2016 Annual General Meeting of Shareholders: an interview with Board Chairman Ross McInnes
On April 23, 2015, you were named Chairman of the Safran Board, and Philippe Petitcolin was named Chief Executive Officer. How would you summarize the results of this first year under the new governance structure?
Ross McInnes: In April 2015, the Board decided to separate the two main governance functions. Executive powers were placed under the responsibility of Philippe Petitcolin, while the Board, which I chair, determines strategic objectives as well as studying and deciding on major operations. The Board is also in charge of determining the future makeup of management bodies. Mandated by all shareholders, the Board exercises its expertise in areas defined by law, in the interest of the enterprise. It oversees actions ensuring that shareholders receive pertinent and balanced information on the enterprise's strategy, development model and long-term outlook.
The separation of functions perfectly addresses the Group's specific challenges. Furthermore, it fosters a healthy operating environment, encouraging communications and decision-making. This year marks the culmination of a managerial transition under perfect control, proving our Group's soundness and reflecting our values. Philippe Petitcolin and I are keeping a close eye on things to maintain a balance between short, medium and long-term goals and requirements. Furthermore, effective May 19, 2016, all Group companies changed their name to incorporate the Safran brand plus a description of their business. The name change will enhance our Group's recognition, and convey a more international image, understandable by more people. This is a vital challenge for Safran, since we generate over 80% of our revenues in international markets. The change also symbolizes a high-tech group, united by the same focus on excellence for the greater benefit of all customers.
What were the highlights of the AGM on May 19?
Ross McInnes: The Annual General Meeting of Shareholders allows us to take stock of our successes during the previous year, while also deciding on future business objectives. It offers a sterling opportunity to talk with our shareholders and give them all the relevant information. We reviewed Safran's business and results in 2015, our outlook for 2016 and our major strategic challenges. Our shareholders voted for all proposals submitted and approved by the Board – a clear sign of trust in the choices and decisions made by corporate management and the Board of Directors. Safran continues to generate an attractive return on investment for its shareholders: we proposed a dividend of 1.38 euros/share at the Annual General Meeting, 15% higher than in 2014.
In early 2015, the French Foreign Office named you "special representative for Australia". Do you think this appointment played a role in winning the DCNS contract?
Ross McInnes: First, it's worth noting that French companies enjoy a broad presence in Australia, in a variety of sectors including luxury goods, transportation, aviation, pharmaceuticals, the environment, etc. With dual French and Australian citizenship, I am very familiar with the specific cultural and economic characteristics of the two countries. Working with the French foreign affairs and defense ministries, I'm part of a team concerning the DCNS. This appointment was made within the scope of France's development of "economic diplomacy". Thanks to this teamwork, the DCNS proposal was selected at the end of April for the design and construction of 12 new ocean-going submarines. But there's still a lot to be done by the end of the year to finalize this contract, worth an estimated 35 billion euros over a period of 50 years. This program clearly marks the beginning of a new era in the long-standing relationship between France and Australia.