A key tenet of FDM's relationship with shareholders is the payment of sustainable dividends at an attractive level. After careful thought, the Board decided against proposing a 2019 final dividend to the Annual General Meeting (originally intended to be set at 18.5 pence per share). At the time, the COVID-19 situation was new, uncertain and difficult to assess. Since then the business has performed at an encouraging level, cash collection has been consistent and cash conversion robust.
Taking into account the decision not to recommend a final dividend for the 2019 financial year, and reflecting the encouraging trading levels, strong balance sheet and robust cash conversion that we have seen, the Company will pay an interim dividend of 18.5 pence per ordinary share to shareholders in September 2020 (2019 interim dividend: 16.0 pence per share).
Other financial highlights include:
Resilient first half performance given challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic
COVID-19 has impacted the Group to differing degrees of significance, longevity and economic effect in each of our territories
The Group performed strongly in the first quarter. Trading levels then fell as various lockdown restrictions were imposed, but are now showing signs of improvement in the majority of sectors and all of the geographies in which we operate
FDM's agile and robust business model enabled a quick response rapidly and effectively to changing conditions, including the move to remote recruitment and training, and Mounties working for clients remotely
Mounties assigned to client sites at week 263 were down 5% from a year previous at 3,656 (2019: 3,846) and down 329 heads since mid-March
Mountie utilisation rate for the six months to 30 June 2020 was 95.0% (2019: 96.1%)
The Group has not accessed the UK Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (UK furlough) nor taken any funding from the UK Government
Training courses have been revised to include greater emphasis on technical disciplines to meet the changing market demand
FDM has launched its "Pod" solution allowing clients to select teams of Mounties who have collaborated throughout their training, in one transaction
28 new clients secured globally (2019: 40) of which eight were secured in the second quarter
Long-running North American legal claim settled through mediation
Strong balance sheet, with £58.3 million cash at period end (2019: £28.7 million)
Reported cash conversion of 143.3% (2019: 84.5%). Adjusted for the impact of accruals relating to the legal claim and holiday pay, underlying cash conversion was 104.8%