Keller Group plc (‘Keller’ or ‘the Group’), the world’s largest geotechnical specialist contractor, issues a trading update ahead of the announcement of its interim results for the half year ended 30 June 2023 scheduled for 1 August 2023.
Record start to the year; full year operating profit to be materially ahead of previous expectations
Trading in the first half has remained strong and we anticipate a record performance in the period. Given our trading performance to date, together with our continuing robust order book, we expect full year underlying operating profit to be materially ahead of previous market expectations, with the increase in earnings moderated by the impact of recent interest rate increases. Given the timing and phasing of certain contracts, we now expect profit to be more evenly weighted between the first and second half of 2023.
In North America, the operational improvements in the foundations business we outlined in November 2022 have continued to be effective and have resulted in a strong recovery in the operating margin in line with our plans. At Suncoast, whilst production volume has decreased, we have actively managed margins to deliver an improved overall performance year-on-year. This benefit is expected to moderate in the second half.
In Europe, whilst cost inflation has stabilised and supply chain issues have eased, the recessionary backdrop has presented some challenges, particularly in North East Europe, leading to some margin erosion and some project delays. Several large projects in the prior period, including HS2 in the UK, provide a challenging comparator for H1 2023.
In Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa (AMEA), the new management team at Austral have substantially addressed the remaining issues in the near-shore marine business. At NEOM, we are in advanced discussions with the client in respect of the award of a second works order which is expected to be at least twice the size of the first works order that was completed in February 2023 (c£40m). As previously indicated, the precise phasing of this material project remains subject to variation and will require measured investment in equipment and working capital as it accelerates.
Cash and financing
The Group’s cash performance in the period is ahead of the prior year and better than our expectations. Given the timing of payments relating to tax, dividends and interest, we continue to expect the first half net debt/EBITDA leverage ratio to be at the upper end of our 0.5x – 1.5x range and the year-end leverage ratio to be lower than at the prior year end.
On 21 June 2023, we signed a note purchase and guarantee agreement regarding the proposed private placement of US$300m of loan notes. Subject to the fulfilment of certain conditions precedent, proceeds will be used to refinance existing debt of the Group and for general corporate purposes.
Keller has an unbroken record of dividend payments, and has consistently and materially grown its dividend in the 29 years since listing, clearly demonstrating the Group’s ability to continue to prosper through economic downturns, including both the global financial crisis and the pandemic. Given the increase in full year expectations, and in keeping with the Group’s progressive dividend policy, the Board will be announcing a 5% increase in the interim dividend to 13.9p (2022: 13.2p) as part of the Group’s interim results.
For further information, please contact:
Keller Group plc
020 7616 7575
Michael Speakman, Chief Executive Officer
David Burke, Chief Financial Officer
Caroline Crampton, Group Head of Investor Relations
Nick Hasell / Matthew O'Keeffe
020 3727 1340
Notes to editors:
Keller is the world's largest geotechnical specialist contractor providing a wide portfolio of advanced foundation and ground improvement techniques used across the entire construction sector. With around 10,000 staff and operations across five continents, Keller tackles an unrivalled 6,000 projects every year, generating annual revenue of c£3bn.
This document contains certain 'forward-looking statements' with respect to Keller's financial condition, results of operations and business and certain of Keller's plans and objectives with respect to these items. Forward-looking statements are sometimes, but not always, identified by their use of a date in the future or such words as 'anticipates', 'aims', 'due', 'could', 'may', 'should', 'expects', 'believes', 'intends', 'plans', 'potential', 'reasonably possible', 'targets', 'goal' or 'estimates'. By their very nature forward looking statements are inherently unpredictable, speculative and involve risk and uncertainty because they relate to events and depend on circumstances that will occur in the future. There are a number of factors that could cause actual results and developments to differ materially from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. These factors include, but are not limited to, changes in the economies and markets in which the Group operates; changes in the regulatory and competition frameworks in which the Group operates; the impact of legal or other proceedings against or which affect the Group; and changes in interest and exchange rates. For a more detailed description of these risks, uncertainties and other factors, please see the Principal risks and uncertainties section of the Strategic report in the Annual Report and Accounts. All written or verbal forward looking-statements, made in this document or made subsequently, which are attributable to Keller or any other member of the Group or persons acting on their behalf are expressly qualified in their entirety by the factors referred to above. Keller does not intend to update these forward-looking statements. Nothing in this document should be regarded as a profits forecast. This document is not an offer to sell, exchange or transfer any securities of Keller Group plc or any of its subsidiaries and is not soliciting an offer to purchase, exchange or transfer such securities in any jurisdiction. Securities may not be offered, sold or transferred in the United States absent registration or an applicable exemption from the registration requirements of the US Securities Act of 1933 (as amended).
LEI number: 549300QO4MBL43UHSN10 Classification: 3.1 Additional regulated information