Elders looks to grow digitally

Elders looks to grow digitally


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MOVING FORWARD: Elders CEO Mark Allison and chairman Hutch Ranck at the Elders AGM, where they looked back on what Mr Ranck called "another incredible year of milestones".

MOVING FORWARD: Elders CEO Mark Allison and chairman Hutch Ranck at the Elders AGM, where they looked back on what Mr Ranck called "another incredible year of milestones".

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ELDERS has reaffirmed its focus on digital with the appointment to the board of Diana Eilert as a non-executive director.

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ELDERS has reaffirmed its focus on digital with the appointment to the board of Diana Eilert as a non-executive director.

Ms Eilert was appointed by the board in November and stood for election at last week’s Elders annual general meeting in Adelaide.

Addressing the meeting, Ms Eilert said she had considerable experience in the world of technology and digital disruption, as well as real estate, having previously sat on the boards of realestate.com.au and Domain, as well as digital start-ups.

Elders chair Hutch Ranck said filling the skills gap in this space was “imperative to fulfilling our digital and technical objectives”.

“We believe that technology that provides productivity improvements to Australia’s growers and producers is key to ongoing profitability and sustainability of our customers,” he said.

Chief executive officer Mark Allison said the move away from its non-core live export business had allowed the company to invest in the areas of technical and digital services, “which are much more aligned with our growth agenda”.

He said this had been a focus of the past 12 months as they worked to introduce services to benefit clients and create efficiencies.

“We’ve updated the Elders weather app and website to improve user experience and incorporated additional data,” he said. “This year alone we’ve had more than 5 million hits on the Elders weather app and website.”

He said there had also been significant developments to the Elders Online client portal to allow ease of access.

“Agriculture has increasing demands for digital solutions and the rate of change is expected to increase with successions of future generations,” he said.

“This year, we began researching and developing phase one of the Elders Smart Farmer app.

“The app will assist clients in making decisions on-farm by presenting consolitated and aggregated farm management data.”

Mr Allison said this focus would continue into next year with partnerships with university researchers, international suppliers and government agencies to extend research, development and extension.

Another focus this year was in the development of Elders Give It, which allowed employees to give pre-tax contributions to three chosen charities – the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Landcare and beyondblue.

Moving forward, Mr Allison said another area of growth was in continued geographic expansion.

“We’re looking to invest in more branches, in the best areas, with the best people and the best offer so we can continue to grow alongside Australian agriculture,” he said.

Season, expansion help boost returns

THE good news kept coming for Elders shareholders, after they received a dividend for the first time in nine years last month.

Speaking at the Elders annual general meeting in Adelaide, chief executive officer Mark Allison said there was a fully franked final dividend of 7.5 cents a share plus a fully franked special dividend of 7.5 cents a share, equating to a total dividend of 15 cents a share.

At the AGM Mr Allison reflected on a “year of significant financial performance” for Elders, with improved year-on-year statutory and underlying profits.

The company made a statutory net profit after tax of $116 million, compared with $51.6m profit the previous year, with underlying net profit after tax improving by $16.5m.

There was also an improvement of $14.3m to the underlying earnings before interest and tax to $70.4m, which Mr Allison attributed to improved profitability across the product range and a number of “bolt on acquisitions”.

The retail position had a $7.8m increase, due to good summer cropping conditions and expansion, including the acquisition of NSW-based horticultural operaiton Ace Ohlsson.

Low interest rates and high livestock prices boosted demand for real estate, with that business up $2.7m, while the agency business was up $11m, aided by expansion and high livestock returns.

Elders has also acquired an extra 10 per cent share in Elders Insurance, up to 20pc, as well as a 30pc stake in StockCo livestock financing business.

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