The following text is an extract from the C&C Group’s 2014 Annual Report.
Board of Directors
The Board is responsible for the oversight, leadership and control of the Group and its long-term success. There is a formal schedule of matters reserved to the Board for decision. This includes approval of Group strategic plans, annual budgets, financial statements, significant contracts and capital expenditure items, major acquisitions and disposals, changes to capital structure, circulars, Board appointments, and the review of the Group’s corporate governance arrangements and system of internal control, and approval of policies including corporate responsibility and health and safety. The Board is also responsible for instilling the appropriate culture, values and behaviour throughout the Group. The Directors acknowledge that they are responsible for the proper stewardship of the Group’s affairs, both on an individual and collective basis. The matters and agenda reserved for Board consideration reflect this responsibility.
The roles of the Chairman and the Group Chief Executive Officer are separate with a clear division of responsibility between them, which is set out in writing and which has been approved by the Board. The Chairman has responsibility for the management of the Board, the performance of Directors and their induction, development and performance evaluation, relations with shareholders and the AGM. The Chief Executive is responsible, within the authority limits delegated by the Board, for business strategy and management, investment and financing, risk management and controls, timely reporting, making recommendations on remuneration policy and on the appointment of executive directors, and setting Group HR policies.
The Board delegates responsibility for the management of the Group through the Group Chief Executive Officer to executive management. The Board also delegates some of its responsibilities to Board Committees, details of which are set out below. The responsibilities of the Chairman are covered in detail below.
The Group Chief Executive Officer has full day-to-day operational and profit responsibility for the Group and is accountable to the Board for all authority delegated to executive management. His overall brief is to execute agreed strategy, to co-ordinate and maintain the continued profitability of the Group and to oversee senior management responsible for the day-to-day running of the business.
Non-executive Directors are expected to constructively challenge management proposals and to examine and review management performance in meeting agreed objectives and targets. In addition, they are expected to draw on their own specific experience and knowledge in respect of any challenges facing the Group and in relation to the development of proposals on strategy.
Individual Directors may seek independent professional advice at the Company’s expense, where they judge it necessary to discharge their responsibilities as Directors.
The Group has a policy in place which indemnifies the Directors in respect of certain legal actions taken against them.
Board Composition, Membership and Renewal
The Board considers that, between them, the Directors bring a range of skills, knowledge and experience so as to provide leadership, control and oversight of the Group and discharge their responsibility to all shareholders. The biographical details of the current directors are set out on pages 46 and 47. The Company’s Articles of Association require that the number of Directors shall be not less than two and not more than 14. The Board regards the number of non-executive Directors currently appointed to the Board as sufficient to ensure satisfactory oversight of the Group’s management and to enable its Committees to operate without undue reliance on individual non-executive Directors. As set out below the Board has an ongoing programme for Board refreshment and renewal, recognising the need for independence and diversity, including gender diversity, on the Board.
As at 28 February 2014, the Board was comprised of nine Directors, of whom three were executive and six were non- executive Directors (including the Chairman). With effect from 1 May 2014 Emer Finnan was appointed as a non-executive Director.
In line with the UK Code, it is Board policy that at least half the Board, excluding the Chairman, shall consist of independent non-executive Directors. The Board has reviewed the composition of the Board and has determined that of the Directors as at 28 February 2014, John Hogan, Richard Holroyd, Breege O’Donoghue, Stewart Gilliland and Anthony Smurfit, were independent and upon her appointment that Emer Finnan was independent.
The independence of Board members is considered annually. In determining the independence of non-executive Directors, the Board considered the principles relating to independence contained in the UK Code and the guidance provided by a number of shareholder voting agencies. Those principles and guidance address a number of factors that might appear to affect the independence of Directors, including former service as an executive of the Group, extended service to the Board and cross- directorships. However, they also make clear that a Director may be considered independent notwithstanding the presence of one or more of these factors. This reflects the Board’s view that independence is determined by a Director’s character and judgement. The Board considers that each of the non-executive Directors brings independent judgement to bear. In the case of Richard Holroyd, Breege O’Donoghue and John Hogan, the Board has considered their length of service but is satisfied that their independence is not compromised. As part of this assessment, the Board considers that, while each of them has served on the Board of the Company since 2004, none of them has served for more than nine years concurrently with the same executive Directors. The Board has also noted that Anthony Smurfit is a shareholder and director of Smurfit Kappa Group plc, which provides packaging materials to the Group on normal commercial terms, and is satisfied that his independence is not compromised. In the case of Sir Brian Stewart, the Board was satisfied that he was independent on his appointment as referred to below.
