OVERVIEW

We are pleased to report that during the year under review the group has maintained the positive momentum sparked in 2017 by delivering another set of solid results despite a significant currency devaluation loss in Zimbabwe as detailed below. Encouraging achievements were made in the strategic focus areas of growing our ADT sales and aftermarket business globally and increasing production rates for creating long-term value and ensuring sustainable growth.

The majority of our offshore focus markets for the ADT product – Europe, the US and Southeast Asia – have enjoyed good economic performance and as such, we are encouraged by the outlook for these markets. The market adoption of our products in Southeast Asia through established dealer networks was positive due in part to the fact that mining conditions and operations are very similar to those in Africa.

In the US, the world’s largest ADT market, residential development is driving the current demand for ADTs, which are used for the provision of bulk earthworks. Demand also improved in Canada thanks to more stable commodity prices.

Ongoing massive infrastructure projects in Europe, including the UK’s Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset and the upcoming high-speed railway project, HS2, are generating increased demand for ADTs but we are mindful of the potential impact Brexit negotiations may have on this market.

Sales are low and remain under pressure at our South African and African subsidiaries. Positive management interventions in the DRC and Mozambique operations are mitigating against the challenges experienced by the group in those countries in the past, however, the currency crisis in Zimbabwe has resulted in a significant loss for the group.

Although commodity prices have improved, investor appetite for the South African mining industry remained under pressure during 2018.

During the course of 2018, Bell continued to position itself as a global ADT specialist by expanding its range of 4x4 articulated trucks to complement its traditional ADT offering. This provides those customers not affected by poor underfoot conditions with a practical alternative to tipper trucks and rigid dump trucks.

FINANCIAL

Revenue and gross profit for 2018 both increased by 10% to R7,5 billion and R1,5 billion respectively. Profit after tax of R276,4 million was 2% up on 2017, in what would have been a good result if it was not for a substainial devaluation of RTGS dollar denominated monetary assets and liabilities in Zimbabwe following the announcement of a new local currency in that country and also higher interest charges on group borrowings.

The Zimbabwe devaluation of R87,4 million is included in foreign currency exchange losses in the statement of profit or loss. Headline earnings per share is up from 270 cents per share to 278 cents per share.

The Rand was very volatile but on average weaker in 2018 compared with the 2017 financial year, particularly in the second half of 2018, and this has had a positive impact on sales and margins. The weaker Rand also contributed to an increase in the reported Rand value of operating expenses that are denominated in foreign currencies. Expenses, excluding the foreign currency loss referred to above, were generally well contained, increasing by a modest 5%.

OPERATIONS

Bell continues to be a sizeable employer with approximately 3 200 employees worldwide, of which 2835 are located in South Africa. During 2018, 275 of our employees around the world celebrated long service milestones with the group. This is the largest group in the history of Bell to do so and evidences the long term benefits of our intrinsic approach of caring for our people and providing an environment for personal development and growth.

2018 saw the introduction of a new group structure, which has been a positive change and is working extremely well. In October 2018, Kanu Equipment was appointed as an authorised distributor in the DRC following the decision to sell assets in that country and migrate to a dealer model. The Kanu Group distributes and supports Bell earthmoving equipment in a number of African countries and we are confident that their strong management team in the DRC will drive the business and provide our customers with the level of service and support that they expect and deserve.

Bell recently acquired Matriarch Equipment, giving us a renewed energy and focus in the agriculture and forestry equipment sector, the group’s cornerstone industry in its formative years. We see great potential in strengthening and growing this important aspect of our business. The range of Matriarch products complements our range and enables us to better provide a tailor-made, full line solution to our customers.

The Kobelco range of excavators, introduced in the second half of 2017, continues to enjoy acceptance across all industries in southern Africa. We subsequently introduced three mini excavator models at the beginning of 2018, and these smaller units are proving equally popular in the light construction and forestry sectors.

The uptake of the Kamaz range of heavy-duty trucks in the southern African mining and construction industries was slightly slower than anticipated, with plans for the localisation and production of these trucks in Richards Bay having been delayed until market demand makes this investment more feasible. Bell is currently investigating other applications for the product to make faster headway in this highly competitive market.

SUSTAINABILITY

We recognise the importance of being a sustainable business and the risks associated with not aggressively pursuing this as a goal. Our sustainability journey is therefore managed through the strategic planning process, and involves the direct participation of the board.

