At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic the Hargreaves Services Board took the decision to cancel the interim dividend as a precautionary measure against the potential financial impact of the virus. At the year end, the Board announced a final dividend, which demonstrated the cautious yet confident view of the Group's cashflows at the time. Since then, the Group has continued to trade resiliently and the Board has decided to reinstate an interim dividend of 2.7p (2019: nil p) per ordinary share. This will be paid on 6 April 2021 to shareholders on the register at 26 February 2021.
The Board still intends to pass through a dividend of 12p per ordinary share to shareholders which it expects to receive from its German joint venture alongside any final dividend declared later in the year.
Other financial highlights include:
As expected, Revenue and Underlying Profit before tax were both lower than in the comparative period, primarily due to the phasing of works on the HS2 project within the Specialist Earthworks business;
Net bank debt reduced by 69% to £8.0m (2019: £25.4m);
Profit after tax of German joint venture up 37% to £0.9m (2019: £0.7m);
Post period end disposal of speciality coal for £24m, eliminating bank borrowing;
Post period end completion of the first sale of land at Blindwells.