Sir Brian Stewart has been Chairman of the Group since August 2010. The Chairman is responsible for the efficient and effective working of the Board. He is responsible for ensuring that the Board considers the key strategic issues facing the Group and that the Directors receive accurate, timely, relevant and clear information. He also ensures that there is effective communication with shareholders and that the Board is apprised of the views of the Group’s shareholders. While the Board has determined that Sir Brian Stewart was independent on appointment to the Board, it recognises that previous working relationships with the Group’s senior executives is a consideration in determining independence as set out by the UK Code and by some shareholder voting agencies. Consequently, while the Board was satisfied as to Sir Brian’s independence, he stepped down from his position as a member of the Remuneration Committee on his appointment as Chairman. During the period under review there was no change in the other significant commitments of the Chairman.
Senior Independent Director
Richard Holroyd was appointed Senior Independent Director in July 2007. He is available to shareholders who have concerns for which contact through the normal channels of Chairman, Group Chief Executive Officer or Group Chief Financial Officer, has failed to resolve or for which such contact is inappropriate. He is also available to meet major shareholders on request.
Audit Committee Financial Expert
The Audit Committee has determined that John Hogan, who also chairs the Committee, is the Audit Committee financial expert. He is a qualified chartered accountant and was the managing partner of Ernst & Young in Ireland between 1994 and 2000. He was also a member of the Ernst & Young global board.
David Johnston is the Company Secretary. All Directors have access to the Company Secretary, who is responsible to the Board for ensuring that Board procedures are complied with. The appointment and removal of the Company Secretary is a matter for the Board.
Appointment, Retirement and Re-election
The non-executive Directors are engaged under the terms of letters of appointment, details of which are set out in the Report of the Remuneration Committee on Directors’ Remuneration. Copies of the letters of appointment are available on request from the Company Secretary.
The Company’s Articles of Association require that at least one- third of the Directors subject to rotation shall retire by rotation at the Annual General Meeting in every year. Directors appointed by the Board must also submit themselves for election at the first annual general meeting following their appointment. However, in accordance with the recommendations of the UK Code, the Directors have resolved that they will all retire and submit themselves for re-election by the shareholders at the Annual General Meeting this year.
Induction and Development
A comprehensive tailored induction programme is arranged for each new Director. The aim of the programme is to provide the Director with a detailed insight into the Group. The programme involves meeting with the Chairman, Group Chief Executive Officer, Group Chief Financial Officer, Company Secretary and key senior executives. It covers areas such as strategy and development, organisation structure, succession planning, financing, corporate responsibility and compliance, investor relations and risk management. The Board receives regular updates from the external legal and other advisers in relation to regulatory and accounting developments. Throughout the year, Directors meet with key executives and meet with local management teams, and a site visit for all Board Directors to one of the Group’s production facilities is usually scheduled annually.
Newly-appointed members of the Audit Committee will meet with the key members of the external audit, internal audit and finance teams. New members of the Remuneration Committee will meet with the Committee’s remuneration consultants in the year of their appointment to the Committee.
External non-executive directorships
The Board recognises that there can be benefit if executive Directors accept a non-executive directorship with other companies to broaden their skills, knowledge and experience. Joris Brams is currently a non-executive director at Democo NV, a Belgian construction company. Apart from him, currently none of the executive Directors has such an appointment. The Remuneration Committee determines whether Directors should be permitted to retain any fees paid in respect of such appointments. The Remuneration Committee has determined that Joris Brams is permitted to retain fees from his appointment.
It is Board practice to schedule not less than nine meetings a year. The Board will also meet at other times as it considers appropriate. The Board usually makes at least one visit a year to one of the operating subsidiaries, and this year a meeting was held in Middlebury, Vermont, where the Board was able to meet with the team at Vermont Hard Cider Company and to visit the new cidery that is under construction. During the period under review there were ten scheduled meetings of the Board and a further short notice meeting. Details of Directors’ attendance at these meetings are set out in the table on page 60. Several ad hoc meetings without notice were held during the year for share allotment and other administrative matters in accordance with the Board’s procedures. In addition, a meeting of members of the Board was held without the executive Directors present to provide an opportunity for non-executive Directors and the Chairman to assess their performance, and a further meeting of the non-executive Directors led by the Senior Independent Director was held without the Chairman being present to assess the Chairman’s performance.
