Tag: corporate governance

Chairman’s statement

In 2017 we made significant progress with the strategy we announced in December 2016.

First, we completed the acquisition of Opus Energy – a leading challenger brand in the UK Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) energy market; second, we acquired a third biomass pellet plant (LaSalle Bioenergy), which significantly increases our pellet production capacity; and third, we continued to develop options for flexible gas generation at four sites around the UK.

We also began developing longer-term options for growth, with the exploration of coal-to-gas repowering at Drax Power Station, as we look to provide new sources of flexible generation backed up by long-term capacity contracts. To support our strategy, we completed a refinancing in May and announced a new dividend policy in June.

At the same time, we have continued to provide a significant amount of the UK’s renewable electricity. With confirmation of Government support for further biomass generation at Drax Power Station we plan to continue our work to develop a low-cost solution for a fourth biomass unit conversion, allowing us to provide even more renewable electricity, whilst supporting system stability at minimum cost to the consumer.

Opus Energy performed well, delivering on the plans we set out at the time of acquisition and, in North America, LaSalle Bioenergy is successfully commissioning. This performance alongside safety, sustainability and expertise in our core markets acts as a strong base from which the business can grow and deliver long-term sustainable value.

We have a major role to play in supporting the UK energy system, as it becomes increasingly ambitious in decarbonising, first the electricity sector and subsequently transport and heating. In doing so, through our flexible, low-carbon and customer- focused approach we aim to deliver higher quality earnings, with a reduction in commodity exposure alongside opportunities for growth.

Our people – employees and contractors – remain a key asset of the business. Their safety remains at the centre of our operational philosophy and we have performed well in this regard, although we continue to work to improve our performance across the Group.

Results and dividend

EBITDA in 2017 of £229 million was significantly ahead of 2016 (£140 million).

This increase was principally from producing high levels of renewable power from sustainable biomass. We also benefited from our growing B2B Energy Supply and Pellet Production businesses. Through these activities we are improving the visibility of our earnings.

In June we announced a new dividend policy. This policy is to pay a dividend which is sustainable and expected to grow as the implementation of the strategy generates an increasing proportion of stable earnings and cash flows. In determining the rate of growth in dividends the Board will take account of contracted cash flows, the less predictable cash flows from the Group’s commodity based business and future investment opportunities. If there is a build-up of capital the Board will consider the most appropriate mechanism to return this to shareholders.

At the 2017 half year results we confirmed an interim dividend of £20 million (4.9 pence per share) representing 40% of the full year expected dividend of £50 million (12.3 pence per share) (2016: £10 million, 2.5 pence per share). Accordingly, the Board proposes to pay a final dividend in respect of 2017 of £30 million, equivalent to 7.4 pence per share. In addition, the Board has decided to announce a £50 million share buy-back programme, which will take place during 2018, which is consistent with our capital allocation policy.

Corporate governance

In September, Dorothy Thompson CBE announced her intention to stand down as Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO). I would like to thank Dorothy for her enormous contribution to the Group over the last 13 years. During her tenure Dorothy led the transformation of the business and leaves the Group in a strong position with a clear strategy that lays the foundations for further success in a changing energy sector.

Dorothy is succeeded by Will Gardiner, who was previously Group Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and a key architect of the strategy. His appointment follows a thorough review of internal and external candidates and is a natural progression after two years working alongside Dorothy developing a strategy which I am confident will create significant benefits for all Drax’s stakeholders.

A process to appoint a permanent CFO is underway and Den Jones has been appointed as Interim CFO. Den is highly experienced, having previously served as CFO of both Johnson Matthey and BG Group. Drax remains committed to the highest standards of corporate governance. The Board and its committees play an active role in guiding the Company and leading its strategy. We greatly value the contribution made by our Non-Executive Directors (NEDs) and during a time of transition their role is especially important.

