CHAIRMAN’S STATEMENT

Sir Brian Stewart Chairman

Building for the Future
The success of any business has to be measured not simply by its delivering immediate and positive financial and operational results but also by developing strategic and longer term value.

In a year of challenging conditions the Group has made considerable progress. Each of our core markets has endured uncertainty and volatility but the Board and the senior management team have pursued positive strategies to deliver sustainable value.


Year’s Review

This year has seen further progress in the strategic development of the Group. We disposed of our Spirits & Liqueurs business. This was an attractive business with good brands, but was suboptimal in scale and the disposal has put the Group in a strong focused position. We have the financial and operational capability to pursue a variety of opportunities that will undoubtedly arise and to invest behind our increasingly successful brand development.

We have seen a strong operational business performance. At the start of the year the Board agreed a number of key objectives that would be benchmarks for our performance. Despite the exceptionally difficult economic climate in Ireland, these have been generally achieved.

In Ireland Bulmers has largely held its market share in a tough Long Alcoholic Drinks market.
In Great Britain Magners has returned to sales growth and has outpaced the growing cider sector.
With our core markets still affected by unpredictability, there is strength in exploring new markets. The recent growth in North America and Australia is most encouraging.

Restructuring

The year has also been characterised by the restructuring of the Group to capitalise on our acquisitions last year. The Tennent’s and Gaymers brands that were acquired are now being integrated successfully into the Group, making us a stronger and more flexible organisation. The projected benefits are being delivered.

The success of this integration and the achievement of key objectives in the marketplace have produced good financial results for the Group. This has put us on the front foot to drive our evolution through the strengths of our business and brands. It is a springboard for the future.

People

This is my first year as Chairman of the Group, and I would like to thank the outgoing Chairman, Tony O’Brien, for facilitating such a smooth transition. We wish him well for the future. He has overseen the business through many changes and, most recently, helped to steer the Group in particularly difficult times.

We are aware of the need to plan for Board and management succession, as this is a vital process. Changed environments dictate a need for evolution in every organisation in order to ensure its future, and C&C is no different.

There have been many changes in personnel as part of preparing the business for the future, specifically through the integration of the acquired businesses and the disposal of the Spirits & Liqueurs business. This maintains our momentum and our focus and, despite the sizeable shift that the changes have entailed, the end-result is in everybody’s long term interest.

Our staff has experienced another year of turbulent economic conditions and I would like to thank them for their perseverance and for adapting to the financial and market circumstances of our trade.

Governance

The Board and senior management team are committed to maintaining the highest standards of governance and ethical behaviour throughout the business. A statement of our main Governance principles and practice is provided on pages 38 to 45.

The Board is now focused on the Group’s future strategic direction and met in December 2010 to consider a new three year plan. The Board is also working to ensure its own effectiveness. We have undertaken an evaluation of the performance of the Board and its committees and a continuing review of the performance of the individual Directors.

This year, in anticipation of the new requirements of the UK Corporate Governance Code, all Directors will be standing for re-election at the Annual General Meeting.

Market Environment

In these difficult times it is worth acknowledging the specific market forces that have contributed to our success. The Government in Ireland has been under intense pressure relating to the Corporate Tax rate specifically but it continues to maintain a corporate environment that remains attractive to commerce and inward investment. This is true of the past and will be essential for the future, with many associated implications for business, employment and the wider social fabric of Ireland.

Financials

Operating profit, before exceptional items, for the year amounted to €105 million, including discontinued activities. In the current climate, this is a satisfying result. The business produced a strong free cash flow, reaching €106.8 million. In addition the disposal of the Group’s Spirits & Liqueurs business yielded a gross consideration of €300 million in cash. The Group’s Net Debt to EBITDA ratio puts it in a strong position to take advantage of future opportunities.

Dividends

It is proposed to pay a final dividend of 3.3 cent per share, subject to shareholder approval. If approved, this will bring the Group’s full year dividend to 6.6 cent per share. A scrip dividend alternative will also be available.

Conclusion

The positive steps taken to ensure the strategic position and operational performance of C&C are beginning to deliver results. It is a time for initiative in the widest sense and at every level in the organisation. Whether it is in terms of brand, corporate or people development, we have to be and are beginning to be on the front foot. It is a challenge relished by everyone in the Group and promises significant opportunity.


Sir Brian Stewart
Chairman

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The positive steps taken to ensure the strategic position and operational performance of C&C are beginning to deliver results. It is a time for initiative in the widest sense and at every level in the organisation.