The Chairman sets the agenda for each meeting in consultation with the Group Chief Executive Officer and the Company Secretary. The agenda and Board papers, which provide the Directors with relevant information to enable them to fully consider the agenda items in advance, are circulated prior to each meeting. Directors are encouraged to participate in debate and constructive challenge. While Directors are expected to attend all scheduled meetings, in the event a Director is unable to attend a meeting, his or her view on all agenda items is sought and conveyed to the Chairman in advance of the meeting. In addition, following the meeting, matters discussed and decisions made at the meeting are conveyed to the Director.
The Board recognises the importance of a formal and rigorous evaluation of the performance of the Board and its Committees. The Chairman conducts an annual review of corporate governance and the operation and performance of the Board and its Committees. In the year under review the Chairman has reviewed the performance of individual Directors and, within the remit of the Nomination Committee, succession planning, identifying in this process the experience and qualities required by the Group for the future implementation of its strategy.
The Chairman conducts one to one discussions each year with each Director to assess his or her individual performance. Performance is assessed against a number of criteria, including his or her contribution to Board and Committee meetings; time commitments; contribution to strategic developments; and relationships with other Directors and management.
The Senior Independent Director and the other non-executive Directors review the Chairman’s performance and the Board’s performance each year, the results being reported back to the Chairman with any recommendations.
The Board also recognises the desire for periodic external evaluation and the UK Code’s recommendation that such reviews be externally facilitated at least every three years. Informal processes of evaluation and improvement are already followed by the Group but it is intended that a more formalised structure should be implemented in the current year.
Details of remuneration paid to Directors (executive and non-executive) are set out in the Report of the Remuneration Committee on Directors’ Remuneration on pages 63 to 83.
Non-executive Directors are remunerated by way of a Director’s fee. Additional fees are also payable to the Chairman of the Audit Committee, Chairman of the Remuneration Committee and to the Senior Independent Director. Non-executive Directors’ fees and additional fees payable to Committee Chairman and the Senior Independent Director have not been increased since 2008.
It is Board policy that non-executive Director remuneration does not comprise any performance-related element and, therefore, non-executive Directors are not eligible to participate in the Group’s bonus schemes, option plans or share award schemes. Non-executive Directors’ fees are not pensionable and non- executive Directors are not eligible to join any Group pension plans. Executive Directors’ remuneration is inclusive of any Director’s fee.
The current limit under the Articles on Directors’ ordinary remuneration (i.e. directors’ fees, not including executive remuneration) is €1,000,000, pursuant to a resolution passed at the 2013 Annual General Meeting.
The report of the Remuneration Committee on Directors’ Remuneration will be presented to shareholders for the purposes of a non-binding advisory vote at the Annual General Meeting on 3 July 2014. The policy on Directors’ remuneration set out in the report will be put to a non-binding advisory vote at the Annual General Meeting on 3 July 2014 and thereafter at least once every three years. While there is no legal obligation for the Group to put such resolutions to a vote of shareholders at the Annual General Meeting, the Board recognises that such resolutions are now considered good governance practice.
Share ownership and dealing
The Company does not have formal guidelines on share ownership but all the executive Directors either have or intend to build significant shareholdings in the company thus aligning their interests with those of other shareholders. Further information including details of Directors’ shareholdings is set out on page 80.
The Group has a policy on dealing in shares that applies to all Directors and senior management. This policy adopts the terms of the Model Code as set out in the Listing Rules published by the UK Listing Authority and the Irish Stock Exchange. Under this policy, Directors are required to obtain clearance from the Chairman (or in the case of the Chairman himself, from the Senior Independent Director) before dealing. Directors and senior management are prohibited from dealing in the Company’s shares during designated close periods and at any other time when the individual is in possession of Inside Information (as defined by the market Abuse (Directive 2003/6/EC) Regulations 2005).
The Board has established three permanent committees to assist in the execution of its responsibilities. These are the Audit Committee, the Nomination Committee and the Remuneration Committee. The current membership of each committee is set out on page 46. Attendance at meetings held is set out in the table on page 60.
Each of the permanent Board Committees has terms of reference under which authority is delegated to them by the Board. These terms of reference are available on the Company’s website www.candcgroupplc.com. Minutes of all Committee meetings are circulated to the entire Board.
he Chairman of each committee attends the Annual General Meeting and is available to answer questions from shareholders.
In July 2013, the Board established a Disclosure Committee comprising the Chairman, the Chief Executive Officer, the Chief Financial Officer and the Company Secretary. The Head of Investor Relations may also participate where required. The main responsibilities of the Disclosure Committee include:
- determining whether information constitutes Inside Information;
- determining a consistent approach and policy to disclosure;
- reviewing and approving material announcements;
- monitoring leaks, rumours, speculation and market expectations, and taking appropriate action;
- monitoring the materiality of any variance between the Group’s performance and its own forecasts;
- maintaining a record of C&C’s regulatory disclosures.
