A clear, constant strategy
Dear fellow Shareholder
The tragedy in Chattanooga, Tennessee in November shocked and saddened us all. The thoughts of everyone at National Express remain with the families and friends of those six children who so tragically lost their lives at such a young age, and the others who were injured.
The Executives’ response was swift and comprehensive. Dean Finch was in Chattanooga within 20 hours of hearing of the accident, and met by senior members of the North American division’s management team. He provided a detailed report to the Board within 48 hours, and this and the ongoing response has been discussed extensively at both the Safety & Environment Committee and the full Board. The Board is satisfied with the speed and depth of management’s response and we will learn any necessary lessons and implement any appropriate changes that the ongoing investigations identify.
While this tragic accident will live long in our memory, I am pleased that in 2016 the Group’s performance has again been very strong. With revenue, profit and free cash flow all growing again, I believe we are seeing the benefits of the consistent delivery of and rigorous focus on our strategy.
It is very encouraging that we continue to combine both organic growth with secure significant acquisitions that deliver strong returns. I believe we have developed a particular strength across the Group in identifying new acquisition targets and integrating them to deliver excellent services and efficiencies, especially through synergies.
We have also recently completed the sale of c2c to Trenitalia. The Board considered this sale very carefully and judged both the offer from Trenitalia and the new investment opportunities presented by the income it would generate as representing the best value for shareholders.
It is because of the continued strength of our performance, especially with free cash flow again beating our target, and our positive outlook, that the Board has recommended a 10% increase in the final dividend, bringing the full year dividend to 12.28 pence. Subject to approval by shareholders, this will be paid on 19 May 2017 to shareholders on the register on 28 April 2017.
Matthew Ashley will be moving to become the President and Chief Executive officer of our North American division, following David Duke’s long-planned retirement. I am delighted that we are able to draw on existing senior management and enhance Matthew’s experience within National Express. Equally, it is very pleasing that David has agreed to remain as a senior counsel to Matthew, retaining his experience and nationwide connections in an advisory capacity. Matthew will move to North America after the AGM in May, and take over fully from David in September. Matthew will remain a member of the PLC Board.
I am pleased to welcome Chris Davies, who will replace Matthew as Group Finance Director. Chris will join National Express in early May and join the Board after the 2017 AGM. Chris joins us from Inchcape plc, where he has been Group Financial Controller and Treasurer since 2013, and brings significant international financial experience.
I look forward to continuing to work with Matthew and welcome Chris to National Express. I should also like to again thank David Duke – and also our Managing Director, Rail, Andrew Chivers, who retired at the end of 2016 after 16 years with us – for their significant contributions to National Express and wish them all the best for the future.
Sir John Armitt
23 February 2017