I am honoured to be officially addressing our stakeholders for the first time as the newly appointed non-executive chairperson of the AEEI Board of directors.
I wish to express the Board’s gratitude to our outgoing independent non-executive chairman, Reverend Dr Mehana, for enabling the seamless transition of chairmanship and for his unselfish and unwavering support to the Group. Despite the challenging times, our resilience, focus and diligence have safeguarded the Group. Furthermore, our dedicated team of employees ensures that AEEI remains cash generative, is financially stronger and continues to grow stakeholder value.
I must admit that our operating environment has been especially tough this year. However, I will err on the side of optimism by predicting that the impact of the economic downturn and global climate change will reach an even keel over the next year or two.
I believe that one’s team takes its lead from the top, so by being optimistic one can lead through daunting conditions with the utmost confidence that there will be an upturn in the very near future.
KEY BOARD FOCUS AREAS FOR THE 2019 FINANCIAL YEAR
AEEI’s resilience in uncertain times is testimony to its value system and work ethic that have stood the test of time for the last 21 years – since its listing on the JSE in 1999. Reflecting on our key focus areas, I would like to highlight the following:
- Our Group’s financial year-end results reflect a growth in revenue as well as a substantial growth in our asset base.
- AEEI has been awarded a Level 1 B-BBEE accreditation.
- AEEI’s stringent application of good corporate governance practices.
- The fishing and brands division has shown growth despite a reduction in the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) rates for the west coast rock lobster; the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) will be announcing the TAC rates for the fishing industry in early 2020.
- The technology division has come out strong with positive cash flows due to its planned achievement pipeline, acquisitions made during and post the financial year-end as well as through organic growth. The acquisitions were lucrative and complement the current ICT products and services which this division offers to its clients.
VISION 2020 VISION TO VISION 2025 VISION
A key feature of our 2019 financial year has been the significant progress and achievements we have made in executing our Vision 2020 Vision strategy to become the leading diversified company in South Africa that creates superior stakeholder value and empowers people through profits and performance.
Our 2019 performance is testament to the broader Group rallying together to drive continued optimisation and efficiency of our operations while growing a sustainable cash flow and value for our shareholders.
Our Vision 2020 Vision strategy is underpinned by our diverse portfolio and is reflected in our results. This growth strategy has laid a strong foundation for the next phase of the AEEI Group’s evolution. Eager about the next exciting phase for AEEI, we are already considering our Vision 2025 Vision strategy
The Group now has a more diversified asset/product base to reduce risk exposure and to secure access to distribution channels nationally and internationally, which will enable value creation for our shareholders.
We continue to drive the South African transformation agenda across our value chain. This, combined with diversity and a sense of responsibility to facilitate job creation and empowerment of the previously disadvantaged, are essential to the sustainability of AEEI.
I am delighted to mention that records indicate that AEEI has played a part in carving the way for our future nation through its skills development and corporate social responsibility programmes, which are implemented throughout the country but especially in the communities in which we operate.
During the year, we renewed our focus on critical skills and leadership capability development as key enablers to build a resilient organisation for the future. We continued to invest in sponsored study programmes and in learning programmes, which include leadership, career and succession development plans.
To secure a pipeline for the future, we invested significantly in our employees through skills development and training, ranging from basic literacy to health and safety training as well as further training, to ensure our employees and professionals remain on top of their game.
The empowerment of women remains a key focus area, and our skills development programmes are designed to secure the critical and scarce skills required to operate our divisions and deliver long-term growth ambitions. I am delighted to announce that we have increased the number of women employed within the Group – not only on the ground but from middle management to executive positions.
In addition to this and related to transformation, we recognise that it is imperative to continue with the adequate upskilling of our employees and the communities within which we operate through skills development and training programmes. We remain focused on reducing our carbon footprint, and being aware of practices which our teams may implement to ensure safe and sustainable fishing in our oceans.
Culture, underpinned by our values, is essential to support us in achieving our goals and transformation aspirations. To this end, we will continue to further embed the behaviours that support our transformation objectives in all our divisions.
Read more on Transformation in the online Sustainability Report.
Our employees are fundamental to the success of the Group, and I must acknowledge that it is because of the resilience and diligence of our values-driven, high-performing employees that we are able to create value for our key stakeholders.
We strengthened our relationships with labour unions, which required a review of the broader employee relations landscape and the adoption of a more integrated approach across all stakeholder groups, aimed at achieving greater employee engagement and ensuring business continuity.
SUSTAINABILITY AT AEEI
At AEEI we are cognisant of our material sustainability focus areas and their impact on our stakeholders. Stakeholder engagement at AEEI is supported by transparent and effective communication, mutually beneficial outcomes where possible, inclusiveness and integrity. We participated in initiatives to inform and ensure a best practice approach in the areas of sustainability and social impact. We actively engage with our stakeholders to ensure the achievement of the best outcomes. Read more about building relationships with our stakeholders in the Abridged Integrated Report.
GOVERNANCE AT AEEI
The Board strives to ensure that AEEI is governed effectively – with integrity, transparency and in accordance with sound corporate governance practices. The Group’s policies, practices and charters are updated regularly to remain compliant with the relevant laws, rules, regulations, codes and standards, including but not limited to the JSE Listings Requirements. We have also embraced the inclusion of the King IVTM principles in all areas where applicable. Read more about this in the online Corporate Governance Report.
It is with sincere appreciation that I thank all our stakeholders for their unwavering support and confidence in me as the non-executive chairperson of the Board. Not only do they have the utmost confidence in me but also in the leadership teams who have remained steadfast in their implementation of our strategy of growth and value creation.
I would like to recognise the support and contribution of my fellow Board colleagues, who have willingly and without prejudice contributed their collective skills and experiences during the year. I wish to extend a warm welcome to the newly appointed non-executive directors and we look forward to their fresh insights and contributions.
I would also like to thank the management teams for their leadership during a challenging year. I remain confident that the executive management team will consistently drive our business strategy and not only achieve satisfactory results, but also create value in the long term for all our stakeholders.
Hearty congratulations to Khalid Abdulla on achieving the organisation’s goals as well as the accolades in recognition of his leadership, skills, insight and commitment to realising the potential of our Group. A special word of thanks to the executive management team and all our employees in the Group, without whom we could not have achieved such growth.
I look forward to chairing the Board through the next exciting growth phase of AEEI.
Mrs Aziza AmodNon-executive chairperson