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Profits down, portfolio up: How one of Australia’s richest men beat the pandemic

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Profits down, portfolio up: How one of Australia’s richest men beat the pandemic

by Sam O Connor 04 December 2020 1 minute read

While one of Australia’s richest men, Harry Triguboff, did suffer a major slump in after-tax profit as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Meriton investment portfolio, including serviced apartment, is up a staggering 28 per cent.

Profits down, portfolio up: How one of Australia’s richest men beat the pandemic
December 04, 2020

The pandemic has undoubtedly shed a few dollars off Meriton Properties, with financial documents lodged with the corporate regulator this week revealing a 95 per cent slump in after-tax profit to $19.4 million for fiscal 2020, compared with earnings of $356 million a year earlier.   

Meriton’s revenue contracted by $300 million to $1.45 billion as sales of apartments slowed and occupancy rates at the giant’s serviced apartments fell.

But the Meriton balance sheet reveals a net asset base of $4.2 billion, up from $4.19 billion a year earlier, with more than $3.22 billion in land and buildings.

The number of investment units it owns, including serviced apartments, now sits at 11,591 units, up 28 percent, while the number of units in various stages of development has been boosted by 44 per cent to 12,871.

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“While the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted sales, serviced apartments and rental markets in the short term, the group is on track to return to pre-COVID-19 levels by 30 June 2021,” a note in the financial report advised.

Rent returns did suffer, however, dropping to $447 million from $481 million, but signalling hopes of returning rental units into short-term stays as pandemic interim leases rolled off.

Earlier this year, Mr Triguboff made the decision to switch 1,200 units from the company’s serviced apartment business in Sydney into longer-term rentals as the pandemic began to impact travel.

“When the leases expire or they want to go, I take it back into serviced apartments,” he is quoted as saying.

Long before Mr Triguboff earned the moniker “High-rise Harry” or scored billing as the richest property tycoon in the country, he was just another first home buyer grappling to enter the market when Sydney was at the peak of a housing boom.

His company, Meriton, dates back to 1963 and was named after his first solo property development foray in Gladesville.

On advice from a friend, he decided to develop a block of flats in Sydney’s inner west.

In 1963, he bought a block of land and built eight small apartments.

He didn’t know it back then, but that modest development set in motion his trajectory and kick-started a trend in high-rise living, which would change Australia’s urban landscape. 

Today, it has built one in 10 Sydney apartments, and some of the tallest residential towers in Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

He spent his early childhood in the Jewish community in Tianjin, and in 1947, moved to Australia to be educated in Sydney. He later graduated with a degree in textiles from the University of Leeds in England, before working in textile businesses in Israel and South Africa.

He returned to Australia in 1950 and became an Australian citizen in 1961. He did a variety of odd jobs, including running a taxi fleet and owning a milk round in Chatswood. He tried selling real estate and worked as an assistant to a lecturer at university but wasn’t so successful at either. He then bought some land in Roseville and hired a builder to begin building his house. The builder repeatedly let him down, so Mr Triguboff threw him out and finished the job himself, learning from his mistakes.

Profits down, portfolio up: How one of Australia’s richest men beat the pandemic
Profits down, portfolio up: How one of Australia’s richest men beat the pandemic
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