fifth game and the simulcasting. That would leave Nine paying just $625 million. News (with its various hats on) and the NRL meet this morning to formalise the deal.
The sudden appearance of Optus as a possible contender concentrated the minds at News, which had turned on the rugby league after the Nine deal. News, with Rupert Murdoch and his CEO Robert Thomson in tow, did a deal with the AFL and then haughtily said they would concentrate on the AFL and not the NRL. But both are no longer around to maintain the rage, and it was a shame-faced News/Fox/Foxtel group that hurried to nail down the rights because of the terrible financial impact on their businesses if they had fallen into the hands of Optus. Foxtel and Fox Sports would have been devastated with upwards of a million subscribers departing very quickly. Now Telstra (the other half of Foxtel) is trying to nail down the online streaming rights, which is something Optus wants as well. — Glenn Dyer
Changing the AFR’s light globe. A funny “exclusive” story in this morning’s Australian Financial Review (actually it’s the front-page story): a trio of reporters managed to track down former BHP Billiton chair Don Argus, who then told them that BHP’s so-called progressive dividend policy (it votes centre-left) was “never meant to be a forever thing. It was not meant to be written in stone.” (Actually, it’s written in dirt — iron ore!) On reading the story, it still doesn’t explain why it took three people to write it. One to hold the mobile, the second to punch in Don Argus’ numbers and the third to listen and take notes? And still reading the AFR, today’s Rear Window column tells us Woolworths’ annual meeting is happening “tomorrow in Sydney’s CBD”. Well, I don’t know what information they’ve got, but the notice of meeting says it will be held in Sydney on “Thursday, November 26”. Was Rear Window subbed by someone without a calendar, or was it pushed through without a check? Let’s hope the paper’s reporters don’t turn up tomorrow. They will miss what should be the meeting of the year. — Glenn Dyer