There is no doubt that it has been a challenging year. How has Medine fared?
Looking back on Medine’s progress over the past year, and considering what lies ahead, it’s clear that we are shaping an exciting new future for our Group and our stakeholders.
In 2020, we set out to:
- Transform our operations into lean, productive and profitable businesses;
- Deliver Target 4:4, a set of tactical actions to reduce Medine’s debt to Rs 4bn by 2023 and generate sustainable earnings per share of Rs 4by 2023; and
- Resolve the problem of road access to the West.
To achieve the first two objectives, we embarked on an ambitious restructuring programme to radically deleverage and optimise costs, refocus resources away from businesses with low returns and towards higher-value and higher-return opportunities (including via digital transformation), and ensure we have the right capabilities and skillsets for the future.
We had no way of knowing that Mauritius’borders would remain closed until October 2021 and that we would still be wearing masks in June 2022. Yet despite the varying levels of restrictions that affected our operations during most of the financial year, we are now firmly on track to deliver Target 4:4 by 2023, as promised. During the year under review, each of our operations also contributed improved EBITDA.
This achievement is a testament to the hardwork and commitment of all our employees, and to their willingness to go the extra mile and continuously test the boundaries of what is possible.
In the past year, we’ve also invested in our teams and infused talent in key roles: Patrick Lagesse was named Managing Director of Agriculture; Thierry Arékion was named General Manager of Casela Nature Parks; Claire Coulier joined us as Chief Communications and Sustainability Officer; Sébastien Mackay was appointed General Manager of Sports and Hospitality; and Dhanjay Jhurry came on board as Managing Director of Education. With Cindy Choong having been promoted to Chief Financial Officer during the year, and Joël Bruneau having joined as Managing Director of Property a year prior, we have effectively rebuilt Medine’s entire leadership team. It is refreshing to witness their energy and dedication to achieving the objectives we have set for the Group.
In September 2022, we reaped the rewards of two years of hard work when we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government and the Road Development Authority to develop Phase 3 of the East-West corridor – a 5.2km stretch of single carriage way, with provision for future dualling, running from Pierrefonds to Cascavelle. This new highway will run parallel to the existing Beau Songes road and will become a major new artery linking Cascavelle Shopping Mall to the centre of the island. It will effectively unlock road access to the West Coast. Work is scheduled to start in early 2023 and complete by end of 2024.
Medine’s contribution to the project is in excess of Rs 1bn. This is, by far, the largest contribution by a private sector operator to public infrastructure of such significance. It underlines the role that Medine plays in Mauritius’ integrated and inclusive development and in delivering positive change for our community.
In short, over the past year, we have now established a strong and resilient platform on which we can confidently build. I firmly believe that our Group will now be able to generate sustainable value for our stakeholders and withstand the challenges and external shocks that may arise in the future.
How did Medine perform financially?
For the full year ending 30 June 2022,Medine reported income of Rs 1.5bn –up 36% on the prior year – and profit after tax of Rs 1bn – up seven-fold on the prior year. This is the highest level of profits ever achieved in the Group’s history. It translates into an earnings per share (EPS) of Rs 10. Our net asset value (NAV) has grown 10% to Rs 200 per share.
While the headline results undoubtedly command attention, Medine’s focus remains on improving our operational performance and generating higher EBITDA across our business units. EBITDA (excluding land sales) reached Rs 289m,an 83% improvement on last year’s Rs 157m. All of our businesses, without exception, contributed to this operational improvement. This is especially gratifying given the varying levels of restrictions that affected our operations during the first half of the financial year.
Medine’s focus remains on improving our operational performance:EBITDA reached Rs 289m, an 83% improvement on last year.
While there was broad-based improvement across our business units, the performance of Agriculture and Property stood out. Agriculture operations saw revenues grow22% with EBITDA rising to Rs 95m, driven by higher sugar revenues and a record year for our deer farming operations. More widely, the positive outlook for sugar prices is providing us with much-needed breathing space to invest in agricultural technology and continue to lead the way in mechanisation. Our Property activities reported revenue growth of 19% on last year, with EBITDA reaching Rs 269m on the back of a strong performance by Cascavelle Shopping Mall and improved occupancy in our office parks. At the time of writing, we had six concurrent real estate projects, of which five land parcelling projects at different stages of completion. This is unheard of in the Group’s history and exemplifies Medine’s new dynamism and spirit of performance.
Sales at The Grove, our smart city’s first built residential project, have exceeded our expectations. We are now working on the second phase of this development and look forward to welcoming the smart city’s first residents in 2024.
With the re-opening of Mauritius’ borders in October 2021, tourist arrivals gradually increased, contributing to our performance at Casela and within Sports & Hospitality. However, visitor numbers to Casela remained subdued due to prevailing sanitary restrictions, with tourists initially preferred to stay within their resorts. The real impact of the border reopening will be felt in the next financial year. Our Chief Financial Officer, Cindy Choong, covers Medine’s financial performance in more detail in her review.
Most importantly, at year-end, Medine had reduced its debt to Rs 5.6bn – that is, Rs 2.2bn lower than the 2020 peak of Rs7.8bn. By October 2022, that figure was down further to Rs 5.2bn. We now have a clear runway to delivering a reduction in debt to Rs 4bn by next year, in line with our commitment to the market – it is underwritten by two parcelling projects that have already been sold in their entirety and that will be delivered in 2023. It is no longer a question of how or if we will achieve our debt reduction objectives. It is now a matter of months.
