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Robert.Jervis_43227 Jun 02

Clipper Logistics on the up

Clipper Logistics on the up image
Clipper has provided an update on its response to the COVID-19 pandemic and on trading for the full year ended 30 April 2020
Steve Parkin, Executive Chairman at Clipper said:

"These have been unprecedented times, and the support we have received from our colleagues, who have been key to the continuity of our operations has been outstanding. I'd like to extend a personal thank you to all of them as they have demonstrated a shared sense of purpose and support in these challenging times."

The Group has continued to trade well throughout the year and financial performance was broadly in line with expectations, delivering an EBITA of circa £24.0m for the year to 30 April 2020, an increase of nearly 19% on the prior year. From the onset of lockdown on 23 March, there was a period of disruption within the Group's operations for bricks-and-mortar retailers, which was impacted as customers closed their stores. Retail activity saw a period of hiatus, as consumer confidence was adversely impacted.

Clipper embraced the opportunity to reach out to both new and existing customers to offer assistance, and since that initial period of disruption there has been an accelerating level of trading activity. Clipper's long-standing track record for innovative solutions, combined with its existing infrastructure to support online retailers in driving growth, cost efficiency and customer service excellence placed us in a prime position to enable retailers to seize opportunities despite the challenging business environment. The positive feedback from customers on the levels of support Clipper has been able to provide during lockdown is a testament to Clipper's agility and ability to provide adaptable services in short timescales.

Following the initial period of disruption, Clipper has experienced strong levels of activity from both new and existing clients. In particular, the Company has provided support to online retailers with high e-fulfilment volumes, as some online retailers experienced extremely high levels of demand, regularly outstripping that seen over the Black Friday period last year. We are witnessing volume increases of over 100% on a like-for-like basis with some customers. 

April 2020 saw Clipper roll-out additional services for several grocery-related customers, including Tesco, Asda and Morrisons as they mobilised their operations to address the challenges of COVID-19.  Importantly, April also saw it begin its supply chain support to NHS frontline staff, including the warehousing and distribution of PPE to hospitals.

The Company has been working alongside the NHS on two new initiatives. The first, a separate channel to deliver PPE to hospitals; the second has seen Clipper develop an online portal for fulfilling orders for PPE to GP surgeries, small care homes and home care providers.
In total, the new activities brought on since lockdown, coupled with new contracts coming on stream in Q1 FY21, will add a further 1.5 million square feet of space to Clipper's pre-existing 10 million sq. ft. infrastructure.  The Group has also seen a significant increase in its tender pipeline; the annualised revenue of the probability-weighted pipeline stood at over £50 million as at 18 May 2020, a significant increase on the same period last year.

The Board is confident about Clipper's prospects for the new full financial year. It expects the Company to benefit from evolving trends in the retail sector, as COVID-19 accelerates the shift to online retail:

-     as a market leader in e-fulfilment and returns management services, the Group is already seeing an increase in demand as outlined above;
-     the Group is also seeing increased interest in outsourcing; following the successful implementation of a new first-time outsourcing contract for one major fashion retailer, Clipper is now in discussions with a further leading UK high street retailer to take over their in-house operation for the first time; and
-     the Board also believes that Clipper's Clicklink service is likely to see increased demand as the UK Government looks to encourage the use of Click & Collect initiatives as a means to kick-starting activity on the UK's high street, whilst reducing congestion.

In response to the changing requirements of bricks-and-mortar retailers, Clipper is also in the vanguard of developing shared user transport networks. This will enable Clipper to service multiple retailers on any given high street. Such initiatives are likely to be key to supporting a wide range of retailers as they reassess supply chain needs. Clipper's broad spread of existing customers, and the agility of its forward-thinking solutions will place it in an excellent position to support this.

Meanwhile, Clipper's European business continues to grow rapidly, driven by a growing presence in e-fulfilment and returns management. Revenue in Europe grew by 41.3% in FY19 and by a further 33.7% in FY20.

The Company-compiled consensus for EBITA for FY21 is £25.8m. Whilst COVID-19 still presents some risk, the Board believes that EBITA will be comfortably ahead of these expectations.

Net debt at 30 April 2020 was just over 1xEBITDA, representing very substantial headroom against its net debt covenant of 2.5x.

Steve Parkin, Executive Chairman of Clipper, added:

"Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Clipper has continued to demonstrate its agility and ability to focus on customer service and providing innovative solutions in a rapidly evolving environment, highlighting the importance not only of robust supply chains but collaboration as well. At Clipper, we're now moving faster than ever, accelerating development and evolving to meet the expectations of both our retailers and their consumers, as the shift to online continues to accelerate. Nearly 70% of our revenue in both our UK and European logistics operations is derived from online retail.  We are looking to the future with confidence."