Labor IR laws threaten jobs: Cochlear
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BRISBANE, Feb 10 AAP
February 10 2013, 12:04AM
Bionic ear maker Cochlear says it wants to keep manufacturing in Australia, but the government is not making it easy.
Chief executive Chris Roberts has been a critic of federal Labor's Fair Work laws, which he says threaten Australian jobs.
"That absolutely makes it more difficult for business, and that has already cost jobs in Australia," he told the ABC's Inside Business on Sunday.
"Jobs have already gone overseas because of those regulations."
But asked if Cochlear would move manufacturing offshore, Dr Roberts said the Sydney-based company wanted to remain in Australia while holding off on any mergers or acquisitions to help stave off Swiss competition.
"If we drive manufacturing out of Australia, it's pretty hard for Cochlear to be the only company manufacturing here," he said.
He downplayed the possibility of moving manufacturing to Thailand, which has a free trade agreement with Australia.
"I don't believe we're at that stage yet, but I believe that we do need a better balance towards a healthy business environment," he said.
Cochlear's chief competitor, Swiss firm Sonova, has expanded beyond hearing aids into bionic ears with the acquisition in 2009 of US company Advanced Bionics.
To compete, Dr Roberts said Cochlear had considered moving into hearing aids, to complement its existing hearing implants business.
"It's probably the $64,000 question: how do you really leverage these two areas? It's not obvious how we do that, but it's something we keep our eyes on," he said.
But expansion through mergers or acquisitions was off the agenda for now.
"The main growth strategy for Cochlear is going to be through innovation, not mergers and acquisitions," Dr Roberts said.
Cochlear announced last week a first-half net profit of $77.7 million, up from a $20.4 million loss in the previous corresponding period when it was forced to issue a costly recall of its Nucleus C1500 series.
The improved first-half profit result coincided with a 27 per cent increase in sales.