Profit before tax in 2020 was £185.3m compared to £260.7m in 2019; however, because of the strong sales performance in the second half of 2020 and the successful repayment of furlough, rates relief and other deferred payments, the Board has announced it will resume dividend payments in 2021.
As first reported in 2020 Preliminary Results, and subsequently reported in the 2020 Annual Report and Accounts, the Group will pay a special dividend of 9.1p in lieu of the withdrawn 2019 final dividend. This is in addition to recommending a 2020 final dividend of 9.1p per ordinary share. Therefore, the total dividend the Board is recommending is 18.2p per ordinary share (though only the final dividend of 9.1p per ordinary share is required to be voted on by shareholders).
The Group also expects to announce an interim dividend for 2021 with its half year results in July.
It is genuinely encouraging to know we have shareholders who are interested and passionate about our environment and the impact we all have upon it.
As mentioned, 100% recycled paper could certainly be used in the production of our annual reports; however, the process of recycling paper back into a form which is suitable for colour printing is very carbon and water intensive. It is more beneficial for the environment if the annual report is recycled down the value chain to be made into packing boxes for example, which could then be recycled into toilet roll, and so on.
Using the FSC mixed credit certified paper for our annual report ensures we have an audited, verified, and annual certified chain of custody (i.e., from forest to finished product) from a well-respected body. It also ensures that the pulp used for the paper is derived from a managed and sustainable source, where trees are a farmed crop and we can be assured that there is no deforestation or child exploitation, and that high ethical production methods are used.
We are keen that we always use the most environmentally friendly materials to do the job and therefore we, along with our printing partners, keep a close eye on processes and technologies emerging in this space.
Our mature depots in France generate slightly lower sales than in the UK, as the UK sells a broader range of other products (for example, we do not sell internal doors in France). Margins have also tended to be slightly lower than the UK as we do not yet have the same economies of scale. However, since the change in leadership in France, we have been very encouraged by the business performance there with key financial metrics improving. We believe the French kitchen market could present an attractive opportunity for Howdens, which is why we are increasing investment and accelerating our depot opening programme there.