Delegat Group's collection of veteran directors was challenged at yesterday's annual meeting as a shareholder questioned whether it needed new blood to make sure it matched the winemaker's "super-premium" branding.
Shareholder Jenny Miller, a representative of the New Zealand Shareholders' Association, asked about the age diversity of the board, which is compromised of 70-year-old chair Jim Delegat, managing director John Freeman, 45, Rose Delegat, 69, Bob Wilton, 76, and independent directors Alan Jackson, 66, and Shelley Cave, 49.
"You say all those things about your premium wine, but will your board be super-premium too?" Miller queried.
Jim Delegat pointed out that his management team is aged between 25 and less than 54, and if they were lined up in front of shareholders, they would see varying ages.
His sister, director Rose Delegat grabbed the mic and chipped in: "If we did line up the team, you will understand why we need a few grey hairs,"
"You always do better than me Rose," Jim said.
"Well I don't want you rambling like an old man," Rose said, a response met with laughter.
Independent director Shelley Cave, who joined the board in 2016, put herself up for reelection despite the fact that she wants to be replaced.
Jim Delegat told BusinessDesk after the meeting that he had seen 14 candidates, but still had not found the right person. "The culture and capability have to fit."
"Shelley is governance and compliance, she's not necessarily a consumer marketer. We believe in diversity so we went to the big companies and we found once we found a person they had conflicts and we had to start the process again."
Delegat has about 2,040 shareholders, although 19 own 91.2 per cent of the company, including the Delegat family's 66.1 per cent stake.
It cracked the $1 billion mark by market capitalisation last year, which may have contributed to the upbeat tone of the meeting in Auckland among the 60 shareholders or so in attendance.
The winemaker indicated operating profit for the coming year was in line with market consensus at $52.4 million. That would be a 2 per cent rise from the $51.4m it posted in the June 2019 year, which was a 14 per cent boost from the year prior.
And case sales are expected to grow by 8 per cent to 3.2 million cases, as estimated in August.
At the time, Delegat warned a lower yielding vintage and yet-to-be-deployed marketing effort will hamper profit growth at the company, whose key brands include Oyster Bay and Barossa Valley.
Freeman told the meeting that North America remains the company's largest opportunity to grow sales in the short to medium term. Sales increased in the region by 7 per cent to 1.3 million cases, making up about 44 per cent of revenue.
He gave some details about the company's research into Oyster Bay customers, which are typically 25-54 years old, with an even gender balance.
"They are likely to be tertiary educated and work in white-collar professional sectors such as finance and sales. They are more likely to be married and they enjoy a wide repertoire of premium wines," he said.
In the US, Oyster Bay shoppers make three times as many trips per year to the supermarket than any other wine purchasers.
Delegat told BusinessDesk after the meeting that Chinese sales had improved through online marketplace Tmall, with 70 per cent now online. It had previously struggled to keep costs down when using traditional distribution channels. Asian sales were included in its Australian and New Zealand sales, which totalled 780,000 cases last year, a 2 per cent drop.
"We could probably put more effort into it, but our demand and supply aligns."
Asked whether the company should instigate a dividend reinvestment plan for future capital requirements, Delegat told shareholders that "we can only grow as quickly as the market will allow us," despite being a growth company.
"This year, for 2019, we delivered $50m in cash, so the company is funding its growth adequately from free operating cash. We're not shy but we are protective of the super-premium positioning. We retain about 70 per cent of net profit after tax for reinvestment and about 30 for shareholders."
At the conclusion of the meeting, Delegat invited shareholders to enjoy a "tea service" which drew cheers and even a rueful "woohoo" from one shareholder. Some were surprised Delegat wasn't kidding and there was no wine on offer.
After the meeting, Freeman explained that, like last year, there was no wine due to heavy liquor licencing requirements.
"There is also a host responsibility. With the event being in the afternoon, we have been concerned about over-consumption. I can see why some shareholders might want to raise a glass to celebrate and share the success but that's a small minority."
In any event, shareholders were given information on how to order their specially discounted wine, where for example a bottle of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc is priced at $13.95, compared with the retail price of $19.99.
One shareholder told BusinessDesk he thought the prices were about comparable to prices on sale at Pak'nSave, but added, "I'd rather a dividend than cheap wine."
The company issued a full-year dividend of 17 cents per share, up 13 per cent from the year prior.
The shares recently traded at $11.10, and have risen by 12.7 per cent so far this year, valuing the company at $1.12b.