What is Medine’s strategy going forward?
With Target 4:4 all but behind us, our focus has shifted towards earnings quality. Our strategy and objectives are clear – as the guardians of 6% of Mauritius’ landmass and most of the West Coast, we need to invest and develop cash-generating assets that create sustainable and long-term value for all of our stakeholders. Given our NAV of Rs 200 per share and current share price of Rs 56, we are essentially trading at a 72% discount. To close this gap, we need to convert passive NAV into super active NAV by extracting recurring cash value from our assets, year in, year out.
All our activities have one thing in common: they all generate a return from leveraging our unique landbank. Crucially, each of our businesses is part of an integrated business model and a coherent ecosystem that helps us offer our customers a unique lifestyle and value proposition. To generate high returns on residential real estate, for instance, we need to provide a world-class lifestyle including leisure, education, and wellness offerings.
Our aim is to shift the return curve up overall, optimising activities that could be generating higher returns and growing areas that have potential. We intend to do this by investing in technology and talent, focusing on productivity and selectively expanding into growth sectors, finding new ways to extract revenue from our assets.
That said, we believe that a strong build and lease portfolio is critical to achieving Medine’s strategy. It will ensure that we retain control of the developments in our core territory, capture returns to shareholders in prime and unique locations, and add further value to adjoining lands while appropriately phasing the ever-rising cost of infrastructure for future developments.
To avoid a repeat of the past, we have now established a clear framework whereby all new projects will be financed with a strict 50:50 split between debt and equity – where equity is made up of either retained earnings on operations or cash generated from land sales. This approach will result in a return on equity in excess of12% for shareholders on these projects and ensure that our debt load remains sustainable relative to our cash generation capacity. Using this new framework, we have planned an extension of Cascavelle Shopping Mall for 2023 that will treble its existing retail space and offer its users new and exciting features.
Through our developments and infrastructure, the experiences that we offer and the innovation that we drive, we will continue to be a force for good in the West.
How you intend to deliver on this commitment to being a force for good?
Medine was committed to sustainability long before it became a buzzword. Sustainability, to us, means developing an operating model that makes a positive social and environmental impact – all while ensuring our profitability. As the first Mauritian company to invest in sustainable farming and get involved in conservation via Casela Nature Parks, sustainability is at the core of what we do.
However, we recognise that there is a need for a more structured approach to sustainability. We are therefore in the process of defining a Group-wide sustainability strategy. Alongside this, we are actively investing in circular economy business models and on the optimisation of key resources across the Group, while seeking to capitalise on opportunities in sustainability related sectors such as renewable energy.
Against the backdrop of COVID-19 and with the most vulnerable in our community being hit disproportionately hard by the current inflationary context, we are more determined than ever to support those most in need and help create a more inclusive, sustainable future for our community. We have revisited Fondation Medine Horizon’s strategy to help maximise our impact. The Sustainability section of this report sets this out in more detail.
You’ve spoken about investing in your people. What role do they play in Medine’s strategy?
Medine is a Group that succeeds through its talent. The importance of our people was once again highlighted during the year, with the pandemic causing people across all industries to re-examine their priorities. With the Mauritian brain drain and a skills mismatch heightening the competition for talent, it has become more important than ever to understand and respond to the needs of our workforce.
This year, we have sought to focus on the work-life balance and development opportunities that we offer employees. We embarked a series of actions aimed at promoting employee wellbeing, including new events and celebrations and the extension of maternity leave from 14 to 20 weeks, with paternity leave increasing from five to 10 days. Through our education activities, we are investing considerably in training and development. We have also begun to work more widely on our Group culture and have continued to promote the creation of a diverse and inclusive workplace.
We pride ourselves on our meritocratic approach to recruitment and internal mobility. We believe that this will allow us to differentiate Medine from its peers and attract the talent we need for the future.
However, we recognise the need to step back and holistically reassess the employee experience that Medine offers. This is something that we will continue to work on in the coming months and years.
Given the challenging context, what is the outlook for Medine in FY23 and beyond?
Our operations are set to benefit from several strong tailwinds in 2023, as tourism recovers to pre-pandemic levels, sugar prices continue to rise and with a number of property projects already in the pipeline. That said, we are conscious of the likelihood of a global recession next year and of the fallout of the war in Ukraine. Our priority remains to maintain rigorous financial discipline while focusing on generating as much value from our businesses as possible.
Despite the difficult context, I am very optimistic about Medine’s prospects in the next financial year and in the long term. With Target 4:4 almost achieved, we are on much sounder financial footing. We have an exceptional landbank and some very exciting residential projects and build and lease projects in the pipeline, including several landmark leisure and healthcare projects. We have the talent and increasingly the technology that we need for the future. And we are actively working on a unifying purpose and culture.
I am extremely proud of what our teams have delivered in 2022. Facing a pandemic, a restructure and growing economic turbulence, our teams have risen to the challenges of the past few years with agility and innovation. To all of our people – thank you. I am excited about the future we are shaping for our Group together.
I would also like to thank my senior management team for the relentless drive and engagement. I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to the Chairman, René Leclézio, and the Board of Directors for placing their trust in me and for their unflinching support. I look forward to working with them in the years to come.