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The Board of Directors

(Extracted from Annual Report 2021)

Role of the Board

The Company is governed by a Board of Directors, which has responsibility for strategic leadership and control of the Group designed to maximise shareholder value, while taking due account of the interests of those with whom the Group does business and others.

Responsibility for achieving the Company’s objectives and running the business on a day-to-day basis is delegated to management. The Board exercises a number of reserved powers which include:

  • maintaining and promoting the culture of the Company
  • formulation of long-term strategy
  • approving public announcements, including financial statements
  • committing to major acquisitions, divestments and capital projects
  • authorising significant changes to the capital structure and material borrowings
  • any issue, or buy-back, of equity securities under the relevant general mandates
  • approving treasury policy
  • setting dividend policy
  • approving appointments to the Board
  • reviewing the board diversity policy with a view to the Board having a balance of skills, experience and diversity of perspectives appropriate to the Company’s businesses
  • ensuring that appropriate management development and succession plans are in place
  • setting the Group remuneration policy
  • approving annual budgets and forecasts
  • reviewing operational and financial performance
  • reviewing the effectiveness of the Group’s risk management and internal control systems
  • ensuring the adequacy of the resources, staff qualifications and experience, training programmes and budget of the Company’s accounting, internal audit and financial reporting functions
  • overseeing sustainable development matters

To assist it in fulfilling its duties, the Board has established three primary committees, the Audit Committee, the Remuneration Committee and the Nomination Committee.

Chairman and Chief Executive

The CG Code requires that the roles of Chairman and Chief Executive be separate and not performed by the same individual to ensure there is a clear division of responsibilities between the running of the Board and the executives who run the business.

G.M.C. Bradley, the Chairman, is responsible for:

  • leadership of the Board
  • setting its agenda and taking into account any matters proposed by other Directors for inclusion in the agenda
  • facilitating effective contributions from and dialogue with all Directors and constructive relations between them
  • ensuring that all Directors are properly briefed on issues arising at Board meetings and that they receive accurate, timely and clear information
  • obtaining consensus amongst the Directors
  • ensuring, through the Board, that good corporate governance practices and procedures are followed

T.J. Blackburn, the Chief Executive, is responsible for implementing the policies and strategies set by the Board in order to ensure the successful day-to-day management of the Group’s business.

Throughout the year, there was a clear division of responsibilities between the Chairman and the Chief Executive.

Board Composition

The Board is structured with a view to ensuring it is of a high calibre and has a balance of key skills and knowledge so that it works effectively as a team and individuals or groups do not dominate decision-making.

The Board comprises the Chairman, three other Executive Directors and nine Non-Executive Directors. Their biographical details are set out in the section of this annual report headed Directors and Officers and are posted on the Company's website.

T.J. Blackburn, G.M.C. Bradley, F.N.Y. Lung, M.S.C. Ma and M.J. Murray are directors and/or employees of the John Swire & Sons Limited (“Swire”) group. N.A.H. Fenwick and M.B. Swire are shareholders, directors and/or employees of and R.S.K. Lim is an adviser to the Swire group. Before they ceased to be directors of the Company, P. Healy and M.M.S. Low were directors and employees of the Swire group.

The Non-Executive Directors bring independent advice, judgement and, through constructive challenge, scrutiny of executives and review of performance and risks. The Audit and Remuneration Committees of the Board comprise only Non-Executive Directors.

The Board considers that five of the nine Non-Executive Directors are independent in character and judgement and fulfil the independence guidelines set out in Rule 3.13 of the Listing Rules. S.T. Fung has served as an Independent Non-Executive Director for more than nine years. The Directors are of the opinion that he remains independent, notwithstanding his length of tenure. S.T. Fung continues to demonstrate the attributes of an Independent Non Executive Director noted above and there is no evidence that his tenure has had any impact on his independence. The Board believes that his detailed knowledge and experience of the Group’s business and his external experience continue to be of significant benefit to the Company, and that he maintains an independent view of its affairs.

Confirmation has been received from all Independent Non-Executive Directors that they are independent as set out in Rule 3.13 of the Listing Rules. None of the Independent Non-Executive Directors holds cross directorships or has significant links with other Directors through involvements in other companies or bodies.