Ad-hoc committees are formed from time to time to deal with specific matters.
Composition and Meetings
The constitution of the Audit Committee requires that its membership shall consist only of independent, non-executive Directors. The members during the year ended 28 February 2014 were John Hogan (Chairman), Richard Holroyd and Anthony Smurfit. Emer Finnan will join the Audit Committee from June 2014. As set out on page 54, the Audit Committee has determined that John Hogan, who also chairs the Committee, is the Audit Committee financial expert.
The Committee meets a minimum of four times a year. During the period under review it met seven times. Attendance at meetings held is set out in the table on page 60.
The Group Chief Financial Officer attends Audit Committee meetings as appropriate, while the internal auditor and the external auditor attend as required and have direct access to the Audit Committee Chairman. The Head of Finance is the secretary of the Audit Committee.
Constitution and terms of reference
The role, responsibilities, authority and duties of the Audit Committee are set out in written terms of reference. The current terms of reference, which have been updated to take into account the revisions to the UK Code and best practice, are available under the Board Committees section of the Group’s website at www.candcgroupplc.com/about/board-and-management/board-committees.
The Audit Committee’s responsibilities include:
- monitoring the integrity, truth and fairness of the financial statements of the Group, including the annual report, interim report, interim management statements, preliminary results and other formal announcements relating to the Group’s financial performance, and reviewing significant financial reporting judgements contained in them;
- ensuring that the information presented in the financial statements of the Group and other announcements is fair, balanced and understandable provides the information necessary for the Company’s shareholders to assess the Group’s performance, business model and strategy and advising the Board accordingly;
- monitoring the statutory audit of the annual and consolidated accounts;
- reviewing the adequacy and effectiveness of the Group’s internal financial controls and risk management systems;
- reviewing the effectiveness of the Group’s internal audit function;
- reviewing the adequacy and security of the Group’s arrangements for its employees raising concerns, its procedures for detecting fraud, the Group’s systems and controls for the prevention of bribery, and the Group’s whistleblowing arrangements;
- making recommendations to the Board in relation to the appointment and removal of the Group’s external auditor, their remuneration and terms of engagement;
- evaluating the performance of the external auditor including their independence and objectivity;
- reviewing the annual internal and external audit plans and reviewing the effectiveness and findings of the external audit with the external auditor;
Internal control and risk management systems
The Group’s system of internal control and risk management is described below.
The terms of reference of the Audit Committee require it to conduct an annual assessment of internal financial controls and financial risk management systems. The risks facing the Group are reviewed regularly by the Audit Committee with the executive management. Specific annual reviews of the risks and fundamental controls of each business unit are undertaken. The results and recommendations are reported to and analysed by the Audit Committee and a programme for action agreed with the business units. In carrying out these responsibilities during the year, the Committee reviewed reports issued by both internal audit and the external auditor and held regular discussions with the Head of Internal Audit and representatives of the external auditor. The Committee also reviewed the outcome of an assessment of the Group’s internal financial controls which had been coordinated by internal audit.
UKLA premium listing
During the year the Company decided to seek admission of its ordinary share capital to the premium listing segment of the Official List of the UK Listing Authority, in addition to its existing primary listing on the Irish Stock Exchange.
For this purpose, the Committee reviewed a Board memorandum prepared by the Group as to the Group’s procedures for making judgements on the financial position and procedures of the Group and a Board memorandum as to working capital. The external auditor was engaged to prepare a report on the Board memoranda and to review the Group’s working capital and to provide an opinion thereon to the Company and its sponsors for the premium listing.
The Committee is responsible for monitoring and reviewing the operation and effectiveness of the internal audit function including its focus, plans, activities and resources.
The Group’s internal auditor reports to the Audit Committee and the Audit Committee has approved his terms of reference. The Group’s internal auditor is engaged on a programme of work, which includes, inter alia, maintaining the Group’s risk register and examining the fundamental controls of the Group. In relation to the Company’s US subsidiary Vermont Hard Cider Company, LLC, the internal audit function will be carried out by a US-based outsourced internal audit resource with US-specific knowledge under the control of the Group’s internal auditor.
During the year, the Committee reviewed and approved the internal audit plan for the year and considered the adequacy of staffing levels and expertise within the function. The Committee received regular reports from the Head of Internal Audit summarising findings of the team’s work and the responses from management to deal with the findings. The Committee monitors progress on the implementation of the action plans on significant findings to ensure these are completed satisfactorily. At the year-end there was a change of personnel appointed as Head of Internal Audit.
