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System1 Group PLC (SYS1)

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Wednesday 14 July, 2021

System1 Group PLC

Final Results

RNS Number : 1442F
System1 Group PLC
14 July 2021
 

Press Release  14 July 2021

 

System1 Group PLC (AIM: SYS1)

("System1" or "the Group" or "the Company")

 

Financial results to 31 March 2021

 

System1, today, announces its results for the year ended 31 March 2021.

 

Highlights

 

 

2020/21

2019/20

Change**

Management Basis*

£m

£m

%

 

 

 

 

Adjusted revenue

22.8

25.3

-10

Adjusted gross profit

19.2

21.4

-10

Adjusted operating costs

( 16.2)

(19.4)

-16

Adjusted profit before taxation

3.0

2.0

46

 

 

 

 

 

2020/21

2019/20

Change**

Statutory Basis

£m

£m

%

 

 

 

 

Revenue

22.8

25.5

-11

Gross profit

19.2

21.6

-11

Operating costs

(17.7)

(21.3)

-17

Other operating income

0.6

-

n.m.

Profit before taxation

2.1

0.3

601

Tax charge

(0.4)

(0.5)

-27

Profit/(loss) for the financial year

1.7

(0.2)

n.m.

Diluted earnings per share

13.1p

(1.8)p

n.m.

 

* Management Basis figures for Adjusted Revenue, Adjusted Gross Profit and Adjusted Profit before Taxation exclude discontinued Agency business from 2019/20. Adjusted Operating Costs exclude impairment, interest, share based payments, bonuses, severance costs and government support related to the Covid pandemic. Adjusted figures exclude items, positive and negative, that impede easy understanding of underlying performance. See note 15 to the consolidated financial statements for further information.

** Year-on-year percentage change figures are based on unrounded numbers.

 

· Adjusted Profit before Taxation rose 46% to £3.0m (Statutory Profit before Taxation up 601% to £2.1m)

· Revenue declined 11% to £22.8m. H1 down 26%, H2 up 8%

· Operating cost reductions more than offset the Revenue decline. Adjusted Operating Costs fell 16% year on year (Statutory Operating Costs: 17% down). No bonuses were awarded in 2020/21

· Impairment charge related to property lease assets £1.0m, taken in H1 (2019/20 Impairment: £0.9m, related to intangible assets)

· Profit for the financial year up £1.9m to £1.7m, helped by £0.6m R&D tax credits

· Diluted earnings per share 13.1p (2019/20: Loss per Share 1.8p)

· Cash net of borrowings (excluding lease liabilities) increased by £2.3m in the period to £6.5m, reflecting strong underlying cash flows, a tax credit receipt, and US Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness

· As previously announced, we will look to reinstate the share buyback programme which was suspended in 2020 due to uncertainty over the potential impact of the Covid pandemic on our business. More information will be provided on the proposed buyback later in the year. No final dividend will be declared

· Transition to scalable automated data products is underway. Data products represented 15% of Revenue in the final quarter helped by the success of Test Your Ad which also led to an 18% year-on-year increase in Comms Revenue

· We continued to invest in our growth strategy, spending over £2m on product development and restoring headcount to pre-pandemic levels to service demand in H2

 

Commenting on the Company's results, John Kearon, Founder and Executive President, said:

"Over the last year System1 has taken its leading research intellectual property and created automated prediction products, with assets to complement our historic consultancy services. We have been recognised by marketing industry thought leaders and are firmly becoming the research industry's champion for creativity, backed by data. As System1 returns to its pre-pandemic level of revenue, we do so in a position of relative strength. Cash balances and cash flow are healthy, and we will continue to invest in our products, data assets and talent. We plan to remain profitable and to continue to generate cash in the 2021/22 financial year, as we prioritise scaling our automated prediction products. Notwithstanding that, we are targeting revenue growth to be at least matched by the rate of cost growth, due to the pandemic-related cost reductions in the year just ended."

The Company can be found at system1group.com.

 

The information contained within this announcement is deemed to constitute inside information as stipulated under the Market Abuse Regulations (EU) No. 596/2014. Upon the publication of this announcement, this inside information is now considered to be in the public domain.

 

For further information, please contact:

 

System1 Group PLC

+44 (0)20 7043 1000

John Kearon

Founder & Executive President

Chris Willford

Chief Financial Officer

[email protected]

 

 

 

Canaccord Genuity Limited

+44 (0)20 7523 8000

Simon Bridges

 

Andrew Potts

 

 

 



 

Group Overview

 

Who We Are

System1 Group has undergone much change over the past three years. We would like to take this opportunity on behalf of Management to reaffirm who we are and what we do.

 

System1 Group PLC was born from the world-leading intellectual property (IP) created over many years as BrainJuicer PLC. System1 owes a great debt to BrainJuicer for its prediction methodologies, as well as a strong cash flow which we can invest into turning this IP into market leading, repeatable, scalable products.

 

Such is the extent of change in the business that System1 feels in some respects like a three-year-old start-up. We are now a product-focussed seller of marketing predictions and improvements - we believe the best in the world. We leverage data and production economics, rather than service economics.  Data and production economics point to industry value accruing disproportionately to a small number of scalable players. We are laser focussed on becoming one of them.

 

What We Do

System1 predicts and improves marketing effectiveness. We 'predict' (provide research results) and 'improve' (provide insight and consultancy on those results) where required on arguably three of the most critical marketing questions for our customers:

· Advertising effectiveness

· Brand effectiveness

· Innovation effectiveness

 

We aspire to do these three things better than anyone else.

 

Our Products

 

 

Comms

Brand

Innovation

Automated Predictions

 

Test Your Ad (TYA)

ESSENTIAL or PRO

Test Your Brand (TYB)

ESSENTIAL or PRO

Test Your Idea (TYI)

ESSENTIAL or PRO

Expert
Guidance

 

TYA Creative Guidance

EXPRESS or FULL

 

TYB Creative Guidance

EXPRESS or FULL

TYI Creative Guidance

EXPRESS or FULL

TYA Effectiveness Audit

 

TYB Effectiveness Audit

 

Additional
Products

 

TYA dB Free Access

TYB Distinctive Assets Test

 

Concept Test

TYA dB Premium

TYB Key Drivers Analysis

Pack Test

 

The table above shows System1's standard product set. The products shown in grey boxes for Comms, Brand, and Innovation (Idea) are Automated Data products which 'Predict'. The 'Improve Your' guidance products immediately beneath them are data-enabled, rapid-turnaround consultancy assignments that utilise the same data to 'Improve'.

 

The products shown in the third layer are higher value-add consultancy 'Improve' products, which are more standardised than our previous consultancy services. We continue to undertake large, bespoke consulting assignments for a small number of major customers but anticipate that this type of offering will decline in significance for System1 as customers convert to the faster, cheaper standard products.

 

We have already created what we believe to be the largest dataset of advertising predictions in the US and UK, where we test overnight every advert that breaks in the categories we cover. This data asset has value in its own right and supports our consultancy business, helping us build unique relationships with key global customers. Direct customer access to the database also helpfully provides some subscription revenues.

 

So, if that is "who we are" and "what we do", what might we become?

 

The Size of the Prize

'Predictions' currently represent less than 20% of the global research market. We estimate that our target markets of predicting advert, brand and innovation effectiveness represent about £6bn of the £42bn (traditional) research market.[1] Currently at less than 1% share, we believe that System1 can gain 10% global market share in the next decade-a lower share than the current market leaders. Whether we can achieve that scale is the management challenge. But a necessary, if not sufficient, pre-condition to success is having the vision and a plan.

 

Reasons to Believe

We believe System1 can credibly become a global winner in marketing predictions, if we achieve the following:

 

1.  World beating prediction and improvement methodologies

We maintain that our predictions are the most accurate, cheapest and quickest (24-hour turnaround), and that our guidance to improve our customers' marketing is the best in the industry. This is the heart of our sales pitch. Our predictive and improvement methodologies are the foundation of the success of the company and were developed by John Kearon (Founder and Executive President) and Orlando Wood (Chief Innovation Officer) and supported by other key team members. Every day we demonstrate to customers the enhanced efficacy of our results over alternative, often well-established approaches; indeed, customers would not go through the disruptive change in research partner to us if we could not convince them of this superiority. We also believe that we have published more research proving the superior predictability of our methodologies in this space than any competitor.

 

2.  Unique and step-change improvement in product value for customers

Today many of our Advertising predictions are automated, and we have challenged ourselves to deliver them at 1/100th the cost and 100 x faster than traditional methods. We believe we are far ahead of traditional competitors in automated predictions and indeed that some of our competitors' legacy economics will make it difficult for them to catch up with us. In addition, our pioneering framework for how advertising works at its best also enables our experts to provide the very best improvement advice for increasing our customers' return on their annual advertising investment.

 

3.  Continuous improvement to maintain this product lead

As BrainJuicer we pioneered these research techniques. As System1 we are commercialising them. However, we do continue to invest in improving our products every day to maintain and enhance our lead. We are, for example, working with Warwick University on UK government grant-funded research looking to harness artificial intelligence (AI) and our proprietary databases to further improve our understanding of predictions.

 

4.  Prediction and Improvement market dynamics are favourable

We believe that predictions and improvements are the most value-enhancing segment of the market research industry, and together with our improvement advice, we are intent on increasing the value and size of the segment still further. Some £1.9 trillion is spent on marketing worldwide each year, of which £900bn is on advertising. But only £0.9bn is spent on predicting and improving their advertising investment. (one one-thousandth of total spend).  By encouraging customers to test earlier and more often we can help them achieve a greater return from their annual advertising investment; from improving their adverts, to helping identify which adverts in which countries to put most media money behind.

 

5.  Our business is protected through IP, Branding, Customer and Supplier relationships

Our products are difficult to copy, and the economics of our business protect us to some extent. This is why we launched automated Test Your Ad prediction products at low prices last year, to drive customer penetration and increase volume per customer. We are building our Brand, first mover advantage in this space, and our associated Fame. We are also forging valuable industry partnerships including ITV (the UK's leading commercial broadcaster[2]) and LinkedIn (the world's largest B2B marketing solutions company[3]). Both of these advertising platforms are working with System1 to help their advertisers achieve a greater return on their ad investment. We are also building strong partnerships with some of the world's top creative agencies.

 

6.  There are some early signs that our plan is working

It is very early days, but we are comfortable with progress. We believe that we have proved the model and are now redoubling efforts to scale, which will be key to our future. We are aware that changing a research provider is not always a burning priority for CMOs or Insight Directors, and so we sometimes need to wait for a customer's priorities or personnel to change for them to be receptive. Many forward-thinking marketeers are engaging strongly with System1 and converting, and these relationships are important to us.

 

7.  A challenge for the near term is to grow

We believe that System1 could be worth £1 billion eventually.  Management owns 30% of the business, excluding shares under option. We take every decision with our medium term £100m+ Revenue milestone in mind. Aside from the automated product strategy, our choices on the calibre of our talent, the workflows in the company, our supply chain, the IT systems, and much more support achieving this goal.

 

In summary, we have a vision, a plan, a leadership team that is motivated via share ownership, and reasons to believe we can succeed. The last year demonstrated that life could take many twists and turns and so nothing is guaranteed other than our determination to win where we compete and to create value for all shareholders.

 

 

John Kearon

Stefan Barden

Chris Willford

Founder and Executive President

Chief Executive Officer

Chief Financial Officer



 

Strategic Report

 

Chairman's Statement

 

This year for System1, as for the rest of society, has been a dramatic one dominated by the Covid pandemic and the governmental, corporate, and personal responses to the unfolding situation. Whilst a small number of System1 employees across the world contracted a Covid infection, I am pleased to report that none was seriously ill, and all have made a full and complete recovery.

 

Our financial year commenced on 1 April 2020, just four days after the introduction of the first UK lockdown. The immediate reaction from companies and our customers in the UK and worldwide was to find ways to adapt to the new conditions, initially to conserve funds by cutting expenditure deemed to be discretionary, and postponing future plans. This inevitably had a significant impact on System1 Revenue in Q1 as customers' research and marketing expenditures were cut back.

 

From Q2 onwards we saw a steady recovery in our order book, but Revenue was still lower by 26% at the half-year. By contrast the second half of the year saw a strong sales upturn as our new products gained support, with H2 Revenue some 8% higher than the equivalent period in the previous year. This trend gives us confidence as we face the future. Our full year Revenue declined by 11% overall, however our Adjusted Operating Costs were 16% lower, leading to an Adjusted Profit before Taxation of £3.0m, (2019/20: £2.0m). Statutory Profit before Taxation increased by £1.8m to £2.1m, reflecting the growth in the adjusted measure and the impact of paying no bonuses. The business continues to generate cash and our financial position remains strong, ending the year with £6.5m cash net of debt, compared with £4.2m at last year end. Consequently, we will look to reinstate the share buyback, which was suspended in 2020, with details to be announced later.

 

System1 had previously operated with some limited use of employees working from home, and already had effective systems and technology to facilitate this, which enabled the company to move rapidly and effectively to 100% home working. This method of operating was substantially maintained throughout the year, and great credit must go to all our staff for their flexibility in adapting to the new circumstances.

 

We utilised some £0.6m of support from the US and UK government employment subsidy schemes, and senior staff took a 20% salary deferral, which we were able to pay back in full and re-instate normal salaries by October 2020. We also used the opportunity to reduce our office footprint, by closing seven locations,  and economising on rental costs.

 

Throughout the period we have maintained a high level of contact with all our customers, not only though video conferencing but with a variety of very well attended webinars, sometimes with senior industry figures joining the System1 team, where our products and ratings tools were showcased.

 

During the year and despite the new working arrangements, System1 has maintained its investment in updating and automating its suite of "Test Your" research products. Led by Test Your Ad, an automated advertising prediction tool, it has led to increased take-up by major advertisers and agencies and contributed significantly to the improved performance in H2. Work continues to enhance our Test Your Brand and Test Your Idea products which will give customers a more rapid and less expensive way of testing, and a stimulus to purchase our added-value guidance on how to improve the effectiveness of their brands and innovations.

 

In addition to customer commissioned research, we have leveraged our thought leadership by entering into partnerships with leading broadcasters, advertising agencies, and others where they recommend and integrate the use of our products into their own sales and business development processes. Our partnership with ITV, which encourages and incentivises advertisers to create more effective TV commercials, uses the System1 Test Your Ad measurement. The LinkedIn platform is another partner offering the System1 research tool to potential advertisers to refine and improve the effectiveness of their messages prior to transmission.

 

In the year ahead, we plan selectively to increase investment in future product development and IT, with priority given to scaling our automated prediction products. We also plan for an enhanced sales and marketing capability to expand our reach and generate new business.

 

In June 2020, Stefan Barden and Chris Willford were appointed to the Board as executive directors. Stefan Barden was subsequently appointed CEO in March 2021, with John Kearon, our Founder, becoming Executive President. These changes of title largely reflected their existing operational responsibilities and facilitated the recruitment and promotion of several key senior managers which will significantly strengthen the business.

 

The new financial year will see some further changes to our Board composition. Robert Brand, our Senior Independent Director, will not seek re-election at the Annual General Meeting having served on the Board since 2012. We have benefited greatly from his wise counsel, and he leaves with our heartfelt thanks and our best wishes for the future. He will be succeeded as Senior Independent Director by Sophie Tomkins, currently Audit Committee Chair. I am also delighted to welcome Rupert Howell to the Board as an Independent Director. Rupert joined in February following a long and illustrious career in advertising, public relations, television, and publishing, and is proving to be a strong addition to the team.

 

None of our business results this year and our future ambitions could be achieved without the unswerving support of all our people across the globe. This year, more than ever, their resilience and dedication has been outstanding, and on behalf of the Board and our shareholders, I thank them all for their outstanding efforts.

 

 

Graham Blashill

Chairman



 

Founder and Executive President's Statement

 

What A Year!

We have already set out System1's market positioning, potential, and headline financial performance, so I am going to focus on how we survived the impact of the pandemic and exited the year with real progress towards our goal of becoming the world leader in predicting advertising effectiveness.

 

Shaping Up

As the pandemic hit, many customers understandably pressed the 'pause-button' on their marketing, and our first quarter Revenue dropped 32%. From a practical point of view, the digitisation of the business meant we were able to move immediately to remote working with no loss of productivity and quickly acclimatise to remote working as the norm.

 

The drop in sales galvanised our remarkable staff to simplify everything we were doing and accelerate our plans to reshape the business, from tailor-made consultancy to automated prediction products and enhanced creative guidance. In the second half of the year, the top line revenue exceeded last year's level thanks to quarter-on-quarter growth from a significantly reshaped business:

 

· Our automated prediction products represented 1% of Revenue at the half-year, 7% in the December quarter and 15% in the final quarter (34% for Test Your Ad) and are on track to continue growing in the coming months.

· Our Comms Revenue, including Test Your Ad, grew 18% in the year to become the largest part of the business, with significant new Test Your Ad customers like adidas, Danone, Sky, Boston Beer, Carlsberg, Kellogg's, and Globo.

· Our Partnerships Team won two major advertising platform customers: ITV and LinkedIn, who are promoting and recommending our Test Your Ad services to help enhance their advertisers' returns.

· Our US business grew quarter on quarter, almost back to early 2019 revenue levels by the end of the period.

· Our productivity improved, delivering higher Revenue in the second half with less cost in the business.

 



 

By the end of the year, we had shaped our automated prediction products into the following simple but compelling offerings of what we believe to be the most predictive methods, at the lowest cost, fastest turnaround and with the best value-enhancing, creative guidance:

 


Test Your Ad

Test Your Brand

Test Your Idea

 





Essential

Predict Your Ad…

Predict Your Brand…

Predict Your Idea…

 


Star - long-term profit potential

 

Spike - short-term sales potential

 

Fluency - strength of branding

 

Fame -reflects current brand share

 

Feeling - predicts future brand share

 

Fluency - creates brand premium

Star Rating - brand performance

 

Predicted Acceptance

 

Speed of Choice

 

Emotional Pull

 

Star Rating - predicted success

 





Pro

Predict Your Ad and…

Predict Your Brand and…

Predict Your Idea and…

 


Custom sample as well as nat-rep


Pro diagnostics to explain & improve

 

Custom sample as well as nat-rep


Pro diagnostics to explain & improve

 

Custom sample as well as nat-rep


Pro diagnostics to explain & improve

 





Guidance

Improve Your Ad…

Improve Your Brand…

Improve Your Idea…

 


Expert creative guidance to enhance the effectiveness of your advertising

 

Expert creative guidance to enhance the effectiveness of your brand

 

Expert creative guidance to enhance the effectiveness of your innovation

 





Subscription

Benchmark Your…



 


Own advertising effectiveness

 

Competitor advertising effectiveness

 

Against every US/UK TV ad in all major categories (over 50,000 ads)

 



 



 

Progress Towards Global Leadership

To improve the utility of and access to System1 predictions, we continue to standardise, digitise, and automate our approaches, and the year saw significant progress in the four progressive goals we set out three years ago:

 

1.  Build defensible assets

We have now tested over 50,000 ads and have the largest database, that we are aware of, of validated ad effectiveness data and spend in the world. We use this asset to continuously enhance our understanding of ad effectiveness and help prove the value of creativity to advertisers. The database continues to prove an invaluable asset in demonstrating and validating the essential qualities of the most effective advertising. Orlando Wood is currently using the database in his work with The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) on Lemon II, the working title of a follow-up publication to the critically acclaimed Lemon (the IPA's biggest ever selling book), showing how the principles of the most effective advertising apply as much, if not more, to online video, as they do in TV advertising. Our approaches have been critically acclaimed by such industry luminaries as Peter Field, co-author, The Long and the Short of It, who said,

"The marketing world desperately needs better metrics to benchmark the long-term growth driving potential of their advertising; to offset the tsunami of short-term metrics washing around. So, I welcome System1's new Ad Ratings service, which has to be an important step in the right direction."

 

2.  Generate fame

Testing every new ad in the categories we cover the day after it first airs has given us the ability to provide predictive data to industry publications on ads generating interest or controversy. As a result, we have been able to generate significantly more System1 coverage than in any previous year.

 

Our Ad of the Week feature, celebrating the best, most effective creative from any category in the US or UK, generated significant industry attention, as well as helping to win a number of significant new customers. In recent months we have initiated Ad of the Month, celebrating the best, most effective creative in each of our international markets: France, Germany, Brazil, Singapore, and Australia.

 

Orlando Wood's 2019 Lemon publication continued to generate significant customer interest and presentations to many thousands of client marketers and agency influencers alike. As mentioned, Orlando is working on a new book to provide the industry with a blueprint for dramatically increasing the effectiveness of the customer shift in spend towards digital channels.

 

We have managed to generate industry accolades from leading industry figures like Mark Ritson, Virtual Marketing Professor, who said,

"System1 is special because you've looked at creativity in a far more detailed way. You've balanced the creativity/media thing, you've done it on an effectiveness basis."

 

3.  Win new customers

Our increased industry effectiveness profile, the automation of our superior products, together with our enhanced Sales and Partnership teams, has led to several significant wins, including: adidas, Expedia, Danone, Sky, Boston Beer, Carlsberg, Kellogg's, Globo and perhaps most significantly, ITV and LinkedIn, who are promoting and recommending our Test Your Ad services to help enhance their advertisers' returns.

 

4.  Generate new revenues

Test Your Ad revenues increased 18% to make ad testing our most popular product, and accounting for almost half of total revenues. Part of this growth was a significant increase in customers using our Test Your Ad platform, to test a total of 2,471 advertising ideas, at varying stages of development. These tests were using our basic 'Essential' product, and the recent launch of our enhanced 'Pro' product will offer customers additional diagnostics to improve their advertising performance. Thirty companies also added an annual subscription for the competitive data on all ads in their category, with 1,086 users now accessing the platform for competitive monitoring and ad performance evaluation. In the case of adidas, we set up a new Sports Apparel category, in their 4 major markets, including backtesting the last 12 months of ads in each market. This is something we hope to do for other multinational customers in the current year, extending their competitive and performance monitoring outside of the US and UK, to include additional markets they request.

 

Over the last three years, we have reshaped the business, begun to automate our products, generated increasing industry profile and put together a management team capable of achieving our goal to become the world leader in predicting advertising effectiveness. There remains much to do, but we believe that our product set is further ahead than our competitors. There will be many more innovations in the coming year, as we continue to automate our predictions, increase System1's Fame, attract new customers and drive revenues.

 

In summary, over the last year System1 has taken its leading research intellectual property and created automated prediction products, with assets to complement our historic consultancy services. We have been recognised by marketing industry thought leaders and are firmly becoming the research industry's champion for creativity, backed by data. In the UK, our pilot market, we have developed partnerships with ITV, the largest retailer of advertising space, and in the US with LinkedIn, who are on a mission to do for online B2B advertising what Facebook and Google have done for online consumer advertising. It bodes well for the future, but we know there is much still to do.

 

Finally, a heartfelt thank you to our patient and incredibly supportive shareholders. And a huge thank you to our wonderfully creative, hardworking staff.

 

 

John Kearon

Founder & Executive President



Financial Review

 

Overview


2021

2020

Change

Change**


 m

 m

 m

 %






Adjusted revenue*

22.8

25.3

(2.5)

-10

Adjusted gross profit*

19.2

21.4

(2.2)

-10

Adjusted operating costs*

(16.2)

(19.4)

3.2

-16

Adjusted profit before taxation*

3.0

2.0

1.0

46

Statutory profit before taxation

2.1

0.3

1.8

601

Taxation

(0.4)

(0.5)

0.1

-27

Statutory profit/(loss) for the financial year

1.7

(0.2)

1.9

n.m.

 

*All figures in the Financial Review are presented in millions rounded to one decimal place unless specified otherwise. Percentage movements are calculated based on the numbers reported in the financial statements and accompanying notes. Adjusted Revenue, Cost and Profit figures are as defined in the Highlights section.

** Year-on-year percentage change figures are based on unrounded numbers.

 

Adjusted profit before tax rose 46% to £3.0m in the year despite a 10% decline in adjusted revenue. After a disappointing first quarter there were three consecutive quarters of top-line growth, and sales ended the year at a run-rate close to what was achieved in the first half of FY 2019/20. Adjusted Revenue and Gross Profit both increased by 8% in the second half-year (first half 26% lower). Statutory Profit before Taxation increased by £1.8m to £2.1m.

 


Q1 FY20

Q2 FY20

Q3 FY20

Q4 FY20

Q1 FY21

Q2 FY21

Q3 FY21

Q4 FY21


£m

£m

£m

£m

£m

£m

£m

£m

Adjusted gross profit

5.7

5.7

5.6

4.4

3.9

4.6

5.2

5.5

Adjusted operating costs

4.8

4.8

4.8

4.9

4.2

4.0

3.8

4.2

 

Adjusted Operating Costs fell in each of the first three quarters of the financial year, due mainly to the Company's precautionary decision to reduce expenditure at the beginning of the Covid pandemic. To the extent that these reductions were due to decreased working hours, they had already been reversed by the end of the third quarter. The Company began recruiting for growth in the second half-year, ending the financial year with a similar level of manpower to the previous year.

 

Profit for the financial year increased by £1.9m to £1.7m on the back of improved operating profitability and lower tax payable, assisted by a £0.6m R&D tax credit received in the period. Diluted Earnings Per Share of 13.1p compared favourably to the previous year's Loss Per Share of 1.8p.

 

Product Performance



2021

2020

 


Revenue

Gross profit

Revenue

Gross profit

 


£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

 






By product variant






Data


  1,480

  1,270

   -  

   -  

Consultancy


  20,561

  17,467

  23,468

  19,976

Other services


   797

   415

  2,008

  1,625

 


  22,838

  19,152

  25,475

  21,601

 






By product group






Communications (Ad Testing)


  10,603

  9,177

  9,002

  7,992

Brand (Brand Tracking)


  3,796

  2,878

  4,637

  3,428

Innovation


  7,642

  6,682

  9,829

  8,555

Other services


   797

   415

  2,008

  1,625

 


  22,838

  19,152

  25,475

  21,601

 

The last year saw the launch of System1's automated "Test Your…" data products, starting with Test Your Ad, complemented by the "Improve Your…" standard data-enabled consultancy range of creative guidance products. For this reason, we now segment our revenue primarily by product variant rather than product area (Comms, Brand, Innovation). For continuity, we show both product variant and product area in this report. The uptake of automated data products (principally Test Your Ad) accelerated in the second half and Data represented 15% of Revenue in the final quarter compared with 6% for the year as a whole. Consultancy declined in line with the overall Revenue. Within the total, new creative guidance that provides further insight on the automated data reports and recommends improvements performed well. Bespoke consultancy assignments decreased in absolute and relative terms, in line with our plan to concentrate on standard consultancy products.

 

The success of Test Your Ad led to Communications growing in all geographic regions, representing nearly half the Group's Revenue for the year. This was offset by declines in our customers' Innovation spend, particularly in the Americas. The Brand product area fell back year on year, due mainly to two large brand tracking customers in Continental Europe scaling back their marketing operations in the region.

 

Regional Performance



2021

2020

 


Revenue

Gross profit

Revenue

Gross profit

 


£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

 






By location of customer

 





Americas


8,822

7,571

12,790

10,951

United Kingdom


6,780

5,668

5,515

4,688

Rest of Europe


5,233

4,231

5,628

4,630

APAC


2,003

1,682

1,542

1,332

 


22,838

19,152

25,475

21,601

 

Revenue in the Americas fell by £4m versus a strong prior year, with all the reduction coming in the first half, partly as a result of the region's three biggest customers reducing their spend. Second half revenue in The Americas recovered and was just above H2 2019/20. The UK was the first to benefit from the Test Your Ad launch, consistently achieving high revenue growth, particularly in Comms. Continental Europe revenue fell slightly year on year, despite achieving double-digit growth in the second half-year. APAC revenue grew consistently throughout the year on the back of strong Innovation sales, ending the period a third up on FY 2019/20.

 

Operating Expenditure

At the interims we changed the way we report our expenditure in order to provide clearer information on System1's recurring operational cost base whilst disclosing separately the sometimes-significant non-recurring costs and credits. Adjusted Operating Costs therefore exclude severance, subsidies received, and bonuses.  Adjusted Operating Costs fell by £3.2m (16%) in the year to £16.2m due mainly to average headcount that was some 9% lower.  Office rents declined as we continued to vacate offices; travel and related expenditure also fell sharply as a result of pandemic travel restrictions. Statutory-basis operating costs fell by £3.6m (17%), due partly to the lack of bonus awards in FY2020/21. A reconciliation of adjusted operating costs to statutory operating costs is shown in Note 15 to the Consolidated Financial Statements. The benefit of the Paycheck Protection Program in the USA and small pandemic-related subsidies in other countries is reported as Other Income in the statutory numbers.

 

In the first half of the year, the Group reviewed its office estate for lease impairment under IFRS 16 in view of the pandemic and System1's widespread adoption of new ways of working and decided to close our offices in Rio, Sydney, Los Angeles, Rotterdam, Hamburg and Chicago as those leases expired. The review concluded that a significant reduction in the utilisation of the New York office required an impairment of the lease asset alongside much smaller impairments on leases in Chicago, Hamburg, and Rotterdam. The resulting £1.0m non-cash Impairment Charge (£0.9m relating to the New York office) affects the Group's statutory operating costs and profit before taxation, but is excluded from the Adjusted figures. As a result of these changes, annual rental costs are falling by some £0.4m. Since the end of the financial year, we have signed an agreement to sublet the New York office from July 2021 until the lease expires in 2024, on terms slightly better than the early termination alternative that informed the mid-year impairment calculation.

 

Tax

The Group's effective tax rate fell from 178% to 19% due mainly to a £0.6m research and development tax credit for 2018/19 associated with the development of the AdRatings database and System1's automated prediction products. We subsequently made a successful claim for 2019/20 which is being recognised on receipt in H1 2021/22. We anticipate a claim for FY 2020/21 which is yet to be quantified or submitted. Excluding the tax credits, the effective tax rate fell from 178% to 45%.

 

Funding and Liquidity

The Group began the year with £6.7m Cash on the balance sheet and ended it with £9.0m: funding from the £2.5m revolving credit facility is included in both years' balances . The £2.3m cash inflow is attributable to £1.9m cash generated from operations after property lease costs, £0.6m subsidies received, and £0.3m net cash tax refund. These inflows were partially offset by £0.2m capital expenditure, loan interest £0.1m and a £0.3m adverse translation effect of non-sterling bank balances of reflecting primarily the strengthening of the pound against the dollar in the period.

Some £2.5m cash was spent on research and development in the year, related primarily to the development of new IP, automated prediction products and the AdRatings database.

 

No dividends were declared or paid in the year. 

 

Outlook

As System1 returns to its pre-pandemic level of revenue we do so in a position of relative strength. Cash balances and cash flow are healthy, and we will continue to invest in our products, data assets and talent. We will look to reinstate the share buyback programme which was suspended in 2020 due to uncertainty over the potential impact of the Covid pandemic on our business. More information will be provided on the proposed buyback later in the year. We plan to remain profitable and to continue to generate cash in the 2021/22 financial year, as we prioritise scaling our automated prediction products. Notwithstanding that, we are targeting revenue growth to be at least matched by the rate of cost growth, due to the pandemic-related cost reductions in the year just ended.

Section 172 Report

 

Section 172 of the Companies Act requires the Board to take into consideration the interests of stakeholders in its decision making. This section provides information about the Board's approach to engagement with stakeholders, namely:

· Customers

· Talent

· Investors

· Suppliers

· Community

 

Customers

The success of our customers is at the centre of our purpose as a company. Our mission is to help every brand owner make effective advertising, improve their brand equity, and launch successful new products. Our pursuit of the mission is guided by our core beliefs and values: Customer Commitment, Creativity, Collaboration and Conviction. We are single-mindedly focussed on improving the effectiveness of our customers' marketing budgets by providing better, faster, and cheaper predictions on the following:

· Whether their advert will change people's behaviours in the way they intend

· Whether their brand will grow stronger in the mind of their target customers; and

· Whether their new product/ service ideas are more or less likely to be successful

· How we engage with our customers

 

We invest significant resource in developing and growing deep customer relationships including highly rated training and professional development sessions that draw on our behavioural science expertise. We seek structured feedback from customers on all our research projects so we can improve and develop our products and services.

 

Customer Success Stories

LinkedIn

LinkedIn has been a major success story with their advertising working with us through every stage of their creative to not only optimise it but ultimately test it across countries and air it globally. LinkedIn Plant was tested from script to storyboard to animatics to finished film with System1. Every stage included System1 recommended optimisations and System1 will be creating a case study from this ad which will now be aired globally with a series of promotions and perfect timing to coincide with the current job market. Leaning into how taking small steps with the LinkedIn community can help members to grow and find opportunity. Following System1's recommendations to lead with emotion; to have a story with a beginning, middle and end; to testing different soundtracks to ensuring the highest star score; and finally testing different endings to ensure as System1 recommends the ad ends with happiness. Looking forward to many more opportunities with this partnership account!

 

adidas

System1 is proudly partnering with adidas in creating effective advertising. Since early 2021, adidas bought into System1's thinking, tech-enabled ad products and its consultancy, leveraging System1's Test Your Ad solution suite at a global scale. adidas' exciting brand campaigns, such as the Impossible Is Nothing campaign, and product campaigns are tested throughout the creative development process in a coherent way with System1's proven metrics for business effects.

 

Talent

Our primary focus is on attracting, growing, and retaining world class talent with a culture of performance. To achieve this, we embed structures that promote equal opportunity and guard against discrimination. We are proud of being an inclusive organisation - our culture is founded on principles of inclusion such as feedback, honesty, and creativity.

 

How we engage with our talent

Alongside our corporate values (Customer Commitment, Creativity, Collaboration and Determination), System1 promotes a set of team behaviours known as TIDE.

 

T ruth - always tell the truth… and tell it early

I ntent - always assume good intent…yet resolve issues

D issent - Be obliged to dissent...yet adhere to 'Cabinet Responsibility'

E lephant - Don't allow 'elephants' in the room...yet be empathetic in dealing with them

 

This helps to ensure that employees understand the behaviours expected of them and allow us to operate a high trust environment, which is linked to business success.

 

We conduct quarterly employee input surveys which are reviewed by the Board. These use our FaceTrace methodology to capture how employees feel about working at System1, along with reasons. We also ask them what is working well, what could be improved and add a topical question. We hold follow up discussions with each team across the business, chaired by the departmental head and the Chief People Officer to agree improvements, actions and owners.

 

There is a comprehensive programme of employee communication and engagement sessions, ranging from the monthly Town Hall meetings with all staff, to fortnightly senior management forums, through to drop in "coffee meetings". During the past year virtually all of these have been held online. They give us the opportunity to connect across the business at different levels, share updates and celebrate success - including System1 Value Awards, where employees are nominated by colleagues and are recognised for working according to our values.

 

We pay fairly-there is no discrimination across any factor-we ensure this by using benchmarking data and conducting annual salary reviews by individual and across roles, and there is a structured approach to career and professional development across the business. We have a strong learning and development culture. We encourage employees to plan their development using the support and resources we provide (including access to LinkedIn Learning, internal training programs and professional certifications). We advertise roles internally and promote inter departmental opportunities.

 

Talent engagement outcome

In the depth of the Covid pandemic when our people were forced to work at home, we surveyed their attitudes towards home-based versus office-based working, which is informing our plans on introducing hybrid virtual working. The feedback prompted the Company to improve and clarify its policy on providing equipment for home working. The survey feedback is also helping us to formulate plans to increase employee satisfaction via continued flexible working whilst reducing our worldwide office footprint and associated costs.

 

Investors

The most visible way that the Company takes the interests of equity investors into consideration is through the high level of share ownership on the Board. In addition, the Group Executive Team members' interests are aligned through their participation in a valuable LTIP scheme. They have no cash bonus scheme.

 

The Company encourages two-way communications with all its shareholders and responds quickly to requests or queries received. Larger investors and potential investors are invited to meet management after the full-year and interim results. In addition, the Company maintains regular contact with its lender in the revolving credit facility to ensure that it is kept informed of the Company's performance and prospects.

 

Communication is primarily through the Company's website and the Annual General Meeting which shareholders are encouraged to attend and where participation is encouraged so that the Board may answer questions. All shareholders have at least twenty-one clear days' notice of the Annual General Meeting.

 

All shareholders will receive a copy of the Annual Report. We encourage the use of electronic copy but still produce a small quantity of hard copies for investors who request them. The interim report is available online via the Company's website.

 

The Group seeks advice from its Nominated Advisor, Canaccord on all formal shareholder communications and relies on their services to arrange the twice-yearly investor "roadshows".

As we have no foreseeable requirement for additional equity capital, System1 does not currently hold capital markets days, but would consider doing so if requested by a sufficient number of investors.

 

Suppliers

We work with a small number of trusted suppliers and operate on a strong partnership basis. Our approach is centred on lean principles and continuous quality improvement, with weekly and monthly meetings to review service levels, KPIs and resolve issues. We share data between teams to ensure that there is one view of our partnership metrics.

 

Our key delivery suppliers include:

· MAP Marketing Research - provides us with survey programming and project management services

· Toluna, Prodege and NetQuest - provide us with market research panel respondents to complete our surveys

· Datawise - provides us with bespoke data processing and charting services on our non-standard deliverables

· Intonation - provides us with translation services (forward translation of questionnaires and back translation of respondent verbatim)

 

During the year we ran our first virtual Supplier Conference, to share System1's latest strategy update with current and potential suppliers. We invited them to help us disrupt the industry by offering solutions to support us in new ways. It received excellent feedback and has resulted in deeper partnerships with a better understanding of our strategy, as well as discussions about alternative ways of partnering as we scale our digital solutions.

 

Community

The ESOMAR Foundation (esomarfoundation.org) is the charity arm of the Market Research industry. John Kearon has been President of the Foundation for the last four years. Its purpose is, 'using Market Research to build a better world' and it is run on a purely voluntary basis. With a team of six System1 volunteers, together with five volunteer research industry Board members, the Foundation provides research training, inspirational case studies, and support, to help charities anywhere in the world in making a difference to the communities they serve. The Foundation raises over £100,000 a year, through annual donations from the research community, to fund these activities.



 

Principal Risks and Uncertainties

 

The Board is responsible for reviewing risk and regularly reviews the risks facing the Group, as well as the controls in place to mitigate potential adverse impacts. The risk register is assessed at least twice a year, but the Board's consideration of risk matters is not limited to those formal reviews. The Audit Committee reviews the effectiveness of financial controls. The Board endeavours to identify and protect the business from the big remote risks: those that do not occur very often, but which when they do, have major ramifications. The types of such event that we are concerned about and seek to manage are:

 

Risk Area

Potential Impact

Mitigation

 

 

 

Loss of a significant customer

 

Revenues and profits fall due to the loss of a large customer

We work with more than 250 customers and work hard to earn their loyalty. The percentage of business from our largest customer in the 12 months to 31 March 2021 stood at 8% of revenue

 

Loss of key personnel

 

Key personnel leave the business, taking knowledge and external relationships with them

We have a relatively senior team with broad experience and seek to ensure that System1 is as attractive to existing employees as it is to talented external recruits. Reward is competitive and regular performance evaluation identifies individuals who may be "at risk". For the most senior executives, the LTIP provides a strong motivation to stay with System1

 

Loss of a critical supplier

 

The bankruptcy, change of control or resignation of a strategic supplier leaves the Company unable to meet customer demand

We have several mission-critical functions carried out by third-party suppliers (such as panel suppliers). For these functions, we seek to ensure we are not too reliant on any one organisation and typically have three qualified providers. We work in close co-operation with our strategic suppliers, ensuring that any issues and concerns are surfaced rapidly and resolved in partnership

 

Loss of assets, data, intellectual property

Theft of intellectual property via unauthorised or illegal access to or copying of the Company's databases, proprietary methods, and algorithms

 

We endeavour to protect the business from significant risks, through a combination of trademark protection; insurance; information security, and our employee, customer and supplier terms and conditions

 

Litigation risk

Legal action is taken against the Company by customers, employees, suppliers, or other stakeholders

We endeavour to protect the business from significant risks, through our terms and conditions, trademark protection and comprehensive professional indemnity insurance



 

Risk Area

Potential Impact

Mitigation

 

 

 

Operational risk

An outage or other technical issues on our survey platform results in delays in delivering customer projects

All our services are hosted on a secure external cloud infrastructure with multiple failover options. We continuously monitor system availability and endeavour to alert the customer to any delays on the rare occasions where there is disruption

 

A cyber-attack causes a material breach to our infrastructure

Our business does not ordinarily hold non-employee personal data. We have invested in our controls (including penetration tests), processes and IT infrastructure and hold ISO 27001 accreditation covering information security

 

 

§ The volume of change initiatives in Sytem1's transition to a data predictions business could lead to a loss of operational control

§ All change initiatives are subject to project governance, and development is run on an "agile" methodology. The Executive Team reviews operational performance every week providing early warning of potential deviations from plan. The Board reviews operational performance monthly and strategic direction annually

§

Financial risk

 

Failure to manage credit, currency, market, interest rate or liquidity risk expose the Group to losses

Due to the straightforward nature of the business, its international cost base, the Company's strong balance sheet, and the fact that most of the Company's customers are large, credit-worthy organisations, foreign exchange and credit risks have historically proved to be modest. Since February 2020, the Group has been exposed to interest rate risk through its £2.5m floating rate revolving credit facility which always has been more than matched by unencumbered cash

 

Environmental and political risks

 

Pandemics - the company's revenue streams could be affected by customers' decisions to reduce marketing budgets

 

 

 

 

The Company trades principally in Europe the USA and is exposed to the social and economic impacts in those regions. The recent Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated the Group's ability to operate normally without access to its offices. The main exposure is to our customers' decisions on the size of market research budgets in response to an economic downturn

 

 

Political risk through adverse regime or regulatory change

The territories representing the vast majority of the Group's revenue are socially, politically, and economically stable. The impact of Brexit has been negligible to date. We have a regional operations centre in Brazil where just under 10 percent of our employees are based and are comfortable that the benefits of the operation outweigh the slightly elevated risks

 

 



 

Group Directors' Report

 

Review of the Business and Future Development

The Group Overview, Chairman's Statement, Founder and Executive President's Statement, the Financial Review, the Section 172 Report, Principal Risks and Uncertainties, and the Corporate Governance Report set out:

· the issues, factors and stakeholders considered in determining that the Directors have complied with their responsibilities under section 172 of the Companies Act 2006 (Corporate Governance Review);

· the methods used to engage with stakeholders and understand the issues to which the Directors must have regard under section 172 of the Companies Act 2006 and the effect on the Company's decisions and strategies during the year (Corporate Governance Review);

· the way that management view the business (Group Overview, Chairman and Founder & Executive President's statements, Financial Review);

· its strategy, positioning, and objectives (Group Overview, Chairman's, and Founder & Executive President's Statements).

· its historic financial performance (Chairman's and Founder & Executive President's statements, Financial Review);

· an assessment of its future potential (Group Overview, Chairman's and Founder & Executive President's Statements, Financial Review);

· its key performance indicators (Financial Review); and

· its key business risks (Principal Risks and Uncertainties).

 

Dividends

The Company has paid the following dividends:



2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

 




2020 interim dividend paid, 1.1p per share

  -  

  138

2019 final dividend paid, 6.4p per share

  -  

  805

 


  -  

  943

 

The Company did not pay an interim dividend in the year ended 31 March 2021 and does not propose the payment of a final dividend.

 

Directors

The following individuals served as directors of the Company, System1 Group PLC, during the year:

 

Stefan Barden   (Executive)  appointed 26 June 2020

John Kearon   (Executive)

Chris Willford   (Executive)  appointed 26 June 2020

Graham Blashill   (Non-Executive)

Robert Brand   (Non-Executive)

Rupert Howell   (Non-Executive)  appointed 15 February 2021

Sophie Tomkins   (Non-Executive)

Jane Wakely   (Non-Executive)

James Geddes   (Executive)  resigned 20 April 2020

 

The Remuneration Committee Report sets out directors' interests in the shares of the Company.

 

Share capital

At 31 March 2021, the Company had 13,226,773 Shares in issue (2020: 13,226,773) of which 510,421 were held in treasury (2020: 626,989). The treasury shares will be used to help satisfy the requirements of the Group's share incentive schemes.

 

During the year, the Company transferred 116,568 Ordinary Shares, representing 0.9% of the called-up share capital of the Company, out of treasury to satisfy the exercise of zero-priced employee share options of 116,568 shares.

 

Changes in the share capital of the Company during the year are given in Note 10 to the financial statement.

 

Substantial shareholders

As at 1 June 2021, the Company was aware of the following significant interests in the ordinary issued share capital of the Company.


No.

% Voting shares




John Kearon

2,918,235

22.62

University of Notre Dame Du Lac (USA)

1,200,000

9.30

Invest. fur Langfristige Investoren (Bonn)

1,020,000

7.91

Ruffer (London)

800,000

6.20

Stefan Barden

791,645

6.14

Lazard Freres Gestion (Paris)

685,000

5.31

Motley Fool Asset Mgt (Alexandria)

645,000

5.00

Ennismore Fund Mgt (London)

579,099

4.49

Heritage Capital Mgt UK

424,260

3.29







 

Financial risk management

The Group's activities expose it to the following financial risks to a small degree. Further assessment of financial risks is outlined in Note 8 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

 

Credit risk

We manage credit risk on a Group basis, arising from credit exposures to outstanding receivables and cash and cash equivalents. Since the majority of the Group's customers are large blue-chip organisations, the Group rarely suffers a bad debt. The Group's cash balances are held, in the main, at HSBC Bank.

 

Market risk - Foreign exchange risk

In addition to the United Kingdom, the Group operated in the United States, Rest of Europe, Brazil, Singapore, and Australia during the period and was exposed to currency movements impacting commercial transactions and net investments in those countries. Management endeavours to match the currencies in which revenues are earned with the currencies in which costs are incurred. So, for example, its US operation generates most of its revenue in US dollars and incurs most of its costs in US dollars also. Management does not believe that there would be any long-term benefit in endeavouring to manage currency risk further, and to avoid the cost and complexity does not deal in hedging instruments.

 

Liquidity risk

The Company monitors its cash balances regularly and holds its cash in immediately available current accounts to minimise liquidity risk. The Company has a revolving credit facility with HSBC.

 

Other risks

Management do not consider price risk or interest rate risk to be material to the Group.

 

Capital risk management

The Group manages its capital to ensure that it can continue as a going concern while maximising its return to shareholders. The Group's capital structure consists of cash and cash equivalents, bank borrowings and share capital. Towards the end of the year ended 31 March 2020, the Company arranged and drew down a £2.5m revolving credit facility to provide greater financial flexibility in a period of uncertainty due to the global pandemic. The Group has not entered any derivative contracts.

 

Going concern

As noted in Principal Risks and Uncertainties, and in note 3 to the consolidated financial statements, the Covid outbreak has affected economies across the globe and continues to cause disruption to markets and businesses. The Company acknowledges that this presents financial and operational risks in the short term, and the Directors have considered this in their going concern assessment. In addition to the mitigating actions taken by the Company to address these risks, the Directors have closely monitored the performance of the Group throughout the pandemic, noting the strong net cash balance at year-end compared to last year due to stronger performance in the second half of the year.

 

The Group has reviewed its financial forecasts for the 12 months from the approval of these financial statements, flexing sensitivity analysis scenarios with external and internal inputs that would represent the Group's central forecast and various downturn scenarios.

 

Accordingly, after making appropriate enquiries, at the time of approving the financial statements the Directors have a reasonable expectation that the Company and the Group have adequate resources to continue in operational existence for at least 12 months from the approval of these financial statements. For this reason, the Directors continue to adopt the going concern basis in preparing the financial statements.

 

Research and development

The Company's Labs and IT Development teams are involved in the development and validation of new market research methods and products.

 

Employees

The Group maintains fair employment practices, attempts to eliminate all forms of discrimination and to give equal access, and to promote diversity. Wherever possible we provide the same opportunities for disabled people as for others. If an employee were to become disabled, we would make every effort to keep him or her in our employment, with appropriate training where necessary.

 

Health and safety policies

The Group does not have significant health and safety risks and is committed to maintaining high standards of health and safety for its employees, visitors, and the public.

 

Directors' indemnities

Directors' and officers' insurance cover has been established for each of the Directors to provide cover against their reasonable actions on behalf of the Company. The indemnities, which constitute a qualifying third-party indemnity provision as defined by Section 234 of the Companies Act 2006, remain in force for all current Directors. All relevant information known to the Directors has been relayed to the appointed auditor.

 

On behalf of the Board

 

Chris Willford

Chief Financial Officer and Company Secretary

14 July 2021



 

Statement of Directors' Responsibilities

 

The directors are responsible for preparing the Group Strategic Report, Group Directors' Report, the Annual Report, and the financial statements in accordance with applicable law and regulations.

 

Company law requires the directors to prepare group and company financial statements for each financial year. The directors have elected under company law and required by the AIM Rules of the London Stock Exchange to prepare the group financial statements in accordance with international accounting standards in conformity with the requirements of the Companies Act 2006 and to prepare the company financial statements in accordance with international accounting standards in conformity with the requirements of the Companies Act 2006 and applicable law.

 

The Group and Company financial statements are required by law and international accounting standards in conformity with the requirements of the Companies Act 2006 to present fairly the financial position of the group and the company and the financial performance of the group. The Companies Act 2006 provides in relation to such financial statements that references in the relevant part of that Act to financial statements giving a true and fair view are references to their achieving a fair presentation.

 

Under company law the directors must not approve the financial statements unless they are satisfied that they give a true and fair view of the state of affairs of the group and the company and of the profit or loss of the group for that period.

 

In preparing each of the group and company financial statements, the directors are required to:

a.  select suitable accounting policies and then apply them consistently;

b.  make judgements and accounting estimates that are reasonable and prudent;

c.  state whether they have been prepared in accordance with international accounting standards in conformity with the requirements of the Companies Act 2006;

d.  prepare the financial statements on the going concern basis unless it is inappropriate to presume that the group and the company will continue in business.

 

The directors are responsible for keeping adequate accounting records that are sufficient to show and explain the Group and the Company's transactions and disclose with reasonable accuracy at any time the financial position of the group and the company and enable them to ensure that the financial statements comply with the requirements of the Companies Act 2006. They are also responsible for safeguarding the assets of the group and the company and hence for taking reasonable steps for the prevention and detection of fraud and other irregularities.

 

The directors are responsible for the maintenance and integrity of the corporate and financial information included on the System1 Group PLC website.

 

Legislation in the United Kingdom governing the preparation and dissemination of financial statements may differ from legislation in other jurisdictions.

 

 

Chris Willford

Chief Financial Officer and Company Secretary

14 July 2021



 

Corporate Governance

 

Strategy

All directors are familiar with the market in which the Company is operating, the Company's value proposition, and its strategic intent.

 

The Board actively participates in setting, and regularly reviewing, the strategy of the business, and is responsible for ensuring that the Company's business model is, and remains, aligned to the achievement of its strategic objectives. The Company sets out its strategy within the Strategic Report section of its Annual Report and Accounts.

 

Risk Management

The Board reviews the risks facing the business on a regular basis. The identified principal risks and uncertainties are those outlined in the Strategic Report.

The Board is responsible for the Group's system of internal controls and risk management, and for reviewing the effectiveness of these systems. These systems are designed to manage, rather than eliminate, the risk of failure to achieve business objectives, and to provide reasonable, but not absolute assurance against material misstatement or loss.

The key features of the Group's internal controls are described below:

· clearly defined organisational structure with appropriate delegation of authority;

· comprehensive budgeting programme with an annual budget approved by the Board;

· regular review by the Board of actual results compared with budget and forecasts;

· regular reviews by the Board of full year expectations;

· detailed budgeting and monitoring of costs incurred on the development of new products;

· a limited number of Directors and Executives authorised to commit the company to legal agreements or make payments;

· regular reviews of customer and employee feedback;

· information security controls (for which the Company has obtained ISO 27001 accreditation).

 

The Board take measures to review internal controls and embed risk management procedures on an ongoing basis and implement metrics and objectives to monitor the business as part of a continuous improvement programme.

 

Corporate Culture

The Company endeavours to maintain a culture built on integrity. To surface unethical or deceitful behaviours, it promotes openness amongst its employees, provides channels for employees to feedback concerns to the Executive Directors and the Board (such as anonymous employee feedback surveys, and confidential whistle-blowing channels), and conducts exit interviews. Further information on System1's culture and values can be found in the Section 172 Report.

 

The Board of Directors

The Board comprised three Executive Directors and four independent Non-Executive Directors, including the Non-Executive Chairman for most of the year ended 31 March 2021. The membership of the Board is set out in the Directors' Report. We believe that the directors have the mix of leadership, marketing and financial skills and experience necessary to oversee the Company and deliver its strategy for the benefit of the shareholders over the medium to long-term. The composition of the Board is intended to achieve a balanced range of personal qualities and capabilities, and to support the Company's commitment to promoting gender equality and diversity. The biographical details of the directors are presented above.

 

The Board operates an induction programme for new Non-Executive Directors. The Board reviews its AIM obligations with its Nominated Advisor annually and endeavours to keep up with best practice governance via QCA seminars and training material. All directors can access the Company's advisors and obtain independent professional advice at the Company's expense in performance of their duties as directors.

 

During the year, the Remuneration Committee sought advice from PWC on the Company's LTIP. Neither the Board nor the respective committees have sought other external advice on any significant matter during the year. The Audit Committee works with the Company's auditor, RSM Audit LLP. The Board liaises regularly with the Company's Nominated Advisor, Canaccord Genuity to ensure compliance with AIM Rules.

 

The Board considers each of the Non-Executive Directors to be independent, for the following principal reasons:

· they all have served on the Board for less than ten years;

· their remuneration is not material in the context of their financial circumstances ;

· they have no executive role;

· they each own an immaterial number of shares in the Company in the context of their financial circumstances (or in some cases, no shares);

· they are not related to any of the Executive Directors; and

· they have no conflict of interest given their other roles and business activities.

 

For financial year ended 31 March 2021, the Company Secretary was also the Chief Financial Officer, as is the case with other companies of a similar size and complexity. The Group plans to continue with this combined role and will split the roles when it reaches a size which warrants it.

 

The Board schedules regular monthly meetings during the year, except for July or August, and additional ad hoc meetings as required. All Directors can allocate sufficient time to the Company to discharge their responsibilities fully. As a result of the global pandemic, all board and board committee meetings during the year were held virtually over Microsoft Teams. The number of regular meetings that each director attended during the financial year is set out below:

 


Board

Audit Committee

Remuneration Committee


(11 meetings)

(2 meetings)

(2 meetings)

Graham Blashill

11

2

2

Robert Brand

11

2

2

Rupert Howell (appointed 15 February 2021)

2

n/a

1

Sophie Tomkins

11

2

2

Jane Wakely

11

n/a

2

Stefan Barden

11^

n/a

1*

John Kearon

11

n/a

1*

Chris Willford

11^

2*

2*






 ^ of which 2 by invitation


*by invitation

 

Matters reserved for the Board

The Board discusses and reviews all matters and issues which are important to the business. Certain decisions are reserved for the Board, which include:

· approval of the Group's long-term objectives and strategy;

· approval of the annual operating and capital budget, and any material changes thereto;

· extension of the Group's activities into new business or geographic areas;

· changes to the Group's capital structure and/or major changes to corporate structure, including acquisitions, disposals, and investments;

· approval of interim and annual reports, and regulatory or non-routine shareholder communications;

· approval of significant changes in accounting policies or practices;

· approval of share buybacks, dividends and dividend policy;

· assessment of the effectiveness of risk and control processes.

 

Matters referred to the Board are considered by the Board as a whole and no one individual has unrestricted powers of decision. Where directors have concerns which cannot be resolved in connection with the running of the Group or a proposed action, their concerns would be recorded in the Board Minutes. This course of action has not been required to date.

 

The provisions on engagement with stakeholders including shareholders, employees and customers are dealt within the Section 172 Report on page 16.

 

Appointment of Directors

The Board formally approves the appointment of all new Directors. Each year at the Annual General Meeting, all Directors retire by rotation and are subject to re-election.

 

Remuneration Committee

The Remuneration Committee is responsible for determining the specific remuneration and incentive packages for each of the Company's Executive Directors and keeping under review the remuneration and benefits of all senior executives and managers and overall pay levels of all employees. Its members are:

 

Graham Blashill - Chairman of the Remuneration Committee

Robert Brand

Rupert Howell

Sophie Tomkins

Jane Wakely

 

The Remuneration Committee's role and responsibilities are to:

· review and approve the remuneration and incentive schemes of Executive Directors, including pension rights, other benefits, and any compensation payments, ensuring that no Director is involved in any decisions as to their own remuneration;

· review and approve the level and structure of remuneration and incentive schemes for senior management;

· select, appoint, and set the terms of reference for any remuneration consultants who advise the Committee;

· approve the payments to Directors under any performance-related pay or share schemes operated by the Company;

· ensure that contractual terms on termination of any Director are fair to the individual and the Company, that

· failure is not rewarded and that the duty to mitigate loss is fully recognised;

· approve any major changes in employee benefits structures throughout the Group;

· approve the policy for authorising claims for expenses from the Directors.

 

The Remuneration Committee schedules two formal meetings per year and meets at other times as necessary. The Remuneration Committee may invite any of the executive directors to attend meetings of the Remuneration Committee. The Remuneration Committee may use consultants to advise it in setting remuneration structures and policies. It is exclusively responsible for appointing such consultants and setting their terms of reference.

 

Rupert Howell will succeed Graham Blashill as Chairman of the Remuneration Committee following the 2021 AGM.

 

The Annual Statement from the Remuneration Committee Chair is set out in the Remuneration Committee Report.

 

Audit Committee

The Audit Committee is responsible for ensuring the financial performance of the Company is properly monitored and reported on to shareholders, reviewing the Company's financial systems and controls, and overseeing the Company's risk management. Its members are:

 

Sophie Tomkins - Chair of the Audit Committee

Graham Blashill

Robert Brand

Rupert Howell

 

The Audit Committee's role and responsibilities are to:

· monitor the integrity of the financial statements of the Group;

· review the Group's internal financial controls and risk management systems;

· make recommendations to the Board, for it to put to the shareholders for their approval in relation to the appointment of the external auditor and to approve appropriate remuneration and terms of reference for the external auditor;

· discuss the nature, extent and timing of the external auditor's procedures and discussion of external auditor's findings;

· monitor and ensure the external auditor's independence and objectivity and the effectiveness of the audit process;

· develop and implement policy on the engagement of the external auditor to supply non-audit services;

· report to the Board, identifying any matters in respect of which it considers that action or improvement is required; and

· ensure a formal channel is available for employees and other stakeholders to express any complaints in respect of financial accounting and reporting.

 

The Annual Report from the Audit Committee Chair is set out in the Audit Committee Report.

 

Board evaluation

The Board undertook an annual review of its effectiveness, in January 2021. The Board will carry out further reviews of its effectiveness on an annual basis and may use an external advisor. The objective of this evaluation process is to bring to light possible changes which could make the Board's activities and administration more effective and efficient. The Board Evaluation covered the following areas:

· the manner in which the Board is run, and operates as a team;

· the skills, experience, and independence of the Board;

· the strategy of the business;

· the risks of the business;

· the Company's ethical values and behaviours; and

· engagement with shareholders and other stakeholders.

 

The exercise identified a number of positive areas particularly relating to the manner in which the Board is run, and the skills and experience and independence of the Board, and nearly all the categories saw improved scores year on year. The main areas identified for improvement in this second evaluation were minor administrative matters, which will be monitored between now and the next review.

 

In January 2021, a review was carried out by the Senior Independent Director with respect to evaluating the performance of the Chairman. All other Directors participated in the review, which produced both a positive overall outcome and some constructive suggestions regarding improvements which could be achieved. These suggestions have already been acted upon. A further review will be undertaken when appropriate.

 

Succession planning

The Board, led by the Chairman, carries out ongoing assessments as to the succession needs and planning of the Board. Senior management appointments are made by the Executive Directors, who carry out ongoing assessments of succession needs and skills gaps across the business. Key appointments are overseen by the Remuneration Committee.


The Board

 

STEFAN BARDEN

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER,

APPOINTED 26 JUNE 2020

Stefan has over 20 years of General Manager, Managing Director and CEO experience after graduating from McKinsey Management Consultancy and Unilever's fast track management development programme. His previous positions include CEO of Northern Foods, CEO of Heinz UK and Ireland, as well as more latterly CEO of the internet business Wiggle which he took from £140m to £360m in sales in 3 years.

 

GRAHAM BLASHILL

INDEPENDENT NON-EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN,

APPOINTED ON 18 JULY 2012

(BECAME CHAIRMAN ON 25 JULY 2018);

Graham Blashill joined System1 Group in 2012 as a Non-Executive Director. He was previously a main board director of Imperial Tobacco Group pie (a FTSE 100 company) where he spent the majority of his career. He joined W.D. & H.O. Wills (a division of Imperial Tobacco) in 1968 and became Managing Director of Imperial Tobacco UK in 1995. In 2003, he became Regional Director for Western Europe, and in 2005 was appointed Group Sales and Marketing Director responsible for Imperial Tobacco's global trading operations.

 

ROBERT BRAND

INDEPENDENT NON-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, APPOINTED ON 5 JANUAR Y 2012

(BECAME SENIOR INDEPENDENT DIRECTOR ON 25 JULY 2018);

Robert Brand joined System1 Group in 2012 as a Non- Executive Director. He began his career in 1977, initially as a research analyst and subsequently as Managing Director of UK Equity research at BZW, then the investment banking di- vision of Barclays Bank. In 1990 he joined Makinson Cowell, a capital markets advisory firm, as a director and partner. Over a period of 18 years, he advised a range of FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies, focusing on their link with institutional investors. He retired in 2008.


 

 

RUPERT HOWELL

INDEPENDENT NON-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, APPOINTED ON 15 FEBRUARY 2021

Rupert has an extensive career of around 40 years in the advertising and media sector. He was the co-founder of Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury, a UK-based advertising agency, where he worked from 1987 until 1997 when it was acquired by Chime Communications plc, where he became Chief Executive Officer in 1997. He held several roles at McCann Erickson from 2003 to 2007, including President of EMEA, Chairman of the UK & Ireland Group and Regional Director of EMEA Operations. He was Managing Director of the Broadcast and Online division and a board director of ITV plc from 2007 to 2010. He joined Trinity Mirror plc (now Reach plc) as group development director, from 2013 to 2020. He is chairman of Roxi, the music streaming service, pinwheel, a green energy and sustainable living app start-up and is chairman of the advisory board of Empresa Cura Medicinal, LDA.

 

JOHN KEARON

FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE PRESIDENT

John founded the Company in 1999 and remains its largest shareholder. Previously he founded innovation agency Brand Genetics, which invented new products and services for large consumer companies. Before this, he was a planning director at Publicis (the leading advertising agency), having started his career at Unilever where he rose to become a senior marketer at Elida Gibbs. His role in establishing and developing the Company made him Ernst & Young's " Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year" in 2006.

 

SOPHIE TOMKINS

INDEPENDENT NON-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR,

APPOINTED ON 11 JUNE 2018

Sophie joined the Board as Non-Executive Director in June 2018. Her career has included nearly two decades as a London-based stockbroker, focusing mainly on high growth small to mid-cap companies. She started at established firm Cazenove & Co, and became more entrepreneurial, at both Collins Stewart, and then Fairfax. As City Analyst, and latterly Head of Equities, she has analysed and advised numerous companies and Boards, and been involved with a huge range of transactions, notably several high-profile IPOs and M&A deals. She became a portfolio Non-Executive Director in 2012, and is currently Non-Executive Director and Audit Committee Chair of Hotel Chocolat Group PLC (retail and manufacturing), Cloudcall Group PLC (software), and Virgin Wines UK PLC (online retail). She is also a qualified Chartered Accountant and a fellow of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment.

 

JANE WAKELY

INDEPENDENT NON-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, APPOINTED ON 24 JULY 2018

Jane joined System1 Group in July 2018 as a Non-Executive Director. Passionate about creativity, innovation and driving profitable growth that transforms categories and brands, she has had the privilege of working for world leading CPG companies such as Mars Incorporated, Procter & Gamble and Unilever, across categories as diverse as cosmetics, beauty care, healthcare, food, confectionery, and pet care. She is Global Chief Marketing Officer for the Pet Nutrition business and Lead Chief Marketing Officer for Mars Inc. Previously, Jane was the Global Chief Marketing Officer of the Chocolate business at Mars and has been part of the Mars drive to innovate digitally and creatively, leading to Mars being recognised creatively as one of the most awarded companies in the world. She is also a Chartered Management Accountant and holds a BSc (Hons) in Business Administration from Bath Spa University.

 

CHRIS WILLFORD

CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER AND COMPANY SECRETARY, APPOINTED 26 JUNE 2020

Chris, a Chartered Management Accountant, built his career with blue chip consumer businesses including Unilever, British Airways (Group Treasurer) Barclays (Finance director of Corporate Bank and UK Retail Bank) and Bradford & Bingley (Group Finance Director). Prior to joining System1, Chris worked as a consultant with a portfolio of scale up media and tech businesses.

 

 


 

Audit Committee Report

 

The Audit Committee is responsible for ensuring that the financial performance of the Group is properly reported and reviewed. Its role includes monitoring the integrity of the financial statements (including annual and interim accounts and results announcements), reviewing internal control and risk management systems, reviewing any changes to accounting policies, reviewing and monitoring the extent of the non-audit services undertaken by external auditors and advising on the appointment of external auditors.

 

Members of the audit committee

The membership of the Committee is set out on page 29 of the Corporate Governance Report. Sophie Tomkins took over from Robert Brand as Chair in January 2019, and Rupert Howell joined the Committee on his appointment in February 2021. All members of the Committee are independent Non- Executive Directors. The Chief Financial Officer routinely attends the Audit Committee meetings by invitation, but other Executive Directors or members of the management team may also be invited to attend meetings as required. The Non-Executive Directors are provided an opportunity at the Audit Committee meetings to discuss matters with the Auditors without the presence of the Executive Directors.

 

The Board is satisfied that the Chair of the Committee has recent and relevant financial experience. Sophie is a Chartered Accountant and is also Chair of the Audit Committee at Hotel Chocolat plc, Cloudcall Group plc, and Virgin Wines UK plc. The Committee meets at least twice a year and more frequently if required and has unrestricted access to the Group's auditor. Attendance at Board and Committee meetings is set out in the Corporate Governance Report on page 27. During 2019/20 there was additional Audit Committee contact with the Auditor due to the change of Auditor. In 2020/21, this reverted to a more standard audit cycle. During 2020/21, two formal meetings were held, with additional meetings to discuss system change and audit planning.

 

Duties

The main duties of the Audit Committee are set out in its terms of reference, which are summarised on page 29 and available on the Group's website (system1group.com/investors).

 

The work carried out by the Audit Committee during 2020/21 comprised the following:

· ensuring the financial performance of the Company is being properly measured and reported on;

· review of the 2020/21audit plan;

· consideration of key audit matters and how they are addressed;

· going concern review;

· review of suitability of the external auditor;

· review of the financial statements and Annual Report;

· review of the appropriateness of the Group's accounting policies and judgements made in the preparation of the financial statements, and adequacy of the disclosures made therein;

· consideration of the external audit report and management representation letter;

· review of the risk management and internal control systems;

· meeting with the external auditor without management present;

· review of anti-bribery policy and whistleblowing arrangements.

 

Role of the external auditor

The Audit Committee monitors the relationship with the external auditor to ensure that auditor independence and objectivity are maintained. As part of this role, the Committee reviews the non-audit fees of the auditor. RSM's fees for the financial year to 31 March 2021 relate primarily to the Audit and Interim review, with additional work performed on the Group's transition to a new finance system during the year.

 

The Audit Committee also assesses the auditor's performance.

 

Audit process

The auditor prepares an audit plan for the review of the full period financial statements. The audit plan sets out the scope of the audit, areas to be targeted and audit timetable. This plan is reviewed and agreed by the Audit Committee. Following the audit, the auditor presents its findings to the Audit Committee for discussion. No major areas of concern were highlighted by the auditor during the period; however, areas of significant risk (such as Covid-19) and other matters of audit relevance are regularly communicated.

 

Change of auditor in prior year

The Board appointed RSM UK Audit LLP as the Company's auditor from the financial year ending 31 March 2020 and the Audit Committee oversaw the transition with nothing to report. 2020/21 has been the second financial year audited by RSM.

 

Internal audit

At present the Group does not have an internal audit function and the Committee believes that management is able to derive assurance as to the adequacy and effectiveness of internal controls and risk management procedures without one.

 

Risk management and internal controls

As described throughout the Annual Report and the Corporate Governance section of the Group's website (system1group.com/investors), the Group has established a framework of risk management and internal control systems, policies, and procedures. The Audit Committee is responsible for reviewing the risk management and internal control framework and ensuring that it operates effectively. During the period, the Committee has reviewed the framework and the Committee is satisfied that the internal control systems in place are currently operating effectively.

 

Whistleblowing

The Group has in place a process whereby employees can discuss concerns confidentially. The Committee is comfortable that the current policy is operating effectively.

 

Anti-bribery

The Group has in place an anti-bribery and anti-corruption policy which sets out its zero-tolerance position and provides information and guidance to those working for the Group on how to recognise and deal with bribery and corruption issues. The Committee is comfortable that the current policy is operating effectively.

 

 

Sophie Tomkins

Chair, Audit Committee



 

Remuneration Committee Report

 

Annual statement from the Remuneration Committee chair, Graham Blashill

 

Dear Shareholder,

 

The Remuneration Committee sets the strategy, structure, and levels of remuneration for the Executive Directors and reviews the remuneration of senior management, to ensure alignment of objectives and incentives throughout the business in pursuit of the Group's stated objectives. The membership and terms of reference of the Remuneration Committee are set out in the Corporate Governance Report.

 

This Remuneration Report is split into two parts:

1.  The directors' remuneration policy sets out the Company's policy on directors' remuneration, in particular the long-term incentive plan ("LTIP"), and the key factors that were considered in setting the policy. The directors' remuneration policy is not subject to a shareholder vote at the 2021 AGM, since the main variable element (the LTIP) was approved by shareholders at the Annual General Meeting on 31 July 2019.

2.  The annual report on remuneration sets out payments and awards made to the directors for the year to 31 March 2021.

 

There are three elements in director remuneration:

· Base salary

· LTIP

· Benefits

 

Historically, the Company's LTIPs have been established in three-to-four-year cycles.  The current LTIP was established in September 2019 with vesting due on 12 August 2024 (the "2019 LTIP").

 

We are proposing some amendments to the 2019 LTIP for shareholder approval at the 2021 AGM. Further information on the changes is provided later in this section.

 

We endeavour to keep our director remuneration arrangements simple and correlated to increases in long term business growth.  As a small Company we are also acutely aware of the dilutive impacts of equity awards, and when designing our LTIPs, we ensure that vesting only occurs when there is a substantial increase in shareholder value (after accounting for the dilution).

 

For levels below the participants in the 2019 LTIP, the remuneration ordinarily comprises:

· Base salary

· Bonus and profit share

· Benefits

 

The Executive Directors and other senior executives who participate in an LTIP forgo annual bonus and profit share.

 

The committee regularly reviews the appropriateness of remuneration across the Group and is satisfied that an appropriate reward structure exists below Board level to recognise and retain our top talent.



 

Directors' remuneration policy

 

The policy described in this part of the Remuneration Report is intended to apply for four years beginning in the 2019/20 financial year to 31 March 2024 and covers Executive Directors and a small number of other senior managers ("Executives").

 

The Remuneration Committee considers the policy annually to ensure that it remains aligned with business needs and is appropriately positioned relative to the market.  However, there is no intention to revise the policy more frequently than every four years.

 

The Committee has based the Executive reward structure on the long-term organic growth strategy of the business.  If successful, this will deliver significant shareholder value, and Executive rewards are designed to correlate with the key driver of that value (primarily revenue growth).

 

Fixed annual elements - including salary, pension, and benefits - are to recognise the responsibilities and leadership roles of our Executives and to ensure current and future market competitiveness.  Long-term incentives are to motivate and reward them for making the Company successful on a sustainable basis.

 

Base salary and benefits

Base salary is paid in 12 equal monthly instalments during the year.  Salaries are reviewed annually, and any changes are effective from the beginning of the Company's financial year (which is 1st April).  Benefits comprise money purchase pension contributions of up to 6% of salary, private medical and dental insurance, life insurance and long-term disability insurance.

 

The current long-term incentive plan

The Company introduced the current LTIP in September 2019 (the "2019 LTIP"). It was approved by shareholders at the Annual General Meeting on 31 July 2019 and covers the period ending 31 March 2024.

 

The 2019 LTIP was implemented as a replacement for the 2017 LTIP. The company introduced the 2017 LTIP in March 2017 and this scheme covered the four-year period ending 31 March 2021. Of the total 1,058,135 options originally granted under the 2019 LTIP, 462,934 of these were granted as replacements for awards made under the 2017 scheme. Of the additional 595,201 options, 198,400 were granted to John Kearon, in lieu of his previous bonus arrangement. The remainder were granted to members of senior management who had joined the company subsequent to the 2017 LTIP grant. By 31 March 2021, the number of options granted under the LTIP had risen to 1,124,274, the maximum level currently permitted.  

 

The final performance period of the 2019 LTIP is the Company's 2023/24 financial year, and the lapse date is 12 August 2024.

 

The 2019 LTIP also allows that vesting may occur as and when the performance targets are met. Therefore, from 12 August 2020 onwards, some partial vesting may occur earlier than the lapse date, and then further vesting later (provided that no vesting could occur in relation to financial periods after the Company's 2023/24 financial year).

 

The awards have taken the form of zero-cost stock options.  The performance targets are unchanged from the 2017 LTIP and are based on gross profit growth (the Company's main top line performance indicator), with profit after tax and share price underpins. 

 

The performance targets and vesting levels for the 2017 LTIP were set with growth levels of between 10% and 30% pa in mind.  At the 10% pa growth level, the gross profit would be £39.5m, and at the 30% pa growth level, £77.1m.  The specific vesting levels are set out in the following table.

 


Equity level

Gross profit target




Executive Directors

144,667 shares (1.09% of issued shares)

£39.5m


144,667 shares (1.09% of issued shares)

£56.0m


124,001 shares (0.94% of issued shares)

£77.1m

Total awards

330,669 shares (3.12% of issued shares)





Senior Managers

248,829 shares (1.88% of issued shares)

£39.5m


248,829 shares (1.88% of issued shares)

£56.0m


213,282 shares (1.61% of issued shares)

£77.1m

Total awards

710,393 shares (5.38% of issued shares)



The vesting levels allow that at the lower gross profit target, 35% of awards vest. At the central gross profit target, a further 35% of awards vest, to a cumulative vesting total of 70%, and at £77.1m; the awards vest in full.

 

There will be proportionate vesting if gross profit is between £39.5m and £56.0m pa or between £56.0m and £77.1m pa.

 

No awards will vest unless profit after tax ("PAT") is at least £7.0m and the average share price of the Company during the month of July in the year in which the awards vest is at least £9.945 (30% higher than the share price on 22 March 2017, the date of the 2017 LTIP grant).  For the higher levels of vesting triggered by gross profit above £56.0m, the PAT underpin increases to £9.9m.

 

For the purpose of these performance targets PAT is calculated before deducting share-based payments (to avoid any circular argument problem when performing the calculations).

 

The gross profit and PAT targets are designed to relate to organic growth, and the Committee has the right to adjust the targets if a material acquisition or other corporate event occurs (and will ordinarily exercise such right).

 

During the year, there were three Executive Director participants in the 2019 LTIP (James Geddes, John Kearon, and Chris Willford) and six senior manager participants.  John Kearon did not participate in the 2017 LTIP, but instead, had an annual bonus potential for each of the 4 years to 31 March 2021 of between 25-75% of annual salary based on the growth targets and underpins above. John Kearon's award under the 2019 LTIP replaces his previous bonus scheme.

 

Participants in the 2019 LTIP do not participate in the Company's annual bonus or profit share scheme and have no other short-term incentive plan.  This is to ensure decision-making focus is primarily on achieving long-term growth.  Therefore, over the period to March 2021, the only remuneration that they will receive will be base salary and benefits, unless the Remuneration Committee determine awards in exceptional circumstances (at their sole discretion).

 

In April 2019, the Committee granted Stefan Barden, then an advisor to the Board, a separate equity award, comprising 300,000 zero-cost stock options in three tranches of 100,000, with the following performance conditions:

· 100,000 zero-priced stock options

Vest: when audited Gross Profit in any financial year exceeds £45m, subject to the Company's share price exceeding £5.00 per share for a 30-day consecutive period prior to the lapse date;

Lapse: on 30 July 2024.

· 100,000 zero-priced stock options

Vest: when audited Gross Profit in any financial year exceeds £68m, subject to the Company's share price exceeding £7.50 per share for a 30-day consecutive period prior to the lapse date;

Lapse: on 30 July 2029.

· 100,000 zero-priced stock options

Vest: when audited Gross Profit in any financial year exceeds £90m subject to share price exceeding £10.00 per share for a 30-day consecutive period prior to the lapse date;

Lapses: on 30 July 2032.

 

Stefan Barden has subsequently joined the Board of Directors and retains this separate equity option award.

 

The Committee has taken advice from PWC in relation to these equity incentives and consulted with major shareholders.

 

Dilution

Vested stock options are set out below.

 

No.

%

 

 

 

Voting shares as at 31 March 2021

12,716,352

100%

2006 employee share option scheme (now closed)

7,000

0.1%

2010-2014 LTIP - vested on 28 May 2014

75,520

0.6%

2014-2016 LTIP - vested on 30 April 2017  

116,568

0.9%

 

199,088

1.6%

 

Unvested options comprise options granted under the 2019 LTIP and the equity awards to Stefan Barden, described above. The maximum aggregate dilution under both schemes is 11.2% of the Company's voting shares.

 

Proposed changes to the 2019 LTIP

The LTIP is the cornerstone element of our remuneration package for motivating and attracting top talent to drive our new strategy and deliver long-term value for our shareholders. Given the fundamental changes to our business strategy, the Board believes that it is simpler and more efficient to amend existing awards (primarily through changing performance conditions and the vesting timeframe) and adopt a consistent framework for equity grants to new hires rather than introduce a new plan and lapse in-flight awards which contain measures which are at odds with our new strategic priorities. Changes to the scheme that require shareholder approval will be voted on at the AGM.

 

The principal proposals for change are:

· Extend the performance period by one year (with the final vesting date being 12 August 2025) to reflect the impact of Covid-19 in 2020/21 and align with the strategic time horizon.

· Increase the overall plan limit from 8.5% to 10% of issued ordinary share capital as at 1 January 2017 to allow for the inclusion of John Kearon (added in 2019, not foreseen in the original 2017 scheme) and for awards to be made to potential incoming members of the executive management team.

· Extend the life of the plan during which new awards can be granted for a further 4 years from 22 March 2021 to 22 March 2025 so that all executives' interests are aligned.

· The share price underpins for vesting of awards to occur will be reduced from c.£9.95 to £4.00. The Company's share price when the original target was set was c.£7.65 with the target set at 30% above this. The share price at the time the new proposals were designed was c.£1.90 and therefore the revised underpin of £4.00 represented a > 100% increase on the Company's current share price which has since risen slightly to £2.27 at the beginning of June.

· The Gross Profit performance measure will be replaced with Revenue. The Revenue required for threshold performance is proposed to be £45m and the Revenue required for stretch performance is proposed to be £88m. 

· Given our change in business model and valuation, the Profit After Tax underpin will be replaced with the Remuneration Committee considering the level of profitability in the year of vesting and the overall corporate and share price performance over the period.

 

The Board believes that the proposed changes are in the best interest of all our shareholders and stakeholders for the following reasons:

 

· Focus on recovering and enhancing shareholder value - we believe that a key measure of the success of the implementation of the new strategy is that it leads to the recovery and enhancement of the share price over the next period.

· Focus on long-term sustainable performance - it is critical at this point that the management team and staff are focussed on ensuring the long-term sustainable performance of the Company. The implementation of the new strategy is unlikely to be linear and the management team needs to be flexible and nimble on their feet to exploit opportunities as and when they arise.

· Alignment to shareholder experience - the Board feels it is important that the management team members are fully aligned with the experience of shareholders. It is for this reason that the long-term incentive plan is their sole incentive in the business. The Company does not have an annual bonus plan for executives as it strongly believes that the long-term holding of equity creates the strongest alignment with the Company strategy and shareholder interests.

· Retention - as our sole incentive program, the long-term incentive plan must be retentive as well as motivating. As we implement the change in strategy and look to deliver the proposed growth, we feel that the retention of our management team and key members of staff is vital for successful execution. Were we to leave the 2019 LTIP as per the original design, we believe we could disincentivise the management team and participants due to the fact that the performance criteria are set at a level that is almost impossible to achieve given the Company's current strategy, performance and planned growth.

 

Non-Executive Directors

Non-Executive Directors do not participate in any of the Company's incentive arrangements, nor do they receive any benefits.  Their fees are reviewed periodically and set by the Board as a whole.

 

Remuneration of all employees

All employees, excepting those participating in the 2019 LTIP, are entitled to base salary, benefits, and a discretionary annual bonus or profit share.  Since January 2012, equity awards have not been granted to employees who are not also members of executive management. 

 

Director service contracts and policy on payment for loss of office

All the Executive Directors have service contracts.  The agreements include restrictive covenants which apply during employment and for a period of 6 or 12 months after termination.  All the Executive Directors' service contracts can be terminated on six months' notice in writing by either the Company or the director.

 

 



 

Annual report on remuneration

 

Remuneration for Executive Directors

 

Year ended 31 March 2021 (audited)

 

Salary

Benefits

Pension

Options

Exercised

Comp for loss of office

Total

 

 

£

£

£

£

£

£

Stefan Barden

193,968

-

-

-

-

193,968

John Kearon

232,500

7,866

3,200

-

-

243,566

Chris Willford

161,641

3,919

-

-

-

165,560

Total

588,109

11,785

3,200

-

-

603,094

 

Compensation for loss of office for James Geddes was recognised in the last financial year and paid in April 2020.

 

Year ended 31 March 2020 (audited)


Salary

Benefits

Pension

Options

Exercised

Comp for loss of office

Total

 


£

£

£

£

£

£

John Kearon

200,000

20,051

-

-

-

220,051

James Geddes

190,000

6,187

11,400

-

220,000

427,587

Total

390,000

26,238

11,400

-

220,000

647,638

 

The Executive Directors are not eligible for an annual cash bonus and received no bonus payments in either of the past two financial years.

 

Directors' interests in shares and options

Directors' interests in the shares of the Company at year-end are shown below:

 

2021

2020

 

No.

No.

 

 

 

John Kearon

2,918,235

2,961,235

Stefan Barden

815,639

716,062

Chris Willford

27,000

-

James Geddes

*263,178

263,178

Robert Brand

30,000

30,000

Graham Blashill

10,000

10,000

Sophie Tomkins

8,000

-

Total

4,072,052

3,980,475

 

*James Geddes holdings are only known to the Company insofar as to the number on the date of his resignation from the Board.



 

 

Directors' interests in options over shares and conditional shares of the Company are shown below.

 


Date of grant

Earliest exercise date

Exercise price

No. at

1 Apr

2020

Granted in year

Exercised in year

Cancelled in year

No. at 31 Mar

2021










John Kearon

16/01/2015

01/05/2018

0.0p

*56,568

-

-

-

56,568


22/07/2015

01/05/2018

0.0p

*60,000

-

-

-

*60,000


04/09/2019

12/08/2020

0.0p

**198,400

-

-

-

**198,400





314,968

-

-

-

314,968










Stefan Barden

17/04/2019

-

0.0p

100,000

-

-

-

100,000


17/04/2019

-

0.0p

100,000

-

-

-

100,000


17/04/2019

-

0.0p

100,000

-

-

-

100,000





300,000

-

-

-

300,000










Chris Willford

27/11/2020

12/08/2021

0.0p

-

**132,267

-

-

**132,267





-

132,267

-

-

132,267










James Geddes

22/07/2015

01/05/2018

0.0p

*60,000

-

(60,000)

-

-

 


04/09/2019

12/08/2020

0.0p

**198,400

-

-

(115,733)

**82,667

 





258,400


(60,000)

(117,733)

82,667

 

 

*  Options granted under the previous LTIP. They were granted in two tranches of 137,040 and 60,000 option shares (totalling 197,040) to each director.  They were subject to performance conditions, under which 116,568 of each Director's options vested on 30 April 2017. The remaining 80,472 of each director's options lapsed.

** Options and conditional shares granted under the current LTIP, as described in the directors' remuneration policy. These options can vest at any time between 12 August 2020 and 12 August 2024, provided performance and market targets are met.

 

There were no equity awards or vesting of options other than under the LTIP as set out in the directors' remuneration policy.

 

Fees for Non-Executive Directors (audited)

The Non-Executive Directors received fees, but no other benefits, as follows.


2021

2020


£

£




Graham Blashill

40,000

40,000

Robert Brand

38,000

38,000

Rupert Howell

6,000

-

Sophie Tomkins

36,000

36,000

Jane Wakely

36,000

36,000

Total

156,000

150,000

 

 

Graham Blashill

Chair, Remuneration Committee

 



 

Independent Auditor's Report to the Members of System1 Group PLC

 

Opinion

We have audited the financial statements of System1 Group Plc (the 'parent company') and its subsidiaries (the 'group') for the year ended 31 March 2021 which comprise of the consolidated income statement, consolidated statement of comprehensive income, consolidated and Company balance sheets, consolidated and Company cash flow statements and consolidated and Company statements of changes in equity,  and notes to the financial statements, including significant accounting policies. The financial reporting framework that has been applied in their preparation is applicable law and International Accounting Standards in conformity with the requirements of the Companies Act 2006 and, as regards the parent company financial statements, as applied in accordance with the provisions of the Companies Act 2006.

 

In our opinion:

· the financial statements give a true and fair view of the state of the group's and of the parent company's affairs as at 31 March 2021 and of the group's profit for the year then ended;

· the group financial statements have been properly prepared in accordance with International Accounting Standards in conformity with the requirements of the Companies Act 2006;

· the parent company financial statements have been properly prepared in accordance with International Accounting Standards in conformity with the requirements of the Companies Act 2006 and as applied in accordance with the Companies Act 2006; and

· the financial statements have been prepared in accordance with the requirements of the Companies Act 2006.

 

Basis for opinion

We conducted our audit in accordance with International Standards on Auditing (UK) (ISAs (UK)) and applicable law. Our responsibilities under those standards are further described in the Auditor's responsibilities for the audit of the financial statements section of our report. We are independent of the group and parent company in accordance with the ethical requirements that are relevant to our audit of the financial statements in the UK, including the FRC's Ethical Standard as applied to listed entities and we have fulfilled our other ethical responsibilities in accordance with these requirements. We believe that the audit evidence we have obtained is sufficient and appropriate to provide a basis for our opinion.

 

Conclusions relating to going concern

In auditing the financial statements, we have concluded that the directors' use of the going concern basis of accounting in the preparation of the financial statements is appropriate. For an explanation of how we evaluation management's assess of the group's and parent company's ability to continue to adopt the going concern basis of accounting and our key observations arising in respect to that evaluation, please see the going concern key audit matter.

 

Based on the work we have performed, we have not identified any material uncertainties relating to events or conditions that, individually or collectively, may cast significant doubt on the group's or the parent company's ability to continue as a going concern for a period of at least twelve months from when the financial statements are authorised for issue.

 

Our responsibilities and the responsibilities of the directors with respect to going concern are described in the relevant sections of this report.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary of our audit approach

Key audit matters

Group

· Going concern and the impact of COVID-19

· Valuation of sabbatical provision

· Impairment of intercompany receivable

Materiality

Group

· Overall materiality: £101,000 (2020: £145,000)

· Performance materiality: £75,900 (2020: £109,000)

Parent Company

· Overall materiality: £50,000 (2020: £72,500)

· Performance materiality: £37,500 (2020: £54,300)

Scope

Our audit procedures covered 100% of revenue, total assets and profit before tax.

 

Key audit matters

Key audit matters are those matters that, in our professional judgment, were of most significance in our audit of the group and parent company financial statements of the current period and include the most significant assessed risks of material misstatement (whether or not due to fraud) we identified, including those which had the greatest effect on the overall audit strategy, the allocation of resources in the audit and directing the efforts of the engagement team. These matters were addressed in the context of our audit of the group and parent company financial statements as a whole, and in forming our opinion thereon, and we do not provide a separate opinion on these matters.

 

Going concern and the impact of COVID-19

Key audit matter description

The Group has set out its analysis of the potential impact on its operations and financial position of the COVID-19 pandemic in business risk review on page 19 and the going concern statement on page 23 . The potential risks to the Group include loss of a significant clients, a decline in the advertising market resulting in a reduced demand, and market conditions resulting in a reduced ability to borrow and comply with bank covenants. In the event of a material loss of, or delay to, incoming cash resources, the Group could suffer cash pressure or default against borrowing covenants. The assessment of these risks in an uncertain economic environment requires judgement, and a risk of material misstatement arises in respect of an incorrect application of the going concern basis of preparation or the failure to disclose a material uncertainty. As a result, the potential impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on going concern was considered to be one of most significance in the audit and was therefore determined to be a key audit matter.

 

How the matter was addressed in the audit.

We audited the Group's assessment of the application of the going concern basis of preparation. Our work included:

· Checking the integrity and accuracy of the cash flow forecasts and covenant calculation's provided by management for the period to December 2023.

· We have reviewed the FY22 budget and challenged management on the assumptions and inputs included in this budget.

· Management have provided us with various contingency plans and scenarios should the business not increase sales and meet budgeted targets as expected.

· We have tested the compliance with covenants post year end through recalculation of the covenant against the compliance requirements noted in the signed HSBC agreement. No issues with the compliance has been noted in the budgeted scenario. However, in the worst-case scenario, we note that covenants are breached and repayment of the loan is factored into the cash flows therein. We note that in these cases, there is still a positive forecasted cash position at 12 months from anticipated sign-off.

· We have reviewed the disclosure surrounding going concern within the financial statements;

· We have reviewed management's worst-case scenario, in which bank covenants are noted to be breached. Repayments of the loan due to this breach is incorporated into the cash flow forecasts therein. We note that in these cases, there is still a positive forecasted cash position at 12 months from anticipated sign-off;

· Discussing our findings with the Audit Committee;

· Auditing the accuracy and completeness of disclosures made in the finance statements in respect of risks, going concern and post balance sheet events;

· The impact of the Coronavirus has created a significant uncertainty for the entire economy. Such is the scale and speed of developments of this virus that it is not possible to predict with any degree of certainty what the effects will be on businesses and therefore on cash flows. We have therefore included going concern as a key audit matter in the audit report. Whilst uncertainty exists, our audit work over going concern has provided sufficient assurance that we do not believe a material uncertainty exists.

 

Valuation of sabbatical provision

Key audit matter description

The group has a sabbatical leave scheme, open to all employees, which provides 20 days paid leave for each six years' of service. The carrying amount of the provision at 31 March 2021 was £688,000, which is included within note 11 of the notes to the financial statements. The provision for liabilities under the scheme is measured using the projected unit credit method. This model requires a number of estimates and assumptions. The significant inputs into the model are rate of salary growth and average staff turnover. The employee retention rate is very sensitive in the calculation and a small percentage swing can cause a material movement in the provision.

 

The above was considered to be key audit matters due to the level of judgement and estimation involved alongside the material nature of the balances financially.

 

How the matter was addressed in the audit

We have performed the following testing and concluded as below:

· We have checked the closing provision at 31 March 2021 to the valuation performed by PwC. No variances were noted in the financial statements.

· We have checked the inputs used in the sabbatical provision calculation. The inputs included within the calculation are:

Salary growth

Bonuses

Employee retention rate

Discount rate

· We challenged the use of historical values used by management given the current economic situation. When sensitised the movement in employee retention rate caused the biggest change provision value.

· We have checked the number of staff included in the provisions calculation to payroll records provided by HR. Given the calculated provision is highly sensitive to the employee retention rate estimated by management, the rate used is a critical accounting estimate and we recommended management disclose this is in the accounting policies along with a sensitivity analysis.

 

Impairment of intercompany receivable

Key audit matter description

System1 Group Plc has c.£5.3m amounts due from subsidiaries at the year-end. This is included within the Company notes to the financial statements within the debtors note. Under IFRS 9, Financial Instruments, management are required to perform a calculation of impairment based on the IFRS 9 'expected loss' model against intercompany receivables, for subsidiaries that do not have sufficient liquid resources to repay the balance at the end of the reporting period. There is judgement involved in the estimates used to calculate the expected loss provision in respect of intercompany receivables. This includes both assessing the scenarios of recoverability and probabilities applied to each scenario and because of this it was considered to be one of most significance in the audit and was therefore determined to be a key audit matter.

 

How the matter was addressed in the audit

We have reviewed management's assessment in respect of each balance due from its subsidiary undertakings. This included a review as to whether the assessment is in line with forecasts and budgets reviewed elsewhere in our audit work.

 

We have additionally reviewed the disclosures in the parent company financial statements and consider further for reasonableness.

 

It should be noted that this has no impact on the consolidated plc Annual Report as all intercompany balances are eliminated at the group level.

 

Our application of materiality

When establishing our overall audit strategy, we set certain thresholds which help us to determine the nature, timing and extent of our audit procedures. When evaluating whether the effects of misstatements, both individually and on the financial statements as a whole, could reasonably influence the economic decisions of the users we take into account the qualitative nature and the size of the misstatements. Based on our professional judgement, we determined materiality as follows:

 

Group

Parent company

Overall materiality

£101,000 (2020: £145,000)

 

£50,000 (2020: £72,500)

Basis for determining overall materiality

5% of profit before tax

2% of net assets

Rationale for benchmark applied

Profit measure used for the trading activities of the Group.

Parent Company is the main trading component therefore Group materiality applied for the purpose of calculating an appropriate component materiality.

Performance materiality

£75,900 (2020: £109,000)

£37,500 (2020: £54,300)

Basis for determining performance materiality

75% of overall materiality

75% of overall materiality

Reporting of misstatements to the Audit Committee

Misstatements in excess of £5,060 and misstatements below that threshold that, in our view, warranted reporting on qualitative grounds.

Misstatements in excess of £2,500 and misstatements below that threshold that, in our view, warranted reporting on qualitative grounds.

 

An overview of the scope of our audit

The group consists of 13 components, located in:

· United Kingdom;

· Netherlands;

· United States of America ("USA");

· Switzerland;

· Germany;

· China;

· Brazil;

· France;

· Singapore; and

· Australia.

 

A full scope audit was performed on the component in the United Kingdom and specified audit procedures were applied to the other components, achieving 100% coverage by our audit procedures.

 

Other information

The other information comprises the information included in the annual report, other than the financial statements and our auditor's report thereon. The directors are responsible for the other information contained within the annual report. Our opinion on the financial statements does not cover the other information and, except to the extent otherwise explicitly stated in our report, we do not express any form of assurance conclusion thereon.

 

Our responsibility is to read the other information and, in doing so, consider whether the other information is materially inconsistent with the financial statements or our knowledge obtained in the course of the audit or otherwise appears to be materially misstated. If we identify such material inconsistencies or apparent material misstatements, we are required to determine whether this gives rise to a material misstatement in the financial statements themselves. If, based on the work we have performed, we conclude that there is a material misstatement of this other information, we are required to report that fact.

 

We have nothing to report in this regard.

 

Opinions on other matters prescribed by the Companies Act 2006

In our opinion, based on the work undertaken in the course of the audit:

the information given in the Strategic Report and the Directors' Report for the financial year for which the financial statements are prepared is consistent with the financial statements; and

the Strategic Report and the Directors' Report have been prepared in accordance with applicable legal requirements.

 

Matters on which we are required to report by exception

In the light of the knowledge and understanding of the group and the parent company and their environment obtained in the course of the audit, we have not identified material misstatements in the Strategic Report or the Directors' Report.

 

We have nothing to report in respect of the following matters in relation to which the Companies Act 2006 requires us to report to you if, in our opinion:

· adequate accounting records have not been kept by the parent company, or returns adequate for our audit have not been received from branches not visited by us; or

· the parent company financial statements are not in agreement with the accounting records and returns; or

· certain disclosures of directors' remuneration specified by law are not made; or

· we have not received all the information and explanations we require for our audit.

 

Responsibilities of directors

As explained more fully in the directors' responsibilities statement set out on page 26, the directors are responsible for the preparation of the financial statements and for being satisfied that they give a true and fair view, and for such internal control as the directors determine is necessary to enable the preparation of financial statements that are free from material misstatement, whether due to fraud or error.

 

In preparing the financial statements, the directors are responsible for assessing the group's and the parent company's ability to continue as a going concern, disclosing, as applicable, matters related to going concern and using the going concern basis of accounting unless the directors either intend to liquidate the group or the parent company or to cease operations, or have no realistic alternative but to do so.

 

Auditor's responsibilities for the audit of the financial statements

Our objectives are to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements as a whole are free from material misstatement, whether due to fraud or error, and to issue an auditor's report that includes our opinion. Reasonable assurance is a high level of assurance, but is not a guarantee that an audit conducted in accordance with ISAs (UK) will always detect a material misstatement when it exists. Misstatements can arise from fraud or error and are considered material if, individually or in the aggregate, they could reasonably be expected to influence the economic decisions of users taken on the basis of these financial statements.

 

The extent to which the audit was considered capable of detecting irregularities, including fraud

Irregularities are instances of non-compliance with laws and regulations. The objectives of our audit are to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence regarding compliance with laws and regulations that have a direct effect on the determination of material amounts and disclosures in the financial statements, to perform audit procedures to help identify instances of non-compliance with other laws and regulations that may have a material effect on the financial statements, and to respond appropriately to identified or suspected non-compliance with laws and regulations identified during the audit. 

 

In relation to fraud, the objectives of our audit are to identify and assess the risk of material misstatement of the financial statements due to fraud, to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence regarding the assessed risks of material misstatement due to fraud through designing and implementing appropriate responses and to respond appropriately to fraud or suspected fraud identified during the audit. 

 

However, it is the primary responsibility of management, with the oversight of those charged with governance, to ensure that the entity's operations are conducted in accordance with the provisions of laws and regulations and for the prevention and detection of fraud.


In identifying and assessing risks of material misstatement in respect of irregularities, including fraud, the group audit engagement team:

· obtained an understanding of the nature of the industry and sector, including the legal and regulatory framework that the group and parent company operates in and how the group and parent company are complying with the legal and regulatory framework;

· inquired of management, and those charged with governance, about their own identification and assessment of the risks of irregularities, including any known actual, suspected or alleged instances of fraud;

· discussed matters about non-compliance with laws and regulations and how fraud might occur including assessment of how and where the financial statements may be susceptible to fraud.

 

All relevant laws and regulations identified at a Group level and areas susceptible to fraud that could have a material effect on the financial statements were communicated to component auditors.  Any instances of non-compliance with laws and regulations identified and communicated by a component auditor were considered in our audit approach.

 

The most significant laws and regulations were determined as follows:

 

Legislation / Regulation


Additional audit procedures performed by the Group audit engagement team included:

IFRS/UK-adopted IAS, Companies Act 2006 and AIM rules


Review of the financial statement disclosures and testing to supporting documentation;

Completion of disclosure checklists to identify areas of non-compliance.

Tax compliance regulations


Consideration of whether any matter identified during the audit required reporting to an appropriate authority outside the entity

 

The areas that we identified as being susceptible to material misstatement due to fraud were:

 

Risk


Audit procedures performed by the audit engagement team:

Management override of controls

 


Testing the appropriateness of journal entries and other adjustments;

Assessing whether the judgements made in making accounting estimates are indicative of a potential bias; and

Evaluating the business rationale of any significant transactions that are unusual or outside the normal course of business.

 

A further description of our responsibilities for the audit of the financial statements is located on the Financial Reporting Council's website at: http://www.frc.org.uk/auditorsresponsibilities. This description forms part of our auditor's report.

 

Use of our report

This report is made solely to the company's members, as a body, in accordance with Chapter 3 of Part 16 of the Companies Act 2006.  Our audit work has been undertaken so that we might state to the company's members those matters we are required to state to them in an auditor's report and for no other purpose.  To the fullest extent permitted by law, we do not accept or assume responsibility to anyone other than the company and the company's members as a body, for our audit work, for this report, or for the opinions we have formed.

 

 

RICHARD BARTLETT-RAWLINGS (Senior Statutory Auditor)

For and on behalf of RSM UK Audit LLP, Statutory Auditor

Chartered Accountants

The Pinnacle,

170 Midsummer Boulevard,

Milton Keynes,

Buckinghamshire,

MK9 1BP

 

14 July 2021



 

Consolidated Income Statement

for the year ended 31 March 2021

 

 


Note

2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

 




Revenue

5

  22,838

  25,475

Cost of sales

15

  (3,686)

  (3,874)

Gross profit

5

  19,152

  21,601

 




Administrative expenses

15

  (17,517)

  (21,183)

Other operating income

 

  652

  -

 


 

 

Operating profit

 

  2,287

  418

 




Finance expense

18

  (211)

  (122)

 


 

 

Profit before taxation

16

  2,076

  296

 




Income tax expense

19

  (386)

  (527)

 




Profit/(loss) for the financial year

 

  1,690

  (231)

 




Attributable to the equity holders of the Company

 

  1,690

  (231)

 




Earnings per share attributable to equity holders of the Company

 







Basic (losses)/earnings per share

21

13.4p

(1.8)p

Diluted (losses)/earnings per share

21

13.1p

(1.8)p

 

 

The notes on pages 55 to 80 are an integral part of these consolidated financial statements.

All the activities of the Group are classed as continuing.



 

Consolidated Statement of Comprehensive Income

for the year ended 31 March 2021

 



2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

 




Profit/(loss) for the financial year


  1,690

  (231)

 




Other comprehensive income:




Items that may be subsequently reclassified to profit/(loss)


Currency translation differences on translating foreign operations

  (278)

  (91)

Other comprehensive loss for the period, net of tax

  (278)

  (91)

 




Total comprehensive income/(loss) for the period attributable to equity holders of the Company

  1,412

  (322)

 




The notes on pages 55 to 80 are an integral part of these consolidated financial statements.

 



 

Consolidated Balance Sheet

as at 31 March 2021

Registered company no. 05940040

 


Note

2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

 




ASSETS

 



Non-current assets

 



Property, plant, and equipment

6

  1,435

  3,971

Intangible Assets

7

  418

  368

Deferred tax asset

20

  286

  627

 


  2,139

  4,966

Current assets

 



Contract assets

 

  318

  217

Trade and other receivables

9

  5,880

  5,423

Income taxes receivables

 

  -

  21

Cash and cash equivalents

8

  9,008

  6,650

 


  15,206

  12,311

 




Total assets

 

  17,345

  17,277

 




EQUITY

 



Attributable to equity holders of the Company

 


Share capital

10

  132

  132

Share premium account

 

  1,601

  1,601

Merger reserve

 

  477

  477

Foreign currency translation reserve

 

  (146)

  132

Retained earnings

 

  5,170

  3,416

Total equity

 

  7,234

  5,758

 




LIABILITIES

 



Non-current liabilities

 



Provisions

11

  560

  565

Borrowings

8

  2,500

  2,500

Lease liabilities

8, 14

  928

  3,273

 


  3,988

  6,338

Current liabilities

 



Provisions

11

  200

  300

Lease liabilities

8, 14

  1,647

  1,001

Contract liabilities

13

  803

  671

Income taxes payable

 

  334

  -

Trade and other payables

12

  3,139

  3,209

 


  6,123

  5,181

 


 

 

Total liabilities

 

  10,111

  11,519

Total equity and liabilities

 

  17,345

  17,277

 




The notes on pages 55 to 80 are an integral part of these consolidated financial statements.

These financial statements were approved by the directors on 14 July 2021 and are signed on their behalf by:

 

John Kearon  Chris Willford
Director  Director

Consolidated Statement of Cash Flows

for the year ended 31 March 2021

 


Note

2021

2020



£'000

£'000





Net cash generated from operations

23

  3,791

  3,180

Tax paid


  332

  (463)

Net cash generated from operating activities


  4,123

  2,717





Cash flows from investing activities




Purchases of property, plant, and equipment

6

  (102)

  (102)

Purchase of intangible assets

7

  (96)

  (814)

Net cash used by investing activities


  (198)

  (916)





Net cash flow before financing activities


  3,925

  1,801





Cash flows from financing activities




Interest paid


  (211)

  (122)

Property lease liability payments


  (1,093)

  (892)

Lease liability payments


  - 

  (47)

Proceeds from sale of treasury shares

10

  - 

  30

Proceeds from borrowings


  - 

  2,500

Dividends paid to owners

22

  - 

  (943)

Net cash used by financing activities


  (1,304)

  526





Net increase in cash and cash equivalents


  2,621

  2,327





Cash and cash equivalents at beginning of year


  6,650

  4,315

Exchange (loss)/gain on cash and cash equivalents


  (263)

  8





Cash and cash equivalents at end of year


  9,008

  6,650





 

Office lease costs are not included within "Net cash flow before financing activities" (the Company's key cash flow performance indicator). "Net cash flow before financing activities", adjusted for office leases, known by the Company as "Operating Cash Flow" is shown below:



2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

 




Net cash flow before financing activities

 

  3,924

  1,801

Net cash flow for property leases


  (1,229)

  (1,014)

Operating cash flow


  2,695

  787





 



2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

 




Net cash flow before financing activities

 

  3,925

  1,801

Net cash flow for property leases


  (1,229)

  (1,014)

Operating cash flow


  2,696

  787





The notes on pages 55 to 80 are an integral part of these consolidated financial statements.

 



 

Consolidated Movements in Net Cash/(Debt)


Cash and cash equivalents

Borrowings

Lease liabilities

Total


£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

 





At 1 April 2020

6,650

(2,500)

(4,273)

(123)

Cash flows

2,620

 -

 1,093

 3,713

Non-cash charges




-

Interest on lease liabilities

 -

 -

(136)

(136)

New lease liabilities

 -

 -

(46)

(46)

Disposal of lease liabilities



605

605

Exchange and other non-cash movements

 (262)

 -

182

(80)

At 31 March 2021

9,008

(2,500)

(2,575)

 3,933






 



 

Consolidated Statement of Changes in Equity

for the year ended 31 March 2021

 

 


Note

Share capital

Share premium account

Merger reserve

Foreign currency translation reserve

Retained earnings

Total

 


£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

 








At 31 March 2019


132

1,601

477

223

4,635

7,068









Loss for the financial year


-

 -

-

-

 (231)

 (231)

Other comprehensive income:








- currency translation differences


-

 -

-

(91)

 -

 (91)









Total comprehensive income


132

1,601

477

132

4,404

6,746









Transactions with owners:








Employee share options:








- value of employee services

10

-

 -

-

-

 (60)

 (60)

- current tax credited to equity

20

-

 -

-

-

 (31)

 (31)

- deferred tax credited to equity

20

-

 -

-

-

16

16

Dividends paid to owners

22

-

 -

-

-

 (943)

 (943)

Sale of treasury shares

10

-

 -

-

-

30

30









At 31 March 2020


132

1,601

477

132

3,416

5,758









Profit for the financial year


-

 -

-

-

1,690

1,690

Other comprehensive income:








- currency translation differences


-

 -

-

 (278)

 -

 (278)









Total comprehensive income


132

1,601

477

 (146)

5,106

7,170









Transactions with owners:








Employee share options:








- value of employee services

10

-

 -

-

-

22

22

- deferred tax credited to equity

20

-

 -

-

-

25

25

- adjustments with respect to prior year


-

-

-

-

17

17









At 31 March 2021


132

1,601

477

 (146)

5,170

7,234









 

 The notes on pages 55 to 80 are an integral part of these consolidated financial statements.



 

Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements

for the year ended 31 March 2021

 

1.  General information

System1 Group PLC (the "Company") was incorporated on 19 September 2006 in the United Kingdom. The Company's principal operating subsidiary, System1 Research Limited, was at that time already established, having been incorporated on 29 December 1999. The address of the Company's registered office is 52 Bedford Row, Holborn, London, England, WC1R 4LR. The Company's shares are listed on the Alternative Investment Market of the London Stock Exchange ("AIM").

 

The Company and its subsidiaries (together the "Group") provide marketing and market research consultancy services. The Chairman's Statement, the Chief Executive's Statement and the Business and Finance Review provide further detail of the Group's operations and principal activities.

 

The Board of Directors approved these financial statements for the year ended 31 March 2021 (including the comparatives for the year ended 31 March 2020) on 14 July 2021.

 

2.  Basis of preparation

The Group has prepared its consolidated financial statements in accordance with international accounting standards in conformity with the requirements of the Companies Act 2006 and applicable law. The consolidated financial statements have been prepared under the historical cost convention.

 

The preparation of financial statements in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards ("IFRS") requires the use of certain critical accounting estimates. It also requires management to exercise its judgement in the process of applying the Group's accounting policies. The areas involving a high degree of judgement or complexity, or areas where estimates and judgements are significant to the consolidated financial statements are disclosed in Note 4 .

 

Items included in the financial statements of each of the Group's entities are measured using the currency of the primary economic environment in which the entity operates ("the Functional Currency"). The consolidated financial statements are presented in Pounds Sterling (GBP), which is the Company's functional and presentation currency. The financial statements are presented in round thousands unless otherwise stated.

 


 

3.  Going concern

The Group has prepared its financial statements on a going concern basis.

 

As noted in the Financial Review, the Group has had a solid close to 2020/21 in light of a challenging first half-year, partly as a result of the Covid pandemic. Cash balance (gross of £2.5m borrowings) was at £9.0m, net assets were £7.1m after £1.0m of lease asset impairment, and revenues were returning to pre-pandemic levels.

 

The Group has reviewed its financial forecasts for the 12 months from the approval of these financial statements, flexing sensitivity analysis scenarios with external and internal inputs that would represent the Group's forecast and various downturn scenarios. Our internal assessment of a reasonable worst-case scenario shows that, in the face of a striking negative downturn on System1's immediate capacity to function, management would respond appropriately by reducing our costs as soon as possible, as with last year's Covid pandemic.

 

Contrary to many businesses at the onset of the pandemic last year, the Group is a lot more confident about how to respond to an abrupt negative situation, whatever the cause. Our mitigating factors involve an active review cycle of the Group's performance. The Board reviews the performance of the Group monthly, and senior management has a weekly assessment of sales revenue and gross profit. The Group also reviews its profit forecasts on a monthly basis.

 

The Group is confident that our strong balance sheet position, in particular the cash balance, will be able to sustain the Group reasonably until June 2022 and beyond.

 

4.  Principal accounting policies

 

The principal accounting policies adopted are consistent with those of the financial statements for the year ended 31 March 2021.

 

Standards, amendments, and interpretations in issue but not yet effective

Certain new accounting standards and interpretations have been published that are not mandatory for

31 March 2021 reporting periods and have not been early adopted by the Group. The only amendment identified as applicable to the Group is as follows:

 

Amendments to IAS 1 and IAS 8 - Definition of material

The IASB has made amendments to 'IAS 1 Presentation of Financial Statements' and 'IAS 8 Accounting Policies, Changes in Accounting Estimates and Errors which use a consistent definition of materiality' throughout International Financial Reporting Standards and the Conceptual Framework for Financial Reporting, clarify when information is material and incorporate some of the guidance in IAS 1 about immaterial information. These amendments clarify the guidance on the application of materiality and the definition of 'primary users of general purpose financial statements'.

 

This amendment is not expected to have a material impact on the entity in the current or future reporting periods or on foreseeable future transactions.

 

Basis of consolidation

The Group financial statements consolidate those of the Company and all its subsidiary undertakings drawn up to 31 March 2021.

 

Subsidiaries are all entities over which the Group has power over the subsidiary, i.e.: the Group has existing rights that give it the ability to direct the relevant activities (the activities that significantly affect the subsidiary's returns), exposure or rights, to variable returns from its involvement with the subsidiary and the ability to use its power over the subsidiary to affect the amount of the subsidiary's returns.

 

The Group obtains and exercises control through voting rights.

 

The existence and effect of potential voting rights that are currently exercisable or convertible are considered when assessing whether the Group controls another entity. Subsidiaries are fully consolidated from the date on which control is transferred to the Group. They are de-consolidated from the date that control ceases.

 

The Group uses the acquisition method of accounting to account for business combinations. The consideration transferred for the acquisition of a subsidiary is the fair values of the assets transferred, the liabilities incurred, and the equity interests issued by the Group. The consideration transferred includes the fair value of any asset or liability resulting from a contingent consideration arrangement. Acquisition related costs are expensed as incurred. Identifiable assets acquired, liabilities and contingent liabilities assumed in a business combination are measured initially at their fair values at the acquisition date.

 

On an acquisition-by-acquisition basis, the Group recognises any non-controlling interest in the acquiree either at fair value or at the non-controlling interest's proportionate share of the acquiree's net assets.

 

The excess of the consideration transferred, the amount of any non-controlling interest in the acquiree and the acquisition-date fair value of any previous equity interest in the acquiree over the fair value of the Group's share of the identifiable net assets acquired is recorded as goodwill.

 

All intra-group transactions and balances are eliminated on consolidation. Unrealised gains on transactions between the Group and its subsidiaries are eliminated. Unrealised losses are also eliminated unless the transaction provides evidence of an impairment of the asset transferred. Amounts reported in the financial statements of subsidiaries have been adjusted where necessary to ensure consistency with the accounting policies adopted by the Group.

 

Property, plant, and equipment

Property, plant, and equipment are stated at historical cost less accumulated depreciation and accumulated impairment losses. Depreciation is provided to write off the cost of all property, plant, and equipment to its residual value on a straight-line basis over their expected useful economic lives, which are as follows:

 

Furniture, fittings, and equipment

5 years

Computer hardware

2 to 3 years

 

The residual value and useful life of each asset is reviewed and adjusted, if appropriate, at each balance sheet date.

 

Depreciation on all property, plant and equipment is charged to administrative expenses.

 

Right-of-use assets

A right-of-use asset is recognised at the commencement date of a lease. The right-of-use asset is measured at cost, which comprises the initial amount of the lease liability, adjusted for, as applicable, any lease payments made at or before the commencement date net of any lease incentives received, any initial direct costs incurred, and, except where included in the cost of inventories, an estimate of costs expected to be incurred for dismantling and removing the underlying asset, and restoring the site or asset.

 

Right-of-use assets are depreciated on a straight-line basis over the unexpired period of the lease or the estimated useful life of the asset, whichever is the shorter. Where the Group expects to obtain ownership of the leased asset at the end of the lease term, the depreciation is over its estimated useful life. The Group had no such lease arrangements for the years ended 31 March 2021 or 2020.

 

Right-of use assets are subject to impairment or adjusted for any remeasurement of lease liabilities to reflect the actual and expected effect of exercising extension and termination options in lease arrangements.

 

Depreciation on all right-of-use assets is charged to administrative expenses.

 

Intangible assets

Software

Acquired computer software licenses are capitalised at the cost of acquisition.

 

Costs incurred in the development of identifiable and unique software products controlled by the Group, and that will probably generate economic benefits exceeding costs beyond one year, are recognised as intangible assets.

 

Costs include professional fees and directly attributable employee costs required to bring the software into working condition. Non-attributable costs are expensed under the relevant income statement heading.

 

Research and development - internally generated intangible assets

All on-going research expenditure is expensed in the year in which it is incurred. Where no internally generated intangible asset can be recognised, development expenditure is charged to administrative expenses in the period in which it is incurred.

 

Development costs incurred in the development of the Company's AdRatings product were fully impaired in the year ending 31 March 2020 as the Company viewed that it will no longer generate substantive future economic benefits. Accordingly, all AdRatings development costs incurred since the impairment, such as professional fees and directly attributable employee costs required to bring the software into working condition, have been charged to administrative expenses.

 

Furthermore, internally generated software and product development costs are recognised as an intangible asset only if the Group can demonstrate all the following conditions:

a)  the technical feasibility of completing the intangible asset so that it will be available for use or sale;

b)  its intention to complete the intangible asset and use or sell it;

c)  Its ability to use or sell the intangible asset;

d)  how the intangible asset will generate probable future economic benefits;

e)  among other things, the Group can demonstrate the existence of a market for the output of the intangible asset or the intangible asset itself or, if it is to be used internally, the usefulness of the intangible asset;

f)  the availability of adequate technical, financial, and other resources to complete the development and to use or sell the intangible asset;

g)  its ability to measure reliably the expenditure attributable to the intangible asset during its development.

 

Amortisation

Intangible assets are amortised on a straight-line basis over their expected useful economic lives, which are as follows:

 

Computer software licenses

2 years

Internally generated intangible assets

Estimated economic life

 

Amortisation on all intangible assets is charged to administrative expenses.

 

Impairment of property, plant and equipment, right-of-use assets, and intangible assets

At each balance sheet date, the Group reviews the carrying amount of its property, plant and equipment and intangible assets for any indication that those assets have suffered an impairment loss. If any such indication exists, the recoverable amount of the asset is estimated to determine the extent of the impairment loss, if any. Intangible assets not available for use are tested for impairment on at least an annual basis. The recoverable amount is the higher of the fair value less costs to sell and value in use.

 

Cash and cash equivalents

Cash and cash equivalents comprise cash in hand and bank deposits available on demand.

 

Contract costs

Contract costs comprise directly attributable external costs incurred in fulfilling customer contracts that relate to incomplete market research projects. The Group assesses at each balance sheet date whether there is objective evidence that contract cost assets are impaired, and provision is made when there is evidence that the Group will not be able to recover all costs incurred under the terms of the customer contract.

 

Income taxes

Current income tax liabilities comprise those obligations to fiscal authorities relating to the current or prior reporting period, that are unpaid at the balance sheet date. They are calculated according to the tax rates and tax laws that have been enacted or substantively enacted at the reporting date applicable to the fiscal periods to which they relate, based on the taxable profit for the year.

 

All changes to current tax assets or liabilities are recognised as a component of tax expense in the income statement, except where they relate to items charged or credited to other comprehensive income or directly to equity.

 

Deferred income taxes are calculated using the liability method on temporary differences. This involves the comparison of the carrying amounts of assets and liabilities in the consolidated financial statements with their respective tax bases. In addition, tax losses available to be carried forward as well as other income tax credits to the Group are assessed for recognition as deferred tax assets.

 

Deferred tax liabilities are always provided for in full. Deferred tax assets are recognised to the extent that it is probable that the underlying deductible temporary differences will be able to be offset against future taxable income. Deferred tax assets and liabilities are calculated, without discounting, at tax rates that are expected to apply to their respective period of realisation, provided they are enacted or substantively enacted at the balance sheet date. Deferred tax is recognised as a component of tax expense in the income statement, except where it relates to items charged or credited to other comprehensive income or directly to equity.

 

Revenue recognition

The Group's revenues are primarily from the delivery of research services. Revenue from all of the Group's research product lines (Communications, Brand, Innovation, and other research products) and its advertising agency services arise from contracts with customers within the scope of IFRS 15 'Revenue from Contracts with Customers' and are recognised on the same basis, as set out below.

 

Revenue is recognised at a point in time (rather than over time) as the key performance obligation is the delivery of the final written debrief to the customer.

 

Revenue is recognised only after the final written debrief or creative content (in respect of our Agency business) has been delivered to the customer, except on the rare occasion that a large project straddles a financial period end, and that project can be sub-divided into separate discrete deliverables; in such circumstances revenue is recognised on delivery of each separate deliverable. There are no elements of variable consideration in the contracts entered into by the Group. Revenue is measured by reference to the fair value of consideration receivable, excluding sales taxes.

 

Other operating income

During the year in response to Covid, the Group participated in some government employment support schemes and other support schemes to mitigate our staff and property costs. These government grants were not a part of the Group's usual operations, and the staff and lease costs would have been incurred regardless of the schemes.

 

Cost of sales

Cost of sales includes external costs attributable to customer projects. For the research business, these include respondent sample, data processing, language translation and similar costs.

 

Employee benefits

All accumulating employee-compensated absences that are unused at the balance sheet date are recognised as a liability. The Group operates several defined contribution pension plans. The Group pays contributions to these plans based upon the contractual terms agreed with each employee.

The Group has no further payment obligations once the contributions have been paid. The contributions are recognised as employee benefit expense when they are due.

 

Share-based payment transactions

The Group issues equity-settled share-based compensation to certain employees (including directors). Equity-settled share-based payments are measured at fair value at the date of grant. The fair value determined at the grant date of the equity-settled share-based payment is expensed on a straight-line basis over the vesting period, together with a corresponding increase in equity, based upon the Group's estimate of the shares that will eventually vest.

