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Harvey Norman returns $6m in JobKeeper funds to the Government

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Electronics and Home goods retailer Harvey Norman has repaid more than $6 million in Federal Government JobKeeper wage subsidies after it recorded a massive profit.

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The Gerry Harvey-led group in August returned to taxpayers all of the $6.02 million in wages and support collected since the coronavirus pandemic began in March last year.

It had received $2.39 million in 2019/20 and $3.63 million in 2020/21. Another $14 million in JobKeeper funds was received by franchises.

“All of the wages support and assistance … was repaid to the Federal Government via the Australian Taxation Office,” the company said as it released its full-year results on Tuesday.

Chairman Harvey had previously defended his decision to retain the funds despite repeated calls by unions and others that it be repaid.

They had argued the money was supposed to help struggling businesses get through the COVID-19 crisis and retain their staff, and Harvey Norman was not viewed as struggling.

Harvey Norman on Tuesday posted a “solid” lift in annual profit with Mr Harvey praising the group’s ability to navigate the coronavirus pandemic.

Net profit for 2020/21 rose to $841 million, including outlet property valuations, and was up 75 per cent from the previous financial year.

Excluding valuations, the result was $743 million, up 63 per cent.

System sales, including group-owned and franchisee outlets, totalled almost $10 billion.

“The solid results delivered … is a testament to the strength and resilience of (the group) … and its ability to adapt and transition to the challenging retail landscape and continue to navigate the uncertainties presented by COVID-19,” Mr Harvey said.

“Customers continue to engage strongly with our brands.”

Harvey said state and territory lockdowns in Australia had impacted the group’s sales in the first two months of the 2021/22 financial year.

“However, we expected spending to recover quickly as we saw when lockdown restrictions were eased in our overseas markets due to pent up demand,” he said.

Shareholders will be paid a final dividend of 15 cents per share, taking the total payout for the year to 35 cents which is up from 24 cents in the 2019/20 year.

Harvey Norman shares were down 3.06 per cent to $5.39 at 1111 AEST.

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