Our focus remains growing global ADT volumes and optimising the lifetime revenue stream from our machines through value adding aftermarket services and products. The group is also cognisant that geographic, product and industry diversity are all key elements that contribute to the overall sustainability of our operations.

During 2018, an ALC was opened in North Carolina to better serve our customers in that region and to support the aftermarket requirements necessitated by the increased uptake of our products in the US.

Following the completion of the new ELC in Alsfeld, Germany in 2017, the group commenced the second phase expansion of our factory in Eisenach-Kindel in mid-2018. The facility, scheduled for completion in the third quarter of 2019, will incorporate state of the art manufacturing equipment geared towards reducing operational and product costs as well as improving our flexibility and supporting our growth in the northern Hemisphere markets.

Given the more buoyant global conditions the board took a strategic decision to increase production and aftermarket working capital to respond more rapidly to higher demand across our spectrum of client industries.

CORPORATE GOVERNANCE

Our commitment to being a good corporate citizen pervades our total approach to the business and we endeavour to act in a responsible, balanced and commercially sensible manner.

We are ever conscious of the impact on the environment and we have made pleasing progress, as detailed in our stakeholder report, as we continue to measure and mitigate these risks.

Bell is committed to the highest standards of corporate governance. Details of governance structures and the extent to which we apply relevant principles of corporate governance, including King IV and regulatory requirements, are provided in this report.

TRANSFORMATION

Bell supports transformation in South Africa and is committed to transformation at all levels across our operations. A planned third BBBEE transaction will allow customers to maximise procurement spend when purchasing from BESSA and will assist in meeting the procurement goals as set out in the 2018 Mining Charter.

To accelerate transformation of the construction industry and open doors for black-owned and managed CIDB graded contractors, Bell became the first OEM to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with SANRAL. This undertaking is aimed at enabling CIDB graded contractors to participate more meaningfully in major construction projects by providing access to earthmoving machinery, finance, leasing and rental options, training and maintenance services.

OUTLOOK

We continue our focus on research and development, with a new series truck prototype due in the second quarter of 2019.

An extensive product upgrade for the small ADT truck range will also be launched at the end of the year.

Our manufacturing plant expansion in Germany, will be completed in the third quarter of 2019 with a testing phase preceding full production. Investment into the northern Hemisphere will continue at our ALC where we will implement our SAP software systems so that all three of our logistics centres are on a similar platform to enable us to provide parts online. The world is changing and our customer base increasingly requires online solutions, and thus we are investing in these.

There continues to be many external factors that could impact both our global and local businesses. While our order book remains strong and our business continues to grow in the US and the EU, we recognise the risks that Brexit and the trade war between the US and China may have on business globally.

Closer to home, Zimbabwe is experiencing ongoing currency and economic troubles and there is considerable uncertainty in Zambia and also in South Africa leading up to the national election on 8 May 2019, which we are monitoring closely. We are confident that we have an excellent and resilient team coupled with a strategy that is capable of overcoming any challenges and capitalising on the opportunities 2019 may bring.

DIVIDENDS

The board has declared a final dividend of 25 cents per share which added to the interim dividend of 20 cents amounts to a total dividend of 45 cents for the year, the same as for 2017.

BOARD CHANGES

On 1 June 2018, Gary Bell stepped down as the chief executive and assumed the role of non-executive chairman of the board, thus paving the way for Leon Goosen to take over as the chief executive in line with the group’s succession plans as outlined in last year’s report. The board is pleased to appoint Leon as the best candidate after a global search.

Following the seamless handover the group continues to enjoy the full support of stakeholders and employees.

Our outgoing chairman, John Barton, has assumed the role of lead independent non-executive director to ensure adherence to good governance principles, in compliance with the King IV requirements. We are grateful for his continued invaluable input into the board and thank him for his three years as chairman and his dedication to the group.

APPRECIATION

On behalf of the board we would like to thank executive management and our 1-BELL team for being fully committed, living our 1-BELL principles, of Customers, Teamwork,Quality, Efficiency and Safety, and going the extra mile to build on the Bell legacy.

We are also grateful to all of our stakeholders for their continued support and confidence in the group.

A special thanks to our extended family of customers and dealers around the world who continues to show confidence in our products and entrust us with the ongoing support of their Bell machines.

We further extend our appreciation to our fellow board members for their hard work and guidance.

The hard work, teamwork and dedication that were demonstrated during 2018 to achieve production targets, entrench new products into the range and grow new markets have enabled us to continue on our upward trajectory.