Cochlear chief talks China, IR

Cochlear’s CEO Chris Roberts has criticised Australia’s IR regime and spoken of the company’s potential opportunities in China.

Roberts, interviewed on the ABC’s Inside Business, said the current Fair Work regime was putting pressure on Australian businesses to offshore.

"If we drive manufacturing out of Australia, it's pretty hard for Cochlear to be the only company manufacturing here," he said.

"[The current environment] absolutely makes it more difficult for business, and that has already cost jobs in Australia."

Cochlear were engaged in a dispute with the AMWU over collective deals last year, and has been a vocal critic of IR laws in the past.

The Cochlear chief said, “I don't believe we're at that stage yet” when asked about the possibility of moving manufacturing to Thailand.

The burgeoning Chinese middle class and competition from Swiss rival Sonova were also cited as considerations for the business. Roberts said that 30,000 Chinese babies were born each year profoundly hearing impaired.

“It's a huge potential market,” said Roberts.

“China offers a huge opportunity in general as the country economically grows and shares that wealth throughout by growing a middle class with aspirations of having good healthcare.”

Roberts also mentioned that the company wasn’t considering acquisitions at the moment, but had considered diversifying into hearing aids after Sonova expanded into that area in 2009 when it purchased Advanced Bionics.

“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,” said Roberts.

“The main growth strategy for Cochlear is going to be through innovation, not mergers and acquisitions.”

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