We indicated last year that we were seeking additional NEDs with experience in sustainability and energy supply to complement our already experienced Board. I am therefore delighted to welcome two new NEDs to the Drax Board. Firstly, David Nussbaum, whose in-depth knowledge of sustainability will support our continued focus in this area; and secondly, Nicola Hodson, whose experience in technology, business transformation and energy, will provide real value as the Group delivers its strategy.

Sustainability remains at the heart of the business, both the specific sustainability of biomass and more broadly the long-term sustainability of the business. As such I am pleased to note that alongside this year’s annual report and accounts the Group has published a comprehensive overview of our sustainability progress in 2017 on our website.

Full details of our corporate governance can be found on page 64 of the 2017 annual report.

Our people

As the Group grows I would also like to welcome colleagues from Opus Energy and our other developments. On-boarding is proceeding well and by working together in our common goal to help change the way energy is generated, supplied and used, we are creating real value for all stakeholders.

I must thank all the employees and contractors who have worked so hard to help the Group succeed in the last 12 months. It is through their skill, expertise and hard work that we are able to deliver our strategy for the business.

My sincere thanks to colleagues for their commitment and hard work.

It only remains for me to say that your Board remains totally committed to the complementary aims of delivering sustainable long-term value for the Group, and of helping our country build a low-carbon economy.

Read the Drax Group plc annual report and accounts 2017

Appointment of Interim Chief Financial Officer

RNS Number : 7736U
(Symbol: DRX)

Following the recent announcement that Will Gardiner will succeed Dorothy Thompson as Chief Executive Officer of Drax Group from 1 January 2018, the Board is progressing a process to appoint a permanent Chief Financial Officer (CFO) as soon as practicable.

In the meantime, Den Jones has been appointed as Interim CFO of the Group from 1 November 2017 and will work with Will Gardiner to ensure a smooth transition.

Den was previously CFO of Johnson Matthey, a FTSE 100 specialty chemicals company and has held senior and executive positions, including Interim CFO, in BG Group, a major global energy company. He spent the early part of his career in banking and professional services with Citibank and PwC where he held a number of specialist financial management positions.


Investor Relations:

Mark Strafford

+44 (0) 1757 612 491


External Communications:

Ali Lewis

+44 (0) 1757 612165

Website: www.drax.com


My four principles of leadership

1. Have vision  

The first task of any leader is to have the vision for the future of their organisation. This doesn’t mean creating it on his or her own. It means that a leader needs to be ready to challenge assumptions, embrace change, have courage and be brave when necessary.

When I think about this I’m reminded of the challenges we faced when we decided to upgrade our power station in Yorkshire to use compressed wood pellets instead of coal .

In delivering this strategy, we faced three major hurdles:

  • Nobody had ever done it before.  There was no technical solution readily available. We had to create one ourselves using our own engineering know-how.
  • There was no supply chain for the compressed wood pellets. We would need to build our own.
  • Civil servants doubted we could deliver it and regardless, there was no Government support for our vision.

Because we had been so thorough, I knew that we had our facts right. In particular, I was certain that we could produce the same amount of electricity while cutting carbon by 80 per cent.

The only logical conclusion was to drive forward. It would never have happened if we hadn’t been confident about our vision.

I’m particularly proud of the way Drax engineers have developed a world-leading technology to transform the way the UK’s largest power station works without any interruption to supply. In 2015, we generated 7.9% of the UK’s electricity or 26.7 TWh from the one single site in North Yorkshire, according to data in our annual report and from the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). That included 11.5 TWh of compressed wood pellet power – equal to around 13% of the UK’s total renewable electricity (up from 12% a year earlier) or enough to meet the needs of around three million homes (one in every 10 in the country). From the fourth quarter of 2015, we began generating more electricity from sustainable biomass than from coal.

There’s still a long way to go – at least three years if not more – before we can say our work is done, but it’s already a massive achievement.

2. Always be open and approachable

Everyone in your organisation needs to understand what you’re seeking to achieve and why.

