Wesfarmers is about to lose its title as the largest private employer in Australia

Peter Parks/ AFP/ Getty Images.
  • Woolworths will become Australia’s largest private employer post the Coles float on the ASX.
  • Wesfarmers, the current biggest private employer, will drop to third.
  • And Coles will take second place.

Woolworths is about to become Australia’s largest private employer.

Wesfarmers will lose that title when it floats off its Coles supermarket business.

As a stand alone business Coles, with its 800 plus supermarkets and 112,000 employees, will rank as Australia’s second largest private employer after competitor Woolworths, according to calculations by industry analysts IBISWorld.

Wesfarmers will then become to be the third largest private employer — and the fourth largest overall — in Australia after the demerger with about 104,000 employees.

Here’s how analysts at IBISWorld calculate the rankings for private employers:

    Woolworths – 202,000 employees
    Coles – 112,000
    Wesfarmers – 104,000

NSW Health, a government employer, is Australia’s second largest employer, in both private and public sectors, with 115,000 staff.

So, overall Coles would be Australia’s third largest employer and Wesfarmers the fourth.

Coles is expected to list on the ASX late next month, creating a new top 30 company with about $39.2 billion in revenue and EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) of $1.6 billion.

Wesfarmers plans to keep a minority ownership interest in Coles and a substantial ownership stake in the supermarket chain’s loyalty program, flybuys.

Analysts say Wesfarmers could, post the Coles float and the shedding of other assets, have the capacity to fund a massive $12 billion acquisition or returns billions to shareholders in the form of a buyback.

Coles has been lagging its main competitor Woolworths in sales growth but yesterday reported first quarter comparable food sales up 5.1%.

The numbers are way ahead of its full year sales growth of just 1.1% on a comparable basis and is now challenging Woolworths which in August reported full year comparable sales growth of 4.3%.

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