11 March 2021

James Fisher and Sons plc preliminary announcement of final results for the year ended 31 December 2020

James Fisher and Sons plc, the leading marine service provider, announces its final results for the year ended 31 December 2020.

Results summary 2020

Underlying

2019

% change 2020

Statutory

2019

Group revenue £518.2m  £617.1m (16) £518.2m  £617.1m
Operating profit / (loss)  £40.5m £66.3m (39) £(43.5)m  £55.6m
Operating margin 7.8% 10.7% (2.9)pp (8.4)% 9.0%
Profit / (loss) before tax £31.5m £58.5m (46) £(52.5)m £47.8m
Diluted earnings per share  47.9p 92.8p (48) (114.2)p 72.7p
Dividend per share 8.0p 11.3p (29) 8.0p 11.3p
Cash conversion 217% 99% 118pp 217% 99%
Net borrowings £198.1m £230.4m (14) £198.1m £230.4m

Key points

  • Priority remains safety and wellbeing of employees and customers
  • Group faced dual challenges of Covid-19 and energy prices during the year
  • Swift management action taken to reduce costs, optimise cash flow and protect liquidity
  • Underlying operating profit of £40.5m, slightly ahead of November's guidance of £35m-£40m
  • Underlying operating margin resilient at 7.8% (2019: 10.7%)
  • Strong cash performance reduced net borrowings by £32.3m
  • Strategic review progressing well

Eoghan O'Lionaird, Chief Executive Officer commented:

"2020 was a challenging year for the Group. Despite the many issues we faced, our employees showed great resilience and the operating and financial performance of the Group held up well in the circumstances confirming the benefit of strong market positions and responsive niche businesses.

Although early in 2021, the Group is trading in line with our expectations, however caution remains due to the ongoing effects of the pandemic. The Group has a resilient business model with a broad spread of end markets, customers and geographies, supported by a strong track record of converting its operating profit into cash.

Our ongoing strategic review confirms the fundamental strengths of the Group and has also identified scope for significant financial and operational improvement. Our goal is to improve the quality of our business by focusing on structurally growing markets, improving operating margins, increasing returns and sustainably delivering value for all stakeholders."

For futher information:

James Fisher and Sons plc 

Eoghan O'Lionaird 

Stuart Kilpatrick

Chief Executive Officer 

Froup Finance Director

020 7614 9508
FTI Consulting

Richard Mountain

Susanne Yule

  0203 727 1340


Notes:

1. James Fisher uses alternative performance measures (APMs) as key financial indicators to assess the underlying performance of the business. APMs are used by management as they are considered to better reflect business performance and provide useful additional information. APMs include underlying operating profit, underlying profit before tax, underlying diluted earnings per share, underlying return on capital employed, underlying Ebitda, cash conversion and underlying net borrowings. An explanation of APMs is set out in note 2 to these preliminary results.

2. Certain statements contained in this announcement constitute forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements involve risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause the actual results, performance or achievements of James Fisher to be materially different from future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by such statements. Such risks, uncertainties and other factors include exchange rates, general economic conditions and the business environment.

Chairman's Statement

When I reported at this time last year, few could have imagined the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic would have on communities around the world and also on our own business. In March 2020, the first UK national lockdown was announced which gave rise to the initial challenge of keeping our employees safe, whilst continuing to service our broad customer base. In addition, internationally and offshore, where we often operate in extreme and dangerous environments, we took action to ensure effective and appropriate health and safety regimes were in place. It is right that I firstly pay tribute to all our management and staff who worked so diligently in extraordinarily difficult circumstances to maintain our services for the benefit of all our stakeholders.

Through a sensible and robust approach to the effective management of our facilities, including the use of protective equipment and social distancing, we were able to continue to operate efficiently in many, but not all, of our business divisions. In response to the UK Government's call to manufacturers, we should all be proud that JFD, with its position as a global leader in subsea breathing apparatus, developed the InVicto™ Ventilator, a non-invasive medical device to assist patients with breathing difficulties.

The management team has made good progress on the strategic review which has confirmed the strong fundamentals of the Group but identified scope for significant financial and operational improvement. We will seek to improve the quality of our business by focusing on structurally growing markets, improving operating margins, increasing returns and sustainably delivering value for all stakeholders. The strategy will be presented to shareholders at a Capital Markets Day in the first half of 2021.

Results

Inevitably, the pandemic had a material impact on our annual financial results with Group revenue 16% lower at £518.2m (2019: £617.1m). Currency fluctuations had a small adverse effect which was offset by the contribution from recent acquisitions. We had a stronger end to the year with revenue in the fourth quarter 7% higher than the previous quarter.

