Carr’s of Carlisle in boardroom shake up

Carlisle-based agriculture and engineering firm Carr’s Group announced that “after an extensive search process” it has appointed its chairman Peter Page to the role of chief executive officer.  

Page will remain executive chairman until a new non-executive chairperson is appointed.

The Carlisle firm said its review of strategic options for each of its three divisions is nearing completion.

Carr’s also announced that Neil Austin, who has been with Carr’s as chief financial officer for nine years, will stand down as a director at the next AGM, scheduled for January 2023, to take up a new role as CFO of the Westmorland Family, headquartered in Cumbria.

Searches have commenced for a non-executive chairperson and a successor CFO, led by senior independent director John Worby.  

“Peter has served as chairman of Carr’s Group since January 2020, having joined the board in the previous year,” said Carr’s.

“From 2007 until 2018, Peter was CEO of Devro plc, a FTSE listed, global manufacturing business with over 2,000 employees.

“Prior to this, he was Head of Europe for Aviagen Group, the poultry breeding company, and an Executive Director of Adnams plc … 

“As previously announced, Shelagh Hancock and Stuart Lorimer will join the board as independent non-executive directors on 1 September 2022, bringing significant sector and plc board experience to Carr’s Group.”

Worby said: “I am delighted that Peter has accepted the board’s invitation to take up the role of CEO.

“During his time with Carr’s, he has built strong relationships with the management team and wider stakeholders of the group.

“With a background in animal science and agriculture, Peter has a strong track record of building and developing successful businesses in international markets.

“The board unanimously concluded that he is best placed to lead the group through its next phase.

“The appointment will enable the previously announced strategic review to be completed swiftly and ensure Carr’s has the right management for its successful implementation.”

Page said: “I am excited to have the opportunity to lead Carr’s Group as we finalise and implement our long-term strategy.

“I have developed a good understanding of the group, its businesses and people, and I look forward to leading the next phase of growth.

“We are all very grateful to Neil Austin who has given so much to the business over the past nine years and provided steadfast support to the board during a challenging period.

“We are pleased that Neil will remain in post until January 2023, ensuring a smooth handover.”

Carr’s also published a trading update for the 22-week period ended July 30, 2022. 

The group’s overall trading performance is in line with the Board’s expectations for the full financial year,” said the company.

In Speciality Agriculture, whilst raw material costs continued to rise significantly, sales margins were notably improved in all markets as price rises have been passed onto customers. 

“Volumes in the UK and Ireland remained solid, supported by strong farmgate prices.

“However, USA volumes continued to be impacted adversely by a reduction in beef cattle herd size due to drought causing a shortage of grazing.

“UK Agricultural Supplies traded well during the period, with continued high activity levels in retail and machinery and with the market absorbing the impact of cost inflation in fuels and feeds.

“Since the spring, dairy feed volumes have held up but there has been a reduction in volumes of beef and sheep feeds as customers limit expenditure on inputs.

Engineering continued to benefit from high levels of work supported by a strong order book.

“Financial performance however remained below management expectations due in part to supply chain delays for some components of orders for robotics, and the ongoing costs incurred to achieve completion of a key project in the engineering solutions business.

Working capital requirements have continued at higher levels as reported in April due to the inflationary impact from increased raw material costs and selling prices with the effect that debt levels continue to be higher than the prior year. 

“Undrawn facilities at 25 June 2022 were £28.4m.

A second interim dividend of 1.175 pence per share will be paid on 30 September 2022 to shareholders on the register at close of business on 26 August 2022.

“The ex-dividend date will be 25 August 2022.

In January, the board announced a review of the strategic options for each of the group’s three divisions with the intention to grow shareholder value. 

“That review is nearing completion and the board expects to make a separate announcement shortly.”