Today is August 1, which means the annual profit season kicks off in earnest this week. CommSec publishes a useful calendar of what is the most important month of the year for public company disclosures and this week we will see full-year numbers from Seven Group, Resmed, Downer EDI, Tabcorp and Suncorp, along with half-year numbers from Rio Tinto. The super efficient early birds who managed to report June 30 numbers in July included GUD, AFIC and ERA. Maybe they should be put in charge of financial reporting of major political parties, none of which will reveal any 2015-16 numbers until February 1 next year under Australia’s campaign finance disclosure regime -- the world’s worst. Almost 2000 companies will report six monthly audited accounts before the end of this month and then for about 1600 of them with a June 30 year end, they will move into the release of annual reports and notices for AGMs which will be held in late September, October and November. As Crikey reported in January this year, companies are increasingly releasing their full remuneration report, and often the annual report, too, as a package with the full-year results. This is a good thing as it gives shareholders, analysts and proxy advisers up to 15 weeks to prepare for voting at the AGM. Our research looked at the major companies with a December 31 balance date and identified best practice from 25, which, in February 2015, had released their full remuneration report for the 2014 calendar year simultaneously with the annual results. Credit to the likes of OZ Minerals, Invocare, Woodside, GPT, QBE, Sydney Airport, Santos, STW, Caltex, Spark Infrastructure, Oilsearch, Bell Financial Group, Scentre Group, Iress and Westfield for all maintaining this best practice early disclosure in February 2016. However, reform wasn’t so evident for the laggards as we named the following “naughty nine” companies for delaying the remuneration data until a later date when they reported earnings in February 2015: CIMIC Group, APN News & Media, Rio Tinto, Coca-Cola Amatil, AMP, Iluka Resources, Melbourne IT, Adelaide Brighton and Alumina.  Of these, only CIMIC and Iluka Resources moved to the earliest possible remuneration disclosure with their annual results in February this year. So what will happen over the next month? Of the early birds so far this season, GUD embraced best practice by releasing everything last Thursday but AFIC, Australia’s biggest listed investment company, only released the financials and withheld the remuneration report and full annual report. In term of those reporting later in the week, this is what they did last year:
  • Suncorp: everything released on August 4 last year -- well done to chairman Ziggy Switkowski.
  • Seven Group: everything was August 26 last year so a major bring forward by Kerry Stokes.
  • Tabcorp: everything on August 13 last year -- Ziggy Switkowski also sits on this board.
  • Downer EDI: everything on August 6 last year.
With more than 1600 annual results to come before August 31, it will be interesting to see how entrenched best practice has become. Here are a few laggards who didn’t go with the earliest possible remuneration disclosure last August and will hopefully get with the program in 2016:
  • Commonwealth Bank: full-year results released on August 12 but remuneration report and full annual report was delayed until August 17.
  • Slater and Gordon: limited financials released on August 28 but remuneration report not disclosed until September 30.
  • Harvey Norman: financials released on August 28 but the full annual report with all the remuneration data was delayed until September 30.
  • Woolworths: audited results released on August 28 but remuneration report delayed until September 11.
Remuneration reports were only introduced in 2004 and the first mover in terms of combined disclosure of full-year earnings results with the annual report (including all the remuneration data) was Macquarie Bank way back on May 17, 2005. If the Millionaire Factory, which pays its executives and staff more, on average, than any other listed Australian company, has been doing early remuneration disclosure for 11 years, it is hard to see why the likes of the Commonwealth Bank, Woolworths, Harvey Norman and Slater and Gordon can’t belatedly follow their exemplary lead in 2016.