Coles earnings slip, Wesfarmers profit up

Coles’ earnings have fallen for the first time since its acquisition by Wesfarmers nine years ago, as its sales growth slowed further amid stiff competition.

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Results released on Thursday show the supermarket chain’s comparable food and liquor sales, a crucial measure of revenue growth, rose one per cent in 2016/17 – a significant slowdown from 4.1 per cent growth a year ago.

Coles’ earnings before interest and tax decreased 13.5 per cent to $1.61 billion – the first earnings decline since Wesfarmers acquired the business in 2008.

The decline was expected by analysts as rival Woolworths’ recent multi-billion dollar spend on lowering prices has seen its like-for-like food sales growth outpace that of Coles.

Wesfarmers warned that Coles’ sales and profitability will continue to come under pressure in the 2018 financial year.

“In a very competitive environment, sales and margin pressures in Coles are expected to persist,” the conglomerate said as it released its full-year results.

“Within this environment, Coles will focus on plans to further enhance the quality of its fresh offer, and improve merchandising and availability, while continuing to drive operational efficiencies to support investments in value and service.”

Wesfarmers chief executive Richard Goyder said he expects Coles will return to earnings growth over the long term.

Wesfarmers’ full-year profit of $2.87 billion, which largely met market expectations, was helped by strong earnings from its hardware business Bunnings.

Bunnings’ Australia and New Zealand earnings jumped 10 per cent to $1.33 billion.

However, the group’s UK and Ireland hardware business reported an $89 million loss in its first full financial year since the acquisition of UK chain Homebase.

Kmart’s earnings increased 17.7 per cent to $553 million on revenue growth of 7.5 per cent, while Target trimmed its pre-tax loss from $195 million to $10 million.

Officeworks also reported improved earnings of $144 million, up 7.5 per cent and a lift in coal prices helped boost Wesfarmers’ coal mine earnings.

Wesfarmers’ statement to the ASX said the group remains “generally optimistic” in its retail businesses’ outlook with ongoing improvements in merchandising expected to drive earnings growth.

Shares in Wesfarmers were up 92 cents, or 2.2 per cent, at $42.67 by 1033 AEST.

WESFARMERS PROFIT AT A GLANCE:

* Net profit up 22pct to $2.87b

* Revenue up 3.7pct $68.4b

* Final dividend, fully franked, $1.20 a share, up 35 cents

Swans an ultimate AFL test for Crows: Pyke

Adelaide coach Don Pyke knows his AFL pacesetters have come a long way.

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But just how far, he says, will be revealed by Sydney in Friday night’s AFL heavyweight stoush at Adelaide Oval.

The bout has been a painful wait for Pyke and his Crows, who still smart from their last meeting against the Swans — a semi-final six-goal loss last year.

Sydney exposed weaknesses which Pyke went about fixing — being stronger at contested ball, implementing Swans-like military-precise defence.

Pyke’s tweaks have worked: the Crows, six points clear in top spot, are assured an initial home final.

But they haven’t yet played Sydney.

“It’s a good chance to see the areas (where) we think we have improved on against a high-quality opponent,” Pyke said.

“That was a disappointing way to end our season last year.

“And we get a chance on Friday night … to see how far we have come.”

Pyke said the Crows’ lofty perch this season evidenced they had learnt the lessons from that semi-final defeat.

“Where we are sitting reflects that we have (come a long way),” he said.

“Some of our performances during the year and our numbers would reflect we have tightened up in defensive stuff, our contested ball stuff has been of a really high standard for pretty much the whole season.

“I have no doubt we have improved. How far, I don’t know.”That is the unknown until you come up against quality opposition like Sydney.”

The Swans’ turnaround this season could be the stuff of legend: six straight losses to start, now sitting in fifth spot.

Sydney are the team no rival club wants to meet in September but a Crows win will likely end the top-four hopes of John Longmire’s side.

Pyke said the chance of putting a dent in the Swans won’t motivate Adelaide.

“It’s less about us doing something to their path to the finals, it’s more about us continuing to play the way we want to,” he said.

But Pyke was well aware of the confidence boost for Friday night’s victor ahead of a possible finals re-match.

“One thing you’re mindful of when you’re playing any sport, really, is the impression you leave with the opposition, in terms of how you want to play,” he said.

Crows versus Swans tale of the tape

ADELAIDE V SYDNEY TALE OF THE TAPE

* Adelaide 1st 15 wins 4 losses 1 draw 62pts 142.

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1%. Assured top-two slot.

