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Read part one of Crikey’s corporate welfare awards here.

Another day, another string of companies on JobKeeper life support reporting they are in rude financial health.

Yesterday we kicked off the corporate welfare awards with a round of prizes for some of the most dubious JobKeeper recipients — billionaires, investment bankers and large companies handing out big dividends to shareholders with one hand while taking from the taxpayer with the other.

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Today we continue the theme with another round of accolades for business heavyweights who cashed in on the $100 billion scheme. Some were gracious enough to hand it back — a noble and PR-worthy act. Others couldn’t quite bear to part with the cash.

We also give a gong to the little companies that made big profits thanks to the scheme. Here’s hoping they don’t fly under the radar.

The Split the Difference award

First up is an award for the companies that got caught ripping off the taxpayer but couldn’t quite face the prospect of paying it all back.

First prize has to go to furniture retailer Nick Scali, whose agonising over whether it was right to keep the money or not made it a poster boy for JobKeeper rorting.

CEO Anthony Scali initially insisted it was OK to keep millions in taxpayer subsidies despite the company reporting a $40 million profit for the six months to December. He then backflipped, saying the company would pay the money back, but not before contemplating donating it to a children’s hospital first. The company still chose to keep $3.9 million it pocketed at the start of the 2020, during which time shareholders received a 12.5% increase in their final dividend.

In second place is aged care company Ingenia, which made $32 million off the back of $5 million in JobKeeper. As a gesture it has so far paid less than half ($2 million) back.

Coming in third is Adairs, another home retailer that has enjoyed a surprise boom in online spending during the pandemic, raking in a $44 million profit off the back of $10 million in JobKeeper. So far it has paid $6 million back.

The Quiet Achievers award

There are plenty of smaller businesses that have been just as happy to rort the wage subsidy.

First prize in the quiet achievers category goes to waste management company Bingo for receiving $1 million in JobKeeper and paying exactly the same amount out in executive bonuses.

Accounting firm CountPlus, which is part-owned by the Commonwealth Bank, takes second prize for making a $4 million profit in the six months to December, thanks to $2.4 million in JobKeeper payments.

In third place is IT company Empired, whose profit rose a whopping 284% to $7.7 million, thanks to $4.9 million in JobKeeper payments that it has not paid back.

The Do-gooders award

It’s good to do the right thing, especially if it earns you good PR. Taking out first prize in the do-gooders category is Japanese car manufacturer Toyota, which has given Australian companies a lesson in corporate culture by handing back $18 million in JobKeeper payments after reporting sales were rebounding.

Australia’s biggest construction company CIMIC gets second prize for handing back $20 million, although not until it was publicly named and shamed.

Cochlear gets third place for handing $24 million back after its net profit surged 50% to $236 million — although this was only two thirds of the total amount it received.

And finally Nine Entertainment gets a runners-up prize, after pledging to give $2 million back after posting $182 million profit. Although it kept payments that it received through partially owned businesses like Domain. True altruism is hard to find.

Private Media, the parent company of Crikey, received JobKeeper last year. None of the funds were paid to shareholders as dividends. It was used entirely to pay staff salaries.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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