Chairman’s review
 
 
 
Cyril Ramaphosa
Non-executive chairman
 
   
 

Highlights

  • Hesitant macro-recovery, but strong Bidvest rebound
  • Distribution to shareholders of 225,0 cents, up 18,4%
  • Bidvest Namibia off to great start as an NSX-listed company
  • We boost staff complement to 106 000 despite tough trading conditions
  • Continued people investment takes training spend to R242,0 million
  • Every second South African procurement rand now spent with a BEE supplier
  • Sustained effort shines through across Bidvest
  • External measurement of Bidvest highly positive
  • Our people eager to embed sustainable business practice
 
     
 
 

Introduction

Recovery is officially under way in most international markets. However, Bidvest's much-improved performance should not be seen simply as the product of more favourable economic conditions. Challenges persist in almost every region in which Bidvest is represented. The sole exception is Asia.

The move out of recession has been hesitant. This is the recovery no one quite believes in; at least, not yet.

Bidvest teams performed wonders by achieving a substantial turnaround on last year when operational results and headline earnings per share came under severe pressure. It was a strong performance and I congratulate my colleagues on the achievement. As a result, our final distribution to shareholders rose by 18,4% to 225,0 cents.

Strength in diversity

Results such as this are only possible by working together. Unity of purpose certainly characterises the Bidvest universe, yet our workforce is one of the most diverse in the world.

This fact was underlined earlier in the year when we formally introduced our Nowaco and Farutex colleagues to the rest of Bidvest. To ensure everyone understood how happy we were to greet them and how we embrace diversity, key articles in Bidvoice, our Group magazine, were translated into Polish, Czech, Slovakian, French, Flemish and Dutch.

It's often said of South Africa that we're the world in one country. Bidvest is rapidly becoming the world in one company. At every step of the way we prove there's strength in diversity.

International markets

Certainly, our diversified international businesses made a strong contribution, despite generally adverse trading conditions. The UK and continental Europe have a long way to go before shaking off the after-effects of recession. Challenges are also evident in Australia and New Zealand, though sustained recovery appears to be under way in Asia.

Re-imagining Africa

Continuing reverberations from the international financial crisis have had a notable side-effect – a thorough reappraisal of Africa, its progress and potential.

Previously, international concern about sovereign debt and dubious reporting tended to centre on sub-Saharan Africa. Today, there is broad recognition that fundamental change is taking place. Africa has upped its game. Talk sovereign risk in 2009/10 and the chances are you are discussing Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain rather than Africa.

So-called "frontier markets" to our north bounced back from the international crisis a lot faster than some. Many now report continued growth.

Namibian success

What about Bidvest in Africa? Bidvest Namibia listed on the Namibian Stock Exchange on October 26, with new Namibian owners and strong local empowerment partners firmly in place. The listing was a huge success and Bidvest Namibia is looking to significantly grow the business in its home market. Bidvest is also interested in further growth across sub-Saharan Africa.

Scanning sub-Sahara

In the past, some have criticised Bidvest for not investing more in Africa. This had nothing to do with Afro-pessimism. We believe in Africa's potential. We look at various markets to our north, note the growth of a new middle class and burgeoning demand for services and are greatly encouraged.

Internationalisation at Bidvest is driven largely by our foodservice interests. In recent years, the search for value has taken us to Asia, the Middle East and more recently emerging Europe. Results to date justify the priority we gave these regions. That does not mean we have turned our back on Africa.

We continually scan sub-Saharan jurisdictions for possible openings. When we identify the right partners and the right value proposition, we will not be afraid to seek "frontier market growth".

South Africa

Our domestic market officially moved out of recession in the first quarter of the Bidvest year, but at an annualised 0,9% few noticed. By the opening quarter of calendar 2010, annualised growth of 4,6% was reported, yet unemployment continued to rise.

Job losses and a household debt-toincome ratio close to 80% help explain the challenge faced by Bidvest's South African businesses. Consumers are still hard pressed and sales projections are looking flat.

Growing jobs

Regrettably some jobs were lost at Bidvest as we had to streamline operations for a new future, but we still grew more jobs than we shed. Last year's staff complement stood at 103 449. By year-end it was up
to 105 752.

We also increased training investments – up from R209,8 million to R242,0 million. In the process, we prioritised South African training spend to ensure the development of critical skills within historically disadvantaged groups.

In South Africa, BEE continued to be an integral part of our business and these companies achieved major BEE improvements. Every second procurement rand is now spent with a BEE supplier. Independent audit confirms that Bidvest is a level 4 contributor with unconstrained operational capacity. This means that Bidvest is now a 100% contributor to BEE and our suppliers can claim full BEE expenditure points when doing business with us.