Croda, East Yorkshire chemical giant, pays £65m divi

Croda International HQ in Snaith, East Yorkshire

Snaith, East Yorkshire-based speciality chemicals giant Croda International said on Thursday it will pay its final 2019 ordinary dividend of 50.5p per share — about £65 million — and said it currently has no plans to furlough staff or reduce pay.

In a COVID-19 update update for its AGM, the international firm said: “We have implemented appropriate working practices across the group, including colleagues working from home where possible and the adoption of flexible and separated working arrangements in manufacturing sites and warehouses.

“We are adhering to government advice across all the different countries where we have operations.

“Currently, all of our 19 principal manufacturing sites are operating, reflecting our critical supplier position to a number of industries during the COVID-19 crisis (including health care, crop care, cleaning and sanitisers), although our India and Singapore sites are operating with some restrictions.

“Raw material supply chains also remain broadly secure, with limitations on the availability of a small number of materials.

“Our business continuity plans have been fully mobilised and are operating well.

“We currently have no plans to furlough or reduce pay for employees.”

On current trading and prospects, Croda said: “Demand has remained solid, with customers primarily focused on securing their own supply chains through us at this time.

“Core business sales and group profitability in the first quarter ended 31 March 2020 were broadly in line with the board’s expectations and the prior year.

“Q1 was expected to be the strongest comparator period from 2019. 

“Asia was adversely impacted by the earlier shutdown in China but, encouragingly, North Asia delivered broadly flat sales across the quarter.

“North America returned to sales growth in the quarter whilst Latin America was below a strong comparator.

“Europe saw some demand weakness in Personal Care and Performance Technologies but good growth in Life Sciences.

“As the second quarter commences, whilst conditions in some markets are more variable than usual, the value of our customer order book remains solid and in line with normal circumstances.

“However, visibility is limited and there is uncertainty as to how the COVID-19 crisis will affect future sales. 

“Whilst we continue to invest in organic opportunities to grow the business for the future through our ongoing capital expenditure programme, we are implementing discretionary operating cost savings and have the capacity to adjust further to meet changing circumstances.”

On its financial position, Croda said: “The liquidity and business profile of the group is strong.

“We have undertaken extensive scenario testing, factoring in a variety of potential outcomes, which indicate that the group has sufficient liquidity to absorb an extended period of uncertainty …

“As at 31 March 2020, the group had committed funding in place of £1,076m, with undrawn committed facilities of £457m, £91m in cash and a leverage ratio of 1.4 times net debt to EBITDA (compared to a covenant maximum of 3.5x, measured semi-annually). 

“Croda has operated for many years with a prudent leverage and dividend distribution policy.

“After careful consideration of the position of all stakeholders and treating all groups consistently and fairly, the board has decided to pay the final 2019 ordinary dividend of 50.5 pence per share (£65.0m), announced in the group’s annual results in February 2020, subject to approval by shareholders at today’s Annual General Meeting.”