UNIVERSITY PRESS PLC HOLDS ITS ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
RECEIVES COMMENDATION FOR PAYING DIVIDENDS CONTINUOUSLY FOR 31 YEARS
University Press Plc, Nigeria’s foremost publishers, yesterday, September 23, 2021, held its 43rd Annual General Meeting for the period ended April 2020-March 2021, and made a dividend payment of N21.6m at N5k per ordinary share of 50k in a move that shareholders applauded considering the global economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in which the publishing industry has been worst-hit.
During the event, which was conducted in a hybrid format from 11.00 a.m. to 1.06 p.m., key decisions were made and votes were conducted electronically to re-elect non-executive directors, ratify the appointment of two newly appointed independent non-executive directors, elect shareholders’ representatives of the Statutory Audit Committee and to authorize the board of directors to fix the remuneration of external auditors.
According to the Chairman of the Board of Directors, Mr Obafunso Ogunkeye, the company recorded a revenue of 1.4bn in the 2020/2021 financial year. This indicates a decrease of 31% when compared with that of 2019/2020 which was N2.07bn. The decrease in revenue led to a decrease in profit as profit after tax was N57m when compared with the previous year’s profit of 127m. This is coming on the heels of a very challenging economic year due to the Covid-19 pandemic that took the world unawares and affected the global economy.
Speaking at the AGM, some shareholders praised the efforts of the board and management of University Press Plc for being able to declare dividends despite all the setbacks experienced in the publishing industry during the year under review.
Mrs Bisi Bakare, one of the shareholders who spoke at the event, said ‘… despite that the revenue, profit before tax and profit after tax declined by 31%, 58% and 55% respectively, the board proposed the payment of dividend of 5 kobo; this is highly commendable. We have attended several meetings this year,even companies that made profit, they will still give excuse to shareholders that they want to plough back all the profit into the business. So we really appreciate the Board of University Press for giving us dividends, no matter how small …’
She also added that for the past 31 years, that is, from 1990 till date, University Press Plc has been making dividend payments consistently. There has been no year the company did not pay dividend and it is highly commendable.
Another shareholder, Mr Eric Akinduro, also commended the efforts of the board, management and staff of University Press Plc for the sacrifices they made regarding the slash in their salaries and emoluments during the peak of theCovid-19 pandemic in order to ensure that the company makes profit at all cost.
In his speech, he said, ‘… when you check page 31 of this report, I realise that our staff displayed certain discipline, sacrifice, passion and commitment because I realise that during this Covid period, there were significant sacrifices made by our staff through reduced salaries for 5 months. In fact, when I read it, I said kudos to them. So this now led me to go and check, is it only the staff that were affected? So I checked through the emolument of the chairman, I checked through the emolument of the highest paid director and I realised that we displayed the same discipline and sacrifice. … this is a sacrifice being displayed by all cadres, right from the chairman. If not because of the sacrifice that you have displayed during this period, we wouldn’t have anything to share as dividend. It made me to realise that it takes discipline. Not that we are smart, but just the passion that we have for shareholders value, that is why we decided to make it in a way that we can see something we are sharing today …’
Anthony Omojola, another shareholder, while encouraging the management to develop better ways to grow the company’s revenue in subsequent years, commended the management for the proposed dividend of 5 kobo per share as recommended by directors even though it is lower than that of previous years. He said, ‘… because of what has happened, we commend management on the proposed dividend of 5k, although this is lower than the previous years of 15 kobo because this amounts to only 21.6 million but we welcome it particularly because of the circumstances under which the company has operated …’
During the interaction of shareholders with the Board of Directors, issues such as the need to begin to look inwards for printing in order to avoid or reduce the problem of forex considering the continuous increase in foreign exchange rates, advancement in technology and the need to begin to produce eLearning materials, the need for marketers to do more to boost sales, unclaimed dividends, and many more, were identified and addressed.
On the issue of technological advancement, the managing director, Mr Samuel Kolawole, said, ‘… technology is not just in the area of producing the product itself – the ebooks – but also in terms of how we do business. Right from the pandemic period, we have been making efforts to ensure that members of our staff and management can work remotely. The fact that we are holding meetings virtually and all that is an indication that we are still in operation and even during the height of the pandemic, we still found a way to operate. But in terms of our operations, in terms of the product itself, we are really working on it. Last year like we said, during the pandemic, we produced revision videos for students and there are so many other things we are working on that we can’t begin to disclose at an annual general meeting like this for obvious reasons but I can assure you we are working on it.’
He stated that all suggestions made by shareholders have been noted and would be considered subsequently for better operations.
In his comments about the future of the company, which was contained in the 2021 Annual Reports and Financial Statements, the chairman stated that already, 2021 is looking challenging as world economies are trying to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. In Nigeria, the coronavirus pandemic, inflation, high and volatile foreign exchange rate and insecurity will make 2021 an extremely challenging year. He, however, added that notwithstanding the challenges, the Management and Board of Directors are positive about the future of the company, especially given the strategies that have been put in place. He also thanked the management and staff for their dedication and commitment to the company.
University Press Plc was founded in 1949 under the name Oxford University Press, Nigeria and has grown to become one of the oldest and most experienced publishers in Nigeria. Headquartered in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria, the company is engaged in the business of printing, publishing and selling of books in the areas of educational and general titles. Sound and successful lines have been developed for the pre-primary, primary, secondary, tertiary, general and creative writing series, and teaching/learning aids. University Press Plc has also been a major distributor of World Bank Titles for several years.
If you missed the event, click here to watch. You can also visit here to view and download information relating to the meeting and an electronic version of the Annual Report as well as the e-Dividend form.
By Janice Johnson Pemida.