The world’s richest 1% are becoming richer – and it does not look like stopping soon

The Occupy movement that started in 2011 focusing on world wealth inequality.

Photo: Bloomberg

The global elite currently control around 50 per cent of wealth world wide, but that is likely to keep going up, the Commons research, commissioned by Labour MP Liam Byrne, stated.

If trends seen since the 2008 financial crash were to continue, the report notes, the mentioned 1 per cent will control 64 per cent of global wealth in only 12 years time.

According to the Guardian, which first reported the statistics, the wealth of the richest 1 per cent “has been growing at an average of 6 per cent a year – much faster than the 3 per cent growth in wealth of the remaining 99 per cent of the world’s population,” since the world financial crisis.

If the trend continues, the 1 per cent will have a total net worth of $US305 trillion ($393 trillion), more than double the $US140 trillion they now control in 2018.

“If we don’t move quickly to rewrite the rules of how our economies work, then we condemn ourselves to a future that remains unequal for good,” Byrne, the report’s commissioner said.

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Most of the rise in wealth over the past year has been in the value of assets, mainly the family home, after a property boom centred on Sydney and Melbourne.

Australia now has 1.16m millionaires, according to Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report

“That’s morally bad, and economically disastrous, risking a new burst in instability, corruption and poverty.”

Last year, Swiss lender Credit Suisse published a report which found that the world’s richest 1 per cent of families and individuals already hold over half of global wealth, and argued that inequality is still getting worse almost a decade after the worst global recession since the 1930s.

“The bottom half of adults collectively own less than 1 per cent of total wealth, the richest decile (top 10 per cent of adults) owns 88 per cent of global assets, and the top percentile alone accounts for half of total household wealth,” the Credit Suisse report said.

Put another way: “The top 1 per cent own 50.1 per cent of all household wealth in the world.”

Henry Sapiecha

World’s richest 1 per cent have double wealth of rest of us combined, says Oxfam

The world’s richest 1 per cent have more than twice the wealth of the rest of humanity combined, according to Oxfam, which called on governments to adopt “inequality-busting policies”.

In a report published ahead of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, the UK-based charity said governments are “massively under-taxing” rich individuals and corporations, and under-funding public services.

Oxfam’s Time to Care report also highlighted gender-based economic disparities, saying women and girls were burdened with disproportionate responsibility for care work and fewer economic opportunities.

Mark Zuckerberg - the fifth-richest person in the world - had the highest boost in wealth last year, with a net gain of about $US6 billion.

Mark Zuckerberg – the fifth-richest person in the world – had the highest boost in wealth last year, with a net gain of about $US6 billion.Credit:Bloomberg

“Economic inequality is out of control,” with 2153 billionaires having more wealth than 4.6 billion people in 2019, it said.

“Our broken economies are lining the pockets of billionaires and big business at the expense of ordinary men and women,” said Oxfam India chief executive Amitabh Behar. “No wonder people are starting to question whether billionaires should even exist.”

Billionaires’ fortunes

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How America’s Walton family clan spend their incredible Walmart fortune

They are the family behind the biggest department store, but somehow, the Walton clan have largely flown under the radar for decades.

That’s despite being the world’s wealthiest family, with a $191 billion ($A281 billion) fortune.

And according to Bloomberg, it’s a fortune that’s growing — fast.

“The numbers are mind-boggling: $70,000 ($A103,000) per minute, $4 million ($A5.8 million) per hour, $100 million per day,” the publication reports.

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“That’s how quickly the fortune of the Waltons, the clan behind Walmart Inc, has been growing since last year’s Bloomberg ranking of the world’s richest families.

“At that rate, their wealth would’ve expanded about $23,000 ($A33,868) since you began reading this. A new Walmart associate in the US would’ve made about 6 cents in that time, on the way to an $11 ($A16) hourly minimum.”

It also revealed the family’s “jarring” and “near-unprecedented” wealth had soared by $39 billion since June 2018.

Jim, John and Rob Walton with their mother Helen in 1997.

But who are the mysterious Walton family, and how did they amass such a “jarring” stack of cash?

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Boss gives herself an enormous $466m payday

DENISE  Coates is richer than the prime minister of England and even Sir Richard Branson himself.

And last year, she paid herself a whopping £265 ($A466) million slice out of her company’s £525 ($A923) million profit.

According to Metro, the billionaire boss of online gambling company Bet365 was earning the equivalent of almost £726,000 ($A1.2 million) per day in 2017.

Denise Coates is one of the highest paid executives in the world.

Denise Coates is richer than Richard Branson. Picture: Alex Severn/Bet365/PA

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At 34, Akiko has jumped from job to job – Now she owns a company worth $313m

By the age of 34, Akiko Naka has already experienced more career-wise than most people do in a lifetime.

She started by getting hired by Goldman Sachs, where she worked as an equity saleswoman. When she left that job, she tried to make it as a professional manga comic artist. When that didn’t work out, she landed a job at Facebook.

And not content to leave it at that, she quit to establish her own company, a recruiting social network called Wantedly Inc. She took it public on the Tokyo Stock Exchange last year, and is one of the youngest women to head a Japanese listed company.

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This 24-year-old university dropout now runs a $6.9 billion international company

Finding clean, affordable hotels in India can be a traveller’s hideous nightmare. Too often, what looks great on a website turns out to be a disapointing roach-infested room in a crumbling old building where water has to be schlepped to the bathroom in a bucket.

Ritesh Agarwal got the idea for Oyo while travelling India on a shoestring budget and lodging at some questionable guesthouses.

Photo: Bloomberg

Ritesh Agarwal’s solution is a booking app that promises truth in advertising and branded hotels that don’t deliver unpleasant surprises. The chain he started in 2013, Oyo Hotels, has already become the largest in India, a chaotic market worth $US4.5 billion ($6.2 billion), according to New Delhi-based researcher Hotelivate.

Now Agarwal is going overseas with his franchise model, which combines a reservation site with a full stack of services for small hoteliers who want to up their game. Yesterday the company said it’s raising $US1 billion from SoftBank Vision Fund, Sequoia Capital and other investors to fund expansion in countries including China, where Oyo opened in November. Last week it started service in the UK, bringing the business to a developed market for the first time.

“By 2023, we will be the world’s largest hotel chain,” the 24-year-old founder said in a recent interview at an Oyo hotel in a suburb of New Delhi, where the company is based.

“We want to convert broken, unbranded assets around the globe into better-quality living spaces.”

Makeovers

Oyo employs hundreds of staffers in the field who evaluate properties on 200 factors, from the quality of mattresses and linens to water temperature. To get a listing, along with a bright red Oyo sign to hang street-side like a seal of good-housekeeping approval, most hoteliers must agree to a makeover that typically takes around 30 days or so. Oyo then gets 25 per cent of every booking. Rooms usually run between $US25 and $US85.

Why let university interfere with my education?

Ritesh Agarwal

“Oyo is going all out to build a very large base of hotel partners and become a bona-fide brand,” said Mrigank Gutgutia, an analyst with RedSeer Management Consulting. “Their app model works well because price-conscious travellers who search by location like to feel they have lots of choices.”

Agarwal wouldn’t disclose sales nfigures, but he said the number of transactions has tripled in the last year, with 90 per cent coming from repeat travellers — and no money spent on advertising. There are now 10,000 hotels in 160 Indian cities, with in excess of 125,000 rooms, listed on the site, he said. That’s about 5 per cent of India’s total room inventory, according to RedSeer estimates.

“Over 150,000 heads rest on our pillows every night,” said Agarwal, a trim man who tugs at a sore ear as he talks. Constant airplane travel has given him an ear ache–one unwanted side effect of the company’s hyper growth.

Dirty sheets

Not everyone is happy with the Oyo experience. Payal Gupta, a recent guest, was disappointed by her stay at a place near Delhi Airport, which she said felt like a house that had been hurriedly converted into a hotel. The sheets were dirty and the bathroom was cramped. “It isn’t enough to have Oyo-branded shampoo and moisturiser,” she said.

Oyo has become India’s biggest hotel company. Photo: AP

Gutgutia, the RedSeer analyst, said the company will need a steady stream of capital and an army of people on the ground to maintain standards. “Sustaining a high-quality experience could be a real challenge,” he said.

Indian startups have been on a tear recently, with more than a dozen worth now more than $US1 billion, according to researcher CB Insights. Walmart last month paid $US16 billion for a majority stake in Flipkart, an online retailer founded in 2007.

To get a listing, along with a bright red Oyo sign to hang street-side like a seal of good-housekeeping approval, most hoteliers must agree to a makeover that typically takes about a month. Photo: Bloomberg

The funding announced yesterday by Oyo values the business at $US5 billion , according to a person familiar with the deal who asked not to be identified. That makes the startup India’s second most-valuable, after One97 Communications, owner of Paytm, a digital payments company with financial backing from Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

A college dropout in a country where university pedigree is obsessed over, Agarwal has become an unlikely business legend, with frequent appearances on televised award shows and a cover story last year in Forbes of India.

Agarwal says he never stayed at a hotel until he was picked to represent his school at a trivia competition held in a town a few hours away from home when he was 12. He got the idea for Oyo a few years later, while traveling India on a shoestring budget and lodging at some truly horrible guest houses. It wasn’t enough to aggregate hotels on a website, you also had to repair them, he realised. To learn the hotel business from the ground up, he spent a year cleaning rooms at one of them.

In 2013, he got a $US100,000 fellowship from Peter Thiel, the PayPal co-founder who subsidises students who drop out to start their own companies. The big break came in 2015, when he got $US100 million in venture funding from investors including Silicon Valley’s Sequoia Capital and Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp.

Agarwal got a $US100,000 fellowship from PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, who subsidises students who drop out to start their own companies.

Photo: Bloomberg

In November, Agarwal brought the OYO business to China, starting with a single listing in the industrial city of Shenzen. Now, less than a year later, travellers in the world’s most populous country can choose from more than 1,000 Oyo-branded hotels and 87,000 rooms in over 170 Chinese cities.

For Agarwal, though, there’s still a small hitch. He says his mother keeps nagging him to take a break from the business and go back to college. “But why let university interfere with my education?” he said with a contented laugh.

Bloomberg

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Henry Sapiecha

USA Jury orders J&J to pay $4.7 billion in Missouri asbestos cancer case to victims

(Reuters) – A Missouri jury on Thursday ordered Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) to pay a record $4.69 billion to 22 women who alleged the company’s talc-based products, including its baby powder, contain asbestos and caused them to develop ovarian cancer.

FILE PHOTO: A bottle of Johnson and Johnson Baby Powder is seen in a photo illustration taken in New York, February 24, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/Illustration

The verdict is the largest J&J has faced to date over allegations that its talc-based products cause cancer.

The company is battling some 9,000 talc cases. J&J denies both that its talc products cause cancer and that they ever contained asbestos. It says decades of studies show its talc to be safe and has successfully overturned previous talc verdicts on technical legal grounds.

Thursday’s massive verdict, handed down in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, was comprised of $550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages, according to an online broadcast of the trial by Courtroom View Network.

J&J in a statement called the trial “fundamentally unfair” and said it would appeal the flawed decision.

J&J shares fell $1.31, or 1 percent, to $126.45 in after-hours trading following the punitive damages award. They had risen $1.52 during regular trading.

The jury’s decision followed more than five weeks of testimony by nearly a dozen experts from both sides.

The women and their families said decades-long use of Baby Powder and other cosmetic talc products caused their diseases. They allege the company knew its talc was contaminated with asbestos since at least the 1970s but failed to advise consumers about the risks.

“Johnson & Johnson is deeply disappointed in the verdict, which was the product of a fundamentally unfair process,” the company said in a statement. The company said it remained confident that its products do not contain asbestos or cause cancer.

“Every verdict against Johnson & Johnson in this court that has gone through the appeals process has been reversed and the multiple errors present in this trial were far worse than those in the previous trials which have been reversed,” J&J added, saying that it would pursue all available appellate remedies.

J&J has successfully overturned talc verdicts in the past, with appeals courts pointing to a 2017 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that limits where personal injury lawsuits can be filed.

Of the 22 women in the St. Louis trial, 17 were from outside Missouri, a state usually regarded as friendly towards plaintiffs. The practice of combining plaintiffs in such jurisdictions, commonly criticized as “forum shopping” by defendants, will be challenged on appeal.

