JSE-listed chemicals group AECI has declared a final cash dividend of 470c apiece for the year ended December 31, 2020, despite a 55% year-on-year decrease in profit from operations to R917-million.
The total ordinary dividend for 2020 was 570c apiece, unchanged from the total dividend for 2019.
The company posted a 15% year-on-year decline in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (Ebidta) to R2.9-billion, while profit attributable to shareholders decreased to R160-million, compared with R1.3-billion in the prior year.
Headline earnings a share amounted to R9.28 for the year under review, compared with R12.13 the year before.
AECI had, in 2020, completed the realignment and rebranding of the group, including repositioning its businesses into four strategic pillars: mining, water, agri-health and chemicals, as well as its property services combined with corporate functions.
The businesses in the mining segment provide a mine-to-mineral solution for the mining sector internationally. The offering includes commercial explosives, initiating systems, blasting services and surfactants for explosives manufacture right through the value chain to chemicals for ore beneficiation and tailings treatment.
The business in the water segment provides customers on the African continent with integrated water treatment solutions, process chemicals and equipment solutions for a diverse range of applications. These include public and industrial water, desalination and utilities.
Businesses in the agri-health segment manufacture and distribute crop protection products, plant nutrients, animal premixes, specialty animal health products and fine chemicals on the African continent, in Europe and in the US.
The chemicals segment is responsible for supplying raw materials and related services to a broad range of customers in the food and beverage, manufacturing, infrastructure and general industrial sectors. Their markets are mainly in South Africa and in other Southern African countries, except for AECI SANS Fibers, which is based in the US.
The company says its results for 2020 demonstrated the benefits of AECI’s strategy to diversify geographically and in terms of the markets it serves. AECI now operates in 22 countries and regions on six continents.
“This diversification makes us more resilient and agile in responding to changing market conditions. Without these advantages, some unprecedented challenges last year would have had a more severe impact on our performance,” CEO Mark Dytor states.
AECI in 2020 established a Covid-19 Task Team and response plan to minimise its impact on people, operations and safeguard the supply of products and services to customers globally.
Meanwhile, the company says the decline in profit from operations from R2-billion in 2019 to R917-million in 2020 was owing to impairments of certain property, plant and equipment, and goodwill to the amount of R890-million, of which the majority related to the impairment of goodwill on the acquisition of AECI Much Asphalt.
This while some open orders had been cancelled in the year as a direct result of the pandemic.
AECI says its mining and chemicals segments were most seriously impacted by Covid-19 disruptions; however, these revenue losses were offset by good sales of sanitiser by AECI Schirm in Germany and AECI Speciality Chemicals in South Africa.
A key focus for management throughout the pandemic had been to preserve the company’s liquidity. Although the group’s Ebidta declined by 15% to R2.9-billion, against Ebitda of R3.4-billion posted in 2019, all 13 operating businesses were profitable.
There was also a significant increase of R1.2-billion, to R3.1-billion, in cash available from operating activities. This excellent result was achieved mainly in the second half of the year through strong working capital management across the group and in the mining segment in particular.
AECI says Covid-19 remains the overriding risk this year, given uncertainty around current and possible future waves of infection, availability of vaccines for mass vaccinations and their efficacy, and the time it will take for post-pandemic recovery across the world.
However, the company nonetheless remains confident that demand for its products will be sustained, particularly in the areas of mining, water treatment, agriculture and food and beverage.