The Committee manages the relationship with the Group’s external auditors on behalf of the Board. The Committee carries out an annual assessment of the external auditor including a review of the external auditors’ internal policies and procedures for maintaining independence and objectivity and consideration of their approach to audit quality. The external auditor is professionally required to rotate the audit partner responsible for the Group audit every five years. The current audit partner has been in place since 2012.
External audit process
The Committee also reviewed and approved the external audit plan as presented by the external auditor and assessed the qualifications and expertise of their resources. The Committee also reviewed the external auditors’ engagement letter and recommended the level of remuneration of the external auditor to the Board having reviewed the scope and nature of the work to be performed. The Committee assessed the effectiveness of the external audit process by monitoring performance against the agreed audit plan and noting the results of post-audit interviews with management and the Audit Committee Chairman.
Length of service of auditors
KPMG have been the external auditor of the Company since the Company’s formation and flotation in 2004. The UK Code recommends that listed companies of the size of the Group should put the external audit contract out to tender at least every ten years. Accordingly during the year the external audit contract was put out to tender and written and oral presentations were made by the firms invited to tender. In assessing the presentations received, the Committee considered the ability of each firm to deliver a timely and efficient audit, relevant sector experience and knowledge of key audit issues, the wider services provided to the Company and the price. The Committee concluded that KPmG continued to provide an effective audit service and there were no compelling reasons for change that would outweigh the advantages of continuity. Consequently the Audit Committee recommended the re-appointment of KPmG as the external auditor, and the Board accepted this recommendation.
Hiring of former employees of auditor
In order to ensure the independence and objectivity of the external auditor, the prior approval of the Audit Committee is required before any individual is appointed to a senior managerial position in the Group, if such individual has within three years prior to such proposed appointment been employed by the external auditor.
Non-Audit Services by auditor
The Group has a policy in place governing the provision of non- audit services by the external auditor in order to ensure that the external auditor’s objectivity and independence is safeguarded. Under this policy the auditor is prohibited from providing non- audit services if the auditor:
- may, as a result, be required to audit its own firm’s work;
- would participate in activities that would normally be undertaken by management;
- would be remunerated through a “success fee” structure or have some other mutual financial interest with the Group;
- would be acting in an advocacy role for the Group.
Other than above, the Company does not impose an automatic ban on the external auditor providing non-audit services. However, the external auditor is only permitted to provide non-audit services that are not, or are not perceived to be, in conflict with auditor independence and objectivity, if it has the skill, competence and integrity to carry out the work and it is considered by the Audit Committee to be the most appropriate to undertake such work in the best interests of the Group. The engagement of the external auditor to provide non-audit services must be approved in advance by the Audit Committee or entered into pursuant to pre-approved policies and procedures established by the Audit Committee and approved by the Board.
The nature, extent and scope of non-audit services provided to the Group by the external auditor and the economic importance of the Group to the external auditor are also monitored to ensure that the external auditor’s independence and objectivity is not impaired. The Audit Committee has adopted a policy that, except in exceptional circumstances with the prior approval of the Audit Committee, non-audit fees paid to the Group’s Auditor should not exceed 100% of audit fees in any one financial year.
During the year, KPmG provided audit-related services, being the assurance work referred to above for the UKLA Premium Listing, and non-audit advisory services, being advice on taxation laws and other related matters. In approving KPmG to provide these services the Committee was of the opinion that KPmG’s knowledge of the Group was an important factor. The Committee was also satisfied that the fees paid to KPmG for non-audit work did not compromise their independence or integrity. Details of the amounts paid to KPmG during the year for audit and other services are set out in note 3 to the financial statements.
In line with best practice, the Group supports an independent and confidential whistle-blowing service which allows UK and ROI employees to raise any concerns about business practice in a confidential manner. A similar service is being rolled out to VHCC employees in the US.
The Nomination Committee
The Nomination Committee is chaired by the Group Chairman and its constitution requires it to consist of a majority of independent, non-executive Directors. The members during the year were Sir Brian Stewart (Chairman), John Burgess (resigned 14 may 2013), Breege O’Donoghue and Richard Holroyd (joined the Committee on 14 May 2013).
The Committee meets a minimum of twice a year and met twice in the year ended 28 February 2014. Attendance at meetings held is set out in the table on page 60. In addition, several ad hoc meetings were held to progress initiatives.
