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S.Africa's Distell holds off on annual dividend amid Heineken talks, profits treble

08/26/2021 | 03:33am EDT

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African drinks maker Distell Group Holdings Ltd did not declare an annual dividend on Thursday even as profits more than trebled, as beer giant Heineken made holding off on the payout a condition for its potential takeover.

Distell, which makes wines, spirits and ciders, announced in May it was in talks with Heineken over the acquisition of the majority of its business, and said on Thursday the discussions had progressed and it should be able to provide a more detailed update by the end of the third quarter.

"The potential transaction, should it proceed, will be subject to several conditions, one of which relates to Distell not making any distributions, including dividend declarations ... in respect of the financial year ended 30 June 2021," Distell said.

"In the event the discussions ... are terminated, the board intends to declare a dividend."

The company had already flagged the more than three-fold rise in annual profits, and declared a headline earnings per share, the main profit measure in South Africa, of 769.6 cents ($0.5149), compared with 235.3 cents a year earlier.

Distell's reported earnings were in the middle of its outlook range.

The jump in profits follows a recovery from a lengthy coronavirus-related ban on alcohol in its home market, which hurt firms across the alcohol industry last year.

While there were subsequent blanket bans and restrictions on sales during this financial year, they were not as severe, and Distell's group revenue rose beyond pre-pandemic levels.

The company also paid down debts, including interest-bearing loans, helping to reduce net financing costs by 23.6%, while its once-hefty capital expenditure continued to taper, shrinking by over a third to 877.8 million rand.

Distell said its capital expenditure would more than double to 2 billion rand next year as it "resumes key investments into growth projects" both in South Africa and on the continent.

($1 = 14.9463 rand)

(Reporting by Emma Rumney; Editing by Wendell Roelf and Shounak Dasgupta)

© Reuters 2021
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