Economy

Vocation backs chief executive against dissident; Westpac’s massive $7.6 billion profit: Midday Roundup

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The board of Vocation has expressed full confidence in its chief executive, Mark Hutchinson, after the company’s largest shareholder and founder dramatically demanded his removal from the job.

The demands come in the wake of a 60% crash in the embattled education and training provider’s share price. Vocation founder Brett Whitford – who holds 8.9% of the company – is calling for Hutchinson’s removal as part of an aggressive management shake-up. He also calls for an extraordinary general meeting if the board does not act swiftly.

“I’m prepared to take whatever action is needed to save this company”, Whitford told Fairfax.

Westpac records $7.6 billion profit, up 8%

Westpac’s 2014 profits have jumped 8% to a record $7.6 billion, as record low interest rates propel credit growth and drag down bad debts among borrowers.

The growth comes after Westpac has been attempting to lift its rate of new lending over the last year in response to the recovery in mortgage lending, along with an anticipated bounce-back in business lending.

Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly said in a statement: “This is a high quality result, which reflects the consistent execution of our customer-focused strategy.”

The result caps off a year in which the big four banks have made more than $28 billion in combined profits.

Sharemarket edges higher

The Australian sharemarket edged slightly higher at the open on the back of Wall street gains.

At the 10.15am official market open, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 3.6 points, or 0.07%, at 5,530.2 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index rose 4.6 points, or 0.08%, to 5,509.6 points.

“The Australian share market is struggling for direction with Investors having to digest a host of company reports, some weaker PMI data out of China over the weekend as well as more data to be released after 12pm with China Non-Manufacturing PMI & HSBC PMI data to be watched closely by the market,” said Tristan Knell of Quay Equities.

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