Constitution and terms of reference
The Nomination Committee’s responsibilities include:
- reviewing the structure, size and composition of the Board (including the balance of skills, experience, independence, knowledge and diversity (including gender)) and making recommendations regarding any changes;
- overseeing succession planning for the Board and senior management and the leadership needs of the organisation;
- responsibility for the identification of suitable candidates for appointment to the Board;
- making recommendations to the Board on membership of Board Committees.
Main activities during the year
During the period under review the Nomination Committee considered:
- ongoing search for potential candidates for recruitment as non- executive directors;
- longer-term succession planning for non-executive directors, recognising the need for ongoing Board refreshment and renewal and the need for independence and diversity on the Board;
- succession plans for executive directors and senior management.
During the year Ms Emer Finnan was identified and interviewed as a potential non-executive director and, subsequent to the end of the financial year, the Committee recommended to the Board that she should be appointed as a non-executive director. Ms Finnan was appointed to the Board with effect from 1 May 2014. After extensive external search using recruitment specialists, Ms Finnan was identified by the Company itself and approached directly. She is a chartered accountant and has many years’ financial experience. Further biographical details are given on page 47.
The Nomination Committee and the Board recognise the importance of ensuring diversity and the key role that a diversified Board plays in ensuring effectiveness. Suitable candidates are selected on the basis of their relevant experience, employment background, skills, knowledge and insight, having due regard for the benefits of diversity to the Board.
The Committee and Board further realise that diversity extends beyond the Board and in this regard seeks to ensure that all recruitment decisions are fair and non-discriminatory. Further details on the breakdown by gender can be found on page 44.
The Nomination Committee is empowered to use the services of independent consultants to facilitate the search for suitable candidates for appointment as non-executive Directors.
During the year, the Committee appointed Spencer Stuart, an independent executive search firm, to assist in a search process for non-executive director candidates with relevant experience and skills. Spencer Stuart has no other connection with the Group.
The Remuneration Committee
The Remuneration Committee comprises solely of independent, non-executive Directors. The Chairman was Breege O’Donoghue, and the other members were Richard Holroyd and Stewart Gilliland.
The Remuneration Committee meets at least twice a year. During the period under review the Remuneration Committee met four times. Attendance at meetings held is set out in the table below.
The Remuneration Committee’s terms of reference, which are available on the C&C website www.candcgroupplc.com, include:
- determining and agreeing with the Board the framework or broad policy for the remuneration packages of the Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and other executive Directors, the Company Secretary and any other designated members of the executive management.
- within the terms of the agreed policy and in consultation with the Chairman and/or Chief Executive Officer, as appropriate, determining the total individual remuneration package of each of the above persons, including bonuses, incentive payments and share options or other share awards;
- reviewing and having regard to the remuneration trends across the Group;
- approving the design of, and determining targets for, any performance related pay schemes and the total annual payments made under such schemes;
- reviewing the design of all share incentive plans and the performance targets to be used;
- ensuring that contractual terms on termination, and any payments made, are fair, that failure is not rewarded and that the duty to mitigate loss is fully recognised;
- overseeing any major changes in employee benefits structures throughout the Group.
Communications with shareholders
The Group attaches considerable importance to shareholder communications and has an established investor relations programme.
There is regular dialogue with institutional investors with presentations given to investors at the time of the release of the Group’s first half and full year financial results and when other significant announcements are made. Interim Management Statements were issued in July 2013 and January 2014. The Board is briefed regularly on the views and concerns of institutional shareholders.
The Group’s website, www.candcgroupplc.com, provides the full text of the Annual Report and financial statements, the interim report and other releases. News releases are also made available immediately after release to the Stock Exchange. Presentations given to investors and at conferences are also made available on the Company’s website.
The Company operates under the Companies Acts 1963 to 2013. These Acts provide for two types of shareholder meetings: the annual general meeting (‘AGm’) with all other meetings being called extraordinary general meetings (‘EGM’).
The Company must hold a general meeting in each year as its AGM in addition to any other general meetings held in that year. Not more than 15 months may elapse between the date of one AGM and the next. An AGM was held on 3 July 2013, and this year’s AGM will be held on 3 July 2014. The Directors may at any time call an EGM. EGMs shall also be convened on the requisition of members holding not less than five per cent of the voting share capital of the Company.
The notice period for an AGM and an EGM to consider any special resolution (a resolution which requires a 75% majority vote, not a simple majority) is 21 days. The Company may call any other general meeting on 14 days’ notice subject to obtaining shareholder authority to do so. The Directors consider that it is in the interests of the Company to retain this flexibility, and intend to seek annually such authority. As a matter of policy, the 14 day notice period will only be utilised where the Directors believe that it is merited by the business of the meeting and the circumstances surrounding the business in question.
