During the Shareholders’ General Meeting the shareholders approved the payment of a gross dividend of 75 cent per outstanding share. The dividend is made up of an ordinary gross dividend of 50 cent and an extraordinary gross dividend of 25 cent linked to the sale of the Non-Destructive Testing division. The share will be listed ex-coupon from April 28, 2004.
During the meeting Ludo Verhoeven, CEO and Chairman of the Agfa-Gevaert Board of Management, made a brief comment on the progress of business from the beginning of the year: ‘Looking to 2004, what is most important is that the uncertainty in Consumer Imaging remains extensive. Although our new photo labs have experienced a major success, the sharp decline in film markets in the last 5 to 6 months is a matter of concern. It is still unclear whether this situation can be ascribed to stock reduction among our customers, and thus will improve with the beginning of the season in April. In Graphic Systems, despite the slight improvement in macro-economic indicators, we cannot yet establish a convincing pick-up of the graphic industry, especially not in the important European markets.
As regards HealthCare, we see a certain temporary pressure on the hospitals’ spendings. We expect this to be a temporary phenomenon and that HealthCare will continue to grow and perform strongly.
Because we again have to take account of the effect of the further rise of the euro, and of higher raw materials prices, 2004 will undoubtedly again be a year of many challenges. On the other hand, Agfa will continue its efforts to improve efficiency and to reduce costs.
Now that the Horizon plan has been successfully completed, we have launched the Orion plan that runs until the end of 2005.
Its aim is to stimulate growth and to further improve the quality of our products and systems. By analyzing and adjusting our corporate processes carefully, we again expect to be able to reduce costs by EUR 200 million. We will also strive to reduce the sales and administration costs to 22% of turnover, whereas they now represent more than 25% of turnover. Finally, we will again reduce the working capital substantially by bringing down the number of stock days from 124 to 100, customer credit from 74 to 70 and by raising the payment periods to our suppliers from 47 to 55 days.
Agfa will therefore take steps on several levels: we are striving to expand turnover, to improve efficiency and will continue to generate substantial amounts of cash.’
The Agfa-Gevaert first quarter figures will be announced on May 13, 2004, before stock market opening time.
Agfa-Gevaert also states that the stipulated quorum for the Extraordinary General Meeting was not reached and consequently no valid vote could be made on the points on the agenda. A second extraordinary general meeting will be convened on Tuesday, May 25, 2004 at 11.00 a.m. This meeting will then be able to vote regardless of the number of shares present or represented.
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