At today’s 2019 Annual General Meeting, our Chairman, Brian Schwartz, made the following address.
It has been almost five years since Scentre Group was established and our purpose has remained constant ever since: 'creating extraordinary places, connecting and enriching communities'.
This purpose has guided our culture and strategy as we have grown our business into an extraordinary platform of 41 Westfield living centres which is today the 15th largest company on the ASX by market capitalisation.
We have 7 of the top 10 centres in Australia and 4 of the top 5 centres in New Zealand.
Our centres are at the heart of the local communities we serve. We are very proud of the role our centres fulfil in the lives of our customers providing the right mix of products, services and experiences they want.
We were pleased to have delivered strong financial results for 2018, in line with our forecast.
Our results demonstrate the quality of our platform and the successful implementation of our strategy, which continues to generate long-term earnings growth and value for our securityholders. Peter will address this in more detail in his comments.
Our purpose encapsulates how we create a long-term sustainable business that satisfies the needs of diverse stakeholders including our people, securityholders, retail partners, suppliers, customers and communities.
This is reflected in our Sustainable Business Framework which was established in 2015 and has four focus areas - our community, our people, our environmental impact and our economic performance.
Our 2018 Sustainability Report was released this week and is available on our website. I encourage you to read it and understand the progress we are making as a responsible, sustainable business. Peter will provide some additional insights in his address.
Our culture is led from the top and the values that underpin our organisation, what we call ‘our DNA’, were updated during the year.
we put out customer first
we act with integrity
we strive for excellence
we succeed together
we are constantly curious
we create a positive legacy
The Board engages with our people on the most important issues for our business in a number of ways.
We meet regularly with key members of the leadership team including presentations to the Board and have ongoing and open dialogue on a range of issues. We participate in asset tours of our centres and attend development openings where possible.
During 2018, the Board toured our five assets in New Zealand with a particular focus on Westfield Newmarket which at NZD$790 million, is the largest development we have undertaken.
We continue to make progress on our vision to be the place where talent thrives.
Our focus on leadership and diversity and inclusion has contributed to high levels of employee engagement.
Diversity of experience and perspective is a recognised driver of a sustainable, high performance culture. It is also a key factor in Board succession planning.
Board renewal and succession planning has always been key to our overall governance program and we had some time ago identified the need for additional property skills. We are pleased to recommend and unanimously support the election of Steven Leigh as part of today’s business.
Steve has in-depth knowledge of real estate economics and experience in retail assets. He recently retired from a 25-year long career at QIC. We believe he will make an excellent contribution to the next chapter of Scentre Group’s growth and continued success.
Retail continues to be a dynamic sector and the Board, management and our people are working hard to keep abreast of issues that may affect the Group.
Given our leadership position in the sector, the pre-eminent quality of our living centres and management’s focus on adapting to the constantly evolving retail landscape, our long-term view for the business is positive.
Thank you for your ongoing support of Scentre Group.
Today is the occasion for some farewells.
Our founding Chief Financial Officer, Mark Bloom, retires from his position today.
Mark was Scentre Group’s first CFO and on behalf of the Board, I would like to thank Mark for his dedication and service to the company during its first five years of growth.
I will personally miss his expertise, his calm demeanour, integrity and thoroughness. I know we will still see Mark regularly but, in the meantime, thank you Mark.
Mark has passed the baton to Elliott Rusanow, who officially assumes the role of CFO from today. Elliott is a very experienced executive who knows our business and all our assets well and we look forward to working with him.
I would like to talk about Steven Lowy on the occasion of his retirement from the Scentre Group Board, of which he was a founding Director.
It is important that Steven’s significant contribution to Scentre Group’s formation and growth in his capacity as one of our founding directors, as well as his role as one of Westfield’s pivotal leaders and co-CEOs, is acknowledged and celebrated.
I have known him for more than 20 years and I know many of you in the room and on the webcast will have worked with him and met him during his time with Westfield and Scentre Group.
He is recognised as one of a handful of people globally with an unequalled knowledge of shopping centres, retail property and property assets in general.
His work ethic, his attention to detail, his on-the-ground knowledge of our centres and his relentless focus is very much reflected in the business we have grown and value so much. These are skills that make him unique.
He is renowned as a visionary, for taking the Westfield brand global and for keeping technology at the forefront of all that he does.
I want to express my sincere thanks for his incredible contribution and for the personal legacy he has created within Scentre Group.
It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge Steven’s wife and my friend Judy who has been a wonderful supporter of Steven and indeed our company over many years. Judy, thank you for your unwavering support and all that you have done. It is a pleasure to have you here today.
You will be sorely missed Steve.
I would like to close today’s meeting by thanking you for your ongoing support of Scentre Group as we continue to deliver against our purpose of “creating extraordinary places, connecting and enriching communities.”