Shareholders were told yesterday, at the group’s annual general meeting in Dublin, that a range of options were open. While management is not committing to any specific one at this stage, the options include a distribution of surplus cash, the sale of assets and the partial or full flotation of the business.
Previous liquidity policies saw the sale of the West-Link toll facility and wind energy company Airtricity — when more than €250m was disbursed to shareholders and a proportion of the group’s debt was repaid.
NTR — which currently has its shares trading on the ‘grey market’ — has suffered, in recent months, due to the financial downturn. Its pre-tax losses jumped by more than €200m in the 12 months to the end of March and, while its balance sheet and cash reserves remain stable, the flow of new funds has become tighter. The sale of certain non-core infrastructure assets in Ireland and the British division of the Greenstar waste management business have delivered new funds in recent months.
Management yesterday spoke of the group’s exciting portfolio of assets — which covers a number of renewable and alternative energy interests in the US — and their ability to provide medium to long-term growth. In terms of asset disposal potential, the number of non-core interests are dwindling.
Group chief executive, Jim Barry, ruled out an overall sale of the group, but added that “not being a fully listed entity provides constraints when it comes to liquidity issues”.
All resolutions at yesterday’s AGM were passed, including the re-election of the group’s directors and the passing of a final dividend of 4.94c per share, which brings the total shareholder dividend, for the year to the end of March, to 7.22c per share. Management said the increase in dividend stemmed from a previous commitment made to shareholders, but added that future dividend policy would be reviewed on an ongoing basis.
The group is due to report first half figures (for the six months to the end of September) in the new year, but hinted yesterday that the period in question saw a continuation of the tough trading conditions seen in the prior year.