As highlighted in the Company's first quarter trading statement issued at the beginning of April, due to the heightened uncertainty at that time relating to the macroeconomic environment in which the Company was trading, the Bunzl Board decided it would no longer propose a final dividend for the year ended 31 December 2019 at the Annual General Meeting held on 15 April 2020. However, we stated at the time that the Board recognised the importance of dividends to shareholders and, as such, intended to consider the appropriateness, quantum and timing of an additional interim dividend payment relating to the year ended 31 December 2019 when the Board had a clearer view of the effects of Covid-19 on the Company's business.
As a result of the better than expected trading performance during the first half of the year and after due and careful consideration the Board has decided to reinstate and pay the final dividend for the year ended 31 December 2019 at the same level as originally proposed (35.8p). As it is no longer possible for this dividend to be approved by shareholders at the Annual General Meeting, it will be paid as an additional interim dividend for the year ended 31 December 2019 on 16 November 2020 to those shareholders on the register on 16 October 2020.
The Board has also decided to increase the 2020 interim dividend by 1.9% to 15.8p. Shareholders will again have the opportunity to participate in our dividend reinvestment plan in relation to both of these dividends.
Other financial highlights include:
Strong and resilient performance despite Covid-19 challenges with revenue up 7.0%, 6.7% at constant exchange rates, and double digit increases in adjusted operating profit and adjusted earnings per share
Adjusted profit before income tax up 16.6% at constant exchange rates to £306.8 million
Operating margin 7.0%, up 30 basis points on a reported basis and 40 basis points at constant exchange rates
Return on average operating capital and return on invested capital increased to 39.7% and 14.4% respectively
Continued strong cash conversion of 112% with net debt to EBITDA only 1.6x (1.9x at end of 2019)
Acquisition activity has resumed with the proposed acquisition of MCR Safety and Abco Kovex announced today and a number of ongoing discussions taking place with a promising pipeline of potential opportunities