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Electrocomponents suspends dividend as coronavirus hits industrial demand

Directors of the industrial distributor said they will wait until November's half year results to see if an additional interim dividend payment can be made

Electrocomponents -

Electrocomponents PLC (LON:ECM) has suspended its dividend as demand has dropped sharply in recent months due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Supply has been maintained throughout the crisis and all its distribution centres now open, the FTSE 250-listed electronics distributor said.

Like-for-like sales for its financial year ending 31 March were up 2.2% on the previous year, with the COVID-19 pandemic knocking one percentage point off.

In the first eight weeks of the new year, LFL revenue has fallen 14%, with the Europe Middle East and Africa region tumbling 18%, the Americas down 10% and Asia Pacific 2% lower.

The rate of revenue decline has “moderated slightly” during May as lockdown restrictions began to ease in some key markets, the company said, with management focused on stabilising and improving profit margins.

Directors said they had decided “it is prudent to defer the final dividend decision until it has greater visibility” and for November's half year results will look at whether to make an additional interim dividend payment.

While profit before tax for the past year was up 2.3% to £199.6mln, adjusted free cash flow dipped 4% at £80.9mln and net debt crept up to £189.8mln.

There was £189.2mln headroom from bank borrowing facilities and eligibility has been secured for the Bank of England’s Coronavirus Corporate Finance Facility, but management have no plans to make use of it, nor the UK furlough scheme.

Chief executive Lindsley Ruth said: “We are taking tactical action to protect profit and conserve cash, while also accelerating key strategic initiatives to drive scale and efficiency to ensure we come out of this crisis strongly and well positioned for long-term value creation.”

The shares rose 5% on Tuesday morning to 670p, where they are down 2% since the start of the year.

Analysts at broker Shore Capital said it is still early to assess the revenue and margin impact from the declines in April and May.

"This reduction moderated a little in May as lock-down restrictions eased, but this is before the cycle really kicks in, in our view."

At Peel Hunt, analysts said they think the 14% revenue decline so far in the new year represented a resilient performance.

"Electros is leveraging its strengths (global footprint, superior digital platform) to navigate the crisis, but Covid-19 aside, we think it is making good strategic progress as part of its Destination 2025 strategy."

Peel Hunt's current forecast for the year to March 2021 is for an organic revenue decline of 6%, but the analysts said they "may move this to a revenue decline closer to 10%, which at a 35% drop through would equate to a profit downgrade of 10-15%".

Keeping their recommendation at 'add', Peel Hunt's target price was raised to 700p from 550p.

   --Adds share price and broker comment--

Quick facts: Electrocomponents

Price: 682 GBX

LSE:ECM
Market: LSE
Market Cap: £3.05 billion
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