In accordance with UK Code recommendations, the annual report and the notice of annual general meeting are sent to shareholders at least 20 working days before the AGM.
No business shall be transacted at any general meeting unless a quorum is present at the time when the meeting proceeds to business. Three members present in person or by proxy and entitled to vote shall be a quorum.
Only those shareholders registered on the Company’s register of members at the prescribed record date, being a date not more than 48 hours before the general meeting to which it relates, are entitled to attend and vote at a general meeting.
The Acts require that resolutions of the general meeting be passed by the majority of votes cast (ordinary resolution) unless the Acts or the Company’s Articles of Association provide for 75% majority of votes cast (special resolution). The Company’s Articles of Association provide that the Chairman has a casting vote in the event of a tie.
Any shareholder who is entitled to attend, speak and vote at a general meeting is entitled to appoint a proxy to attend, speak and vote on his or her behalf. A proxy need not be a member of the Company.
At meetings, unless a poll is demanded, all resolutions are determined on a show of hands, with every shareholder who is present in person or by proxy having one vote. On a poll every shareholder who is present in person or by proxy shall have one vote for each share of which he/she is the holder. A shareholder need not cast all votes in the same way. At the meeting, after each resolution has been dealt with, details are given of the level of proxy votes lodged for and against that resolution and also the level of votes withheld on that resolution.
The Company’s AGM gives shareholders the opportunity to question the Directors. The Company must answer any question a member asks relating to the business being dealt with at the meeting unless answering the question would interfere unduly with the preparation for the general meeting or the confidentiality and business interests of the Company, or the answer has already been given on a website in the form of an answer to a question, or it appears to the Chairman of the meeting that it is undesirable in the interests of good order of the meeting that the question be answered.
The business of the Company is managed by the Directors who may exercise all the powers of the Company unless they are required to be exercised by the Company in general meeting. Matters reserved to shareholders in general meeting include the election of directors; the payment of dividends; the appointment of the external auditor; amendments to the articles of association; measures to increase or reduce the share capital; and the authority to issue shares.
Memorandum and Articles of Association
The Company’s Memorandum of Association sets out the objects and powers of the Company. The Articles of Association detail the rights attaching to each share class; the method by which the Company’s shares can be purchased or reissued; the provisions which apply to the holding of and voting at general meetings; and the rules relating to the Directors, including their appointment, retirement, re-election, duties and powers. Any amendment of the Company’s Articles of Association requires the passing of a special resolution.
Further details in relation to the purchase of the Company’s own shares are included in the Directors’ Report.
The Board has overall responsibility for the Group’s system of internal control, for reviewing its effectiveness and for confirming that there is a process for identifying, evaluating and managing the significant risks affecting the achievement of the Group’s strategic objectives. The process which has been in place for the entire period accords with the Turnbull Guidance (revised guidance published in October 2005) and involves the Board considering the following:
- the nature and extent of the key risks facing the Group;
- the likelihood of these risks occurring;
- the impact on the Group should these risks occur;
- the actions being taken to manage these risks to the desired level.
The key elements of the internal control system in operation are as follows:
- clearly defined organisation structures and lines of authority;
- corporate policies for financial reporting, treasury and financial risk management, information technology and security, project appraisal and corporate governance;
- annual budgets for all business units, identifying key risks and opportunities;
- monitoring of performance against budgets on a weekly basis and reporting thereon to the Board on a periodic basis;
- an internal audit function which reviews key business processes and controls; and
- an audit committee which approves plans and deals with significant control issues raised by internal or external audit.
This system of internal control can only provide reasonable, and not absolute, assurance against material misstatement or loss. The terms of reference of the Audit Committee require it to review the adequacy and effectiveness of the Group’s internal financial controls and risk management systems. The risks facing the Group are reviewed regularly by the Audit Committee with the executive management team. Specific annual reviews of the risks and fundamental controls of each business unit are undertaken on an ongoing basis, the results and recommendations of which are reported to and analysed by the Audit Committee with a programme for action agreed by the business units.
The preparation and issue of financial reports, including consolidated annual financial statements is managed by Group Finance with oversight from the Audit Committee. The key features of the Group’s internal control procedures with regard to the preparation of consolidated financial statements are as follows:
- the review of each operating division’s period end reporting package by the Group finance function;
- the oversight, review and validation of consolidation journals by the Group Chief Financial Officer;
- the challenge and review of the financial results of each operating division with the management of that division by the Group Chief Financial Officer;
- the review of any internal control weaknesses highlighted by the external auditor, by the Group Chief Financial Officer, Head of Internal Audit and the Audit Committee; and the follow up of any critical weaknesses to ensure issues highlighted are addressed.
