By Peter Egwuatu
DESPITE the dividend declared by the Board of Directors of Lafarge Cement WAPCO Nigeria Plc for the financial year ended December 31, 2009, the shareholders at the 50th Annual General Meeting (AGM) commended the Board and management for the Lakatabu expansion project which is expected to produce additional 2.2 million metric tonnes of cement when completed.
The shareholders at the AGM held in Lagos on Wednesday unanimously endorsed the 2009 financial results and the 10 kobo per share dividend, noting that the future is bright for the company.
Speaking, the trio of shareholders, Mr. Boniface Okezie, Chairman, Progressive Shareholders of Niogeria (PSAN), Chief Timothy Adesiyan, President, Nigerian Shareholders Solidarity Association (NSSA) and Sir Sunny Nwosu, Chairman, Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria (PSAN) stated that the company has done well considering the harsh operating environment faced by manufacturers in the country.
â€œ For paying us this small dividend of 10 kobo is a great achievement when other manufacturing companies are closing shops and some not paying any dividend.
We are grateful to the past chairman and present chairman for taking this company to this height in spite of the difficult operating environment. We thank the Board for the ongoing projects in Lakatubu which invariably will add to our bottom line and increase our expected dividend for the years ahead. There is future for this company given the level of investment. We also appreciate our foreign partners for their contribution. If they donâ€t have trust in this company they wouldnâ€t have invested about N24 billion.
We salute the courage of the foreign investors because they invested in a company that has and maintain good corporate governance. We are also happy for the companyâ€s social responsibility. The donation to the host communities as well as other community development is highly appreciated..
Mr. Nona Awoh and some other shareholders cautioned the Board and management to be mindful of costs of production and other expenses.
According to them, â€œ The rise on contingent liabilities and other expenses should be reduced. The rise in unclaimed dividend is getting too high. The Board should begin to account for the unclaimed dividend and manage it appropriately as stated by the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA). We want to see the list of unclaimed dividend in our reports
Responding to some of the comments of shareholders, the Chairman of Lafarge Cement WAPCO Nigeria Plc, Chief Olusegun Osunkeye commended the shareholders for the interest shown on the company.
According to him , â€œ We will try our best to curtail costs and make higher profit so that we can pay shareholders higher dividend. We hope that Government will be able top tackle the issue of power and other infrastructure so that we can be able to produce at cheaper cost.â€
Commenting further he said, â€œ Our company was confronted with a lot of challenges in 2009. Energy crisis got its peak in the county owing to the vandalisation of the gas pipelines.
Production of cement from two plants at Ewekoro and Sagamu were adversely impacted by acute gas supply disruption for 82 days and 250 days respectively.
Notwithstanding, the Lakatubu expansion project is still on and we hope it will be completed in second quarter of 2011. It is expected to add 2.2 million metric tonnes to the current 2 million metric tonnes capacity from two plants in Ewekoro and Sagamu.â€
The companyâ€s operating profit for the year under review drooped by 32 per cent to N8.27 billion compared with N12 billion in 2008. Net income after taxation and exceptional items stood at N5.05 billion compared with N11.25 billion in 2008. Retained earnings was N5.005 billion in 2009 as against N11.252 million in 2008 while dividend payment stood at N300 million as against N1.801 billion in the preceding year.