The Executive Team have compiled the following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to allow existing and potential new shareholders to share in the information flow from questions raised with the Company during the course of the year.
The FAQs will be updated at least twice a year, following the release of our interim and full-year results, and more frequently if required.
Q: Can you explain the background to changing the operating segments upon which the Group reports?
A: Following the transformation of the business, the executive team have identified two primary operating segments focusing on Professional and Consumer. Reporting on these segments in our statutory accounts aligns them with how the business is managed and facilitates greater shareholder understanding of the Group’s activities.
Q: Can you give a brief overview of the Group and its recent trading performance?
A: The Group’s Strategic report on pages 1 to 23 of the 2019 Annual Report provide an insightful summary of the recent activities and performance of the Group. The Board will next update the market with its interim statement released on 30th January 2020.
Q: Is it anticipated that the current level of Product Development Expenditure will be reduced, maintained or increased over the next three years?
A: In the 2019 Annual Report the Group reported Product Development Costs of £8.7m, up from £8.4m in 2018 and £7.9m in 2017. This expenditure primarily relates to staffing costs as the Group invests in new content, data and platforms. We do not foresee the level of development expenditure reducing in the immediate future as it is important that we continue to invest, not only in our key territories but more widely so that we can grow our presence (and our status as a valued supplier) with our growing base of global customers. The growth in revenue and adjusted Profit Before Tax we have experienced over the last three years gives us confidence that this investment is benefiting the business.
Q: Does the Group have the necessary working capital to fund the planned levels of Product Development?
A: In each of the last five years the Group has generated net cash inflows from continuing operations in excess of 300% of adjusted Group operating profit. In 2019, this equated to £12.7m. We remain confident that the operating cashflows generated by the Group will be sufficient to fund the future development programmes we have planned.
Q: Have management set a target for digital revenue as a proportion of overall Group revenue?
A: Revenue derived from the Group’s digital products has increased from 21% of overall Group revenue in FYE 2014 to 56% in FYE 2019. We believe this supports the investment the Group is making to grow its portfolio of digital content and delivery platforms. The Board has not set a specific target as the key aim of the business is to provide our content, data and solutions in the preferred format of our partners and end users, whether this be in a print and/or digital format. The advantage of our digital revenue channels is that it is often contracted revenue which can give the Group visibility of revenue streams for up to 3 and sometimes 5 years ahead. As long as the Group has customers who choose to receive our content in a print format and providing it is commercially feasible to do so, we will continue to offer our customers a choice of formats.
Q: In 2017 and 2018 the Group has had the benefit of cash injections from freehold property disposals. Could the product development expenditure programme be impacted as there are fewer freehold properties left to sell in the Group?
A: The cash generated from the property disposals in 2017 and 2018 helped fund the acquisitions of OATS and E3 Technical and was not used to fund our internal development programme. Management are confident that the Group’s future development programmes can be funded from the net cash generated from the Group’s operating activities.
Q: When does the Group anticipate that it will sell the Sparkford Site?
A: We can confirm that the Company is in discussions with an interested party to acquire the freehold land and buildings in Sparkford and these discussions are subject to a confidentiality agreement. If these discussions lead to the sale of the Sparkford site we will update shareholders accordingly.
Q: Would the sale of the Sparkford site mark the end of the freehold property disposals?
A: After the Sparkford site is sold, the only freehold property remaining in the Group would be the Romanian office in Bucharest. The Group regularly reviews the viability of owning its own freehold compared to leasing premises in all locations.
Q: Can you provide details of your Defined Benefit Pension Schemes?
A: The Group operates two defined benefit pension schemes, one in the UK and one in the US. The UK scheme was closed to new entrants on 30 June 2015 and was also closed to future accrual on 30 November 2018. Active members of the UK scheme were transferred into a new defined contribution plan from 1 December 2018. The US plan was similarly closed to new entrants on 30 June 2018 however it remains open to future accrual. The full detail of assumptions and sensitivities in the two schemes are disclosed in note 22 of the 2019 Annual Report.
Q: What internal metrics do you use to judge progress in the business?
A: Included on pages 18 and 19 of the 2019 Annual Report are the headline Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) the Board regularly monitors to ensure the Group operations are performing in line with expectations. Due to the range of businesses with varying business models, operational processes, products and sales channels within the Group, management use a variety of metrics to measure the performance of each subsidiary or division.
Q: Who would the Group consider to be its major competitors with in its DIY automotive markets?
A: The Group considers its unrivalled content to be a unique offering in terms of coverage and quality. The growth in free to view content is a challenge for both our bricks and mortar and online retail partners alike. Whilst we acknowledge that some of this information can be helpful, we are also very cognisant that elements of this information can also be inaccurate and, in some instances, dangerous. To help address these issues we are increasing the number of videos within our online manuals to provide motorists with reliable, accurate, trustworthy and easy to use repair and service information. Over the past three years we have experienced a growth in sales to customers who sell our manuals online showing there continues to be a need for our product with DIYers in all our key geographical markets.
Q: What are the implications for the Group with the growth of electric / hybrid cars and would this require additional investment?
A: The automotive industry has been continuously evolving over the last 130 years and it is no different today. Whether this comes in the form of the advancements in electric vehicles, the development of driverless vehicle technology or the introduction of new legislation to regulate and oversee the flow of information from manufacturers to the independent workshop mechanic, the automotive sector landscape continues to change. Mindful of these developments and opportunities, the Group remains focused on delivering the technical information, data solutions and commercial insights our customers need today, and in the future. We are increasingly working with partners who operate in global markets and need suppliers who can deliver data and solutions in territories across the world.
Q: Are there likely to be further acquisitions and what is the Group’s strategy on acquisitive growth?
A: It is the strategy of the Board to grow the business through a combination of internal product development, geographical expansion and acquisition. An acquisition is approved on the basis of providing synergistic efficiencies to our data production processes and expanding new revenue and profit enhancing opportunities for the Group. The Board regularly monitors potential acquisition targets and ensures there is sufficient operational and financing flexibility to enable the Group to move quickly should an opportunity become available.
Q: Has the Group considered the potential impact of Brexit?
As an international business with offices around the world, the Group regularly monitors global risks of which Brexit is one. Management have considered an internal impact assessment of Brexit and further details are included in the 2019 Annual Report.