Category: Retail / Company News / Business, Economics and Finance

Harvey Norman rejects shareholder claims over lack of transparency

Monday, 14 Nov 2016 13:58:33 | Thuy Ong

Billionaire retailer Gerry Harvey has rejected shareholder claims of a lack of transparency over his franchisees' financial accounts at the company's annual general meeting.

The Australian Shareholders Association (ASA) wants regulator ASIC to investigate Harvey Norman over $943 million worth of loans to franchisees in financial difficulty that was disclosed in the company's 2016 annual report.

During the AGM, the head of the electronics retailer got into a heated exchange with the ASA's NSW company monitoring chair Allan Goldin, referring to him as like a "stooge" when questioned about the independence of the company's board.

"I totally totally reject all of that. We are one of the most honest public companies you'll find out there," Mr Harvey told ABC News after the meeting.

"We've got a long record of being one of the most public companies out there. Our growth has been fantastic over the years."

Mr Harvey blamed a short-seller on the claims.

"There's a short-seller out there, he's sold the shares, he's lost a lot of money … he's alleging things that are totally untrue," Mr Harvey said.

"The better thing would be that ASIC go out and investigate this bloke, bring him into their offices and say: 'How many shares did you sell in Harvey Norman, who did you represent that sold shares in Harvey Norman?'"

Harvey Norman has a total of 673 franchisees in Australia. The retailer reported a quarterly profit before tax of $115.6 million, an increase of 25.9 per cent from the same period the year before.

But the ASA said there was a lack of independence on Harvey Norman's board and that it was a "private company masquerading as a public one".

"We've heard from other people, we've talked to other people, we've talked to auditors," Mr Goldin said in an interview with the ABC.

"We really would think that ASIC should be going and taking a look at it just so that we know what's the case. If ASIC says it's great, fine. Good."

Other shareholders at the meeting told the ABC they were unfazed by the claims, saying they were happy with the company's performance and profits.

"The franchises are really lucky Harvey Norman provides the support they do," shareholder Tony Mitchell said.

"These topics have been discussed before."

Shares in Harvey Norman have fallen from their eight-year high of $5.45 in September. It lost 3.4 per cent today to $4.54.


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