From the Chairman
Whitbread has grown its total sales in the year by over 14% and continued to produce strong operating cash flows of over £500 million. This has funded both significant organic investment to grow our businesses and a double digit percentage increase in our dividends while maintaining prudent debt levels. With the Premier Inn and Costa brand propositions going from strength to strength this growth is set to continue.
Our businesses continue to benefit from a consistent and long–term focus on their customers, with particular emphasis on continuing to refurbish and maintain the hotels, restaurants and coffee shops to high standards. I am pleased to see the level of innovation taking place throughout the Company, whether it is in the use of social media to communicate with our teams and customers or updating room designs. Our ability to invest in this way is again a consequence of our financial strength.
The Board recommends a final dividend of 37.90p per share, making a total dividend of 57.40p per share, up by 12%. The final dividend will be paid on 12 July 2013 to shareholders on the register at the close of business on 17 May 2013. Once again, a scrip dividend alternative will be offered and further information on how shareholders can elect to participate in the scrip dividend scheme is available from the registrars and on this website.
We reported last year that Christopher Rogers would take over as Managing Director of Costa and that we had begun the search for a new Group Finance Director. I was pleased that Nicholas Cadbury joined as our new Group Finance Director in November 2012 from Premier Farnell PLC, where he had been Chief Financial Officer since 2011. Prior to that he had held a variety of roles at Dixons Retail PLC, including the position of Chief Financial Officer between 2008 and 2011. Nicholas is already proving to be an important member of our top management team as Whitbread continues on its growth path.
Louise Smalley, who has worked at Whitbread for 18 years and has been Group HR Director since 2007, also joined the Board in November 2012. At its heart, Whitbread is a hospitality business focused on people. Louise is instrumental in creating a great place to work for our 40,000 team members, developing our global talent and building leadership strength. Having worked closely with her over the last six years I know she will continue to be an invaluable contributor at the Board.
As a board of directors we have a duty to run the Company effectively and ethically on behalf of all of our key stakeholders. This is something that sets the tone for how we do business and is not simply about behaviour in the boardroom. I believe our fast and open reaction to the horse meat issues, which had been prevalent in our industry, was a good example of this behaviour.
The people who work for Whitbread really are a vital ingredient in the Company’s success. Whether it’s the people in our hotels, coffee shops and restaurants, or those providing them with the support so that they can concentrate on making everyday experiences feel special for our customers, they all play a vital role. Once again, I’d like to thank them all on behalf of the Board for their dedication, enthusiasm and professionalism this year.