The DCC Board is proposing a 12.6% increase in the final dividend to 107.85 pence per share, which, when added to the interim dividend of 51.95 pence per share, gives a total dividend for the year of 159.80 pence per share. This represents a 10.0% increase over the total prior year dividend of 145.27 pence per share. The dividend is covered 2.4 times by adjusted earnings per share (2020: 2.5 times). It is proposed to pay the final dividend on 22 July 2021 to shareholders on the register at the close of business on 28 May 2021.
Other financial highlights include:
Strong growth in Group adjusted operating profit, up 7.3% (6.6% on a constant currency basis) to £530.2 million, ahead of market expectations. Approximately half of the constant currency growth was organic.
All divisions of DCC recorded growth in operating profit, despite the challenging trading environment.
A very strong working capital performance resulted in excellent free cash flow of £687.8 million and free cash flow conversion of 130%.
Return on capital employed, the Group's key metric, increased to 17.1%.
DCC remains very active from a development perspective. The Group committed approximately £375 million to acquisitions in the period, including further bolt-on acquisitions announced today of £55 million. Each division was acquisitive during the year, including the significant expansion of DCC LPG's business in the US with the acquisition of UPG and the initial entry by DCC Healthcare into the German and Swiss primary care markets through the acquisition of Wörner.
DCC is committed to sustainability and leading by example in energy transition. The Group recently adopted a Net Zero 2050 (or sooner) target for its Group scope 1 and scope 2 emissions with an interim target of a 20% reduction by 20254.
DCC also continues to make good progress in enabling its customers to transition to cleaner energy solutions. Amongst other initiatives, during the year the Group expanded its EV fast-charging infrastructure by 50%, increased biofuel penetration to 11% of transport fuel volumes, acquired two solar businesses in France to add further capability to its strong platform in the market, transitioned all of DCC's growing power customer base in Ireland to renewable power and continued to convert customers to LPG, significantly reducing the carbon emissions of the customer.
Although the uncertainty created by the Covid-19 pandemic continues, DCC expects that the year ending 31 March 2022 will be another year of profit growth and development.