7 December, 2021
Unaudited results for the half year and second quarter results ended 31 October 2021
Read and download the unaudited results for the half year and second quarter ended 31 October 2021. You can also view the latest webcast.
|Second quarter||First half|
|Adjusted2 profit before taxation||542||426||27%||979||687||42%|
|Profit before taxation||474||405||17%||890||646||38%|
|Adjusted2 earnings per share||90.9¢||70.2¢||29%||162.4¢||113.6¢||43%|
|Earnings per share||79.5¢||66.6¢||19%||147.5¢||106.7¢||38%|
- Record first half performance with clear momentum across the business
- Revenue up 18%1; rental revenue up 20%1
- Good progress across all Sunbelt 3.0 actionable components
- 58 locations added in North America
- $1.2bn of capital invested in the business (2020: $438m)
- $428m spent on bolt-on acquisitions (2020: $nil) and a further $320m in Q3
- Net debt to EBITDA leverage1,3 of 1.5 times (2020: 1.7 times)
- Interim dividend increased by 28% to 12.5¢ per share (2020: 9.76¢ per share)
- We now expect full year results ahead of our previous expectations
1 Calculated at constant exchange rates applying current period exchange rates.
2 Adjusted results are stated before exceptional items and amortisation.
3 Throughout this announcement we refer to a number of alternative performance measures which provide additional useful information. The directors have adopted these to provide additional information on the underlying trends, performance and position of the Group. The alternative performance measures are not defined by IFRS and therefore may not be directly comparable with other companies’ alternative performance measures, but are defined and reconciled in the Glossary on page 34.
Ashtead’s chief executive, Brendan Horgan, commented:
“The Group’s strong performance continues with rental revenue up 20% for the half year over the prior year, but more importantly up 14% when compared with the first half of 2019/20, both at constant currency. This market outperformance across the business is only possible through the dedication of our team members who deliver for all our stakeholders every day, while ensuring our leading value of safety remains at the forefront of all we do.
Sunbelt 3.0 has been embraced by the business and we are making good progress across all actionable components. In the period, we invested $1.2bn in capital across existing locations and greenfields and $428m on 10 bolt-on acquisitions, adding a combined total of 58 locations in North America. We have a healthy bolt-on pipeline and have already spent a further $320m in the third quarter. This investment takes advantage of the ongoing structural growth opportunity that we continue to see in the business as we seek to deliver on our strategic priorities to grow general tool and amplify specialty.
Our business has strong momentum in supportive markets. The benefit we derive from the diversity of our products, services and end markets, our investment in technology and ongoing structural change, enhanced by the environmental and social aspects of ESG, enables the Board to look to the future with confidence. Notwithstanding the volatility that continues to arise from Covid, the fundamentals of our business are strong and we now expect full year performance to be ahead of our previous expectations.”
|Will Shaw||Director of Investor Relations||+44 (0)20 7726 9700|
|Neil Bennett||Maitland/AMO||+44 (0)20 7379 5151|
|James McFarlane||Maitland/AMO||+44 (0)7584 142 665|
Brendan Horgan and Michael Pratt will hold a conference call for equity analysts to discuss the results and outlook at 9am on Tuesday, 7 December 2021. The call will be webcast live via the Company’s website at www.ashtead-group.com and a replay will be available via the website shortly after the call concludes. A copy of this announcement and the slide presentation used for the call are available for download on the Company’s website. The usual conference call for bondholders will begin at 3pm (10am EST).
Analysts and bondholders have already been invited to participate in the analyst call and conference call for bondholders but any eligible person not having received details should contact the Company’s PR advisers, Maitland/AMO (Audrey Da Costa) at +44 (0)20 7379 5151.
FORWARD LOOKING STATEMENTS
This announcement contains forward looking statements. These have been made by the directors in good faith using information available up to the date on which they approved this report. The directors can give no assurance that these expectations will prove to be correct. Due to the inherent uncertainties, including both business and economic risk factors underlying such forward looking statements, actual results may differ materially from those expressed or implied by these forward looking statements. Except as required by law or regulation, the directors undertake no obligation to update any forward looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
Change in presentational currency
Effective from 1 May 2021, the Group changed its presentational currency from sterling to US dollars to allow for greater transparency in the Group’s performance for investors and other stakeholders and to reduce exchange rate volatility in reported figures, given that c. 80% of the Group’s revenue and c. 90% of the Group’s operating profit originate in US dollars. Accordingly, the Group’s financial statements within this announcement are presented in US dollars. Further details were provided in our announcement ‘Change in presentational currency’ released on 15 June 2021 and in the Group’s Annual Report & Accounts 2021, available via the Company’s website at www.ashtead-group.com.
