Revealed: Dozens of companies make profits after taking COVID-19 wage subsidy

Dozens of New Zealand's largest companies have collectively taken almost $400 million through the Government's wage subsidy, despite remaining profitable through the pandemic.

Analysis by Newshub found 36 businesses posted profits this year after taking $387 million - several, including Ryman Healthcare and Fulton Hogan, even paid dividends to shareholders.

"I think that's very unfair because if you're in a position to pay a dividend, you don't need the wage subsidy," said University of Auckland accounting professor Jilnaught Wong.

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Newshub also discovered foreign-owned companies that don't pay tax in New Zealand have taken the wage subsidy.

China Southern Airlines, Air China, and Lufthansa, collectively took hundreds of thousands of dollars. China Southern Airlines recent third-quarter profit was reportedly $150 million. 

As well as those Kiwi and tax-exempt companies, some of the most valuable, most profitable companies in the world have taken New Zealand's wage subsidy.

Adidas, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Mercedes-Benz, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, and Toyota collectively took $4.4 million.

Coca-Cola Amatil NZ claimed $7.1 million in the wage subsidy. It is wholly owned by Australian-based Coca-Cola Amatil, which reportedly posted a half-year-profit of $117 million. 

"They're sucking the cash out of New Zealand taxpayers to the benefit of their overseas shareholders," Wong told Newshub.

The analysis comes after Newshub revealed that the Finance Minister was warned in March that removing the original $150,000 cap to the wage subsidy could result in taxpayer money being wasted.

But Grant Robertson did not put in place rules to stop companies profiting after taking the subsidy.

"As long as people have obeyed the criteria and followed the rules, they are entitled to the money," Robertson said.

The Prime Minister is asking companies that are posting profits to repay it, but won't seek to recover the money.

"We're asking for those companies who have found themselves in a positive position at the end of the year, or coming out of COVID, to do the right thing. But [we] acknowledge that it was not part of the criteria," Jacinda Ardern said.

Wong told Newshub forgivable loans would have worked better.

"Ok we will give you a loan, and we will write it off if you continue to make a loss for that year. But if you do make a profit and you end up paying dividends, we'd like that money back thank you," Wong said.

The following companies have posted a profit, or signalled they will shortly, after taking the wage subsidy:

  • ArborGen
  • Auckland Airport
  • Downer
  • Enprise
  • Evolve Education
  • Fisher & Paykel Appliances
  • Fletcher Building
  • Fulton Hogan
  • Foley Wines
  • Freightways
  • Geneva Finance
  • Green Cross
  • Hallensteins Glassons
  • Harmoney 
  • Harvey Norman
  • Just Life Group
  • Kathmandu Group (+ Rip Curl)
  • Kiwi Property Group
  • Michael Hill
  • Metro Glass
  • Marlborough Wine Estates Group
  • NZ King Salmon
  • NZME
  • Oceania Healthcare
  • PGG Wrightson
  • Rakon
  • Restaurant Brands
  • Ryman Healthcare
  • Sanford
  • Skellerup
  • SkyCity
  • Summerset
  • The Warehouse Group
  • THL Tourism Holdings
  • TIL Logistics
  • Turners