- KEY REPORTS
- CORPORATE GOVERNANCE
We had the advantage of beginning from a strong base - a healthy business with 88 years of history, sound values and significant assets. Everyone involved in the Company has worked as a team to capitalise on the unique opportunity presented to us, and together we have had an inspirational year marked with many colourful moments and milestones.
The initial focus was on completing the separation of the Company from our former parent. Our listing as a public corporation occurred on 15 July 2002, with the legal separation entirely complete by 22 July 2002. Our shares initially traded at a price of $2.90. Since that time, the investment market has increasingly recognised the performance and worth of the Group.
Since the Company's listing, the focus has been squarely on the creation of shareholder value, through continuing profitability and growth in value. This is reflected in our inaugural net profit after tax of $452 million, and net cash flow of $598 million. The strength of our financial performance reflects the underlying calibre of our assets and the exceptional efforts of our people.
The commitment of your Board and the management team to generating returns for shareholders is evident in the decisions we took to declare significant dividends as the extent of the Company's improving performance became clear. In February 2003, an interim dividend of 9 cents was declared, and then in August 2003 a final dividend of 13 cents and a special dividend of 7 cents were declared. The total distribution has been 29 cents per share (all fully franked). This compares with the forecast prior to listing that dividends of 20 cents per share (partly franked) would be made in respect of the 2003 financial year.
During the year, $540 million in debt was repaid. Total debt outstanding at 30 June 2003 was $168 million - a gearing ratio of 2.4 per cent, reflecting one of the strongest balance sheets in the global steel industry.
In February 2003, a share buy-back program was initiated. The objectives are to boost earnings per share, increase the return on shareholders' funds and reduce the weighted average cost of capital. As at 30 June 2003, the Company had purchased over 8.3 million shares under the program. A further 13.5 million shares were purchased between 1 July and 27 August 2003.
I believe that the Company's share price appreciation reflects the strength of our financial performance combined with recognition of our focus on delivering value for shareholders.
One of the advantages of our status as a newly listed company is that the Board has had the opportunity to put in place current best-practice corporate governance arrangements, and these are summarised in this Report. Comprehensive structures for the overall management and control of all entities within the Group have been established.
While our actions have demonstrated our focus on delivering value to our shareholders, we have also delivered benefits for our employees, customers and host communities, and these are described in the early sections of this Report.
I thank all employees, led by CEO Kirby Adams, and my Board colleagues for their contributions to an outstanding performance.
Our strong balance sheet has enabled the simultaneous pursuit of a range of growth initiatives. These include incremental capacity increases at existing operations in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Indonesia, and the establishment of four new roll-forming facilities in Australia and China. In August 2003, we announced that the Company will proceed with a new $160 million steel coating and painting investment in Vietnam.
Going forward, we will maintain our focus on creating wealth for shareholders, and further expansion of the business to take advantage of the growth opportunities that are open to the Company.
A further announcement on 1 September revealed the proposed change of our Company name to BlueScope Steel Limited. Shareholder approval of the name change will see BlueScope Steel inherit a strong history, positive momentum from a great performance in 2002/03 and excellent prospects for future growth.
GRAHAM KRAEHE, CHAIRMAN