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THG has appointed former ITV and Compass Group CEO Charles Allen, Lord Allen of Kensington, as its new independent non-exec chair.

Allen’s appointment follows an international search initiated in October 2021 when THG committed to splitting the dual roles of executive chair and CEO role held by its founder Matthew Moulding, who will continue as CEO.

THG said Allen has “a clear mandate to refresh THG’s board and further strengthen governance and diversity”.

In addition to reviewing the independent Board, Allen will be working with Matthew in developing the management team, as well as refining the group’s strategy.

Allen is a well known business figure with industry expertise across retail, media, technology, gaming, food production and manufacturing.

He was CEO of ITV from its formation in 2004 until 2007, CEO of Granada Group and chief advisor to the British Home Office.

He is currently chair of Balfour Beatty, the FTSE 250 infrastructure group, and privately-owned Global Media and Entertainment. Previous positions include chair of ISS AS, 2 Sisters Food Group and Executive Chair of EMI Music.

THG founder Matthew Moulding commented: “I am delighted that we have been able to attract someone of Charles’s calibre and reputation. He has extensive boardroom experience across a range of sectors spanning 40 years. Charles has chaired large, successful, dynamic companies and has experience working with entrepreneurs.

“Charles’s consumer, retail, digital and media expertise, knowledge and skills will help THG to continue to drive profitable and sustainable growth, deliver for all our stakeholders and to meet the highest standards of corporate governance. Furthermore, on a personal note, his appointment will enable me to focus my attention on delivering the Group’s plans for growth.”

Allen added: “It is a privilege to be joining THG as the board’s chair with a clear mandate to improve governance and transparency, strengthen the board by improving its independence and diversity, review and develop the strategy and support management as it seeks to further strengthen its talented leadership team.

“This is a fast-paced, extremely exciting business which has grown rapidly and has many opportunities for significant future growth. Over several weeks I have had the opportunity to meet the Board and senior team, see the operation and understand the finances and business plans. The group has announced a number of strategic options for 2022 and beyond, I look forward to working with Matthew and the team to review these and I will update on progress over the next six months as the plans take shape.”

“Matthew is now able to focus full-time on the business which, combined with a very strong management team and passionate committed colleagues throughout the business, ensures THG is well placed to deliver for all its stakeholders.”

THG shares are up 1.5% to 90.3p so far this morning.

Morning update

Palm oil producer MP Evans has posted a surge in profits in 2021 as the palm oil sector went “from strength to strength” amid spiralling prices.

The company posted a record gross profit for the year of US$103.6m, treble the previous year’s result. Operating profit was up by 266% to $114.6m from $31.3m in 2020.

This was chiefly attributable to a further increase in crops and production and was supported by the strong palm-oil prices in the year.

Production rose as the group reaped the benefits from the maturing of its Indonesian oil-palm estates. Total crop processed were up 13% to 1.4m tonnes, while average mill-gate prices were up by 37% to $810 per tonne.

Prices for palm kernels also increased in 2021, reflecting stronger demand for palm-kernel oil and an ongoing shortage of coconut oil, with average prices of US$533 per tonne in the year, 69% higher than the US$316 per tonne in 2020.

Some 55% of its total output is currently certified sustainable pending formal certification of newer mills.

The surging profits saw the board is recommending a final dividend of 25p per share (17p per share last year), which represents an increase of 59% in the normal dividend for the year to a total of 35p, following a 24% increase in the previous year.

Since year-end the group has seen Current trading a seasonal 10% in downturn in crop in early 2022, although expects a recovery to long-term growth pathway expected as year progresses

There has been a significant increase in palm-oil price in same period, with average mill-gate US$1,050.

This strength in price partly attributable to restricted vegetable oil supply due to “tragic events in Ukraine”.

Exec chairman Peter Hadsley-Chaplin commented: “2021 has been an excellent year for the Group. Crop and production have risen further in line with our long-term strategic plans, whilst the palm-oil market has gone from strength to strength. Profit and cash generation have risen sharply, with retained profit of US$91.8m and the group’s net debt almost wholly eliminated by the year end.

“[The dividend increase] is a notable increase from the total of 22p paid in respect of the previous year, and marks another significant step in the group’s progressive dividend policy.”

Elsewhere, agriculture and feeds group Wynnstay will host its AGM this morning with chairman Steve Ellwood giving an update on current trading.

He will say that trading in the first four months of the new financial year has been in line with management expectations across core activities, while fertiliser operations have continued to experience one-off gains from the exceptional current trading environment.

“Market volatility across most commodities has persisted, with material price increases since the start of the calendar year,” he will say.

“The recent outbreak of war in Ukraine has exacerbated this, and raised concerns over the supply of fertiliser and wheat, in particular. Energy and transport costs also remain a challenge.

“Wynnstay has managed these difficult circumstances well, and once again the Group’s broad spread of activities is proving a major strength. Farmgate prices have remained strong, enabling customers to absorb elements of this inflation, although higher prices are expected to curtail some demand.”

“The board remains very grateful for the resilience and support demonstrated by all colleagues, especially as the coronavirus pandemic has more recently caused increased levels of absence through necessary self-isolation. Investment plans continue and will support growth and greater efficiencies.

“Wynnstay remains well-placed to achieve its goals for the current financial year.”

On the markets this morning, the FTSE 100 is up another 0.5% to 7,481.5pts.

Early risers include Bakkavor, up 5.9% to 114.8p, McColl’s, up 4.2% to 2.1p and Just Eat, up 2.2% to 2,666p.

Fallers include Marks & Spencer, down 1.6% to 160.2p, Ocado, down 1% to 1,086p and Sainsbury’s, down 0.8% to 258.9p.

Yesterday in the City

The FTSE 100 started the week up 0.5% to 7,442.3pts.

Online consumer stocks took a hit, with Ocado down 7.7% to 1,097p, THG down 7.1% to 89p, Just Eat down 5.5% to 2,608.5p and Deliveroo, down 4.2% to 123.7p.

Other fallers included food to players, such as Bakkavor, down 3.2% to 108.4p, Greggs, down 3.2% to 2,474p and SSP Group, down 3% to 240.5p.

PZ Cussons ended the day up 1.1% to 192.6p after announcing its purchase of kids personal care brand Childs Farm for £36.8m.

Other risers included Devro, up 4.4% to 205p, Glanbia, up 1.9% to €11.59, Nichols, up 1.5% to 1,362.5p and Hotel Chocolat, up 1.2% to 435p.