The University of Sydney Union (USU) has revealed figures pertaining to its financial performance in 2018, reporting a loss of $495,174 despite a record $31 million in total revenue. The figures were reported on this morning by outgoing Honorary Treasurer Claudia Gulbransen-Diaz at the USU’s Annual General Meeting.
Gulbransen-Diaz revealed that USU bars Manning and Hermann’s, long suspected to be waning in popularity, ran at a combined loss of $245,000 over the course of 2018.
The USU’s catering company, HostCo, also ran at a significant loss after expanding to operate a Peakhurst wedding venue. The expansion into external operations led to a $450,000 loss for the Union.
The USU also suffered an impairment expense of over $600,000 due to the liquidation of developers involved with a project aimed at transforming customer communication infrastructure. Outgoing President Liliana Tai explained that a tender process to select a new vendor is currently underway and that there is a potential to recover some of the losses, which date back to 2017, in the future implementation of the project.
The substantial increase in revenue, up from just less than $29 million in 2017, was attributed to a range of factors. These included an increase in Student Services and Amenities Fees funding, which rose to over $4 million in 2018, and a $245,000 bequest from an unnamed person who passed away in the UK. Sales of the USyd snow globe, which amounted to nearly 7,000 last year, were also credited along with the general performance of the USU’s retail outlets.
Gulbransen-Diaz stated that the underperformance of the bars and HostCo had been a “continuous challenge” for the Union, and suggested that the Board would have to “seriously grapple” with the issue in the near future.
USU Director of Marketing and Infrastructure, Alistair Cowie, attributed the declining popularity of the bars to the implementation of voluntary student unionism in 2006 and changing campus culture.
“The ‘drinking culture’ on campus has changed significantly with places such as Courtyard more popular now as they provide for a variety of food and beverage experiences in the one place,” Cowie said.
HostCo was registered by the USU in 2014 and has provided catering services on and off campus since. It remains to be seen whether the USU can make this venture profitable.
The USU Board is expected to convene soon to elect its Executive for 2019-2020.