2017 BRISBANE TOP COMPANIES 1-10
28 April 2017, Written by Ben Hall, David Simmons, Paris Faint, James Perkins
FROM insurance and banking to travel, gambling, retail, property and pizza, these "heavyweights" have had their fair share of issues to deal with but remain resilient in a changing economy.
Cyclone Debbie caused problems for insurer Suncorp, rail freight provider Aurizon and to a less extent, Bank of Queensland, while Domino's image and share price took a beating from the fallout from negative publicity surrounding underpayment of workers.
Corporate Travel Management forced its way in to the top 10 thanks to double digit growth across most of its metrics and joined Flight Centre as the leaders in travel.
1. SUNCORP GROUP (SUN)
2016 Rank: 1
Market Cap March 2017: $17.80b
1H17 Revenue: $8.64b
1H17 Profit: $537m
CEO: Michael Cameron
CEO Salary: $8.7 million
Suncorp says its main catastrophe program, which provides cover from $250 million up to $6.9 billion, along with the purchase of an additional cover, would protect it from what is expected to be a massive claims bill.
In its half year report, the books were stable with profits recording a slight rise to $537m for the first half of the financial year and, as a result, the Brisbane-based company kept dividends in check.
The core general insurance division performed strongly for Suncorp with a 42 per cent boost in profit to $369m for the first half of the financial year.
Suncorp's first half profit was weighed down by higher than expected insurance claims which came in at $350m from natural disasters with nearly a third of that amount from two big storms in South Australia and Victoria in November and December last year.
The life insurance division proved a drag on the business with net profit halved to $11m and its future is under review.
But with nine million customers on its banking and insurance books, some analysts believe there is still scope to push more business through its life books.
2. AURIZON HOLDINGS (AZJ)
CEO & MD: Andrew Harding
LIKE Suncorp, rail operator Aurizon was seriously impacted by Cyclone Debbie with nearly all of its networks in north and central Queensland closed and/or damaged by flood water from the system.
The company says it will result in a downgrade to its full year earnings, because of a potential lag in income received and the unknown cost of fixing the damaged rail systems.
It was a major setback after Aurizon returned to profit in the first half of the 2017 financial year from a $108 million loss in the prior period, despite write downs and redundancy costs.
Australia's largest rail freight operator announced in January 2017 it would take a $321m hit from write downs and charges related to its freight and intermodal businesses. Excluding the impact of the one-off charges, Aurizon's half yearly net profit rose 18 per cent to $279 million while EBIT rose 21 per cent to $488 million.
The company's long standing CEO Lance Hockridge was forced out in September 2016 and it recruited former high profile Rio Tinto boss Andrew Harding as his replacement. Mr Hockridge was tapped to leave after disappointing full year earnings which saw the company's share price slump 15 per cent.
Andrew Harding is expected to continue with a cost cutting project which aims to strip the company of $380 million in expenses by 2018.
3. TATTS GROUP (TTS)
CEO & MD: Robbie Cooke
AUSTRALIA'S largest non-casino gambling group took a hefty hit to its first half profit for 2017 with a 16.5 percent drop from $148m to $123m, thanks to a weak lotteries result and intense competition in the wagering sector.
The company blames much of the revenue drop on the fact that in the first half of 2015-16 there was an unprecedented run of 24 jackpots above $15m. This created strong demand and CEO Robbie Cook said it was always going to be a "herculean task" to match this and the revenue it generated.
Powerball and OzLotto combined for a 26 per cent decrease while overall revenue also fell 7 per cent from $1.6 billion to $1.4 billion.
The merger process with Tabcorp also cost the company $10 million but the bright spot was its relatively new brand UBET which posted a revenue increase of 22.5 percent.
4. DOMINO'S PIZZA (DMP)
CEO: Don Meij
IN PERHAPS its toughest six months as a listed company, Domino's Pizza Enterprises has weathered a brutal storm of bad publicity regarding unhappy franchisees and alleged underpayment of its workers.
Domino's has been working with the Fair Work Ombudsman for months get to the bottom of the claims and the company, which has been an ASX superstar over the past few years, has endured a rare period of hurt.
Its share price is down 32 per cent on its peak of around $80 in August 2016 as a result of the issue and concern that rising wages costs could eat into margins. It is the company's first sustained devaluation in years.
Domino's has had an extraordinary period of success, and is trading up 1,000 per cent since the start of 2010, but that meteoric rise put the stock at a high price to earnings ratio, which is coming back down to earth now.
As the controversy has rolled on, Domino's CEO, Don Meij, has remained upbeat. For the half year to 31 December, Meij delivered the typically strong double-digit growth figures the market has come to expect and the pressure is on to keep delivering as the company pursues its aggressive expansion in Europe and Australia.
5. BANK OF QUEENSLAND (BOQ)
CEO & MD: Jon Sutton
FACED with increased competition in the loans sector, BOQ booked a 6 per cent slide in profit to $161 million but CEO Jon Sutton says the company will bounce back thanks to mortgage growth of 30 per cent.
Revenue was also down by four percent to $532 million, below analysts' forecasts, and Sutton has been on the front foot saying BOQ's margins will rise.
With banking regulator APRA making noises about placing restrictions on mortgage lending, in particular the cap on investor loans which currently sits at 10 per cent, the bank says it's well under that figure and will not be affected by any changes.
As for predictions of an east coast property downturn or crash, BOQ has around half of its loan book in its home state which is considered a more stable market with relatively cheap prices and net immigration.
