A record financial performance with
strong cash generation, enabling us
to increase the full year dividend and
continue our 19-year progressive
2021 was a record year for the Group. Revenue increased 23.8% to £443.3m (2020: £358.2m), which included increases in all segments of the business, and underlying profit before taxation (pg27 of the Annual Report) increased by 55.3% to £69.4m (2020: £44.7m).
The Broking division benefitted from the longer-term strategy implemented in recent years, to increase our global footprint and be best in class across every segment of shipping and offshore. As we went into 2021, the shortening in supply of ships, highlighted in last year’s outlook, created the backdrop for stronger freight rates and asset prices in several but not all verticals. Overall, Broking generated a profit of £73.6m in the year (2020: £55.4m), with an increased margin of 21.6% (2020: 19.6%) driven by strong performances in dry bulk, containers and sale and purchase, offset in part by weakness in tanker markets.
The Financial division performed exceptionally well, generating a profit of £13.3m and margin of 23.8% (2020: £2.5m and 7.4%), reflecting active capital markets across shipping, metals and minerals and renewables, and strong deal flow in shipping, offshore and real estate project finance. The Support and Research divisions also experienced good revenue and profit growth, with our port services business returning to pre-pandemic levels.
The Group incurred underlying administrative expenses (pg27 of the Annual Report) of £355.7m (2020: £298.5m) in the year, an increase of 19.2%, largely from an increase in variable compensation due to the improved business performance. Within these expenses, central costs unallocated to business segments increased to £25.2m (2020: £18.8m), again reflecting an increase in variable remuneration due to increased profits, as well as higher PLC costs, investment into central IT systems and people, and increased Sea/ technology costs. Sea/ costs on a cash basis were similar to 2020, but less were capitalised in 2021 than in previous years and there was an increase to amortisation reflecting the successful roll-out to a broad base of clients.
The Board reviewed the need for a non-cash impairment relating to goodwill on the balance sheet and determined that, following improved trading conditions in the Offshore and Securities cash-generating units (‘CGUs’) compared to those seen in 2020, no impairment charge was required in 2021 (2020: £60.6m).
Acquisition-related costs include £0.2m (2020: £0.3m) relating to amortisation of intangibles and £0.1m (2020: £0.2m) of cash and share-based payments spread over employee service periods. We estimate acquisition related costs for 2022 to be £0.2m, assuming no further acquisitions are made.
The Group’s underlying effective tax rate (pg27 of the Annual Report) was 21.2% (2020: 21.3%), reflecting the broad international operations of the Group, which remain consistent with the prior year.
Earnings per share
Underlying basic earnings per share (pg27 of the Annual Report) increased by 56.2% to 165.6p (2020: 106.0p) and is calculated as underlying profit after taxation (pg27 of the Annual Report) attributable to equity holders of the Parent Company divided by the weighted average number of ordinary shares in issue during the year. The reported basic earnings per share was 164.6p (2020: 95.2p loss).
Forward order book (‘FOB’)
The Group earns some of its commissions on contracts where the duration extends beyond the current year. Where this is the case, amounts that are able to be invoiced during the current financial year are recognised as revenue accordingly. Those amounts which are not yet invoiced, and therefore not recognised as revenue, are held in the FOB. In challenging markets, such amounts may be cancelled or deferred into later periods.
The Directors review the FOB at the year-end and only publish the FOB items which will, in their view, be invoiced in the following 12 months. At 31 December 2021, this estimate was 42.2% higher than the prior year at US$165m (31 December 2020: US$116m).
The Board is recommending a final dividend in respect of 2021 of 57p (2020: 54p) which, subject to shareholder approval, will be paid on 27 May 2022 to shareholders on the register at the close of business on 13 May 2022.
Together with the interim dividend in respect of 2021 of 27p (2020: 25p), this would give a total dividend of 84p for 2021, an increase of 6% on 2020 (2020: 79p). In taking its decision, the Board took into consideration the Group’s 2021 performance, balance sheet strength, ability to generate cash and FOB.
This increased dividend represents the 19th consecutive year that the Board has raised the dividend.
The average sterling exchange rate during 2021 was US$1.38 (2020: US$1.29). At 31 December 2021, the spot rate was US$1.35 (2020: US$1.37)
Cash and borrowings
The Group ended the year with cash balances of £261.6m (2020: £173.4m) and a further £9.6m (2020: £22.8m) held in short-term deposit accounts and government bonds, classified as current investments on the balance sheet.
Net cash and available funds (pg27 of the Annual Report), being cash balances after the deduction of accrued bonuses, at 31 December 2021 were £122.3m (2020: £95.4m). The Board uses this figure as a better representation of the net cash available to the business, since bonuses are typically paid after the year-end, hence an element of the year-end cash balance is earmarked for this purpose. It should be noted that accrued bonuses include amounts relating to the current year and amounts held back from previous years which will be payable in the future.
A further measure used by the Board in taking decisions over capital allocation is free cash resources (pg27 of the Annual Report), which deducts monies held by regulated entities from the net cash and available funds (pg27 of the Annual Report) figure. Free cash resources at 31 December 2021 were £92.3m (2020: £81.1m).
In addition to these free cash resources, the Group has a strong balance sheet and has consistently generated an underlying operating profit and good cash inflow. Management has stress tested a range of scenarios, modelling different assumptions with respect to the Group’s cash resources, and as a result continues to adopt the going concern basis in preparing the financial statements. See pages 94 and 95 for further details.
Net assets at 31 December 2021 were £361.6m (2020: £328.4m). The balance sheet remains strong, with net current assets and investments exceeding non-current liabilities (excluding pension provisions and lease liabilities as accounted for under IFRS 16) by £120.2m (2020: £95.0m).
The overall loss allowance for trade receivables was £12.9m (2020: £12.3m).
The Group’s pension schemes had a combined surplus
before deferred tax of £22.0m (2020: £12.0m).
Chief Financial Officer & Chief Operating Officer
4 March 2022