Property developer AV Jennings keeps JobKeeper despite soaring profits

Property developer AV Jennings refuses to return its JobKeeper pay day.

Property developer AV Jennings refuses to return its JobKeeper pay day. Photo: TND

Property developer AV Jennings has come under pressure to repay $4.3 million in JobKeeper after its latest annual profit soared by 107 per cent.

But the ASX-listed company has confirmed it will not repay JobKeeper, despite booking $27.7 million in profits since dipping into the taxpayer purse between April and September last year.

Labor MP Andrew Leigh, who has led calls for companies to voluntarily repay JobKeeper to taxpayers, now says AV Jennings should cough up.

“AV Jennings claims to be one of Australia’s most trusted brands,” he said.  

“If it wants to keep that trust, it should do the right thing and voluntarily repay the $4.3 million that it clearly didn’t need.”

Taxpayers are still out of pocket after supporting the property developer, but its investors and executives are enjoying a huge payday.

The company has paid out $10.1 million in dividends to investors since qualifying for JobKeeper in March 2020, according to corporate reports.

And last month it unveiled a $703,000 executive bonus for the 2020-21 financial year.

AV Jennings is one of many large publicly listed real estate companies that are hanging onto JobKeeper despite posting strong COVID profits.

Others such as shopping centre owners Vicinity Centres and Lendlease also took JobKeeper without repaying a cent to taxpayers.

AV Jennings was forced to disclose its decision to keep JobKeeper in a notice to investors last week.

All JobKeeper companies must publish a notice before November 14.

This requirement is the result of an amendment to the Corporations Act that passed Parliament in September.

The government resisted pressure to publish a register of every company that took JobKeeper and instead legislated a requirement for public companies to disclose the subsidies.

More than $27 billion in JobKeeper was paid to companies with rising sales in the first six months of the program last year, according to Treasury data.

That is 38 per cent of the first $70 billion paid out under the program.

The government has not forced companies to repay JobKeeper, even if their profits or sales rose during the period they took from taxpayers.

CORRECTION, November 3, 2021:  A previous version of this article stated Mirvac had not returned any JobKeeper money. The company actually handed back $10.5 million in a partial repayment announced in April. 

Topics: Jobkeeper
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