Underlying operating profit for the year was slightly ahead of previous guidance at £40.5m (2019: £66.3m) and reflects a relatively resilient performance in three of our four divisions, all of which were impacted to some degree by the pandemic. Underlying profit before tax and underlying diluted earnings per share were £31.5m (2019: £58.5m) and 47.9p (2019: 92.8p) respectively.

The Marine Support division continued to disappoint. Whilst the ship-to-ship business had another strong year our operations in the challenging offshore marine and oil & gas markets were impacted by the pandemic with projects delayed or cancelled. As announced in January 2021 and within total separately disclosed items of £84.0m (2019: £10.7m), we have made a material impairment charge of £70.4m against the carrying value of certain assets in this division.

On a statutory basis the Group reported a loss before taxation of £52.5m (2019: profit of £47.8m) and statutory diluted earnings per share was a loss of 114.2 pence (2019: earnings of 72.7 pence).

The Group has a strong historical record of cash generation. By continuing to focus on working capital and, with tighter restrictions on capital expenditure in response to the pandemic, net borrowings reduced by £32.3m to £198.1m at December 2020 with headroom from committed bank facilities at the same date increasing to £120.2m (2019: £41.7m).

Dividends

Faced with the uncertainty of the pandemic and wishing to preserve cash resources, the Board announced in March 2020 that it had suspended the final dividend for the year ended 31 December 2019 and this dividend was subsequently cancelled. Having overcome the initial impact of the pandemic and with trading no longer deteriorating, the Board announced an interim dividend of 8.0p per share, amounting to £4.0m, in August 2020, which was paid in November 2020. During the second half, further enforced Covid-19 restrictions across many of the areas the Group operates negatively affected financial performance, particularly in Marine Support. Although the Board recognises the importance of dividends to its shareholders, in view of the 2020 financial results, the Board is not recommending a final dividend for the year ended 31 December 2020.

Business review

Our principal focus has been on supporting our businesses during these difficult times, ensuring that they have the resources to deliver our services in a safe environment. In order to preserve cash, we introduced a salary reduction plan across our wider leadership team in the early months of the pandemic which was subsequently repaid, save for our senior leadership team and members of the Board who accepted a salary cut for the second quarter at this crucial time. Where appropriate we made use of the UK Government's Covid-19 support scheme furloughing certain employees especially in the Marine Support division in order to preserve many jobs. Unfortunately, as the year has continued, we have had to make some redundancies to right size the business to match market opportunities.

In 2019, the Group invested in two dive support vessels to take advantage of identified market opportunities with diving and offshore construction services for oil majors. Both vessels required an element of refurbishment before they were able to come into service. The purchase and subsequent refurbishment of these vessels coincided with the rapid decline in oil prices coupled with the delays in supply chains brought about by Covid-19. Both vessels are now available for use but, recognising that end markets have changed, we have taken the view that we should write these assets down to their estimated recoverable amount.

The three divisions of Specialist Technical, Offshore Oil and Tankships have all produced creditable results demonstrating our strong and diverse position in these markets. Many of the issues experienced by Marine Support were outside our control but nevertheless, we remain an important provider of services in the offshore marine and renewables sectors and we are well positioned as these markets recover.

Sustainability

During 2020 our business continued to deliver operational carbon reductions, developing business travel alternatives, plastic reduction and continued support to multilateral global environment initiatives. This year also saw our first CDP submission, which is an important milestone in our disclosure of greenhouse gas impacts and further demonstrates our commitment to drive the business with renewed purpose over the long term. We are positioning to take advantage of the ongoing energy market transition, where many of our customers are setting net zero carbon commitments and looking to us for solutions to help them reduce their own carbon footprint. Our history in supporting the marine environment means we are well placed to service the continued global growth in offshore renewables. This global shift to a greener energy transition is also having an impact on our business in parallel ways, as we support sustainable approaches to the decommissioning of existing oil and gas assets.

The Board

It was announced a year ago that, having completed nine years as an independent director of James Fisher including three years as Chairman, I would step down as a director once a replacement had been appointed. In January 2021, following an external search, that the Board agreed to appoint Angus Cockburn as a non-executive director and Chairman of the Company with effect from 1 May 2021. I will retire as a director on 30 April 2021.

Angus is a chartered accountant with an MBA from the IMD Business School in Switzerland and is currently Group Chief Financial Officer at Serco Group Plc, a position he has held since October 2014. He will step down from the Serco Board at its AGM in April 2021. His previous roles have included Chief Financial Officer and Interim Chief Executive of Aggreko plc and Managing Director of Pringle of Scotland. Angus is currently a Non-Executive Director of Ashtead Group plc and the privately owned Edrington Group Limited.

