Principal risks and uncertainties
Set out below are the principal business risks that could impact the Group’s business model, future performance, solvency or liquidity and information on how we mitigate them.
Our risk profile evolves as we move through the economic cycle and commentary on how risks have changed is included below.
Change in risk in 2019/20
In the longer term, there is a link between demand for our services and levels of economic activity. The construction industry, which affects our business, is cyclical and typically lags the general economic cycle by between 12 and 24 months.
The economic uncertainties resulting from the impact of the COVID-19 or other pandemics are considered as part of this risk, together with trade / tariff escalation and the impact of Brexit on the UK economy.
- Prudent management through the different phases of the cycle.
- Flexibility in the business model.
- Capital structure and debt facilities arranged in recognition of the cyclical nature of our market and able to withstand market shocks.
In recent years, our performance has benefited from the economic cycle. In the current year, while we were anticipating a slowing of market growth, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an immediate reduction in market activity and increased uncertainty. Nevertheless, our business planning is designed to ensure we maintain a strong balance sheet to not only weather unexpected shocks but also ensure we have firepower as markets recover to achieve the next ‘step-change’ in business performance.
The already competitive market could become even more competitive and we could suffer increased competition from large national competitors or small companies operating at a local level resulting in reduced market share and lower revenue.
- Create commercial advantage by providing the highest level of service, consistently and at a price which offers value.
- Differentiation of service.
- Enhance the barriers to entry to newcomers provided by our platform: industry-leading IT, experienced personnel and a broad network and equipment fleet.
- Regularly estimate and monitor our market share and track the performance of our competitors.
Our competitive position continues to improve. We have grown faster than our larger competitors and the market, and continue to take market share from our smaller, less well financed competitors. We have a 10% market share in the US, a 5% market share in Canada and 8% in the UK.
Debt facilities are only ever committed for a finite period of time and we need to plan to renew our facilities before they mature and guard against default. Our loan agreements also contain conditions (known as covenants) with which we must comply.
- Maintain conservative (1.5 to 2.0 times excluding the impact of IFRS 16), net debt to EBITDA leverage which helps minimise our refinancing risk.
- Maintain long debt maturities.
- Use of an asset-based senior facility means none of our debt contains quarterly financial covenants when availability under the facility exceeds $460m.
At 30 April 2020, our facilities were committed for an average of six years, leverage was at 1.9 times and availability under the senior debt facility, including cash on the balance sheet, was $2,363m.
A cyber-attack or serious uncured failure in our systems could result in us being unable to deliver service to our customers and / or the loss of data. In particular, we are heavily dependent on technology for the smooth running of our business given the large number of both units of equipment we rent and our customers. As a result, we could suffer reputational loss, revenue loss and financial penalties.
This is the most significant factor in our business continuity planning.
- Stringent policies surrounding security, user access, change control and the ability to download and install software.
- Testing of cyber security including system penetration testing and internal phishing training exercises undertaken.
- Use of antivirus and malware software, firewalls, email scanning and internet monitoring as an integral part of our security plan.
- Use of firewalls and encryption to protect systems and any connections to third parties.
- Use of multi-factor authentication.
- Continued focus on development of IT strategy taking advantage of cloud technology available.
- Separate near-live back-up data centres which are designed to be able to provide the necessary services in the event of a failure at a primary site.
We seek to improve continually our cyber security policies and controls in place. We have made a significant investment to enhance further our cyber security environment and profile this year and have a plan for the coming year.
In relation to business continuity, our plans have been subject to continued review and update during the year and our disaster recovery plans are tested regularly. Our broader business continuity plans have been tested extensively as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and were proven robust and enabled the business to operate uninterrupted throughout.
Health and safety
We need to comply with laws and regulations governing occupational health and safety matters. Furthermore, accidents could happen which might result in injury to an individual, claims against the Group and damage to our reputation.
- Maintain appropriate health and safety policies and procedures regarding the need to comply with laws and regulations and to reasonably guard our employees against the risk of injury.
- Induction and training programmes reinforce health and safety policies.
- Programmes to support our customers exercising their responsibility to their own workforces when using our equipment.
- Maintain appropriate insurance coverage.
The health and safety of our team members is our priority. We have introduced a new safety framework in North America, under the banner ‘Engage for Life’ and this will be extended to the UK during 2020/21.
Introduced additional measures to protect our team members, customers and communities as a result of the impact of COVID-19 including:
- restricted travel and meetings;
- remote working where possible;
- reinforced health protection protocols and implemented social distancing;
- provided touchless signature at the point of equipment pick-up or delivery;
Retaining and attracting good people is key to delivering superior performance and customer service.
Excessive staff turnover is likely to impact on our ability to maintain the appropriate quality of service to our customers and would ultimately impact our financial performance adversely.
At a leadership level, succession planning is required to ensure the Group can continue to inspire the right culture, leadership and behaviours and meet its strategic objectives.
- Provide well-structured and competitive reward and benefit packages that ensure our ability to attract and retain the employees we need.
- Ensure that our staff have the right working environment and equipment to enable them to do the best job possible and maximise their satisfaction at work.
- Invest in training and career development opportunities for our people to support them in their careers.
- Ensure succession plans are in place and reviewed regularly which meet the ongoing needs of the Group.
Our compensation and incentive programmes have continued to evolve to reflect market conditions and the economic environment.
Employee turnover is most significant in the first 12-24 months of employment and so we have developed programmes to enhance both the recruitment and induction process.
We continue to invest in training and career development with over 350 courses offered across both businesses.
We need to comply with environmental laws. These laws regulate such issues as wastewater, stormwater, solid and hazardous wastes and materials, and air quality. Breaches potentially create hazards to our employees, damage to our reputation and expose the Group to, amongst other things, the cost of investigating and remediating contamination and also fines and penalties for non-compliance.
- Policies and procedures in place at all our stores regarding the need to adhere to local laws and regulations.
- Procurement policies reflect the need for the latest available emissions management and fuel efficiency tools in our fleet.
- Monitoring and reporting of carbon emissions.
We continue to seek to reduce the environmental impact of our business and invest in technology to reduce the environmental impact on our customers’ businesses.
We are reviewing our ESG positioning and enhancing and formalising our strategy for the future.
In 2019/20 our carbon emission intensity ratio reduced to 20.3 (2019: 21.2) in the US, 12.5 (2019: 12.8) in Canada and 9.0 (2019: 9.4) in the UK.
Laws and regulations
Failure to comply with the frequently changing regulatory environment could result in reputational damage or financial penalty.
- Maintaining a legal function to oversee management of these risks and to achieve compliance with relevant legislation.
- Group-wide ethics policy and whistle-blowing arrangements.
- Evolving policies and practices to take account of changes in legal obligations.
- Training and induction programmes ensure our staff receive appropriate training and briefing on the relevant policies.
We monitor regulatory and legislative changes to ensure our policies and practices reflect them and we comply with relevant legislation.
Our whistle-blowing arrangements are well established and the Company Secretary reports matters arising to the Audit Committee and the Board during the course of the year. Further details as to the Group’s whistle-blowing arrangements are provided in our Annual Report.
During the year over 2,100 people in Sunbelt US, 120 people in Canada and 365 people in Sunbelt UK underwent induction training and additional training programmes were undertaken in safety.
In addition to the principal risks identified above, the Board considers what emerging risks may also impact the Group. In identifying emerging risks, the Board has considered both third party risk analysis as well as internal views of emerging trends which may impact the business. As a result of this analysis, the Board specifically considered climate related matters and emerging technologies, including battery-led technologies and autonomous machines.