The Directors confirm that, in addition to the monitoring carried out by the Audit Committee under its terms of reference, they have reviewed the effectiveness of the Group’s risk management and internal control systems up to and including the date of approval of the financial statements. This had regard to all material controls, including financial, operational and compliance controls that could affect the Group’s business. The Directors considered the outcome of this review and found the systems satisfactory.
As part of its overall remit of ensuring that effective risk management policies and systems are in place, the Board examines the significance of environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters to the Group’s business and it has ensured that the Group has in place effective systems for managing and mitigating ESG risks. It also examines the impact that such risks may have on the Group’s short and long-term value, as well as the opportunities that ESG issues present to enhance value. The Board receives the necessary information to make this assessment in regular reports from the executive management.
Corporate responsibility is embedded throughout the Group. Group policies and activities are summarised on pages 36 to 44 and the Group’s corporate responsibility report is available on the Group’s website www.candcgroupplc.com.
The principal risks and uncertainties facing the Group are set out in this report on pages 18 and 19. The financial position of the Group, its cash flows, liquidity position and borrowing facilities are set out in the Group Chief Financial Officer’s Review on pages 30 to 35. A description of the business of the Group is set out in the Group Chief Executive Officer’s Review on page 8 to 13 and the Operations Review on pages 21 to 29.
An explanation of the basis on which the Group generates and preserves value over the longer term (the business model) and the strategy for delivering its objectives are set out in the Group Chief Executive Officer’s review on pages 8 to 13. A statement of the Group’s strategy is set out on page 14. The Group’s long term strategy is to build a sustainable cider-led multi-beverage business through a combination of organic growth and selective acquisitions. The Group’s business model seeks growth through brand/market combination combining brand investment with a focus on local markets.
The Group has significant revenues, a large number of customers and suppliers across different geographies, and considerable financial resources. For these reasons, the Directors have a reasonable expectation that the Company, and the Group as a whole, have adequate resources to continue in operational existence for the foreseeable future. Consequently they continue to adopt the going concern basis in preparing the financial statements.
C&C Group plc is incorporated and resident in Ireland and is subject to Irish company law. It has a primary listing on the Irish Stock Exchange (‘ISE’) and a listing in the Premium Listing segment of the Official List of the United Kingdom Listing Authority (‘UKLA’) and its shares are quoted on the ISE and the London Stock Exchange (‘LSE’). C&C Group plc also has a Level 1 American Depository Receipt (ADR) programme.
The Directors are committed to maintaining the highest standards of corporate governance. The Listing Rules of the ISE require every company listed on the Main Securities Market of the ISE to state in its annual report how the principles of the UK Corporate Governance Code published by the Financial Reporting Council (the ‘UK Code’) have been applied and whether the company has complied with all relevant provisions of the UK Code and the Irish Corporate Governance Annex (the ‘Irish Annex’), which implements additional requirements for companies (such as C&C Group plc) with a primary equity listing on the Main Securities Market of the ISE. Where companies diverge from the provisions of the UK Code or the Irish Annex, the ISE expects them to include explanations that provide a rationale for the divergence. The text of the UK Code and the Irish Annex can be found on the ISE’s website: www.ise.ie.
The Group has complied with the provisions of the UK Code and Irish Annex throughout the period under review. This Corporate Governance statement describes how the Group applied the principles of the UK Code and the Irish Annex throughout the financial year ended 28 February 2014.
Attendance At Meetings Of the Board And Its Committees
Attendance at Board meetings and Board committee meetings during the year was as set out in the table below.
In the attendance table below the numerator in each fraction represents the number of meetings actually attended by each Director in respect of the Board and each Board committee of which he or she was a member, whilst the denominator represents the number of such meetings that the Director was scheduled to attend.
In addition, the non-executive Directors including the Chairman met to evaluate the performance of the executive Directors, and the non-executive Directors, led by the Senior Independent Director, without the Chairman present, met to evaluate the performance of the Chairman. Several ad hoc meetings were held during the year for administrative matters in accordance with the Board’s procedures.
|Scheduled Board Meetings||Short Notice Board Meeting||Audit Committee Meetings||Nomination Committee Meetings||Remuneration Committee Meetings|
|Sir Brian Stewart||10/10||1/1||2/2|
*retired 14 May 2013