SYDNEY, AAP – Electronics and white goods retailer Harvey Norman has repaid more than $6 million in federal government JobKeeper wage subsidies following lobbying from critics.
The Gerry Harvey-led group in August returned to taxpayers all of the $6.02 million in wages and support collected since the coronavirus pandemic began in March last year.
It received $2.39 million in 2019/20 and $3.63 million in 2020/21.
“All of the wages support and assistance … was repaid to the federal government via the Australian Taxation Office,” the company said in its full-year results on Tuesday.
Chairman Mr Harvey had previously defended his decision to retain the funds despite repeated calls by unions and others that it be repaid.
Those critics argued the money was supposed to help struggling businesses retain staff during the pandemic, and Harvey Norman was not struggling.
ASX retailers including Adairs, BCF-owner Super Retail Group and Nick Scali earlier repaid JobKeeper funds after recording sizeable profits.
Harvey Norman posted a “solid” lift in annual profit and Mr Harvey praised the group’s ability to navigate the pandemic.
Net profit for 2020/21 rose to $841 million, including outlet property valuations, and was up 75 per cent from the previous financial year.
Excluding valuations, the result was $743 million, up 63 per cent.
System sales, including group-owned and franchisee outlets, totalled almost $10 billion.
“The solid results delivered … is a testament to the strength and resilience of (the group) … and its ability to adapt and transition to the challenging retail landscape and continue to navigate the uncertainties presented by COVID-19,” Mr Harvey said.
“Customers continue to engage strongly with our brands.”
The company includes the Domayne and Joyce Mayne stores.
Mr Harvey said state and territory lockdowns in Australia had impacted the group’s sales in the first two months of the 2021/22 financial year.
“However, we expected spending to recover quickly as we saw when lockdown restrictions were eased in our overseas markets due to pent up demand,” he said.
The group also trades in Croatia, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Singapore and Slovenia.
Shareholders will be paid a final dividend of 15 cents per share, taking the total payout for the year to 35 cents, up from 24 cents in the 2019/20 year.
Harvey Norman shares were down 3.33 per cent to $5.37 at 1526 AEST.
They traded for a record $6.88 in 2007.