Australia markets closed

Woolies' pub staff, Seven cop virus blows

Steven Deare
Woolworths is postponing the demerger of Endeavour having closed about 300 licensed venues

Woolworths has stood down 8,000 workers following the government ban on pubs, clubs and hotels while it has also postponed the separation and spin-off of its Endeavour division until 2021.

Woolworths on Tuesday said its trying to redeploy the staff from its Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group to other roles after government ordered hospitality venues to close to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

The supermarket giant said the venue closures, and changes to shopping behaviour at its stores, meant it could not estimate the impact of the virus on its full year financial results.

Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group operates 323 hotels, nightclubs, restaurants, cafes and sports bars.

A spokesman said 650 ALH employees had been offered roles at BWS, Dan Murphys and Woolworths.

Another 2,000 employees would receive offers in the next 24 hours.

The firm will also put is Endeavour Group demerger on ice after it had been given the go-ahead to restructure the $10 billion segment in December.

The spin-off of a separate unit featuring ALH, BWS and Dan Murphys was originally flagged for late 2020.

The announcements follow federal government orders on Monday to close many food and drink venues - where people gather - to close to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

These venues may still operate bottle shops and takeaway services.

Panic buying has led to a shortage of goods on supermarket shelves around Australia.

Mr Banducci said unprecedented demand had challenged the supply chain, but there were early signs of more moderate shopping behaviour.

Retail Food Group, which runs Gloria Jeans cafes, Donut King, Crust pizza outlets and more, scrapped its guidance but noted good sales at some stores.

Executive chairman Peter George said the Brumby's Bakery chain had strong sales over the past two weeks due to increasing demand.

Crust and Pizza Capers had demand for home delivery, while Di Bella Coffee had growth in online sales and groceries.

In other sectors, Seven West Media says the postponing of the Olympics and AFL competition, along with a falling advertising market, means it must scrap its earnings guidance.

The media group pays hefty fees to broadcast the two sporting competitions, which have this week been suspended due to coronavirus concerns.

Seven West said its rights payments for the Olympics would likely be deferred due to the revised scheduling.

However the media group may suffer cancellation costs from suppliers it engaged for Olympics coverage.

Meanwhile, Michael Hill Jeweller has shut its 304 stores around Australia, Canada and New Zealand for an indefinite period due to health concerns from the coronavirus.

The jeweller on Tuesday said it was acting in the health and safety interests of staff and customers, and fewer customers were visiting stores in Australia.

The decision to close stores in Australia and New Zealand follows the shuttering of those in Canada on March 20.

Staff will be stood down with access to leave, but management will cut corporate support jobs.

Michael Hill has postponed its interim dividend payment of 1.5 cents per share for six months.

The business continues to trade online.

Shaver Shop is another to withdraw its earnings guidance.

It also cancelled an interim dividend payment of 2.1 cents per share.

The economy did receive some help on Monday after federal parliament passed two sets of economic stimulus measures.

The first package was worth $17.6 billion, and the second worth $66 billion.

Jobseeker, youth allowance, parenting and special benefit payments will be boosted by $550 a fortnight.

In separate legislation, the government set aside a further $40 billion for urgent and unforeseen spending associated with the pandemic, likely to cause a recession.