* Sydney: 5th 12 wins 8 losses 48pts 123.7%. Top-four dream dashed with a loss.

* Overall head-to-head: Adelaide 23 wins 15 losses

* Swans have won five of past six

* Swans one win, one loss versus Crows at Adelaide Oval

* Crows the top-ranked attack, 113 points a game

* Swans the top-ranked defence, conceding 75.7 points a game

* Crows ranked first for contested possessions, Sydney fifth

FIVE KEY DUELS

* Daniel Talia (Adel) v Lance Franklin (Syd). The Swans superstar is a long-time tormentor with 51 goals in 16 career games against the Crows. Talia is among the best stoppers in the business but has been hampered lately by groin soreness.

* Josh Kennedy (Syd) v Hugh Greenwood (Adel). The Crows reckon they have got their own Kennedy in ex-basketballer Greenwood — they’re almost identical size and weight. Can the Crows apprentice shade the Swans master?

* Eddie Betts (Adel) v Nick Smith (Syd). The Swans defender has been able to keep Betts quiet frequently in the past. And the Crows goalsneak is in a bit of a trough, only eight majors in his past five games, including twice being kept goalless.

* Heath Grundy (Syd) v Taylor Walker (Adel). Adelaide’s captain has been growing in influence after a mid-season slump — he’s not only booted 48 goals but has a league-high 29 goal assists. Big job for the wily old Swan.

* Kurt Tippett (Syd) v 50,000 spectators (Adel). Oh boy. Do Crows fans still remember how Tippett walked out on Adelaide at the end of 2012 — and the ramifications. What’s the adjective for beyond hostile?

Government loses appeal to take phones from asylum seekers

The federal government has lost its appeal against a court ruling that allows immigration detainees to keep their mobile phones.

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The Federal Court threw out the appeal in Sydney on Thursday, upholding its injunction and preventing Immigration from seizing detainees’ phones.

After the decision, the National Justice Project’s principal solicitor George Newhouse said if the government was concerned about access to phones it should separate convicted criminals from other detainess.

“The blanket removal of phones is part of the process of criminalising asylum seekers and this government ongoing policy of punishment and cruelty towards them,” Mr Newhouse said.

“Peter Dutton claims that the use of mobile phones is linked to criminal behaviour but asylum seekers are not criminals. Mobile phones are a life line to the outside world that enables them to maintain their sanity and communicate with their families, thr loved ones, the community and their legal representatives.”

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Immigration Minister Dutton gave notice of the appeal in early April after the Federal Court granted an injunction in February to stop Australian Border Force guards from confiscating phones from all detainees.

Earlier this year, Mr Dutton told 2GB radio the population in Sydney’s Villawood detention centre had changed.

“We’ve dramatically increased the number of visa cancellations of outlaw motorcycle gang members and criminals,” he said.

“So the population within the detention centre now is predominantly people that have committed crimes, that are being deported because of the crimes that they’ve committed, and so we’re dealing with a more hardened population than what we had before.”

The Minister was approached for comment.

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Internet firms exile white supremacists

Silicon Valley has joined a swelling backlash against US neo-Nazi groups as more technology companies removed white supremacists from their services in response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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Social media networks Twitter and LinkedIn, music service Spotify and security firm Cloudflare were on Wednesday among the companies cutting off services to hate groups or removing material they said spread hate.

Earlier in the week, Facebook, Google and GoDaddy also took steps to block hate groups.

The crackdown reflects a rapidly changing mindset in Silicon Valley on how much it is willing to police hate speech.

Tech companies have taken down violent propaganda from Islamic State and other militant groups but most have tried to steer clear of making judgments about content except in cases of illegal activity.

Cloudflare, which protects websites from denial-of-service attacks and hacking, dropped coverage of the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer.

“I woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the internet,” Cloudflare founder and chief executive Matthew Prince said in an email to employees.

Daily Stormer helped organise the weekend rally in Charlottesville, where a 32-year-old woman was killed and 19 people were injured when a man ploughed a car into a crowd protesting against the white nationalist gathering.

Daily Stormer has been accessible only intermittently the past few days after domain providers GoDaddy and Google Domains said they would not serve the website.

Publisher Andrew Anglin said on a social network Gab his site would be back soon.

“The Cloudflare betrayal adds another layer of super complexity. But we got this,” he said.

Twitter suspended accounts linked to Daily Stormer.

Facebook, which unlike Twitter explicitly prohibits hate speech, took down several pages from Facebook and Instagram it said were associated with hate speech or hate organisations.