The Independent Non-Executive Directors:

  • provide open and objective challenge to management and other Board members
  • raise intelligent questions and challenge constructively and with vigour
  • bring outside knowledge of the businesses and markets in which the Group operates, providing informed insight and responses to management

The number of Independent Non-Executive Directors represents at least one-third of the Board of Directors.

Taking into account all of the circumstances described in this section, the Company considers all of the Independent Non-Executive Directors to be independent.

Appointment and Re-election

Potential new Directors are identified and considered for appointment by the Board. A Director appointed by the Board is subject to election by shareholders at the first annual general meeting after his or her appointment, and all Executive and Non-Executive Directors are subject to re-election by shareholders every three years.

Potential new Board members are identified on the basis of skills and experience which, in the opinion of the Directors, will enable them to make a positive contribution to the performance of the Board.

On 8th March 2022, the Board, having reviewed the Board’s composition, nominated T.J. Blackburn, G.M.C. Bradley, N.A.H. Fenwick, S.T. Fung, M.S.C. Ma and M.B. Swire for recommendation to shareholders for election/re-election at the 2022 Annual General Meeting. The nominations were made in accordance with objective criteria (including gender, age, cultural and educational background, ethnicity, professional experience, skills, knowledge, length of service, number of directorships of listed companies and the legitimate interests of the Company’s principal shareholders), with due regard for the benefits of diversity, as set out in the board diversity policy. The Board also took into account the respective contributions of G.M.C. Bradley, N.A.H. Fenwick, S.T. Fung and M.B. Swire to the Board and their firm commitment to their roles. The Board is satisfied with the independence of S.T. Fung having regard to the criteria laid down in the Listing Rules. The particulars of the Directors standing for election/re-election are set out in the section of this annual report headed Directors and Officers and will also be set out in the circular to shareholders to be distributed with this annual report and posted on the Company’s website.

Full details of changes in the Board during the year and to the date of this report are provided in the section of this annual report headed Directors’ Report.

Board Diversity

The Board has adopted a board diversity policy, which is available on the Company’s website. The Board’s composition reflects an appropriate mix of skills, experience and diversity among its members that are relevant to the Company’s strategy, governance and business and contribute to the Board’s effectiveness. A summary is set out in the table below:

In order to achieve a diversity of perspectives among members of the Board, it is the policy of the Company to consider a number of factors when deciding on appointments to the Board and the continuation of those appointments. Such factors include gender, age, cultural and educational background, ethnicity, professional experience, skills, knowledge, length of service and the legitimate interests of the Company’s principal shareholders.

Responsibilities of Directors

On appointment, the Directors receive information about the Group including:

  • the role of the Board and the matters reserved for its attention
  • the role and terms of reference of Board Committees
  • the Group’s corporate governance practices and procedures
  • the powers delegated to management and
  • the latest financial information

Directors update their skills, knowledge and familiarity with the Group through their participation at meetings of the Board and its committees and through regular meetings with management at the head office and in the divisions. Directors are regularly updated by the Company Secretary on their legal and other duties as Directors of a listed company.

Through the Company Secretary, Directors are able to obtain appropriate professional training and advice.

Each Director ensures that he/she can give sufficient time and attention to the affairs of the Group. All Directors disclose to the Board on their first appointment their interests as a Director or otherwise in other companies or organisations and such declarations of interests are updated regularly. No Director was a director of more than three listed companies (including the Company) at 31st December 2021.

Details of Directors’ other appointments are shown in their biographies in the section of this annual report headed Directors and Officers.

Board Processes

All committees of the Board follow the same processes as the full Board.

The dates of the 2021 Board meetings were determined in 2020 and any amendments to this schedule were notified to Directors at least 14 days before regular meetings. Suitable arrangements are in place to allow Directors to include items in the agenda for regular Board meetings.

The Board met five times in 2021. The attendance of individual Directors at meetings of the Board and its committees is set out in the table on page 92. Average attendance at Board meetings was 97%. All Directors attended Board meetings in person or through electronic means of communication during the year.

Agendas and accompanying Board papers are circulated with sufficient time to allow the Directors to prepare before meetings.