Mark Lanier, the lawyer for the women, in a statement following the verdict called on J&J to pull its talc products from the market “before causing further anguish, harm, and death from a terrible disease.”

“If J&J insists on continuing to sell talc, they should mark it with a serious warning,” Lanier said.

The majority of the lawsuits that J&J faces iare about claims that talc itself caused ovarian cancer, but a smaller number of cases allege that contaminated talc caused mesothelioma, a tissue cancer closely linked to asbestos exposure.

The cases that went to trial in St. Louis effectively combine those claims by alleging asbestos-contaminated talc had caused ovarian cancer.

Previous talc trials have produced verdicts as large as $417 million. But that 2017 verdict by a California jury, as well as other verdicts in Missouri, was overturned on appeal, and challenges to at least another five verdicts are yet to be determined through the courts.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioned a study of various talc samples from 2009 to 2010, including of J&J’s Baby Powder. No asbestos elements were found in any of the talc powder samples, the agency said.

But Lanier during the trial told jurors that the agency and other laboratories and J&J have used flawed testing methods that did not allow for the adequate detection of asbestos fibers.

Talc, the world’s softest rock, is a mineral closely connected to asbestos and the two substances can appear in close proximity in the earth.

Plaintiffs claim the two can become intermingled in the extraction process, making it almost impossible to remove the carcinogenic substance. J&J denies those allegations, saying rigorous testing and purification processes ensure its talc is clean.

Reporting by Tina Bellon in New York; editing by Leslie Adler and Rosalba O’Brien

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Henry Sapiecha

Fundbox set up to Be PayPal for Small Businesses

ooo

Technology keeps making it easier to separate you from your money. PayPal enabled you to easily send money via the internet. Square allowed businesses to use a smartphone to accept your credit card. Apple Pay and Android Pay flipped this idea on its head and let you pay with your phone instead of a card.

Despite this innovation in how consumers can pay businesses, the way businesses pay each other hasn’t changed much. San Francisco startup Fundbox wants to give businesses another option.

The company already offers loans to small businesses, tapping into the businesses’ bank and accounting software to decide whether to lend. Its new service, Fundbox Pay, is essentially a combination of a credit card and a payment system like PayPal for small businesses.

The idea is simple, but it takes some explaining. Many small companies extend credit to other businesses. A wholesaler, for example, might ship flour to a bakery with the expectation of getting paid 30 or 60 days later. The wholesaler, likewise, buys from its own suppliers on credit. But what happens if a bill from a supplier comes due while the wholesaler is still waiting on payments from bakeries?

That’s not uncommon. The typical small business only has enough cash to pay 27 days of its usual bills, according to a study by JP Morgan Chase. As a result, many take out loans to cover these payments.

Fundbox is trying to solve this problem by playing the role of a typical credit-card provider. In our hypothetical example, the flour wholesaler would offer Fundbox Pay as a payment option. The baker would apply for credit from Fundbox. If it’s accepted, Fundbox would pay the wholesaler, minus a 2.9 percent fee. The wholesaler gets paid more quickly, and collecting from the baker becomes Fundbox’s problem.

Fundbox estimates that small and medium businesses-to-business payments are a $5 to $10 trillion market in the US.

Of course, small businesses can already take out loans and credit cards from banks from to pay suppliers—if they can get credit. There’s more demand than supply for small business credit right now, says Karen Mills, a senior fellow at Harvard Business School and former administrator of the US Small Business Administration, especially since the financial crisis of 2008. “During the great recession, a lot of banks pulled their lines of credit for small businesses as they tried reduce their exposure to risks” she says.

Alenka Grealish, an analyst at Celent, says banks are reluctant to lend amounts smaller than $100,000 because of the costs associated with underwriting loans. “The traditional system is human and paper based,” she says. “Businesses provide business plans and financial statements in PDF or on paper, and it all has to be entered into a system.” It ends up costing a bank hundreds of dollars just to decide whether or not to lend a business money, regardless of the size of the loan. So it makes sense for banks to focus on larger dollar amounts that generate more profit when they’re paid off.

