Australia Furniture retailer Nick Scali to return $3.6m in JobKeeper funds
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Furniture retailer Nick Scali has back-flipped on its decision not to repay millions in JobKeeper funds after the company raked in massive profits during the pandemic.
The company last Thursday announced its first-half net profit had risen by almost $40.6million for the six months to December 31 as Australians turned to renovating their homes in droves during the Covid-19 crisis.
Nick Scali's bottom line was boosted by $3.6million in federal JobKeeper wage subsidies - a scheme designed to help struggling employers keep staff on their books.
Despite reporting a 99.5 per cent surge in net profit, the retailer did not reveal any plans to give the subsidy back to the Australian government.
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But on Monday evening the company reversed its decision and said it would refund every cent it had received in JobKeeper funds.
'The company is very appreciative of the federal government's JobKeeper policy which was highly successful and of great assistance at the height of the pandemic - enabling the company to provide security of employment during a particularly uncertain time,' Nick Scali's board said in a statement on Monday evening.
Nick Scali said JobKeeper had allowed the company to keep paying its staff during state government-mandated closures in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia in recent months.
'However, as highlighted in last week's announcement, the company fully recognises that it has benefited from the increased consumer confidence this program has created, which resulted in record sales and net profit after tax,' the statement said.
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Criticism of Nick Scali's original decision to withhold the funds was led by Shadow Assistant Minister Treasury Andrew Leigh.
'They've done extremely well, the Scali family has done extremely well,' he told.
'They simply didn't need taxpayer support and they should give it back to people who need it.
'Nick Scali's corporate social responsibility policy says the firm isn't just there for the shareholders, so if they really believe that they'd hand the money back.'
Nick Scali's investors this year are due to receive a fully-franked dividend of 40 cents per share.
That figure is better than the interim 2020 payout of 25 cents per share, fully franked.
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Whether to repay JobKeeper subsidies has been a divisive issue for companies which have profited during the pandemic.
Super Retail Group, the owner of BCF and Supercheap Auto, in January said it would repay $1.7 million in JobKeeper wage support.
Super Retail Group increased first-half net profit by 201 per cent to $173 million.
In its outlook commentary, Nick Scali said sales orders remained strong and were at record levels due to supplier delays.
The company said increasing profits were expected for the rest of the financial year.
Retailer Nick Scali will repay $3.6 million in JobKeeper payments .
Furniture retailer Nick Scali will give back $3.6 million in JobKeeper wage subsidies it received in the current financial year. © Provided by Smart Company Westfield The Nick Scali board announced the repayment in a statement on Monday night, just days after releasing its half-yearly results last week. Last Thursday, the retailer revealed its underlying net profit grew to $40.5 million, and sales increased by 24.4% to $171.1 million, for the six months to the end of December 2020. During the same six-month time period, Nick Scali received $3.