6. THE STAR ENTERTAINMENT GROUP (SGR)
2016 rank: 5
CEO: Matt Bekier
THE Star Entertainment Group was caught up in the fallout from the arrest of 18 staff from rival Crown Limited in China late last year as part of a crackdown on the illegal marketing of gambling on the mainland.
Just like Crown, Echo's market capitalisation plummeted after the arrests, as investors worried about the effect of the arrests on revenue from high rollers from China.
But perhaps of a bigger concern to The Star is the win rate of the high rollers, who have been enjoying a good run against the casino operator in recent times.
In the first half of FY17, turnover at the international VIP business was down 11.9 per cent on the previous corresponding period at $20.8 billion, impacted by a high win rate of 1.62 per cent.
Turnover in November and December 2016, following the Crown arrests, was down 27 per cent on pcp.
Still, the casino and hotel operator says its domestic business is the engine room of the company, and it is making big moves in this area.
The Star is investing billions of dollars in the Queens Wharf development in Brisbane, and has upgraded its properties in Sydney and on the Gold Coast, where it is building up to five towers at Broadbeach.
7. FLIGHT CENTRE TRAVEL GROUP (FLT)
MD: Graham Turner
WHILE Flight Centre's revenue and profit margins were grounded by a tough global trading cycle during 1H17, there has been positive news with a string of corporate travel acquisitions across Europe and an expansion in Asia to create a larger destination management company.
FLT bought several businesses throughout Germany, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark in a move which is expected to generate a further $110 million for the company.
The Asian expansion involves an increase in its stake in a joint venture deal with Vietnam's Thien Minh Group with plans to acquire similar business throughout the region.
These deals are in line with the company's strategy to won and control the vertical chain rather than simply be a travel agent.
But the company's CEO Graham Turner has warned of headwinds mostly from widespread discounting by airlines which means great bargains for travellers but lower transaction values for airlines and Flight Centre.
A lower British Pound was also having an impact on revenue from UK operations and Turner says these hardships will be reflected in the full year results.
8. ALS LIMITED (ALQ)
2016 rank: 8
CEO: Greg Kilmister / Raj Naran from July 2017
LONGTIME ALS Limited boss Greg Kilmister will end his 11-year reign as CEO and managing director in July, having led the company, formerly known as Campbell Brothers, through its most successful period.
Under Kilmister's leadership, the Brisbane-based company, which was formerly known as Campbell Brothers, entered the ASX100 as it grew from a market capitalisation of $381 million in 2005 to $3.1 billion today.
But for the past four years, ALS Limited has been in a sustained period of earnings decline as its commodities-exposed businesses have weathered the increasingly volatile market that has followed the resources boom.
Earnings per share have dropped from 69.5 cents per share in 2013, to 21.7cps in 2016, while underlying net profit after tax has dropped from $238.3 million to $99.5 million in the same period.
Kilmister's replacement, Raj Naran, may be indicative of a new direction for the company. Naran founded e-Lab Analytical, an environmental testing business based in Texas and Michigan, which was acquired by ALS in 2007. He went on to head the ALS Life Sciences division, and will head the company following the AGM on 20 July.
The ALS Life Sciences division has easily the strongest performer for the company in recent years, and recorded 13.7 per cent growth in revenue to $633.5 million in 2016. The Mineral Inspection and Tribology Business also performed well, but it wasn't enough to offset the losses in other areas such as oil and gas and energy.
During the handover, Naran will undertake a strategic review of the company, and it will be interesting to see where he would like to take the company.
During the past year ALS also rejected what it described as an "opportunistic" approach from Advent International and Bain Capital to purchase the company for $5.30 per share. At time of writing, ALS Limited is trading at $6.17 per share.
9. CORPORATE TRAVEL MANAGEMENT (CTD)
2016 rank: 13
CEO: Jamie Pherous
CHEAP airline tickets and negative FX movements of the Australian dollar impacted Corporate Travel Management's total transaction value (TTV) during the six months to 31 December, but the company overcame these headwinds to record double-digit growth in all other key metrics.
CTD achieved a record EBITDA margin due to its increasing scale and productivity improvements, resulting in $40.4 million underlying EBITDA, up 45 per cent on the previous corresponding period.
The company reported organic EBITDA growth of 29 per cent for the half year to December 31, excluding acquisitions.
During the period, those acquisitions included UK based Redfern Travel, and Andrew Jones Travel from Tasmania. The company raised $71.085 million through share placement at $15 each to complete the acquisitions.
In the preceding six months, the company bought Travison Travel Acquistion in Boston, USA, and launched an on-line booking website with flybuys.
10. SUPER RETAIL GROUP (SUL)
CEO & MD: Peter Birtles
WITH 12 new stores opening across the network in the first half of 2017, and further 12 to open in the second half, Super Retail Group will build its total number of stores to 641.
That momentum was reflected in its 1H17 earnings which was up a robust 26 percent to $74.4 million while revenue rose 6.6 percent to $1.3 billion, and CEO Peter Birtles is confident Super Retail Group will continue to build sales growth.
The owner of Amart Sports, Rebel Sport, BCF and Supercheap Auto brands outlined plans to transform information systems, as well as its inventory planning and management system.
The half year results represented a remarkable turnaround for Super Retail Group which had mixed results in the corresponding prior period which sent the share price down by 17 per cent at one stage.
However, like most retailers they're facing a real threat in the form of Amazon which is yet to land in Australia and this is a matter of 'when' not 'if'.
CLICK BELOW FOR THIS YEAR'S TOP 50
Market caps based on end of trading April 27, 2017.
Author: Ben Hall, David Simmons, Paris Faint, James Perkins