Fundbox and other startups like Kabbage, on the other hand, simplify the process by extracting data directly from a business’s bank and accounting software and using machine learning algorithms to predict whether a business will pay up. Fundbox head of communications Tim Donovan says the company has a less than 1 percent loss rate on its existing loan products.

Fundbox COO Prashant Fuloria believes that Fundbox Pay could help its algorithms become more accurate, as the company is able to gain more insight into the relationships between different companies, creating a “small business graph” not unlike Facebook’s social graph.


Credit Check

  • Fundbox was among several online lenders that debuted earlier in this decade.
  • Electronic-payments company Square supports merchants selling online as well as offline.
  • Affirm aims to bring more transparency to business lending.

Probably Apple will become the world’s first trillion-dollar company this year

During the dot-com-crazed 1990s, Cisco Systems became the world’s most valuable company. By many it was expected to become the first company to hit a trillion-dollar market value, it made it barely halfway there. When the technology sector peaked in March 2000, Cisco had a capitalisation close to $US550 billion.

From those glory days, the entire technology sector imploded. Cisco fared even worse than the Nasdaq, losing 87 per cent from its zenith to its nadir. Today, some 18 years later, Cisco is worth about $US221 billion ($277.7 billion); its average annual compounded returns from those lofty heights is a negative minus 2.17 per cent per year, including reinvested dividends.

The world, it seems, would have to wait a while for its first true trillion-dollar market capitalisation company.

I was discussing this with a friend earlier this week. Apple is inching toward that trillion-dollar mark (its valuation hovers around $US900 billion). Prior to the recent 12 per cent market swoon, Apple had been trading at an all-time high of $US180.10 per share. As of this week, it eclipsed that, recovering all of that February drawdown.

The trend suggests that sometime this year, Apple will become America’s first trillion-dollar company. What will drive the move to a trillion dollars?

Consider these four factors as key to Apple’s continued upward momentum:

1. Share repurchases: Since 2012, when management first announced its intentions to do big share buybacks, Apple has shrunk its outstanding publicly traded shares considerably. As of 2013, there were 6.6 billion shares available to the public. Today, that count stands at a little over 5.07 billion shares – a 23.2 per cent reduction.

Apple’s board of directors had most recently authorised a $US210 billion share-repurchase program that is expected to be completed by March 2019, according to Apple investor relations. That was before the very corporate friendly 2017 tax reform bill was passed. One would expect that bill will encourage even more share repurchases. We should not be surprised to see a 10 or even 20 per cent share count reduction over the next five years.

What is the effect of reducing share count? It makes the earnings of each share greater proportionately. At the same price, higher earnings equal a lower price-to-earnings ratio, and the company appears cheaper. This could have the impact of enticing value buyers, including…

2. Warren Buffett: The famous value investor has been notoriously tech averse throughout his career. His recent announcement that he is out of IBM and into Apple in a big way surprised a few people.

SANTA MONICA, CA – SEPTEMBER 6: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveils new Kindle reading devices at a press conference on September 6, 2012 in Santa Monica, California. Amazon unveiled the Kindle Paperwhite and the Kindle Fire HD in 7 and 8.9-inch sizes. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Buffett said Apple is now Berkshire Hathaway’s second biggest holding (after troubled serial fraudster Wells Fargo); Apple was the stock Buffett’s investment firm bought the most of in 2017. Although he claims he still has confidence in Wells Fargo, he cut his stake last year; don’t be surprised to see Berkshire’s Wells holdings get further reduced.

Buffett’s loyal devotees often follow his lead, and are likely to add Apple to their portfolio of value stocks.

3. Index buyers: The past decade has seen indexing go from a modest niche to one of the most popular styles of investing. The explosive gains in assets under management for Vanguard ($US5 trillion) and Blackrock ($US6 trillion) attest to the power of passive investing.

Apple is the biggest company in the Standard & Poor 500, the Nasdaq 100 and the Dow Jones Industrial average — three of the best-known, most-followed indices. As such it captures the flow into index holdings, whenever markets rise. Apple accounts for almost 4 per cent of the S&P 500 (its market cap is about $US23 trillion); 4.9 per cent of the price-weighted Dow; and over a whopping 11 per cent of the Nasdaq 100 ($US7.85 trillion).