|UK in £m||368.4||272.6||115.3||86.0||53.8||20.0|
|Canada in C$m||310.0||220.2||147.6||92.9||81.1||33.2|
|UK in $m||510.5||347.8||159.8||109.7||74.5||25.5|
|Canada in $m||249.4||163.7||118.7||69.1||65.3||24.7|
|Group central costs||-||-||(13.5)||(7.7)||(14.1)||(8.2)|
|Net financing costs||(116.5)||(137.0)|
|Profit before exceptional items, amortisation and tax||978.6||686.6|
|Profit before taxation||889.8||645.8|
|Profit attributable to equity holders of the Company||658.7||477.8|
1 Segment result presented is operating profit before amortisation.
In the US, rental only revenue of $2,342m (2020: $2,025m) was 16% higher than the prior year (and 9% higher than 2019), representing continued market outperformance and demonstrating the benefits of our strategy of growing our specialty businesses and broadening our end markets. In the first half, our general tool business grew 13%, from the depressed activity levels in the prior year, while our specialty businesses, which grew throughout last year, grew 23%. While rental revenue growth has been driven by volume, it has benefitted from improved rates in what is a better rate environment than we have seen for a number of years. We estimate that hurricane efforts contributed $60-65m of revenue in the second quarter. US total revenue, including new and used equipment, merchandise and consumable sales, increased 14% to $3,124m (2020: $2,747m).
The UK business generated rental only revenue of £203m, up 18% on the prior year
(2020: £172m). While our performance continues to benefit from our essential support to the Department of Health in its COVID-19 response efforts, our core business is performing strongly and is benefitting from the operational improvements in the business which are ongoing. Total revenue increased 35% to £368m (2020: £273m) reflecting the higher level of ancillary and sales revenue associated with the work for the Department of Health, which accounted for c. 32% of UK revenue in the half year. We are supporting c.500 testing sites at the moment, which we expect to continue through the winter before reducing significantly in Spring 2022.
Canada’s rental only revenue increased 47% to C$233m (2020: C$159m). This rate of growth reflects, in part, the depressed comparatives last year, when lock-downs affected Canada more severely than the US and our lighting, grip and studios business generated minimal revenue in the March to July 2020 timeframe as most film and TV production activities ceased. Canada’s total revenue was C$310m (2020: C$220m).
Last year, we took action to reduce operating costs and eliminate discretionary expenditure in all our markets. While we continue to maintain a focus on the cost base, a number of these costs have returned to the business, reflecting the increased activity levels. In addition, we continue to invest in our technology platform and face inflationary pressures, particularly in relation to labour, transportation and fuel costs. As a result, in the US, 44% of the rental revenue increase dropped through to EBITDA. This contributed to a reported EBITDA margin of 50% (2020: 50%) and a 24% increase in segment profit to $969m (2020: $782m) at a margin of 31% (2020: 28%).
The UK business continues to be focused on delivering operational efficiency and improving returns in the business, while continuing to support the Department of Health. These factors contributed to an EBITDA margin of 31% (2020: 32%) and a segment profit of £54m (2020: £20m) at a margin of 15% (2020: 7%).
The development of our Canadian business continues as it invests to expand its network and broaden its markets. Growth has been achieved across the business while delivering a 48% EBITDA margin (2020: 42%) and generating a segment profit of C$81m (2020: C$33m) at a margin of 26% (2020: 15%). The margin improvement reflects principally the contribution from the lighting, grip and studio business, which was loss-making in the same period last year.
Overall, Group adjusted operating profit increased to $1,095m (2020: $824m), up 32% at constant exchange rates. After net financing costs of $116m (2020: $137m), Group profit before exceptional items, amortisation of intangibles and taxation was $979m (2020: $687m). After a tax charge of 26% (2020: 26%) of the adjusted pre-tax profit, adjusted earnings per share increased 43% at constant currency to 162.4ȼ (2020: 113.6ȼ). The tax charge in the period includes a $10m charge, reflecting an increase in the UK deferred tax liability due to UK legislation being substantively enacted which increases the UK corporate tax rate from 19% to 25% from 1 April 2023.
Statutory profit before tax was $890m (2020: $646m). This is after amortisation of $42m
(2020: $41m) and, in the current year, exceptional interest costs of $47m. Included within the total tax charge is a tax credit of $22m (2020: $10m) which relates to exceptional items and the amortisation of intangibles. As a result, basic earnings per share were 147.5¢ (2020: 106.7¢). The overall cash tax charge was 16%.
Capital expenditure and acquisitions
Capital expenditure for the first half was $1,176m gross and $1,035m net of disposal proceeds
(2020: $438m gross and $245m net). Fleet deliveries were slower than expected throughout the half year due to supply chain delays and therefore we have deferred certain fleet disposals to meet strong demand. As a result, the Group’s rental fleet at 31 October 2021 at cost was $12.8bn and our average fleet age is now 40 months (2020: 39 months).
We invested $428m (2020: $nil) in 10 bolt-on acquisitions during the half year as we continue to both expand our footprint and diversify our end markets. Since the period end, we have invested a further $320m in bolt-ons.
