Benchmark in much stronger position after completing its asset disposal programme

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Benchmark Holdings PLC (LON:BMK), the aquaculture biotechnology business, said it ended its financial year in a significantly stronger financial position after its programme of asset disposals.


Liquidity at the end of September 2020 was GBP83.2mln, the company revealed in its fiscal fourth-quarter update, which was an improvement on the end-June figure of GBP67mln.


Net debt at the end of September stood at GBP37.6mln, versus net debt three months earlier of GBP54.7mln.


The group said its restructuring is now complete, with GBP44mln raised from five divestments in the three months to the end of September.


The trading performance in the quarter reflected continuing good performance in Genetics supported by relatively stable salmon markets offset by the impact of ongoing weak shrimp markets in Advanced Nutrition.


Revenue from the Advanced Nutrition division tumbled to GBP12.1mln from GBP22.0mln the year before – all 2019 figures were restated to reflect changes in continuing operations.


The Genetics division grew revenues to GBP11.8mln from GBP10.0mln in 2019 while the Health division saw its revenue shrink to GBP1.4mln from GBP3.8mln.


Group revenue in total fell to GBP25.2mln in the fourth quarter from GBP35.6mln the year before. Revenue for the whole year was GBP105.6mln, down from GBP124.0mln the previous year.


Adjusted underlying earnings (EBITDA) from continuing operations was GBP4.6mln, versus GBP9.7mln the year before. Full-year adjusted EBITDA declined to GBP14.5mln from GBP21.3mln in the prior year.


Benchmark said the lower EBITDA was a result of lower group revenues and margins in Advanced Nutrition, which offset higher revenues and margins in Genetics and a reduction in operating costs and research & development expenses from measures taken during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.


“2020 was a transformational year for Benchmark. With the restructuring complete, we now have a streamlined group focused on the three core aquaculture areas of Genetics, Advanced Nutrition and Health, each with substantial growth opportunities and long-term positive drivers which give us optimism for the future. Our focus remains on becoming a profitable cash generative group,” said Peter George, the chairman of Benchmark.


The chief executive officer of Benchmark, Trond Williksen, 2020 was characterised by the successful delivery of “an ambitious and necessary restructuring programme”, and, of course, the response to the coronavirus pandemic.


“Our results reflect a mixed performance across our business areas with a strong performance in Genetics offset by the effects of the restructuring programme and the impact of Covid-19, especially on the global shrimp markets,” Williksen said.


“Moving into FY21, our focus is on becoming profitable and cash generative. Following the restructuring, we are well-positioned in an exciting aquaculture industry, and we have significant potential to be realised in the years to come,” he added.

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