Same-sex marriage survey, Christmas parcel sales help boost Australia Post's earnings

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Two bride figurines adorn the top of a wedding cake during an illegal same-sex wedding ceremony in central Melbourne August 1, 2009.
Two bride figurines adorn the top of a wedding cake during an illegal same-sex wedding ceremony in central Melbourne August 1, 2009. Reuters/Mick Tsikas

Australia Post has reported a $217 million half-year profit with the help of last year’s same-sex marriage poll and Christmas parcel sales. The service declared on Tuesday that its net profit after tax climbed 65 percent in the first half of the financial year, which was also supported by property sales like the $150 million sale of the GPO.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation from its operating postal business rose only 1 percent to $349 million without those sales. The Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey resulted in a revenue surge in late 2017.

Christine Holgate, Australia Post's chief executive, said that letter volumes dropped 10 percent in the half and would have dropped by around another 1 percent if it weren't for the delivery of 16 million same-sex marriage survey answers and the return of 12.7 million.

Speaking to Fairfax Media, Holgate said the government-owned service welcomed the poll. “I think if there’s a postal god anywhere in the world it can give me a third survey,” she said. Holgate added that the profit is vulnerable and that change was urgently required.

Sydney Morning Herald reports that the same-sex marriage survey injected $26.3 million into the business. There were chances that its operating earnings would have gone backwards without the poll.

Revenue jumped by 3 percent. The 8 percent increase in parcel volumes, however, could not mask the 10 percent fall in addressed letter volumes which "would have experienced an even sharper decline."

Post's operating earnings climbed only 1 percent and delivered a slim dividend to the federal government. "We still only grew EBITDA by one per cent, that's what gives me concern," Holgate told the Australian Financial Review.

On Tuesday, she told a Parliamentary committee that if the unusual or one-off items are stripped out, profit drops but remains profitable. She also recognised that a number of privately owned licensed post offices were struggling financially, particularly those in regional areas.

Holgate has been meeting stakeholders, including the unions, since she began her role. She left Blackmores, an export-focused vitamins company, to take over from Ahmed Fahour as Australia Post CEO in October 2017. Australia Post paid a dividend to its owner, the Australian government.