Return on Investment
Following the adverse impact of COVID-19, return on investment (excluding goodwill and intangible assets) continues to improve across the business. In the US, return on investment for the 12 months to 31 October 2021 was 23% (2020: 18%). In the UK, reflecting the benefits of increased volumes supporting the Department of Health and operational improvements, return on investment (excluding goodwill and intangible assets) increased to 15% (2020: 4%). In Canada, return on investment (excluding goodwill and intangible assets) was 23% (2020: 7%). This reflects improved performance across the business and an increasing contribution from our lighting, grip and studio business. For the Group as a whole, return on investment (including goodwill and intangible assets) was 18% (2020: 13%). Return on investment excludes the impact of IFRS 16.
Cash flow and net debt
The increased scale of the business enabled the Group to generate free cash flow of $440m (2020: $1,049m) during the period, despite capital expenditure payments of $966m (2020: $353m). During the period, we spent $206m (£149m) on share buybacks.
In August 2021, the Group took advantage of good debt markets and refinanced its debt facilities by issuing $550m 1.500% senior notes maturing in August 2026 and $750m 2.450% senior notes maturing in August 2031. The net proceeds of the issues were used to repurchase the Group’s $600m 4.125% senior notes due 2025 and $600m 5.250% senior notes due 2026, pay related fees and expenses and repay an element of the amount outstanding under the ABL facility. In addition, the Group also increased and extended its asset-based senior bank facility, with $4.5bn committed until August 2026. Other principal terms and conditions remain unchanged. These actions ensure the Group’s debt package continues to be well structured and flexible, enabling us to optimise the opportunity presented by end market conditions. The Group’s debt facilities are now committed for an average of six years at a weighted average cost of 3%.
Net debt at 31 October 2021 was $6,429m (2020: $6,078m). Excluding the effect of IFRS 16, net debt at 31 October 2021 was $4,677m (2020: $4,618m), while the ratio of net debt to EBITDA was 1.5 times (2020: 1.7 times) on a constant currency basis. The Group’s target range for net debt to EBITDA is 1.5 to 2.0 times excluding the impact of IFRS 16 (1.9 to 2.4 times post IFRS 16). Including the effect of IFRS 16, the ratio of net debt to EBITDA was 1.9 times (2020: 2.1 times) on a constant currency basis.
At 31 October 2021, availability under the senior secured debt facility was $3,033m with an additional $2,685m of suppressed availability – substantially above the $450m level at which the Group’s entire debt package is covenant free.
In line with our policy of providing a progressive dividend, having regard to both underlying profit and cash generation and to sustainability through the economic cycle, the Board has increased the interim dividend 28% to 12.5¢ per share (2020: 9.76¢ per share).
The timetable for payment of the interim dividend is as follows:
Ex dividend date: 13 January 2022
Record date: 14 January 2022
Payment date: 10 February 2022
The dividend is declared in US dollars but will be paid in sterling unless shareholders elect to receive their dividend in US dollars. Those shareholders who wish to receive their dividend in US dollars and have not yet made an election may do so by contacting Equiniti on 0371 384 2934 (International: +44 (0) 121 415 7011). The last day for election for the proposed interim dividend is 28 January 2022.
The Group remains disciplined in its approach to allocation of capital with the overriding objective being to enhance shareholder value.
Our capital allocation framework remains unchanged and prioritises:
- organic fleet growth;
- bolt-on acquisitions; and
- a progressive dividend with consideration to both profitability and cash generation that is sustainable through the cycle.
Additionally, we consider further returns to shareholders. In this regard, we assess continuously our medium term plans which take account of investment in the business, growth prospects, cash generation, net debt and leverage. Therefore the amount allocated to buybacks is simply driven by that which is available after organic growth, bolt-on M&A and dividends, whilst allowing us to operate within our 1.5 to 2.0 times target range for net debt to EBITDA pre IFRS 16.
Current trading and outlook
Our business has strong momentum in supportive markets. The benefit we derive from the diversity of our products, services and end markets, our investment in technology and ongoing structural change, enhanced by the environmental and social aspects of ESG, enables the Board to look to the future with confidence. Notwithstanding the volatility that continues to arise from Covid, the fundamentals of our business are strong and we now expect full year performance to be ahead of our previous expectations.
|Previous guidance||Current guidance|
|- US||13 – 16%||18 – 20%|
|- Canada||25 – 30%||25 – 30%|
|- UK||9 – 12%||9 – 12%|
|- Group||13 – 16%||17 – 20%|
|Capital expenditure (gross)2||$2.0 – 2.3bn||$2.2 – 2.4bn|
|Free cash flow2||$900 – 1,100m||$900 – 1,100m|
1 Represents change in year-over-year rental revenue at constant exchange rates assuming no further significant Covid related restrictions
2 Stated at C$1=$0.80 and £1=$1.35
Directors’ responsibility statement
We confirm that to the best of our knowledge:
- the condensed consolidated interim financial statements have been prepared in accordance with IAS 34 ‘Interim Financial Reporting’; and
- the interim management report includes a fair review of the information required by Disclosure and Transparency Rule 4.2.7R (indication of important events during the first six months and description of principal risks and uncertainties for the remaining six months of the year) and Disclosure and Transparency Rules 4.2.8R (disclosure of related parties’ transactions and changes therein).
By order of the Board
6 December 2021