Profit slumps at Origin Enterprises as weather, pandemic hits business

Company names new executive team and sees strong cash generation despite headwinds

Pre-tax profits at agri-services group Origin Enterprises fell by almost half as unseasonable weather and the Covid--19 pandemic hits business.

Turnover in the 12 months to July 31st was down 11.6 per cent to just under €1.6 billion.

Operating profit, at €44.1 million, was more than 46 per cent weaker while pre-tax profit came in at €39 million. Adjusted diluted earnings per share of 25.69 cent was in line with guidance.

In light of the figures, the company suspended its final dividend, with a total dividend for the year of 3.15 cent, sharply down from 21.32 cent in 2019.


Origin reported that it had cut net debt to €53.2 million over the year, with free cash flow of €64.3 million. The year also saw the disposal of the group's 20 per cent stake in Ferrari Zagatto in Brazil.

The company also announced that it has appointed Hostelworld’s Thomas Kelly as its new chief financial officer. Mr Kelly is set to leave the hostel booking platform by March 1st next, with his successor already appointed.

Mr Kelly succeeds Sean Coyle, who has been appointed chief executive of the business, replacing Tom O'Mahoney who announced in June he would retire after 13 years with Origin.

Origin also appointed Alex Steel as group commercial director and Brendan Kent as managing director of agri-inputs division after the year-end.

Mr Coyle described the year as “challenging” for the group, with prolonged unseasonal weather conditions reducing demand for agronomy services and crop input investment spend.

“Covid-19 presented further operational challenges for the business,” he said. “However, thanks to the collective efforts of all of our people and our contingency actions, we continued to serve our customers, delivering solid profitability and strong operating cash flow.

“FY20 was defined by extreme weather challenges, with the wettest autumn/winter planting season in 30 years, followed by extremely dry conditions in the third quarter, which persisted into June, further lowering the intensity of crop input investment spend.

“Given the extreme nature of these weather conditions, we would expect crop plantings to normalise in [the current financial year], which will increase market demand for agronomy services and crop inputs and return the group to growth.”

He warned of the impact of a potential no-deal Brexit on the business, along with the ongoing pandemic.

“We will continue to implement our prudent risk management approach and capital allocation strategy,” he said. “With our resilient, integrated crop services business model, scalable and diversified market positions, and strong leadership team in place, I am confident we will successfully overcome these challenges and deliver on the group’s 2023 strategic and financial growth ambitions.”

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist