Early in the pandemic, the Air aprtner Board decided to suspend the declaration of dividends to shareholders to reflect the uncertain operating climate. Although that uncertainty persists, the Board considers it appropriate to recommence some payment now to recognise the importance of dividends to Air Partner's shareholders, many of whom are private investors. However, they believe it prudent to maintain the strength of the Group's balance sheet and to ensure that there are sufficient resources to fund future growth. Accordingly, the Board is recommending an interim dividend of 0.80p per share, down 55.6% from last year's 1.80p. The Board's objective is to establish a level of dividends that is sustainable, well covered by the Group's earnings, and that can be increased over time. The level of this interim dividend is consistent with this policy.
The interim dividend is expected to be paid on 20 November 2020 to those shareholders registered at close of business on 16 October 2020. The ex-dividend date will be 15 October 2020.
Other financial highlights include:
Gross profit up £10.5m (61%) to £27.7m due to exceptional levels of trading from COVID-19 related work
Underlying profit before tax of £10.5m, a year-on-year increase of £7.5m, driven by strong trading and swift cost saving measures in the early stages of pandemic
Statutory profit before tax of £8.9m after reorganisation costs and amortisation of acquired intangibles
Basic EPS up 146.3% to 10.1p; underlying EPS of 12.8p, up 197.7% on the prior year
Net cash (excluding JetCard cash) increased to £18.0m from net debt of £6.9m at 31 January 2020