2004 HAS BEEN A VERY STRONG YEAR FOR UBM. Group operating profit* increased by 33.1% to £132.3 million (2003: £99.4 million). Earnings per share* increased by 36.4% to 32.6p (2003: 23.9p). The board is recommending a final dividend of 8.37p (2003: 5.7p) bringing the total dividend for the year to 12.0p (2003: 9.0p) an increase of 33.3% reflecting the strong performance during the year and the directors’ confidence in the outlook for the future.
2004 has been a very strong year for UBM. Group operating profit* increased by 33.1% to £132.3 million (2003: £99.4 million). Earnings per share* increased by 36.4% to 32.6p (2003: 23.9p). The board is recommending a final dividend of 8.37p (2003: 5.7p) bringing the total dividend for the year to 12.0p (2003: 9.0p) an increase of 33.3% reflecting the strong performance during the year and the directors’ confidence in the outlook for the future.
The Group has intensified its focus on an integrated multi-media strategy, harnessing technology to give our customers more responsive feedback on the effectiveness of their spend and leveraging UBM’s strong online positions across all its channels to market – an integrated multi-media proposition. We are continuing to invest significantly in this area and our organic initiatives have contributed to an underlying revenue growth for the Group of 3.2%.
During the year we acquired certain MediMedia businesses (now CMPMedica) which now makes healthcare our largest sector and gives a more balanced sectoral spread. Since the year-end we have announced three more acquisitions, all of which are a strong strategic fit and also meet our exacting financial criteria. Over the last 2 years all acquisitions have exceeded their business case. At the end of January 2005, we announced that we were undertaking a strategic review of our market research business which includes the possibility of a sale of these assets.
Our balance sheet is strong helped by a reduction in the tax creditor from £308.5m to £208.0m.
At the heart of any organisation are its people and the values they embrace. During the year significant work has been done to define our values more closely. The Board takes very seriously adherence to these values because they are so important to the perception of UBM from customers, suppliers, potential employees and shareholders. To all our employees, on behalf of the Board, a sincere thank you for the tremendous results you have achieved during the year.
I am also pleased to welcome two new non-executive directors to the Board; Chris Hyman joined in May and Sandy Leitch in January 2005. Both bring significant experience to the Board.
2004 was also memorable because at the year-end we announced that at the beginning of April 2005 David Levin would succeed Clive Hollick as CEO of UBM. It was always clear to me, and the rest of the Board, that Clive’s succession was likely to be one of the most significant items ‘on my watch’.
Clive has been at the helm of UBM in its various incarnations for over 30 years – in itself a staggering feat. From the early roots in Hambro’s in 1974 then Vavasseur the money broking business was formed in MAI. This was then nurtured, and significant value returned to shareholders in 1998. He was a founding director of NOP World in 1989 – his patience, encouragement and foresight has grown it to its current form. In 1991 he was a founder of Meridian Broadcasting which then formed the heart of our developing TV assets which we sold in 2000 for £1.75billion – returning £1.25 billion to shareholders. Similarly, he has nurtured our stake in Channel 5 from its foundation in 1995 to the valuable and growing asset that it is today. These are just a few examples of the pattern: spot an opportunity, invest, grow and develop it; be patient, then when and if the timing is right, realise the value for shareholders. His record is a matter of public record and one that is extremely difficult to match over such a long period of time, furthermore, it is still intact. He also developed a strong internal team such that we had a choice of several worthy internal successors to consider.
The succession process that we adopted was clear and rigorous. In the end, the Board concluded that David Levin was the strongest candidate to succeed Clive – no easy task by any means. David’s experience includes a successful track record in publishing with Euromoney, then with Psion and currently as CEO of Symbian. He has exemplary people skills, deep knowledge of publishing and technology and extensive experience in international markets – the Far East, Europe and USA. He has an impressive operational background with a strong record of strategic execution. We are all excited about him joining and heading up UBM.
When I was contemplating joining the Board in 1996, I thought with Clive at the helm life would not be boring. I have not been disappointed! Clive, you leave the Group in tremendous shape, sincere thanks to you from everyone at UBM – we will miss you but we also have a worthy successor.
* Before amortisation of goodwill and exceptional items