The Chairman takes the lead to ensure that the Board acts in the best interests of the Company, that there is effective communication with the shareholders and that their views are communicated to the Board as a whole.

Board decisions are made by vote at Board meetings and supplemented by the circulation of written resolutions between Board meetings.

Minutes of Board meetings are taken by the Company Secretary and, together with any supporting papers, are made available to all Directors. The minutes record the matters considered by the Board, the decisions reached, and any concerns raised or dissenting views expressed by Directors. Draft and final versions of the minutes are sent to all Directors for their comment and records respectively.

Board meetings are structured so as to encourage open discussion, frank debate and active participation by Directors in meetings.

A typical Board meeting would consist of:

  • review of the health and safety performance
  • review of the operating environment for the business and of the most recent financial results and outlook
  • review and discussion of longer term financial plans, including a discussion of capital allocation and investment plans
  • discussion of strategy, including in relation to major investments and divestments
  • the raising of new initiatives and ideas
  • the presentation of papers to support decisions requiring Board approval
  • an update on sustainability matters
  • an update of legal and compliance matters for the Board’s consideration
  • any declarations of interest

The executive management provides the Board with such information and explanations as are necessary to enable Directors to make an informed assessment of the financial and other information put before the Board. Queries raised by Directors are answered fully and promptly.

When necessary, the Independent Non-Executive Directors meet privately to discuss matters which are their specific responsibility.

The Chairman meets at least annually with the Independent Non-Executive Directors without the presence of other Directors.

Continuous Professional Development

Continuous professional development for directors was conducted through the following:

  • Directors were provided with training materials about matters relevant to their duties as directors;
  • Directors were invited to attend seminars and conferences about financial, commercial, economic, legal, regulatory and/or business affairs; and
  • Directors attended training from external legal advisers about applicable laws and regulations and topics pertinent to the business of the Company.

The Company makes available continuous professional development for all Directors at the expense of the Company so as to develop and refresh their knowledge and skills.

Directors' and Officers' Insurance

The Company has arranged appropriate insurance cover in respect of potential legal actions against its Directors and Officers.

Conflicts of Interest

If a Director has a material conflict of interest in relation to a transaction or proposal to be considered by the Board, the individual is required to declare such interest and abstains from voting. The matter is considered at a Board meeting and voted on by Directors who have no material interest in the transaction.

Delegation by the Board

Responsibility for delivering the Company’s strategies and objectives, as established by the Board, and responsibility for day-to-day management is delegated to the Chief Executive. The Chief Executive has been given clear guidelines and directions as to his powers and, in particular, the circumstances under which he should report back to, and obtain prior approval from, the Board before making commitments on behalf of the Company.

The Board monitors management's performance against the achievement of financial and non-financial measures, the principal items monitored being:

  • detailed monthly management accounts consisting of statements of profit or loss, financial position and cash flows compared to budget, together with forecasts
  • internal and external audit reports
  • feedback from external parties such as customers, others with whom the Group does business, trade associations and service providers.

Securities Transactions

The Company has adopted a code of conduct (the “Securities Code”) regarding securities transactions by Directors and officers on terms no less exacting than the required standard set out in the Model Code for Securities Transactions by Directors of Listed Issuers contained in Appendix 10 to the Listing Rules. These rules are available on the Company’s website.

A copy of the Securities Code has been sent to each Director of the Company and will be sent to each Director twice annually, immediately before the two financial period ends, with a reminder that the Director cannot deal in the securities and derivatives of the Company during the blackout period before the Group’s interim and annual results have been published, and that all their dealings must be conducted in accordance with the Securities Code.

Under the Securities Code, Directors and senior executives of the Company are required to notify the Chairman and receive a dated written acknowledgement before dealing in the securities and derivatives of the Company and, in the case of the Chairman himself, he must notify the Chairman of the Audit Committee and receive a dated written acknowledgement before any dealing.

On specific enquiries made, all the Directors of the Company have confirmed that they have complied with the required standard set out in the Securities Code.

Directors’ interests at 31st December 2021 in the shares of the Company and its associated corporations (within the meaning of Part XV of the Securities and Futures Ordinance) are set out in the section of this annual report headed Directors’ Report.