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08-03-2002

Tongaat-Hulett Group produces strong earnings growth


Despite a slowing world economy and tough domestic trading conditions, the Tongaat-Hulett Group increased headline earnings by 20 percent from 498,0 cents to 598,4 cents per share. 

Revenue from continuing operations rose 12 percent to R5,1 billion and operating earnings 14 percent to R584 million. Total net earnings for the year amounted to R609 million. The good results were boosted by exchange rate translation gains of R255 million.

A final dividend of 208,0 cents per share has been declared which, together with the interim dividend of 62,0 cents amounts to a total dividend of 270,0 cents per share, covered 2,2 times compared with 212,0 cents per share for last year.

"The Group's strategy of investing some R4 billion over the past four years to create three internationally competitive businesses, growing through exports, has proved to be well timed in the light of recent events," said Cedric Savage, executive chairman of the Tongaat-Hulett Group.

“The substantially enhanced capacity created by these businesses should continue to provide the Group with export driven growth," he said. Exports currently account for 35 percent of total revenue.

Whilst on the theme of investment and exports, Mr Savage complimented the President and his Cabinet, particularly the Minister of Trade and Industry, on their initiatives to liberalise and reform international trade. Having returned recently from the World Economic Forum in New York, he said: “The influential role of South African leaders in NEPAD and the WTO has become widely recognised throughout the world and their efforts to address the imbalance that currently exists in the unfair subsidisation of agricultural products in the developed countries are highly commended.”

Even though its South African sugar production reduced to 756 000 tons, the sugar division maintained earnings before interest at R320 million, largely as a result of a recovery in world raw sugar prices and the weak rand. 

In addition, the white sugar premium in US dollar terms improved in the second half of the year and the division’s other Southern African operations also performed well. 

The performance of the starch and glucose division improved substantially, supplemented by increased exports, resulting in total revenue exceeding R1 billion for the first time. Earnings before interest rose 48 percent to R148 million. 

"This performance justifies the R800 million investment we made at Kliprivier some three years ago. The major cost impact of this investment has been absorbed, placing the division firmly into a growth phase," said Mr Savage. 

The aluminium division generated a substantial positive cash flow against a background of difficult and turbulent market conditions. Total revenue of Hulett Aluminium increased by 25 percent to R2,5 billion and operational earnings grew by 31 percent to R267 million, of which 50 percent accrues to the Group.

“The aluminium division has demonstrated its ability to adapt quickly to changing market conditions by developing new, higher value added products and has shifted its targeted sales and geographic mix in line with market dynamics,” he said.

During the year, it concentrated on establishing and maintaining its growing international presence through increased sales and market share in more than 45 countries.

The year for the property division was characterised by firmer demand in commercial, residential and the resort portfolios. Its earnings before interest increased by 22 percent to R28 million. 

Substantial investments were undertaken in the Umhlanga Ridge New Town Centre and La Lucia Ridge areas. The division's private/public partnership with the eThekwini Municipality (Durban) will progress further this year with the commencement of the uShaka Island Marine Theme Park and the Effingham-Avoca developments.

In the year ahead, Mr Savage said: "The Group expects strong growth in volumes, revenue and operating earnings from its divisions. The attainment of the prime objective of real growth in earnings per share in 2002, taking into consideration last year’s currency translation boost, will depend mainly on the relative strength of the rand. Cash flows will, however, remain positive and the Group is well placed to deliver increased shareholder value." 

On the subject of executive succession planning, he said: “At the end of January this year, I had the pleasure of announcing that my successor as chief executive officer would be Peter Staude, with effect from our AGM on 10 May 2002. Peter, currently managing director of Hulett Aluminium, will also become chairman of that division. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate him publicly and wish him the greatest success in his well-deserved appointments. He has played a crucial role in the management and expansion of Hulett Aluminium and has contributed to the Group’s activities as a director on the board since 1996 and on the board’s executive committee since 1997. 

“In turn, congratulations are extended to Alan Fourie, currently the financial director at Hulett Aluminium, who has been appointed to succeed Peter as MD of that division. Alan is a Chartered Accountant with an MBA from Cape Town University and, over the past 19 years, has held various executive responsibilities in Hulett Aluminium and its subsidiary companies, including the responsibility for the Commercial Products businesses since 1997.”

With regard to the chairmanship of the Group, the board at its meeting on Friday, 8 February 2001, asked Mr Savage to remain as chairman of the Group in a non-executive capacity.

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