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CHAIRMAN'S STATEMENT

 

Our results for the year reflect once again the diversity of our operations and the unpredictability of global markets. Excluding the adjustment for the revaluation of biological assets, which I am pleased to report will have a much reduced impact on our accounts going forward, and the significant provision for post-employment benefits that we have been required to make in Bangladesh, headline profits were £23.9 million compared to £17.2 million in 2014. This result reflects the difficulties that our subsidiaries in the oil services sector have been facing; but also reflects the improved tea prices in Kenya and the improved profitability of our agricultural operations more generally.

2015 was a transitional year for your Group, with the appointment of Tom Franks as the Chief Executive, Graham Mclean as Managing Director of Agriculture and Susan Walker as the Chief Financial Officer and the retirement of a number of longstanding executive directors. As a result there have been consequential changes to both roles and responsibilities and also the organisation of the Group which are set out in the Chief Executive’s and corporate governance reports. A detailed statement which shareholders will hopefully find interesting and informative is included as the Chief Executive’s report and we have also included substantially more information in the annual accounts to assist shareholders with getting a better understanding of our Group.

Notwithstanding these changes, I am pleased to report that the overriding principles of the Group remain constant. We are committed to the development of the business over the long term and to the sustainability of our businesses, the environments and communities in which we operate.

As announced previously we took the step during the year of closing one of our subsidiaries, AKD Engineering, following many years of substantial losses. This was not a decision that your Board took lightly, being well aware of the social and other implications of this move, but was unfortunately unavoidable given the trading conditions. We sold the Loddon Engineering business towards the end of the year to the De Swart Group, an owner in a better position to ensure the long term future of that business. Despite these changes, the Group has continued its policy of organic growth and development, further details of which are contained in the Chief Executive’s report.

DIVIDEND

Your Board is recommending a final dividend of 95p per share which, together with the interim dividend already paid of 34p per share, brings the total distribution for the year to 129p per share compared with 126p per share in 2014.

DIRECTORS

During the year Anil Mathur, Chris Ames and Peter Field resigned as directors of the company. I would like to thank them all again for their contribution to the Group, and I am pleased that Peter Field will continue to contribute as Chairman of our operations in India and Bangladesh.

OUTLOOK

The outlook for 2016 is challenging. Climate change, and in particular erratic rainfall patterns, makes predicting crop volumes difficult. The start of 2016 has seen record tea production in Kenya which has resulted in a significant fall in the market price. The continuing low oil price provides a challenge to our engineering businesses and low interest rates restrict returns in banking. However, the strength and diversity of our operations, the success we have had in bringing in new management where appropriate, and the ongoing turnaround, sale or closure of our loss making companies, all point to a more successful future.

STAFF

As always, my thanks go out to all our staff for their efforts in 2015.

Malcolm Perkins
Chairman
27 April 2016