Business stories of interest this week

Business stories from the past week, compiled by Jason Maywald:

1. Woolworths to ditch plastic bags early 


Woolworths will get in ahead of rival Coles by phasing out single-use plastic bags nationwide 10 days earlier than planned.

Shoppers at Woolworths supermarkets, BWS, Metro and petrol stations will no longer receive plastic bags from June 20. They will either have to bring their own or purchase thicker, reusable bags for 15 cents, or canvas bags for 99 cents.

Coles will stick with its previously announced July 1 end date coinciding with legislation coming into effect in Queensland, Victoria and WA, which will join South Australia, the ACT and Northern Territory in banning the bag.

NSW is the only state without legislation or a ban coming into effect, but Woolworths will withdraw bags voluntarily.


2. Murdoch offers to sell sky news to Disney to seal his $19b pay TV deal 

Rupert Murdoch ratcheted up the pressure on Britain to approve his $US15 billion ($18.9 billion) -plus bid for pay-TV group Sky by offering to sell or legally separate Sky News, aiming to head off objections the deal could give him too much political influence.

Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox said on Tuesday that Walt Disney Co was interested in buying Sky News. Alternatively, Fox said, Sky News could be legally separated within the Sky group.

Even if Fox’s proposals satisfy Britain’s government and competition regulator, however, it may still need to raise its recommended offer for Sky after US cable group Comcast Corp said it intended to make a higher counter-bid.


3. Is our great mobile rip-off about to end?

LIKE a lot of Australians, I find myself paying a lot more for my mobile service these days. What was once a simple $30 a month has bubbled upwards and upwards. Now it’s frighteningly close to three figures a month. I get a lot of value from it — don’t get me wrong — but I sure wouldn’t mind if my bill fell.

Luckily for us, it seems that might happen. New competition is coming that could blast the big incumbents out of their complacency and force a major round of price cuts. The Australian-owned internet provider TPG is making a huge push to take on the massive players of the industry.

Mobile phone service can be a lucrative game, as the following graph shows. The margins Telstra collected on its mobile business were around 40 per cent in the first half of this financial year, and they used to be even higher. That means if you paid $100 for your mobile service, $60 was the direct cost of supplying it.


4. H&M Australia slashes prices to clear stock as sales fall

Fast fashion chain H&M Australia is slashing prices to clear racks of old stock as increased competition and a growing backlash against disposable fashion take a toll on sales.

According to Hennes & Mauritz’s first quarter report, sales in Australia fell 12 per cent to 595 million Swedish krona ($93 million) in the three months ending February and were down 6 per cent in local currency terms.


5.  Spotify stock surges as it makes Wall Street debut 

Spotify Technology SA shares surged following the largest-ever direct listing on Tuesday, giving the world’s leading streaming music service a market value of nearly $US30 billion ($39 billion).

Shares opened at $US165.90, up nearly 26 per cent from a reference price of $US132 a share set by the on the New York Stock Exchange late on Monday. Spotify’s unusual route to publicly trading its shares via a direct listing rather than a more usual initial public offering will likely be watched by other companies tempted to list without selling new shares, and by bankers that could lose out on millions of dollars in future underwriting fees.