For me, being open is also about being honest, approachable and interested in other views. Not just as an individual, but as an entire organisation. As President Obama said while addressing young people on his recent visit to the UK:

“Seek out people who don’t agree with you, and it will also help you to compromise.”

In some instances you need to push forward, while in others you need to compromise. That means a leader needs to trust in their vision while being open to challenges.

At Drax, we know our employees have integrity and can be trusted. At all levels, people need to have highly sensitive information to do their job. This can be a very challenging issue for a company listed on the London Stock Exchange, where a leak could do very serious damage indeed.

When we first listed in 2005, this led to boardroom disagreement. On one side, directors wanted to restrict information to a minimum because they felt this was the best way to limit risk.

As Chief Executive, I strongly disagreed with this. Obviously some things need to be kept confidential, but I really believe that it is important for a leader to be open. In fact, I think one of the key strengths of the Group is our open and frank culture. We have never suffered a significant leak in my time in charge.

3. Together we’re stronger 

A leader’s role is not to take all the decisions. Leadership is about getting the best out of everyone around you. That includes the team you work with on a day-to-day basis, the wider team across the whole organisation, and all your stakeholders.

You never know in advance where the best idea is going to come from. If you’re recruitment is right, you’re surrounded by highly qualified experts.

At Drax, I encourage colleagues to have their say. I am surrounded by people who are willing and able to challenge my views and those of my colleagues on our Executive Committee. I would be silly not to listen to them. We all are more engaged when we’re involved in finding the solution to a problem than when we’re merely dictated to.

Central business district, Gaborone, Botswana

4. Drive the future  

No leader can wait for events to unfold. You have to drive your organisation forward in order to shape its future. In my opinion, indecision is the worst decision of all.

In my 20s I worked for the National Development Bank of Botswana in Gaborone. The bank provided farmers with short- term loans to buy seed to grow their crops.

One day a farmer who was clearly very poor turned up to see the loan officer who shared an office with me. He hadn’t received his loan, because the loan officer hadn’t processed his application in time. So there were no seeds to plant and no crops for the next season.

For years I blamed the loan officer for the farmer’s misfortune. However, from my practical experience as a leader, I now know better. The loan officer’s manager, who was afraid to reprimand him because he came from a privileged local family, should have had more courage. Because they couldn’t decide how to handle the situation, the company and the community it served suffered. Leadership is not an exact science and nothing can compare to experience.

For the sake of future generations, the world needs to urgently move away from coal. Unlike the manager in Gaborone who jeopardised a farmer’s future, my Drax colleagues and I know our leadership is driving the future towards the decarbonisation of our economy.

Forbes: Drax joint-second most trustworthy company in Europe

I’m delighted that Drax Group plc has been named by Forbes magazine and MSCI ESG Research as one of the 50 most trustworthy companies in Europe.

In fact, Drax came joint second across the whole continent among companies judged who ‘consistently demonstrated transparent accounting practices and solid corporate governance’.

It’s a massive tribute to everyone involved with Drax that world-leading business experts have recognised our commitment to trust and integrity in this way.

Of course, that commitment goes much further than our accounting practices alone. (I believe my British colleagues would say that it runs right through Drax like the writing in a stick of rock.)

Indeed, it was one of the reasons I was so honoured to be asked to join Drax as CFO. From my very first meeting with CEO Dorothy Thompson, I could see that Drax would always strive do the right thing, in the right way.

That’s just as true for our sustainability data as it is for our business data.

It was our commitment to doing the right thing that led Drax to take on the decision to convert Drax power station from coal to compressed wood pellets.

It is our commitment to doing the right thing that means Drax is reducing emissions by over 80 per cent while giving people and businesses all over the UK the reliable, renewable power that they need.

And we know we can save bill-payers money at the same time.

The UK is lagging far behind the rest of Europe when it comes to generating energy from compressed wood pellets. Drax is committed to bringing us closer to the European average, while helping us move from the fossil fuels of the past to the renewables of the future. And yes, you can trust us on that.