DURBAN – JSE-listed agriculture and agri-processing company Tongaat Hulett has appointed Rob Aitken as its permanent chief financial officer and executive director with effect from next month. 

Aitken, who has been acting in the position for six months,  takes over from Murray Munro who stepped down in August last year.  

The group said Aitken was an experienced senior financial executive within Tongaat Hulett. 

“Aitken is a qualified CA (SA) with 14 years’ experience, nine of which have been in the sugar industry and within an organisation previously listed on the JSE. He is well qualified and has the necessary experience and understanding to fulfil this role effectively,” the group said. Aitken’s elevation follows the appointment of Gavin Hudson as chief executive last month, after the departure of long-serving  Peter Staude last year. 

Hudson, a former SABMiller chief executive, began his tenure at the beginning of this month and has been tasked with leading the strategic review and direction of the group to restore shareholder returns to acceptable levels, improve cash generation and reduce debt levels.  

Aitken and Hudson assume the roles after the group experienced a challenging period as a result of the decline in profits during the six months to end September. 

The group reported a headline loss of R87 million compared to the headline earnings of R661m the previous year while the operating profit fell 64 percent to R530m from R1.47 billion in 2017. 

Tongaat-Hulett attributed the decline to difficult local market conditions experienced by the sugar operations in South Africa and Mozambique during the second half of 2017/18 that continued into the first half of 2018/19, which resulted in a negative impact on both revenue and cane valuations.

In the last 12 months the share price has slumped from R110 a share to about R47.32.

The group was hopeful that Aitken would bring strength and experience to the executive team.

Tongaat-Hulett declined 0.17 percent on the JSE yesterday to close at R47.35.