We continually aspire to meet the highest corporate governance standards possible.
Leslie Van de Walle Chairman
2014 was a year of good progress for SIG in what continues to be a transformational period for the Group as it changes and becomes Stronger Together.
Despite weak Mainland European markets, SIG delivered reported sales growth of 2.5% and 5.6% in constant currency on a continuing operations basis. Together with a £10.1m net benefit from its Strategic Initiatives this enabled the Group to grow underlying earnings per share by 11.2% to 11.9p (2013: 10.7p) and increase its total dividend by 23.9%.
SIG also increased its key financial metric, post-tax Return on Capital Employed ("ROCE") by 90bps to 10.3% (2013: 9.4%). The Group is now targeting ROCE in excess of 11.0% in 2015.
Although the Group is of significant size and benefits from leading positions in its core specialist markets, our businesses have, historically, tended to operate independently of each other.
Therefore, in order to better leverage our scale and improve business performance we have outlined four Strategic Initiatives, which are based around a common theme of working more closely together as a Group. I am pleased to report that these initiatives have started well, significantly overdelivering on savings in 2014, the first year of the programme, compared to our original expectations.
GOVERNANCE AND BOARD
As Chairman I am responsible for ensuring good corporate governance and that we continually aspire to meet the highest standards possible at SIG. Further details on this can be found in the Corporate Governance Report.
It is important that the Board provides strong leadership to the Company, engages well with its management and stakeholders and has a diverse composition. In last year's Annual Report I set out our aim of achieving at least 25% female representation among the Board's membership by 2015.
I am pleased to report that following the appointment of Andrea Abt as a Non-Executive Director with effect from 12 March 2015, this aim has now been achieved. Andrea brings significant experience of European markets and knowledge of supply chain management from her various global roles at Siemens AG, which I am sure will be invaluable to SIG at this stage of its development.
On behalf of the Board and Shareholders I would like to thank our management and employees for their dedication and continued hard work during the year.
I would also like to welcome two new members to the Group's Executive Committee, those being Mark Pearson, who was appointed to the newly formed role of Chief Information Officer, and Len Lvovich, who is SIG's new Director of Corporate Development.
The Board has proposed a final dividend of 2.98p per ordinary share, an increase of 24.2% on prior year. Taken together with the interim dividend of 1.42p per ordinary share, this provides a total dividend of 4.40p per ordinary share for the year (2013: 3.55p), an increase of 23.9% on prior year. The final dividend is expected to be paid on 29 May 2015 to Shareholders on the register at close of business on 1 May 2015. The ex-dividend date is 30 April 2015.
Going forward, the Board is committed to a progressive dividend policy while maintaining a dividend cover of 2-3× on an underlying basis over the medium-term.
Leslie Van de Walle