On 20 March 2020 it was announced that Fergus Graham had stepped down from the Board to pursue other business opportunities. I would like to thank Fergus for his contribution to the Group since his appointment to the Board in 2018 and wish him every success in the future.

I would like to record my thanks to all the Directors for the help and support they have given me over the last ten years and in particular during this difficult last 12 months. Your Company has a well-balanced and experienced Board of Directors who bring a wealth of experience and knowledge across a wide spectrum of subjects. I am confident that the Board, under the new direction of Angus, will bring the right mix of continuity and change to support the executive Directors.

Outlook

Although early in 2021, the Group is trading in line with our expectations, however caution remains due to the ongoing effects of the pandemic. The Group has a resilient business model with a broad spread of end markets, customers and geographies, supported by a strong track record of converting its operating profit into cash.

Our ongoing strategic review confirms the fundamental strengths of the Group and has also identified scope for significant financial and operational improvement. Our goal is to improve the quality of our business by focusing on structurally growing markets, improving operating margins, increasing returns and sustainably delivering value for all stakeholders.

Chief Executive's Review

Having joined the Board on 1 October 2019, my first full year as Chief Executive has been one of the most challenging in the Group's 173-year history; a year like no other. However, despite the many issues we have faced, our employees have shown great resilience and the operating and financial performance of the Group held up well in the circumstances, confirming the benefit of strong market positions, responsive niche businesses and a broad spread of end markets and geographies.

Response to Covid-19

In the first half of 2020, oil prices were adversely impacted by over production and this was quickly followed by the global lockdown due to Covid-19. At the start of the pandemic we quickly established our priorities: to keep our people safe; preserve as many jobs as possible, and to protect the interests of the company and its stakeholders. Within that context, we continued as far as possible, to provide our services and goods to customers, whilst supporting and maintaining our supply chain. I am immensely proud of how our employees have adapted to rapidly changing circumstances and continued to operate safely and efficiently.

In March, we established weekly Executive meetings and a weekly video call for the senior leaders of all our businesses. This ensured a quick and, where appropriate, consistent approach and enabled learning from each other's experiences in conditions not previously experienced. We set out clear Group practices in response to Covid-19 but recognised, as a decentralised international Group, the value of local autonomous teams having the latitude to respond appropriately. In addition, we increased communications to ensure the Group was well informed and aligned.

Our employees

In facing the challenges of the pandemic, our priority throughout has been to protect the safety and wellbeing of our employees. Since the third week of March, the majority of our office-based staff throughout the world have been working from home, utilising video conferencing technology. At our operational sites, we introduced enhanced safety measures, deep cleansing and social distancing which has helped to keep people safe, whilst maintaining good levels of efficiency and performance. Additionally, recognising the stress and strain resulting from the pandemic-related constraints, we adopted practices and procedures to support the mental wellbeing of our employees.

Customers and suppliers

Throughout this period our businesses have remained open and our teams have worked hard to provide our unique products and marine services to our customers globally. The pandemic challenged our ability to receive supplies promptly, to complete projects overseas and generally to move people and equipment around. Our businesses responded innovatively to these challenges and supported the supply chain throughout.

Martek, our marine safety products and services business, responded quickly to new crew change guidelines due to the pandemic, by launching a coronavirus antibody test. It also provided comprehensive personal protective equipment to its marine customer base.

JFD responded to the UK Government's call for rapidly manufactured ventilators to provide essential medical equipment to the NHS. Using its world-leading breathing gas reclaim systems, the InVicto™ ventilator was quickly developed, tested and designed for minimal oxygen consumption, which could become a scarce resource. While the UK medical authority did not take InVicto™ forward, the ventilator is being used to treat patients in India.

Communities

We recognised the importance of supporting the communities in which our employees live and work during these challenging times. Many of our businesses supported local charities and made donations of protective equipment. In addition, our employees helped distribute vital food supplies to the vulnerable unable to leave their homes during the first lockdown. In Singapore, we supported the Courage Fund to help provide relief to susceptible individuals and families affected by Covid-19.

Financial response to Covid-19

The Group took swift actions to reduce costs, optimise cash flow and protect liquidity. This included the deferral of all discretionary capital expenditure, instituting a hiring freeze, placing approximately 400 UK employees on furlough and implementing a 20% pay deferral for approximately 800 employees across the world. The deferred pay was repaid in the second half, except for all Board members, the Executive and our senior leaders.

