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UNAUDITED RESULTS FOR THE HALF YEAR ENDED 31 DECEMBER 2023

"Bidvest has delivered a pleasing result with five of our seven divisions reporting double digit profit growth. This interim result reflects our businesses' ability to rise above structural headwinds and deliver value to all stakeholders,"
Mpumi Madisa, Chief executive.

RESULTS FOR THE SIX MONTHS ENDED 31 DECEMBER 2023

"Bidvest has delivered a pleasing result with five of our seven divisions reporting double digit profit growth. This interim result reflects our businesses' ability to rise above structural headwinds and deliver value to all stakeholders,"
Mpumi Madisa, Chief executive.

Salient features for the six months ended 31 December 2023:

  • R62.2 billion revenue, +8.8%
  • R6.5 billion trading profit, +11.8%
  • Improved trading profit margin of 10.5%
  • Cash generated by operations almost doubled to R3.7 billion, after R4.5 billion investment in working capital
  • ROFE 38.3.%
  • HEPS 987.9 cents, +5.3%
  • Normalised HEPS 1 051.3 cents, +6.9%
  • Interim dividend of 467 cents, +6.9%

Johannesburg, 4 March 2024: Bidvest has delivered a good interim result against a pedestrian trading backdrop, characterised by stubbornly high inflation, peak interest rates and minimal underlying economic growth. Top-line growth, together with active gross margin management and strong expense control, culminated in trading profit increasing by 11.8% to R6.5 billion, over the six months ended 31 December 2023.

HEPS and Normalised HEPS1 , a measurement used by management to assess the underlying business performance, grew by 5.3% and 6.9%, respectively.

Note 1: Normalised HEPS excludes acquisition costs and amortisation of acquired customer contracts

The Group declared an interim dividend of 467 cents per share, up 6.9%.

Five of the Group's seven divisions reported double digit trading profit growth, which is commendable especially in the current very competitive and price conscious market, with close to double digit wage inflation.

  • The Freight terminal operations benefitted from positive price mix, robust demand for bulk commodities as well as strong oil and gas activity in Namibia.
  • Healthy travel and tourism-related activity continued, and new business wins culminated in exceptional profit growth reported by Services South Africa.
  • Capitalising on pockets of niche demand, whilst keeping a tight rein on costs, boosted Branded Products' trading profit.
  • Services International's pleasing organic growth on continued hygiene pool demand and new business wins was boosted by acquisitions and foreign exchange movements.
  • A much improved cost-to-income ratio in Bidvest Bank was the primary driver of the core profit growth in Financial Services.
  • Commercial Products navigated significant competition and an overstocked renewables supply chain to deliver a satisfactory result.
  • The cyclical downturn in the automotive market coincided with high levels of excess stock which compressed Automotive's margin.
  • Adcock Ingram (Adcock) delivered a flat result.

Bidvest CEO, Mpumi Madisa commented, "We have successfully executed on our growth pipeline, with numerous acquisitions concluded in South Africa, Australia, the United Kingdom and Singapore. This has added to our geographic footprint in hygiene services, enhanced geographic scale in facilities management and augmented our product and service offering.

Pursuing our strategy of building a sustainable business for the long-term, enables us to increase levels of employment, improve livelihoods, invest in skills and technology while reducing our environmental footprint and contributing to building South Africa".

Highlights

Cash generated by operations of R3.7 billion was almost double that generated in the prior interim period.

Bidvest spent R3.2 billion on acquisitions, invested in maintaining and growing the asset base, as well as awarding shareholders with a higher dividend. Despite this, gearing increased only modestly year-on-year, and the coveted cash generative nature of the Group remains firmly intact.

Return on Funds Employed (ROFE) remained stable at 38.3% since year end, a very good outcome given the growth in working capital. Return on Invested Capital (ROIC) of 15.8% compares to 16.3% in the prior year. Despite higher interest rates, this remains well above the Group's weighted cost of capital.

Financial overview

Group revenue grew 8.8% to R62.2 billion (1HFY 2023: R57.1 billion), with acquisitions boosting the growth rate by 2.8%. In largely stagnant markets, price inflation, a weaker rand against major currencies as well as new business gains were the key growth drivers.

Expenses were again well managed and increased by only 3.6%. Reduced overtime, the streamlining of businesses as well as the reduced costs associated with loadshedding mitigated the inflationary pressures. Acquisition costs were incurred in the purchase of Consolidated Property Services Pty Limited (Consolidated) in Australia, Rental Hygiene Services (RHS) in Singapore and several bolt-on transactions, both locally and abroad.

Basic earnings per share (EPS) increased from 918.2 cents to 960.8 cents, or 4.6%, mainly due to a strong operational performance diluted by significantly higher net finance and acquisition charges as well as increased amortisation on customer contracts in the current period.

Bidvest's net debt increased by R6.8 billion since 30 June 2023 to R25.9 billion. 68.3% of net debt is offshore. Available debt funding, mainly from the multicurrency syndicated revolving credit facility, was utilised for acquisitions concluded during the period. The Group successfully refinanced maturing local bonds and preference shares, totalling R1.6 billion at more attractive interest rate spreads than previously. Robust cash generated by the operations was invested in working capital, increased capital investment and paying dividends to shareholders.

The covenant net debt to adjusted EBITDA of 2.0x compared to 1.9x as at 31 December 2022 and 1.7x as at 30 June 2023. Interest cover was 7.3x (1HFY2023: 9.4x). Group cash conversion was 26.7%, compared to 7.6% in the comparative period.

Corporate action

Acquisitions remain an integral part of the Group's growth strategy. Bidvest is participating in processes, both locally and offshore, which are in varying phases of completion. Engagement with regards to possible private sector participation in South Africa continues. As was reported in September 2023, Bidvest acquired 100% of Consolidated from its private shareholders. This acquisition doubles Bidvest's facilities management operations in Australia. RHS, a leading hygiene services business in Singapore, was also acquired. This is a small business in an attractive growth market.

Bolt-on acquisitions of Interloc, a complementary road and air freight consolidator, Brandability, a corporate promotional gift sales channel, Roan and Green Home, which have complementary products to the existing data, print and packaging portfolio offering, and a few small hygiene and facilities management services business in existing territories, became effective during the period under review.

Prospects

Madisa added, "Our scale, range of product and service offering, agility as well as sectorleading innovation, ensure that our businesses remain in a strong position to offer solutions and value-added propositions to customers, existing and new, in a competitive global market".

Traditional seasonal trading trends appear to be re-establishing in bulk commodity freight movement. This, together with the non-repeat of frenetic renewable product purchases as well as ongoing weak vehicle demand, will result in continued market pressures in the second half of the financial year.

Madisa concluded, "We remain optimistic about the Group's ongoing growth trajectory as we pursue pockets of opportunity in certain sectors such as travel and tourism. Recent strong business wins will contribute fully, and management will also remain vigilant with regards to margin and expense management. We will continue to advance our strategy and maintain our financial discipline, while collaborating with all stakeholders to build and support a brighter future".

Bidvest is actively pursuing a number of acquisition opportunities.

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