Long-COVID is emerging as a hotspot for employment and disability services provider APM as persistent virus after-effects sideline millions of workers around the world.
Disclosing its first results as a listed group along with an inaugural dividend, APM suggested on Monday that long-COVID was one factor behind the growing demand for its services, which have been expanded in recent years into Europe and North America.
Chief executive Michael Anghie said that while the lasting health impacts of the virus were still being understood, “there’s a lot of people that were working pre-pandemic that aren’t working now because of health issues”.
“We are now hearing a lot more talk about the impact of long-COVID on employment; in the US there is four million people out of the workforce with long-COVID, in the UK it’s two million and in Australia it’s perhaps 400,000,” Mr Anghie said.
Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers said last week the already tight Australian labour market had been “absolutely smashed” by long-COVID, which Treasury estimates cost the economy three million working days in the June half-year alone.
According to its numbers, about 31,000 people called in sick each day in June when monthly long-COVID cases spiked to 100,000, accounting for 12 per cent of all virus-related absenteeism.
APM listed in a blaze of publicity in November after raising a WA record $982 million from new investors.
Its shares have disappointed and are still to recover their $3.55 float price, but the company was able to better its prospectus financial forecasts, despite disruptions from the pandemic.
While APM’s statutory profit came in at $40.7 million, $166.3m in earnings before one-off costs linked to the float exceeded the prospectus forecast by 7 per cent. Revenue was in line with expectations at $1.33 billion, up 33 per cent.
Directors declared the company’s first dividend, a 5¢ a share payout.
The biggest beneficiaries include founder and executive chair Megan Wynne and husband Bruce Bellinge, who own a combined 34 per cent stake, and Mr Anghie, with 2.2 per cent.
APM’s is now servicing 1.1 million people in 11 countries, providing allied health, vocational rehabilitation and training, and employment assistance under mainly government contracts.
The year included the launch of its contracts under the Restart job assistance program in Britain, which has added 1000 roles to its UK workforce, as well as winning 13 per cent of Australia’s new Workforce job program contracts, which took effect last month.
Australia remains its biggest market, accounting for about half of group revenue and 60 per cent of profit. However, its European and North American businesses, boosted by acquisitions and new contracts, grew much more strongly over 2021-22.
Mr Anghie said APM continued to seek out expansion opportunities, suggesting that acquisitions would account for about one-third of growth in the medium term.
Its shares lost 4.9¢ to $3.43 in a sharply lower overall market to revalue the group at $3.2b.