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GK still working through details of employee share offer

Published:Wednesday | January 26, 2022 | 12:08 AM

GraceKennedy Limited is working through details of the announced employee stock ownership plan, ESOP, but intends to share full information about the centenary gift with its more than 2,000-member workforce within the next few weeks, before advising regulators and stakeholders.

The food and financial conglomerate’s announced share offer is one of several initiatives and events being planned to mark its 100 years of operation.

Its pre-centenary goal of becoming a $100-billion company by revenue was achieved more than two years ago at its financial year ending December 2019.

The centenary rolls around on February 14, but the celebratory events will extend beyond that date, and will include its various international holdings spread across the Caribbean, United States, the United Kingdom and other markets.

The revenue milestone came just a year after GraceKennedy hired the London Consulting Group to assist with a restructuring plan amid slowing topline growth, a move that resulted in the slashing of 70 jobs, a management reshuffle, and the creation of new positions to reinvigorate the group.

In 2018, around the same time that GraceKennedy announced its ambition of hitting $100 billion in revenue, the conglomerate also disclosed plans to grow its business through a more aggressive mergers and acquisitions programme. The plan was refreshed in 2020 after GraceKennedy made changes among senior management, in furtherance of its ambition towards becoming a global consumer group that earns the majority of its revenue from foreign markets.

An M&A unit was created and a target set for at least 10 deals, but the timeline to complete them was never disclosed.

Over the past five years, GraceKennedy has acquired interest in Gray’s Pepper Products Limited, Consumer Brands Limited, Key Insurance Company Limited, Scotia Insurance Caribbean Limited and the 876 Spring Water brand.

Highly motivated team

Reaping the results of its ongoing M&A programme, GraceKennedy is on track for another record year of revenue in 2021, having already topped $95 billion of inflows at the nine-month mark to September 2021. Profit in the period amounted to more than $6.2 billion, $5.7 billion of which was attributable to shareholders.

Group CEO of GraceKennedy Don Wehby attributes the achievements of the centenarian operation to GK’s “highly motivated” team.

“As we mark 100 years of being in business, we have made it a priority to ensure that a major part of our celebrations involve GK giving back to our amazing team who have made it all possible,” said Wehby in a press release from the company.

“A few years ago, I made a promise that we would give GK employees the opportunity to own a piece of GraceKennedy, and I can think of no better way to celebrate our 100th birthday than to give the gift of ownership in this great company to our team,” he said.

On Tuesday, GraceKennedy told the Financial Gleaner it was still fleshing out the offer. The conglomerate is also expected to roll out a few charitable activities this year, giving back to communities that have long supported its business.

The conglomerate already has a stock option plan for directors, managers and employees, and a long-term incentive scheme for employees. The shares to be offered in celebration of GraceKennedy’s 100th anniversary will be subject to company rules governing stock options, the company said.