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Mirror Mirror ...
Finance Minister Grant Robertson to date hasn't exactly been hard-nosed on the issue of companies paying back the wage subsidy should their financial position warrant it.
Instead he's preferred to stick by the Government's response to Covid and the decision to get the wage subsidy in place as quickly and efficiently as possible as the pandemic hit.
But some fresh comments from him on the subject may indicate a slightly tougher line as some companies try and retain the wage support despite making big profits and dividend payments.
Asked this week to respond to the Herald's story revealing Fulton Hogan had decided to keep $33 million in wage subsidies even though its profit was up 27.5 per cent to $211m to June 30, and shareholders received hefty dividends, Robertson had a few extra words to say on the subject.
"No one is able to say what the counterfactual would have been if this support had not been put in place at a time when businesses were having to make hurried decisions in the face of a global pandemic," he said.
"The deal struck with New Zealand's businesses was that they keep their employees on if they took the wage subsidy. It was to give cashflow and confidence and see those employees retained. We're sticking to that deal."
He did offer this suggestion, however.
"Of course, people can look themselves in the mirror and decide, if they are performing better than expected, whether they should pay it back."
So far, he said, about $500m of the wage subsidy has been paid back by about 17,000 businesses.
"The vast majority of these repayments were initiated by these business. The Government has been auditing wage subsidy applications to identify refunds that are required, and will continue to do so."
Perhaps co-incidentally, retirement village operator Metlifecare – recently taken over by Sweden-based EQT Group – announced it was paying back the $6.8m it received.
"While Covid-19 has created significant and lasting economic uncertainty globally and in New Zealand, and Metlifecare did qualify for the scheme, EQT and the board has now determined that repaying the wage subsidy is the right thing to do," new chair Paul McClintock said on Friday.
It will be interesting to see whether fellow retirement village operators Ryman and Summerset follow suit. Likewise if The Warehouse takes a leaf out of Briscoe Group's decision to pay back its wage subsidy.
New tourism boss
Another contender has been tipped for the top job at Tourism New Zealand.
Entrepreneur and marketing specialist Vicky Taylor is being seen as a strong candidate for the role which is set to become vacant early next year after current chief executive Stephen England-Hall announced he would be leaving.
Taylor has both marketing experience in the fast-moving consumable goods industry and significant SME experience which is seen as critical to the success of New Zealand tourism.
She was previously a director of tourism business Wayfare, which owns Real Journeys and Restaurant Brands.
Taylor and her husband established Smartfoods - a premium breakfast food company - in New Zealand in 2008 and she has worked for complex manufacturing businesses operating in international markets, including Lion Nathan, New Zealand Dairy Foods, Goodman Fielder, Griffins Foods and Coca-Cola Oceania.
Despite the challenges facing the industry at the moment, there seems to be no shortage of candidates for the job.
Also potentially in the running are Air New Zealand marketing and branding supremos Mike Tod and Jodi Williams, who have not outlined their long-term plans post the airline where their campaigns worked in lockstep with Tourism New Zealand.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts and outgoing MediaWorks chief executive Michael Anderson could also be in the mix.
England-Hall will take up his first operational role in tourism and big privately-owned South Island group, Wayfare, in January.
Griffin's bites back
Griffin's has denied claims the company is on the block to be sold to private equity suitors.
"A number of media outlets have falsely speculated that Griffin's Foods may be sold by owners Universal Robina Corporation," the company said in a statement this week.
"The rumours are incorrect. Griffin's Foods categorically states there is no process in place nor intent for Universal Robina to divest the business."
The comments come after speculation in Australian media that private equity companies were circling the New Zealand business.
The Australian reported while the company had not officially up for sale, there was talk in the market that divestment is on the cards shortly by its Philippines-based owner Universal Robina.
It was reported that the move was attributable to the impact of Covid-19.
Griffin's has, however, countered all these claims.
"Despite challenges businesses are experiencing globally due to Covid-19, Universal Robina remains well-positioned to continue its performance in the market."
Griffin's was founded in 1864 and its owners have included Kraft Nabisco, Danone and Pep.
It was acquired by Universal Robina in 2014 for $700m.