4. New products: A slew of new and upgraded products are in the making. These usually direct the next cycle in Apple’s revenue, profits and ultimately price. New services, iPhones, AirPods, wireless chargers, over-the-ear headphones and home devices could be the spark that adds the next $US100 billion in market cap.

I know, there are skeptics. There has been lots of skepticism about Apple for literally decades. The Mac site Daring Fireball has kept a running list of “claim chowder” — all of the bad reviews of iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, etc. that (incorrectly) forecasted disastrous sales. I see no reason this time is any different.

What factors could derail seeing a huge T in Apple’s market capitalisation? Two quickly to mind:

The market not falling in line: We tend to forget that the overall market and a company’s sector are responsible for about two-thirds of its gains. If tech falls out of favour, or if the overall market rolls over, it will put a trillion dollars out of reach for Apple.

Apple comes in second: The most likely challenger in the race to a trillion would be Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com. It has a market cap of $US732 billion dollars — and an infinitely higher valuation — so it has a tougher road to travel. But I would not put anything past Bezos & Co., and it would not be the first time they saw a 35 per cent gain in a year.

Cisco jinx be damned, I predict a better than 40 per cent chance that Apple’s trillion-dollar valuation will occur this year.2018.

Bloomberg

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Henry Sapiecha

Google loses crown to Amazon as world’s most valuable brand.Yes or No..? Junk bonds for Amazon or not?

The most valuable brand in the world is no longer Google, with Amazon taking top spot in a long-running global ranking of the top companies.

The global search giant fell to third place in 2018 on the Brand Finance Global 500 report, despite increasing its brand value by more than $US11 billion ($13.7 billion), leaving it tens of billions of dollars behind retail giant Amazon and tech company Apple.

Apple increased its brand value by almost $US40 billion over the year to $US146 billion and Amazon jumped about 40 per cent to a $US151 billion ($187.5 billion) value.

Amazon, which launched in Australia in December, has been given the permission of stakeholders to “extend relentlessly into new sectors and geographies”, Brand Finance chief executive David Haigh said.

This is the first year since the study began in 2007 that all top five companies have been in the technology sector. The ranking estimates the net economic benefit the company owner would achieve by licensing its brand.

Ranking Brand value ($US million)
Amazon 1 150,811
Apple 2 146,311
Google 3 120,911
Samsung 4 92,289
Facebook 5 89,684
AT&T 6 82,422
Microsoft 7 81,163
Verizon 8 62,826
Walmart 9 61,480
ICBC 10 59,189
Source: Brand Finance Global 500, 2018

Korean brand Samsung, one of only two non-American companies in the top 10, increased its ranking from sixth to fourth. Facebook rounded out the top five.

In Australia, the top brand name was telecommunications company Telstra, despite the company experiencing a significant drop in market value over the year.

Australia’s 10 most valuable brands

TelstraCommonwealth BankANZWoolworthsColesNABWestpacBHPOptusRio Tinto0200040006000800010000120001400016000($ millions)
Source: Brand Finance Australia 100

This is the third year Telstra has been ranked first, now 120th globally, after a 13.6 per cent increase in brand value.With a brand worth $US12.4 billion ($15.4 billion) Telstra has a $US4 billion lead over Commonwealth Bank and ANZ in second and third spots.

Media and chief marketing officer for the 100-year-old telco brand Joe Pollard said the company was pleased with the result.

“Everything we do has a direct impact on the way our customers experience modern life”, she said.

She flagged customer service as an area at the top of its list for future improvements.

Telstra’s brand is worth more than four times that of its nearest competitor Optus, which maintained its ranking at ninth place with a $4.91 billion brand value up from $4.1 billion in 2017.

Australia’s top 10 brands included a mixture of telcos, banks, mining companies and the big two retailers – Coles and Woolworths.

Prior to 2015, Woolworths was in top spot.

Brand Finance Australia managing director Mark Crowe said the two “exceptional performers” were Qantas and Harvey Norman – both ranked top for brand strength, despite lower rankings for overall brand value.

Brand strength is a measure of how much the brand contributes to the overall revenue for the business.

The “strongest” Australian brand, based on marketing investment and stakeholder equity, was the Commonwealth Bank.

Amazon and Google have been contacted for comment.

ooo

Henry Sapiecha