 

Apart from market-based elements of awards, these estimates are subsequently revised if there is any indication that the number of options expected to vest differs from previous estimates. Any cumulative adjustment prior to vesting is recognised in the current period. No adjustment is made to any expense recognised in prior periods. The fair value of option awards with time vesting performance conditions are measured at the date of grant using a Black-Scholes based Option Valuation model. The expected life used in the model has been adjusted, based on management's best estimate, for the effects of non-transferability, exercise restrictions and behavioural considerations.

 

The fair value of awards made with market-based performance conditions (for example, the entity's share price) are measured at the grant date using a Monte Carlo simulation method incorporating the market conditions in the calculations. The awards made in respect of the Group's long-term incentive scheme have been measured using such a method.

 

Social security contributions payable in connection with the grant of share options are considered integral to the grant itself, and the charge is treated as a cash-settled transaction.

 

Provisions

Provisions for sabbatical leave and dilapidations are recognised when: (i) the Group has a legal or constructive obligation because of past events; (ii) it is probable that an outflow of resources will be required to settle the obligation; and (iii) the amount has been reliably estimated. Where material, the increase in provisions due to passage of time is recognised as interest expense. The provision for sabbatical leave is measured using the projected unit credit method. The provision for dilapidations is measured at the present value of expenditures expected to be required to settle those obligations.

 

Foreign currencies

Transactions in foreign currencies are translated into the Functional Currency at the exchange rates prevailing at the dates of the transactions. Foreign exchange gains and losses arising from the settlement of such transactions and from the translation at year-end exchange rates of monetary assets and liabilities denominated in foreign currencies are recognised in the Income Statement.

 

The results and financial position of all Group companies that have a Functional Currency different from the presentation currency are translated into the presentation currency as follows:

a)  assets and liabilities for each balance sheet presented are translated at the closing rate at the balance sheet date;

b)  income and expenses for each income statement are translated at average exchange rates; and

c)  all resulting exchange differences are recognised as a separate component of equity.

 

On consolidation, exchange differences arising from the translation of the net investment in foreign operations are recognised in other comprehensive income. When a foreign operation is partially disposed of or sold, exchange differences that were recorded in equity are recognised in the income statement as part of the gain or loss on sale.

 

Segment reporting

Operating segments are reported in a manner consistent with the internal reporting provided to the main decision-making body of the Company, which collectively comprises the Executive Directors. The Executive Directors are responsible for allocating resources and assessing performance of the operating segments.

 

Financial instruments

Financial assets

The Group's financial assets comprise trade and other receivables held at amortised cost. The Group does not possess assets held at fair value through profit or loss. The classification is determined by management at initial recognition, being dependent upon the business model and the contractual cash flows of the assets. Financial assets are derecognised when the rights to receive cash flows from the investments have expired or have been transferred and the Group has transferred substantially all risks and rewards of ownership. Financial assets arising from contracts with customers are separately presented in accordance with IFRS 15 in the Balance Sheet.

 

Trade and other receivables

Trade and other receivables are non-derivative financial assets with fixed or determinable payments that are not quoted in an active market. The Group's amortised cost financial assets comprise trade and other receivables and cash and cash equivalents in the balance sheet.

 

Trade receivables are initially recorded at fair value, but subsequently at amortised cost using the effective interest rate method. In accordance with IFRS 9, the Group assesses on a forward-looking basis the expected credit losses associated with its financial assets at amortised cost. The Group assesses expected credit losses based on the ageing of the receivable, the Group's historical experience and informed credit assessment. The amount of the write-down is determined as the difference between the asset's carrying amount and the present value of estimated future cash flows.

 

Financial liabilities

Financial liabilities are initially recognised at fair value, net of transaction costs, and subsequently carried at amortised cost using the effective interest rate method. Financial liabilities arising from contracts with customers are separately presented in accordance with IFRS 15 in the Statement of Financial Position. Financial liabilities and equity instruments are classified according to the substance of the contractual arrangements entered. An equity instrument is any contract that evidences a residual interest in the assets of the entity after deducting all its financial liabilities.

 

Where the contractual obligations of financial instruments (including share capital) are equivalent to a similar debt instrument, those financial instruments are classed as financial liabilities.

Financial liabilities are presented as such in the balance sheet. Finance costs and gains or losses relating to financial liabilities are included in the income statement.

 

Finance costs are calculated to produce a constant rate of return on the outstanding liability. Where the contractual terms of share capital do not have any terms meeting the definition of a financial liability then this is classed as an equity instrument. Dividends and distributions relating to equity instruments are debited directly to equity.

 

Accrued and deferred income

Accrued income is recognised when a performance obligation has been satisfied but has not yet been billed. Accrued income is transferred to receivables when the right to consideration is unconditional and billed per the terms of the contractual agreement. The Group is generally paid in arrears for its services and invoices are typically payable within 60 days. In certain cases, payments are received from customers prior to satisfaction of performance obligations and recognised as deferred income. These balances are considered contract liabilities. There is no significant passage of time between the receipt of funds from a customer and the delivery of services, or between the delivery of services to a customer and the receipt of funds when payment is in arrears. The Group does not enter contractual arrangements with significant financing components.

 

Lease liabilities

A lease liability is recognised at the commencement date of a lease. The lease liability is initially recognised at the present value of the lease payments to be made over the term of the lease, discounted using the interest rate implicit in the lease or, if that rate cannot be readily determined, the consolidated entity's incremental borrowing rate. Lease payments comprise of fixed payments less any lease incentives receivable, variable lease payments that depend on an index or a rate, amounts expected to be paid under residual value guarantees, exercise price of a purchase option when the exercise of the option is reasonably certain to occur, and any anticipated termination penalties. The variable lease payments that do not depend on an index or a rate are expensed in the period in which they are incurred.

 

Lease liabilities are measured at amortised cost using the effective interest method. The carrying amounts are remeasured if there is a change in the following: future lease payments arising from a change in an index or a rate used; residual guarantee; lease term; certainty of a purchase option and termination penalties. When a lease liability is remeasured, an adjustment is made to the corresponding right-of use asset, or to profit or loss if the carrying amount of the right-of-use asset is fully written down.

 

Share capital

Ordinary shares are classified as equity. Equity instruments issued by the Company are recorded at the proceeds received, net of direct issue costs.

 

Share premium

Share premium represents the excess over nominal value of the fair value of consideration received for equity shares, net of direct expenses of the share issue.

 

Merger reserve

The merger reserve represents the difference between the parent company's cost of investment and a subsidiary's share capital and share premium. The merger reserve in these accounts has arisen from a group reconstruction upon the incorporation and listing of the parent company that was accounted for as a common control transaction.

 

Common control transactions are accounted for using merger accounting rather than the acquisition method, where this reflects the substance of the transaction.

 

Foreign currency translation reserve

The foreign currency translation reserve represents the differences arising from translation of investments in overseas subsidiaries.

 

Treasury shares

Where the Company purchases the Company's equity share capital, the consideration paid is deducted from the total shareholders' equity and classified as treasury shares until they are cancelled. Where such shares are subsequently sold or re-issued, any consideration received is included in total shareholders' equity. No gain or loss is recognised on the purchase, sale, issue, or cancellation of the Company's own equity instruments.

 

Significant accounting estimates and judgements

Share-based payments - judgement

The fair value of options granted is determined using a Black Scholes based Employee Stock Option Valuation model (for the employee share option scheme) and a Monte Carlo simulation model (for the long-term incentive scheme). These models require several estimates and assumptions. The significant inputs into the models are share price at grant date, exercise price, historic exercise multiples, expected volatility and the risk-free rate. Volatility is measured at the standard deviation of expected share price returns based on statistical analysis of historical share prices. These inputs are provided in Note 10 .

 

Under IFRS 16, a contract is, or contains, a lease if the contract conveys the right to control the use of an identified asset for a period in exchange for consideration. The lease liability is initially measured at the present value of the lease payments that are not paid at the commencement date, discounted by using the rate implicit in the lease. If this rate cannot be readily determined, the Group uses its incremental borrowing rate. The weighted average incremental borrowing rate applied to lease liabilities is 4.30%.

 

In previous years, the Company has often purchased shares to satisfy the exercise of share options to minimise shareholder dilution and create shareholder value. IFRS 2 does not provide guidance on the application of 'substance over form' when evaluating whether a share-based payment should be accounted for as equity or cash settled.

 

To determine whether the Company's share options are equity or cash-settled, consideration needs to be given as to whether the settlement of the share options through the issue and subsequent repurchase of treasury shares should be treated as one transaction or as two distinct transactions, and whether the Company has an obligation to settle in cash.

 

The Company does not publicise to option holders that option shares may be repurchased, the decision to repurchase option shares is only made at the point of option exercise, and there is no contractual or other obligation to settle in cash. Therefore, it is appropriate to treat the exercise of options and repurchase of option shares as two separate transactions and account for the option exercise as equity-settled rather than cash-settled.

 

In the past the Company has on occasion cash-settled part of long-term incentive plan equity awards. Despite the repurchase of these equity interests the Company did not have an obligation to do so and does not have an obligation, constructive or otherwise to do so in the future. As a result, the Company continues to account for share-based payments related to its long-term incentive plans as equity rather than cash-settled.

 

Employee benefits - estimate

The Group has a sabbatical leave scheme, open to all employees, which provides 20 days paid leave for each six years of service. The provision for liabilities under the scheme is measured using the projected unit credit method. This model requires several estimates and assumptions. The significant inputs into the model are rate of salary growth and average staff turnover as explained in Note 11 .

 

Capitalisation of AdRatings platform - estimate

The Group tests capitalised development costs for impairment on an annual basis by reference to expected future cash generation from the AdRatings product. In estimating future cash generation, management make judgements by reference to budgets and forecasts about the amount and timing of future profits. As a result of the impairment testing performed for the year ended 31 March 2020, management have determined that future attributable revenues are not forecast to be sufficient to supporting the carrying value of the capitalised development costs and a charge of £921,000 had been recognised in the year ended 31 March 2020 to impair the asset in full. Details are contained in Note 7 .

 

Leases - estimate and judgement

Management exercises judgement in determining the likelihood of exercising break or extension options in determining the lease term, and reviews this on a lease-by-lease basis.

The discount rate used to calculate the lease liability is the rate implicit in the lease, if it can be readily determined, or the lessee's incremental borrowing rate if not. Incremental borrowing rates are determined based on the term, country, currency and start date of the lease, to derive the rate of interest that the lessee would have to pay to borrow over a similar term, and with a similar security, the funds necessary to obtain an asset of a similar value to the right-of-use asset in a similar economic environment.

 

5.  Segment information

The financial performance of the Group's geographic operating units ("Reportable Segments") is set out below. The Group defines its Consultancy business as a Research and Advertising Agency.

 

 



2021

2020

 


Revenue

Gross profit

Revenue

Gross profit

 


£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

 






By location of customer

 





Americas


8,822

7,571

12,790

10,951

United Kingdom


6,780

5,668

5,515

4,688

Rest of Europe


5,233

4,231

5,628

4,630

APAC


2,003

1,682

1,542

1,332

 


22,838

19,152

25,475

21,601

 

 

Segmental revenue is revenue generated from external customers and so excludes intercompany revenue and is attributable to geographical areas based upon the location in which the service is delivered.

 

Consolidated balance sheet information is regularly provided to the Executive Directors while segment balance sheet information is not. Accordingly, the Company does not disclose segment balance sheet information here.

 

 



2021

2020

 


Revenue

Gross profit

Revenue

Gross profit

 


£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

 






By product variant






Data


 1,480

 1,270

   -  

   -  

Consultancy


  20,561

  17,467

  23,468

  19,976

Other services


   797

   415

 2,008

 1,625

 


  22,838

  19,152

  25,475

  21,601

 






By product group






Communications (Ad Testing)


  10,603

 9,177

 9,002

 7,992

Brand (Brand Tracking)


 3,796

 2,878

 4,637

 3,428

Innovation


 7,642

 6,682

 9,829

 8,555

Other services


   797

   415

 2,008

 1,625

 


  22,838

  19,152

  25,475

  21,601

 

AdRatings revenues and gross profit were £nil in the year (2020: £53,000). With no projections of further performance that led to the impairment in the year ended 2020, the balance has been aggregated into "Other services".

 



 

As the Company is domiciled in the UK, its consolidated non-current assets, other than financial instruments and deferred tax assets are as follows:



2021

2020



£'000

£'000

Non-current assets




United Kingdom


 1,778

 2,462

Rest of world


   75

 1,877



 1,853

 4,339

 

In the year ended 31 March 2021, the Group earned revenue of £1,861,000 (2020: £2,596,000) from its largest customer based in the Americas, representing 8% of its consolidated revenue (2020: 10%).

 

6.  Property, plant, and equipment



Right-of-use assets

Furniture and fixtures

Computer hardware

Total



£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000







At 1 April 2019






Cost


  5,286

  553

  1,285

  7,124

Accumulated depreciation


  (2,666)

  (422)

  (1,189)

  (4,277)

Net book value


  2,620

  131

  96

  2,847







Net book value, at 1 April 2019

  2,620

  131

  96

  2,847

Additions


  2,336

  - 

  102

  2,438

Disposals


  (54)

  (13)

  - 

  (67)

Foreign exchange


  88

  3

  - 

  91

Depreciation charge for the year

  (1,183)

  (74)

  (81)

  (1,338)

Net book value, at 31 March 2020

  3,807

  47

  117

  3,971







At 31 March 2020






Cost


  5,532

  452

  1,398

  7,382

Accumulated depreciation


  (1,725)

  (405)

  (1,281)

  (3,411)

Net book value


  3,807

  47

  117

  3,971







At 1 April 2020






Cost


  5,532

  452

  1,398

  7,382

Accumulated depreciation


  (1,725)

  (405)

  (1,281)

  (3,411)

Net book value


  3,807

  47

  117

  3,971







Net book value, at 1 April 2020

  3,807

  47

  117

  3,971

Additions


  46

  4

  52

  102

Disposals


  (516)

  (5)

  (11)

  (532)

Foreign exchange


  (104)

  (2)

  (1)

  (107)

Depreciation charge for the year

  (951)

  (27)

  (84)

  (1,062)

Impairment charge


  (937)

  - 

  - 

  (937)

Net book value, at 31 March 2021

  1,345

  17

  73

  1,435







At 31 March 2021






Cost


  4,691

  140

  224

  5,055

Accumulated depreciation


  (3,346)

  (123)

  (151)

  (3,620)

Net book value


  1,345

  17

  73

  1,435







 

 

7.  Intangible assets

 



Development costs (AdRatings)

Software licenses

Software

Total



£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000







At 1 April 2019






Cost


   923

  697

   1,672

   3,292

Accumulated amortisation


   (110)

   (696)

 (1,672)

 (2,478)

Net book value


   813

  1

  -  

   814







Net book value, at 1 April 2019

   813

  1

  -  

   814

Additions


   446

  -  

   368

   814

Amortisation for the year


   (338)

   (1)

  -  

  (339)

Impairment charge


   (921)

  -  

  -  

  (921)

Net book value, at 31 March 2020

  -  

  -  

   368

   368







At 31 March 2020






Cost


   1,369

  697

   2,040

   4,106

Accumulated depreciation


 (1,369)

   (697)

 (1,672)

 (3,738)

Net book value


  -  

  -  

   368

   368







At 1 April 2020






Cost


   1,369

  697

   2,040

   4,106

Accumulated amortisation


 (1,369)

   (697)

 (1,672)

 (3,738)

Net book value


  -  

  -  

   368

   368







Net book value, at 1 April 2020

  -  

  -  

   368

   368

Additions


  -  

  -  

   96

   96

Disposals


  -  

  -  

  -  

  -  

Amortisation for the year


  -  

  -  

   (46)

   (46)

Net book value, at 31 March 2021

  -  

  -  

   418

   418







At 31 March 2021






Cost


  -  

  -  

   464

   464

Accumulated depreciation


  -  

  -  

   (46)

   (46)

Net book value


  -  

  -  

   418

   418







 

The only software cost as at 31 March 2021 is the Group's new finance and operations system that was brought into use October 2020. As historical items such as the AdRatings product and other software licences were fully impaired or amortised as at 31 March 2020, their respective costs and accumulated amortisation have been removed this year.

 

The carrying value of the AdRatings product was tested for impairment at as 31 March 2020. The carrying value of the asset was allocated to the AdRatings cash generating unit ('CGU') for the purposes of assessing future cashflows. The principal assumptions used in the forecast were the timing and amount of future revenues and profit margins, which were derived from the latest forecasts approved by the Board. As a result of this review and considering the continuing modest AdRatings revenues of £0.05m in 2019/20, the carrying value of the asset was fully impaired; the amortisation charge included impairment charges of £0.9m.

 

8.  Financial risk management

The Group's financial risk management policies and objectives are explained in the Group Directors' report.

 

Credit risk

The Group reviews and manages credit risk, arising from trade receivables and cash and cash equivalents, on a consolidated basis. The vast majority of the Group's customers are large blue-chip organisations, and the Group has only ever suffered minimal bad debts. The Group has concentrations of credit risk as follows.

 



2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

 




Cash and cash equivalents




HSBC Bank PLC (AA credit rating)


   8,458

   6,135

Santander


   368

   360

Deutsche Bank


  74

  84

UBS


  90

  64

Other banks


  18

   7

 


   9,008

   6,650

 




Trade receivables




Largest customer by revenue


   666

   390

 

Financial instruments by category

At the balance sheet date, the Group held the following financial instruments by category.



2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

 




Financial assets carried at amortised cost



Trade and other receivables (excluding prepayments and accrued income)

  5,568

  5,072

Cash and cash equivalents


  9,008

  6,650

 


14,576

11,722

Other financial liabilities carried at amortised cost


Current liabilities




Trade payables


  845

  1,005

Accruals


  1,871

  2,086

Lease liabilities


  1,647

  1,001

 


  4,363

  4,092

Non-current liabilities




Borrowings


  2,500

  2,500

Lease liabilities


  928

  3,273

 


  3,428

  5,773

 

 

The application of IFRS 16 has resulted in the recognition of lease liabilities in respect of property leases previously treated as operating leases and expensed in the income statement on a straight-line basis. The payment of the Group's financial liabilities will be financed from existing cash to their fair value.

 

On 10 February 2020, the Company entered a 3-year revolving credit facility with HSBC. The agreement allows the Company to draw down up to £2,500,000 for the purposes of funding general corporate and working capital requirements. The facility is secured over the assets of those Group companies domiciled in the United Kingdom and the United States. The loan accrues interest at a rate of 2.5% above LIBOR and is subject to leverage and interest covenants.

 

9.  Trade and other receivables



2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

 




Trade receivables


  5,265

  4,678

Prepayments and accrued income

  312

  351

Other receivables


  303

  394

 


  5,880

  5,423

 

 

Trade and other receivables are due within one year and are not interest bearing. The maximum exposure to credit risk at the balance sheet date is the carrying amount of receivables (detailed above). The Group does not hold any collateral as security against trade receivables. The Directors do not believe that there is a significant concentration of credit risk within the trade receivables balance.

 

Impairment of financial assets

The Group has financial assets, primarily trade receivables, that are subject to the IFRS 9 expected credit loss model, and the Group is required to assess these assets for expected credit losses. The Group has applied the simplified approach to measuring expected credit losses as permitted by IFRS 9 and recognises a loss allowance based on the financial assets' lifetime expected loss.

 

The Group assesses on a forward-looking basis, the expected credit losses associated with its debt instruments carried at amortised cost. The Group assesses expected credit losses based on the ageing of the receivable, the Group's historical experience and informed credit assessment. Further credit losses are recognised where the Group has information that indicates it is unlikely to recover balances in full.

 

The Group has no financial assets designated as measured at fair value.

 

As of 31 March 2021, trade receivables of £1,716,000 (2020: £1,352,000) were past due but not impaired. The ageing of trade receivables, and the associated loss allowance, is as follows:

 

 



Current

0-3 months due

3-6 months due

Over 6 months due

Total



£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

At 31 March 2021







Gross trade receivables


 3,610

 1,576

106

93

 5,385

Loss provision


61

53

 4

 2

120

Expected loss rate


2%

3%

4%

2%

 

 







At 31 March 2020







Gross trade receivables


 3,326

 1,274

117

72

 4,789

Loss provision


-

-

39

72

111

Expected loss rate


0%

0%

33%

100%

 

 



 

Movements in the impairment allowance for trade receivables are as follows:

 



2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

Provision for impairment of trade receivables


Opening balance


111

64

Charged to the income statement

131

99

Utilisations and other movements

(122)

(52)

 


120

111

 

As of 31 March 2021, no other receivables or contract costs were impaired (2020: £Nil).

