The Board continues to adopt a progressive dividend policy, which targets distributing c30% of the Group's underlying profit attributable to shareholders each year. Having paid an interim dividend of 1.95 pence per share, they are proposing a final dividend of 3.54 pence per share. This will give a total dividend for the year of 5.49 pence, up 3.2% on the 5.32 pence paid in respect of 2018.
Subject to shareholder approval at the Annual General Meeting on 7 May 2020, the final dividend will be paid on 26 May 2020, to shareholders on the register at close of business on 17 April 2020. They continue to offer a dividend reinvestment plan and any shareholders wishing to participate should submit their election to do so by 1 May 2020.
Other financial highlights include:
Revenue growth of 4.7% including a full year of North American operations, with organic revenue* growth of 1.4%, underlying EBITDA growth of 5.0% and an increase in underlying EBITDA margin of 0.1% to 24.5%
Solid financial progress despite:
o A global slowdown in corporate activity impacting both Investment Solutions and EQ US
o US interest rate cuts
o A reduction in trading volumes in our execution-only brokerage service as a result of the uncertain equity market trading conditions
o An expected price reduction relating to the MyCSP contract in Pension Solutions
o Intelligent Solutions performing below its recent trend suppressed by the delay in commissioning of new projects over the UK election period
Cessation of non-operating charges following the separation of Wells Fargo Shareowner Services (WFSS) in May 2019
Statutory profit after tax growth of 58.8% driven by underlying business growth, margin advancement and completion of WFSS acquisition
Operating cash flow conversion of 91% with strong cash flow in H2 offset by the end of the beneficial US TSA arrangements and a further reduction in the use of the receivables financing facility from £10.3m in 2018 to £8.0m in 2019
Reduction in net debt to £343.6m (31 December 2018: £352.0m) with leverage of 2.5x on a post-IFRS 16 basis (31 December 2018: 2.7x) and 2.3x pre-IFRS 16 (31 December 2018: 2.5x)