Arise, Sir Richard on a Flying Roo

Arise, Sir Richard on a Flying Roo

It was a case of the bearded English entrepreneur who got away. Unveiling Qantas’s new advertising campaign on Friday, its executive manager of marketing, Lewis Pullen, said he spotted Richard Branson board one of the Flying Roo’s planes in Auckland during the Rugby World Cup last year. ”I saw Branson get on a Qantas plane coming back from the World Cup and I tried to take his photo,” he said. ”I wished I could have got that photo.”

He recalled the event after he was asked whether he would be willing to put the name of Virgin Australia’s biggest shareholder on one of its planes as part of its new advertising campaign. ”That would be great. It would be a wonderful story,” he said.

Qantas’s new campaign, which relies heavily on social media, involves adding ”ns” to its tagline the ”Spirit of Australia” on an A380 and a Boeing 737 aircraft (so it now reads ”Spirit of Australians”).

In the next fortnight, Qantas will give hundreds of Australians a chance to have their name emblazoned on the side of one of the planes.

Pullen was keen to dispel the ”elephant in the room” that Qantas would ditch its ”I still call Australia home” tagline. He made it clear that Qantas will be saving the ”quasi-national anthem” for special events, like the Olympics, rather than trotting it out on more regular occasions.

Virgin, meanwhile, put its own spin on the sighting of Sir Richard. A spokeswoman confirmed that the Virgin founder had flown on Qantas in the past because he ”often wants to check out the competitors”.

”He loves it because he likes to see the difference between them and us,” she said.

Half-baked beans

There appears to be a wonky calculator on the loose in the Taxation Office. Let’s just hope the ATO is more accurate in its assessment of the appropriate level of franking in dividends than some of the examples provided in a long-awaited ruling last week.

In a ruling on Thursday that is sure to please most company bean counters in their busiest period of the year, and retirees who are increasingly dependent on dividend income, the ATO announced significant changes to the tax treatment of dividends.

The ruling, which could affect whether dividends can be paid and or franked by companies with accumulated losses, offered numerous examples on how the new rules would be applied.

In one example, in the ruling of a hypothetical company called Upwey Ltd, the ATO showed its arithmetic prowess by calculating that $190 of share capital, added with minus $40 of accumulated losses plus $30 of ”permanent and unrealised capital profit reserve” equalled $280 of total equity.

Then there was the example of Pilbara Ltd. The ATO calculated the company’s $100 of assets and $30 of property plant and equipment added up to $100. Some companies caught out with typographical errors in their accounts might be asking the taxman to be a little more forgiving this season.

Friend or foe?

One newspaper proprietor seems to be taking the troubles at Fairfax Media, the publisher of this column, particularly hard. ”I hope they find their way through,” News Corporation’s head honcho, Rupert Murdoch, said at a media conference on Friday, when his company announced the planned separation of its entertainment and publishing businesses.

”I am aware of the situation at Fairfax and I do not want our papers to become monopolies,” Murdoch explained about the tricky position that his newspapers such as the NT News and The Australian could be put in if they had no rivals competing for advertising dollars and readers.

”That would make us a great political target,” he said.

Murdoch’s new found empathy for Fairfax was on show early last week when he tweeted: ”Understand lefties worried about Gina [Rinehart].”

The last highly publicised comment Murdoch made about Fairfax was in March when he tweeted his views on a story published in The Australian Financial Review about past shenanigans at one of News Corp’s subsidiaries that allegedly promoted high-tech piracy that damaged the profits of its pay-TV rivals.

”Proof you can’t trust anything in Australian Fairfax papers, unless you are just another crazy,” Murdoch tweeted.

Nice timing

The ”hoax” $1.65 billion takeover bid for David Jones is not all bad news.

On Friday, the department store operator said that ”a UK blog site has released the name of EB Private Equity (EBPE) as the party that has made an approach to David Jones Limited to acquire the company”.

Earlier in the day, David Jones’s chairman, Bob Savage, noted how the company had received a ”letter” (aka, an email) from the takeover suitor, which left no telephone number.

At least the takeover ”offer”, which helped DJs’ shares to rise 15 per cent on the last business day of the financial year, would have pleased some fund managers keen to repair their battered portfolios.

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