April 12, 2024

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Woolworths: Australian grocery director resigns amid allegations of price gouging

Woolworths: Australian grocery director resigns amid allegations of price gouging

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Brad Banducci has been CEO for eight years

Woolworths boss Brad Banducci has announced his resignation, amid scrutiny over alleged price-gouging tactics used by the Australian supermarket giant.

Pressure on the president intensified this week after what was widely described as a disastrous interview.

Mr. Banducci walked out on a reporter after becoming upset by the line of questioning.

Australia has one of the most concentrated grocery markets in the world.

Woolworths – the country's largest retailer – and rival Coles control 65% of the market, and both face intense criticism over their business models as the country suffers a cost-of-living crisis.

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In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) on Wednesday, Woolworths Group announced that Mr Banducci would retire in September.

The 59-year-old spent 13 years at the company, eight of which were at the helm.

“History will judge Brad to have been one of them [the firm’s] “The best leaders,” said Board Chairman Scott Perkins.

He will be succeeded by the company's head of e-commerce, Amanda Bardwell.

The Woolworths Group has a range of businesses across Australia and New Zealand, including discount department store Big W, liquor chain BWS, and New Zealand grocery chain Countdown.

In an ASX statement, the company also reported a whopping half-year profit of AU$929m (£482; US$608m), thanks in part to growing margins in its food business.

However, overall the company recorded a loss of A$781 million as a result of write-downs of two of its businesses.

It comes as the supermarket chain faces multiple parliamentary investigations and another probe from the country's competition watchdog over its pricing practices.

On Monday night, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation broadcast an investigation accusing both Coles and Woolworths of price gouging and unfair dealings with suppliers and farmers.

Four Corners' Angus Greig spoke to insiders, experts and bosses of both stores, and said Mr Banducci's response was “astonishing”.

“That was a very basic line of questioning… and the fact that he got so angry when asked whether or not there was enough competition in Australia tells you they're not really used to doing a lot of scrutiny.”

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