 

The carrying amount of the Group's trade and other receivables are denominated in the following currencies.

 



2021

2020



£'000

£'000





United States dollar


 2,004

 2,350

British sterling


 1,527

 1,397

Euro dollar


  654

  893

Brazilian real


  263

  257

Swiss franc


  465

  281

Chinese yuan


  -

   35

Canadian dollar


  -

   16

Australian dollar


  118

  144

Singapore dollar


  597

   50



 5,628

 5,423

 

10. Share capital

 

The share capital of System1 Group PLC consists only of fully paid Ordinary Shares ("Shares") with a par value of one penny each. All Shares are equally eligible to receive dividends and the repayment of capital, and represent one vote at the Annual General Meeting.

 



2021

2020

 


No.

£'000

No.

£'000

 






Allotted, called up, and fully paid ordinary shares

13,226,773

132

13,226,773

132

At 1 April and at 31 March






 

The Company has treasury shares to satisfy the requirements of the Group's share incentive schemes. The movement in the Company's treasury shares balance is as follows:

 



2021

2020



Treasury shares

Weighted average exercise price per share

Treasury shares

Weighted average exercise price per share



No.

Pence

No.

Pence

Shares held by Treasury






At 1 April


626,989


650,156


Transfer of shares to satisfy options exercise

-

 (23,167)

131.5

At 31 March


510,421


626,989


 

Share options

Employee share option scheme

The Group issues share options to directors and to employees under an HM Revenue and Customs approved Enterprise Management Incentive (EMI) scheme and under an unapproved scheme.

 

Options granted in more recent years have been awarded in accordance with management long-term incentive plans and such options have a zero-exercise price and are subject to performance criteria. If share options remain unexercised after a period of ten years from the date of grant, the options expire. Share options are forfeited in some circumstances if the employee leaves the Group before the options vest, unless otherwise agreed by the Remuneration Committee of the Board.

 

Movements in the number of share options outstanding and their related weighted average exercise prices are as follows:



2021

2020

 


Options

Weighted average exercise price per share

Options

Weighted average exercise price per share



No.

Pence

No.

Pence

Share options outstanding






Opening balance


 1,685,237

0.5

962,470

6.4

Granted


380,780

-

 1,358,135

-

Lapsed


 -

-

(17,000)

 131.5

Replaced


 -

-

 (462,934)

-

Cancelled


 (326,087)

-

 (132,267)

0.0

Exercised


 (116,568)

-

(23,167)

 131.5

Closing balance


 1,623,362

0.6

 1,685,237

0.5







Exercisable at year-end


199,088

4.6

315,656

2.9

Weighted average share price at date of options exercised

 133.7


 204.0

 

The Group had the following outstanding options and exercise prices:

 



2021

2020

Expiry date


Options

Weighted average exercise price per share

Weighted average remaining contractual life

Options

Weighted average exercise price per share

Weighted average remaining contractual life



No.

Pence

Months

No.

Pence

Months









2020


 -

-

 -

 10,144

-

 1.9

2024


182,520

5.0

 38.9

 172,376

 5.3

 50.9

2025


116,568

-

 48.8

 233,136

-

 60.8

2027


743,494

-

 71.7

1,069,581

-

 83.7

2028


264,534

-

 83.7

-

-

-

2029


216,246

-

 97.7

 100,000

-

 112.0

2032


100,000

-

136.1

 100,000

-

 148.1











 1,623,362

0.6

 75.8

1,685,237

 0.5

 82.2

 

 

Long-term incentive scheme

During the past year, 380,780 new options were granted and 326,087 were cancelled, a net increase of 54,693 that leaves the capacity of the  2019 scheme fully utilised. The options vest between 12 August 2020 and 12 August 2024, subject to Gross Profit, Profit After Tax and the Company's share price exceeding certain targets. These targets are the same as those set under the 2017 LTIP scheme, full details of which are given in the Company's Remuneration Report. The final performance period of the 2019 LTIP is the Company's 2023/24 financial year, and the lapse date is 12 August 2024.

 

The number of options outstanding under the 2019 LTIP scheme is 1,124,274 (31 March 2020: 1,058,135). Full details of the LTIP can be found in the Remuneration Committee Report, including some proposed changes to the scheme.

 

Non-employee option plan

On 17 April 2019, the Company granted Stefan Barden who was then an advisor to the Board, an equity award comprising 300,000 zero cost options at a weighted average fair value at date of grant of 37 pence per share. These options vest in three tranches of 100,000 each subject to Gross Profit and the Company's share price exceeding certain targets. The three tranches lapse on 30 July 2024, 30 July 2029, and 30 July 2032 respectively. Full details of the grant can be found in the Remuneration Committee Report.

 

Share-based payment charge

The total charge relating to equity-settled share-based payment plans was £22,000 (2020: credit £60,000). The associated charge for social security was £53,000 (2020: credit £23,000).

 

11. Provisions

 



Sabbatical

Leasehold dilapidations

Total

 


£'000

£'000

£'000

 





At 1 April 2019


   753

   82

   835

Provided in the year


   12

   59

  71

Utilised in the year


   (41)

   -

   (41)

 





At 31 March 2020


   724

   141

   865

Utilised in the year


   (11)

   (63)

   (74)

Reversals of unused amounts


   (25)

   -

   (25)

Foreign exchange movement


   -

  (6)

   (6)

 





At 31 March 2021


   688

   72

   760

 





Due within one year


   155

   45

200

Due after one year


   533

   27

560

 

 

The Group has a sabbatical leave scheme, open to all employees. The scheme provides 20 days paid leave for each successive period of six years' service. There is no proportional entitlement for shorter periods of service. The assumptions used in the sabbatical provision are as follows:

 

 



2021

2020

 




Measurement method


Project unit credit method

Discount rate, based on 6-year corporate bond yields

1.2%

2.1%

Annual salary growth rate


7%

7%





 

 



£'000

 



Changes to the assumptions will increase the provision by:

0.25% decrease to discount rate

   6

10% increase to salary increase assumption

   84

3% decrease to staff turnover assumption

   78

 

Dilapidation provisions represent £Nil (2020: £63,000) in relation to agreed settlements and the remainder represents the Group's best estimate of costs required to meet its obligations under property lease agreements.

 

12. Trade and other payables

 

 



2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

 




Trade payables

  845

 1,005

Social security and other taxes

  423

  118

Accruals and deferred income

 1,871

 2,086

 


 3,139

 3,209

 

Trade and other payables are due within one year and are not interest bearing. The contractual terms for the payment of trade payables are generally 30-45 days from receipt of invoice.

 

The contractual maturity of all trade and other payables is within one year of the balance sheet date.

 

13. Contract liabilities

 

 



2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

 




Contract liabilities

803

  671

 

From time to time, payments are received from customers prior to work being completed. Such payments are recorded in the balance sheet as contract liabilities.



 

 

14. Borrowings

The analysis of the maturity of lease liabilities is as follows:

 

 



2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

 




Within one year


 1,720

 1,208

Later than 1 but no later than 5 years

   943

 3,405

More than 5 years


 -

 -

Minimum lease payments

 2,663

 4,613

Future finance charges


   (88)

   (339)

Recognised as a liability

 2,575

 4,274

 

The present value of finance lease liabilities is as follows:

 



2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

 




Within one year


 1,647

 1,001

Later than 1 but no later than 5 years

   928

 3,273

More than 5 years


 -

 -

 


 2,575

 4,274

 

There are no contingent payments, purchase options or restrictive covenants in respect of property leases. Details of loan facilities and balances are given in note 8.

 

15. Expenses by nature



2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

 




Employee benefit expense


  9,105

  11,774

Employee benefit expense - research and development

  1,456

  777

Other research and development costs

  1,054

  1,313

Depreciation, amortisation, and impairment

  1,108

  2,598

Impairment on right-of-use asset

  937

  -

Net foreign exchange losses/(gains)

  57

  (21)

Other expenses


  7,486

  8,616

 


  21,203

  25,057

 




Analysed as:




Cost of sales


  3,686

  3,874

Administrative expenses


  17,517

  21,183

 


  21,203

  25,057





 

 



 

Reconciliation between Operating Costs and Adjusted Operating Costs:



2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

 




Administrative expenses


  17,517

  21,183

Finance expense


  211

  122

Total Operating Costs


  17,728

  21,305

 




Less: Adjusting items




Impairment


  990

  921

Compensation for loss of office


  564

  498

Bonus expense


  (161)

  296

Share-based payment expense


  75

  (84)

Other interest expense


  75

  122

Other staff costs


  (31)

  -

Movement in provisions


  -

  11

Advertising Agency


  -

  174

 


  1,512

  1,938

 




Adjusted Operating Costs


  16,216

  19,367

 




 

 

16. Auditor Remuneration

 



2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

 




Audit of parent company and consolidated accounts

62

58

Audit-related assurance services


10

10



72

68

 

 

17. Employee benefit expense

 



2021

2020



£'000

£'000





Employee benefit expenses (including directors) comprise:



Wages and salaries


 8,086

 10,134

Social security contributions and similar taxes


 1,119

 1,131

Defined contribution pension cost


  302

  361

Long service leave cost - sabbatical provision


  (16)

  (29)

Share-based payment expense


   75

  (60)

Compensation for loss of office


  564

  521

Medical benefits


  431

  493



 10,561

 12,551

 

Key management personnel are those persons having authority and responsibility for planning, directing, and controlling the activities of the Group, including the 3 Executive Directors of the company. Details of directors' emoluments are given in the Remuneration Report.



 

Compensation to key management is set out as follows:

 



2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

 




Salaries and benefits in kind


  875

  949

Social security contributions


  109

  78

Compensation for loss of office


  -

  220

Defined contribution pension cost


  3

  11

Long-term bonus plan


  -

  (7)

Share-based payment expense


  3

  (24)

 


  990

  1,227

 

 

The average number of staff employed by the Group during the financial year was as follows:



2021

2020



No.

No.





Sales and marketing


   31

   36

Operations


   55

   67

IT


   27

   19

Administration


   21

   24



  134

  146

 

 

18. Finance expenses

 



2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

 




Other net interest payable


   75

   4

Finance charges on property leases


  136

  118

 


  211

  122

 

19. Income tax expense



2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

 




Current tax

 

  95

  886

Deferred tax

 

  291

  (359)

 


  386

  527

 



2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

 




Current tax

 

  88

  886

Deferred tax

 

  339

  (359)

 


  427

  527

 

Income tax expense for the year differs from the standard rate of taxation as follows:



2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

 




Profit on ordinary activities before taxation

 

 2,076

296

 




Profit on ordinary activities multiplied by standard UK tax rate

 

387

56

Difference between tax rates applied to Group's subsidiaries

 

 7

265

Net expenses not deductible for tax purposes

 

165

 7

Adjustments to trading losses and brought forward values

 

110

84

Tax on intra-group management charges (Brazil and China)

 

(6)

113

Receipt of research and development credits


(581)

-

Adjustment to current tax in respect of prior years

 

(48)

(41)

Adjustments to foreign and withholding tax

 

(2)

45

Adjustments to deferred tax in respect of prior and current years

354

-

Credit on exercise of share options taken to income statement

 

-

(2)

 


386

527

 






2021

2020

 

 


£'000

£'000

 

 




 

Profit on ordinary activities before taxation

 

  3,871

  296

 

 




 

Profit on ordinary activities multiplied by standard UK tax rate

 

  736

  56

 

Difference between tax rates applied to Group's subsidiaries

 

  74

  265

 

Net expenses not deductible for tax purposes

 

  193

  7

 

Adjustments to trading losses and brought forward values

 

  (25)

  113

 

Tax on intra-group management charges (Brazil and China)

 

  -

  (41)

 

Adjustment to current tax in respect of prior years

 

  (580)

  45

 

Adjustments to foreign and withholding tax

 

  (279)

  84

 

Adjustments to deferred tax in respect of prior years

 

  387

 

 

Deferred tax

 

  (77)

  -

 

Credit on exercise of share options taken to income statement

 


  (2)

 

 


  427

  527

 

 




 

The standard tax rate for the years ended 31 March 2021 and 2020 was 19%.

 

The R&D Tax Credit in respect of the year ended 31 March 2019 provided a benefit of approximately £0.6m and was received and recognised in this year. The R&D Tax Credit in respect of the year ended 31 March 2020 provided a benefit of approximately £0.5m, which was received and recognised subsequent to year-end. The Company is working with its advisors to submit a claim for a Research & Development Tax Credit ("R&D Tax Credit") in respect of the year ended 31 March 2021.

 

20. Deferred tax

 

Deferred tax assets and liabilities are as follows.

 



2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

 




Deferred tax assets:




- Deferred tax assets to be recovered after more than 12 months


  306

  570

- Deferred tax assets to be recovered within 12 months


  43

  79

 


  349

  649

Deferred tax liabilities:




- Deferred tax liability to be recovered within 12 months


  (63)

  (22)

 




Deferred tax asset (net):


  286

  627

 




 

The gross movement in deferred tax is as follows.



2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

 




Opening balance


  627

  299

Income statement credit/(charge)


  (316)

  359

Tax (debited)/credited directly to equity


  (25)

  (31)

Closing balance


  286

  627

 




 

The movement in deferred income tax assets and liabilities during the year, without taking into consideration the offsetting of balances within the same tax jurisdiction, is as follows:

Deferred tax assets

Trading losses

Other provisions

Share options

Dilapidation provisions

Sabbatical provision

Total


£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

 







At 1 April 2020

 377

 28

87

27

130

649

Credited/(charged) to income statement

 (277)

 15

(17)

(15)

(2)

 (296)

Adjustments with respect to prior year

 20

 -

-

-

-

20

Debited directly to equity

 -

 -

(25)

 -

 -

(25)

At 31 March 2021

 120

 43

45

12

128

348

 







Deferred tax liabilities






Accelerated capital allowances







£'000

 







At 1 April 2020






(22)

Charged to income statement






20

Adjustments with respect to prior year






(60)

At 31 March 2021






(62)

 







 

 

Deferred tax assets are recognised only to the extent that their recoverability is considered probable.

 

The deferred tax asset in respect of the Company's share option plans relates to corporate tax deductions available on exercise of employee share options.

 

21. Earnings per share

 



2021

2020

 




Profit/(loss) attributable to equity holders of the Company, in £'000


1,690

 (231)

Weighted average number of Ordinary Shares in issue


12,657,318

 12,582,934

Basic earnings/(losses) per share


 13.4p

 (1.8)p





Profit/(loss) attributable to equity holders of the Company, in £'000


1,690

 (231)

Weighted average number of Ordinary Shares in issue


12,657,318

12,582,934

Share options


193,768

NA

Weighted average number of Ordinary Shares for diluted earnings per share

12,851,086

12,582,934

Diluted earnings/(losses) per share


13.1p

 (1.8)p

 

Basic earnings/(losses) per share is calculated by dividing the profit or loss attributable to equity holders of the Company by the weighted average number of Ordinary Shares in issue during the year.

 

Diluted earnings/(losses) per share is calculated by adjusting the weighted average number of shares outstanding assuming conversion of all dilutive share options to Ordinary Shares. Options are included in the determination of diluted earnings per share if the required performance thresholds would have been met based on the Group's performance up to the reporting date, and to the extent that they are dilutive.

 

Employee options of 1.4 million (2020: 1.2 million) have not been included in the calculation of diluted EPS because their exercise is contingent on the satisfaction of certain criteria that had not been met at 31 March 2021. The total number of options in issue is disclosed in note 10.

 

 

22. Dividends

 



2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

 




2020 interim dividend paid, 1.1p per share

  -  

  138

2019 final dividend paid, 6.4p per share

  -  

  805

 


  -  

  943

 

The Company did not pay an interim dividend in the year ended 31 March 2021 and does not propose the payment of a final dividend.

 

On 13 December 2019, the Company paid an interim dividend of 1.1 pence per share, amounting to £138,000, in respect of the year ended 31 March 2020.

 

 

23. Net cash generated from operations

 

 



2021

2020

 


£'000

£'000

 




Profit before taxation


  2,076

  296

Depreciation and impairment of property, plant, and equipment

  1,999

  1,338

Amortisation and impairment of intangible assets

  46

  1,260

Loss on disposal of property, plant, and equipment

  (73)

  66

Interest paid


  211

  122

Share-based payment expense


  40

  (60)

Increase in contract assets


  (109)

  (8)

(Increase)/decrease in trade and other receivables

  (450)

  1,484

Decrease in trade and other payables


  (71)

  (1,265)

Increase in contract liabilities


  131

  137

Decrease in provisions


  (104)

  - 

Exchange differences on operating items

  94

  (190)

 


  3,791

  3,180

 




 

 



 

 

24. Related party transactions

 

Dividends paid to directors were as follows:



2021

2020

 


£

£

 




John Kearon


   -  

  222,093

James Geddes (resigned 20 April 2020)


   -  

 19,738

Robert Brand


   -  

  2,250

Graham Blashill


   -  

   750



   -  

  244,831

 

The following transactions took place between entities within the Group, all of which are consolidated in these financial statements, and are related parties by virtue of the common control of the Company.

 



Revenues/ (direct costs)

Overhead charges

Royalties

Amounts due from/(to) related parties



£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

2021












System1 Group PLC


 (32)

  5,893

  2,176

  3,877

System1 Research Limited


 (37)

 (1,809)

 (670)

 (465)

System1 Research, Inc.


 61

 (2,106)

 (774)

 (2,587)

System1 Research B.V.


  -

 (226)

 (82)

 (317)

System1 Research Sarl


 (11)

 (645)

 (241)

 (177)

System1 Research GmbH


 22

 (230)

 (87)

 234

System1 Marketing Consulting (Shanghai) Co. Limited


  -

  -

  -

 70

System1 Research Do Brazil Servicos de Marketing Ltda.


  -

  -

  -

 (18)

System1 Research France Sarl


   (5)

 (329)

 (122)

 17

System1 Market Research Pte Ltd


   2

 (274)

 (80)

 (180)

System1 Research Pty Ltd.


  -

 (273)

 (120)

 (361)

System1 Agency Limited


  -

  -

  -

 (32)

System1 AdRatings Limited


  -

  -

  -

 (62)













2020












System1 Group PLC


   2

  6,090

  2,403

 351

System1 Research Limited


 (190)

 (1,371)

 (557)

 (78)

System1 Research, Inc.


 (169)

 (2,858)

 (1,120)

 (416)

System1 Research B.V.


 (88)

 271

 (113)

 (51)

System1 Research Sarl


 219

 (489)

 (188)

 465

System1 Research GmbH


 -

 (410)

 (158)

 (211)

System1 Marketing Consulting (Shanghai) Co. Limited


 -

 -

 -

 254

System1 Research Do Brazil Servicos de Marketing Ltda.


 -

 -

 -

   (6)

System1 Research France Sarl


 88

 (291)

 (112)

 223

System1 Market Research Pte Ltd


 45

 (116)

 (45)

 (52)

System1 Research Pty Ltd.


 11

 (284)

 (109)

 182

System1 Agency Limited


 84

 -

 -

 (661)

 

 

25. Audit exemption

 

System1 Research Limited (company number 03900547), System1 Agency Limited (company number 09829202) and System1 Ad Ratings Limited (company number 11313402) are exempt from the requirements of the Companies Act 2006 relating to the audit of accounts under section 479A. System1 Group Plc has given a parental guarantee for all entities above under section 479C of the Companies Act 2006.

 


Company Balance Sheet

as at 31 March 2021

Registered Company No. 05940040

 



2021

2020

 

Note

£'000

£'000

Fixed assets

 



Intangible assets

2

   418

   368

Tangible assets

3

  1,356

  2,076

Investments

4

   581

   581

 


  2,355

  3,025

 




Debtors due after one year

5

   -

   385





Current assets

 



Debtors due within one year

5

  6,046

  2,075

Cash and cash equivalents

 

   514

  3,966

 


  6,560

  6,041

 




Creditors: amounts due within one year

6

  2,246

  2,678

 




Net current assets

 

  4,314

  3,363

 




Total assets less current liabilities

 

6,669

  6,773