In addition, the Group took immediate action to preserve and improve liquidity, increasing committed borrowing facilities by £50m in the first half. Actions taken to defer bonuses, tax payments and defined benefit pension scheme contributions improved liquidity by approximately £16m in the first half which reversed in the second half save for around £3m, which will be paid in 2021. Due to the uncertainty of Covid-19, the Board took the decision to cancel the payment of the final dividend in relation to the year ended 31 December 2019, which was due to be paid in May 2020, and this reduced cash outflows by £11.8m in the year.

Strategic Review

After joining James Fisher in the latter part of 2019, this year was an opportune time to revisit and re-test the Group's strategy and to create a plan for further growth in shareholder value for the future. Despite the challenges of 2020, the strategic review has progressed well and each of our businesses has developed a structured plan for future growth. We will provide shareholders with full details at a Capital Markets Day in the first half of 2021.

Since 2001, the Group has delivered a strong trend of increasing underlying diluted earnings per share and dividends. However, in the last five years, the quality of our business, as indicated by its underlying operating margin, has remained flat. Over the same period, return on capital employed, our measure of the return to shareholders, has marginally declined. The challenge we have set for ourselves through the strategic review is to sustainably improve the quality of our business by increasing our margins and to increase the return to our stakeholders. Our findings have led us to the conclusion that to achieve this goal, we need to extend the purview of our strategy to encompass all our primary stakeholders - our employees, our customers and suppliers, the local communities in which we operate, the environment, and our shareholders. By creating and executing effective strategies aimed at all our stakeholders, we aim to create a more intrinsically sustainable company.

With the support of the Executive, the Group has commenced a process to become a purpose-led company, which defines how we sustainably create value for all our stakeholders. We operate a decentralised model that facilitates autonomy and accountability and encourages leadership teams to react quickly to changing circumstances. Whilst each of our businesses has its own identity, there is a common thread linking them together which is to pioneer safe and trusted solutions to complex problems in harsh environments.

The Group has earned a reputation for pioneering unique solutions to demanding operational and technical challenges around the world. In partnership with our customers we continue to tackle the toughest problems, supporting energy production safely and reliably, providing life-saving equipment and securing critical infrastructure. A diverse group of businesses and people, we are united by an entrepreneurial spirit, technical expertise, and a strong commitment to safety. The Group aspires to be an exceptional place to work, have fair and trusted relationships with customers and suppliers, support communities to grow, protect the environment, and provide strong returns for our investors.

We have identified three macro-economic trends that will impact the markets in which the Group operates:

(i) Changing energy mix as renewable energy reduces carbon emissions and environmental concerns will lead to an increased focus on innovation, new technologies and decommissioning. Whilst recognising that oil and gas will remain part of the energy mix for some time, we aim to provide services to production, maintenance and decommissioning in the safest, most sustainable way whilst actively supporting and investing in the energy transition to low carbon sources.

(ii) Acceleration of innovation as customers seek efficiencies and more effective asset management; and

(iii) Shifting economic power to developing regions giving potentially increased political risk and increased defence spending.

These trends are central to the development of the Group's strategic aim to deliver sustainable benefits to our five key stakeholders. Capital will be allocated to growth opportunities, supplemented by selective acquisitions whilst business with below benchmark return potential will be divested. Delivery of the Group's strategy will require a strong focus on both commercial and operational excellence.

Financial performance 

The Group's goal is to deliver sustainable long-term growth in underlying earnings per share and dividends. With the sharp drop in energy prices followed by the global pandemic, the results in 2020 interrupted a lengthy period of double-digit growth in earnings and dividends.

Three of the Group's divisions and its ship-to-ship transfer business performed with resilience in the year. However, project-related businesses, particularly subsea activities within Marine Support, were significantly impacted by deferrals or cancellations. Group revenue was 16% below 2019 at £518.2m (2019: £617.1m) and underlying operating profit was £40.5m (2019: £66.3m). Swift actions to reduce the cost base resulted in a 17% reduction to selling, general and administration costs.

Underlying cash conversion, which measures the proportion of underlying operating profit that is turned into operating cash, was 217% (2019: 99%) reflecting actions taken to optimise cash flow and to increase liquidity.

The Group reported an operating loss, on a statutory basis of £43.5m (2019: profit of £55.6m) due to significant non-recurring charges of £84.0m which are more fully described below and in note 5. Cash performance was strong with net borrowings reduced by £32.3m in the year.

Acquisitions

The Group acquired Fathom Systems in February for £1.2m. It is a market leader in diver communications, gas analysis, diver monitoring and integrated diving control systems and complements JFD in our Specialist Technical division.

Additional information:

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