A good Board pressure tests strategy, provides leadership on matters of governance and ensures their company is equipped to handle risk. In 2016 Smith & Nephew faced and overcame challenges in all these areas, confirming my strong belief that this is a Company set well to succeed in challenging times.
In early 2016 we announced that our Chief Executive Officer, Olivier Bohuon, had been diagnosed with cancer, and would require treatment across much of the year. We were delighted to welcome him back to work full time in October.
During the intervening months my Board colleagues and I were able to provide additional support to the executive team. I attended the Managing Directors’ annual meeting, and engaged with various members of the executive team, supporting them on a number of matters. The Board met with numerous commercial and operational leaders across the year. This culminated in a visit to our Andover, Massachusetts site in November where we saw first-hand the exciting progress being made by our Sports Medicine business.
These meetings gave Board members firsthand experience of the high quality team that has been assembled by Olivier to deliver on his strategy to transform Smith & Nephew. Following a number of changes implemented in recent years, the structure of the organisation is fully aligned to the strategic priorities, and the commitment and dedication to the business at all levels was evident for us to see
Smith & Nephew’s financial performance is shown on these pages.
Although the Group delivered revenue growth in 2016, the outturn is below where we had set our sights at the start of the year. Whilst some geographies and franchises performed well, we were buffeted by trading conditions in the Gulf States and China, as well as a few areas where we believe we can execute better in 2017. We faced a headwind in China entering the year, and it is pleasing to see how management delivered the improvements in this market as they said they would.
The Board continues to have great confidence in the business and is proposing a final dividend for the year of 18.5¢ per share, giving a total dividend distribution for 2016 of 30.8¢. In-line with our dividend policy, the declared dividend is flat year-on-year despite the decline in adjusted earnings per share.
Governance and culture
Corporate governance, especially Director responsibilities, remuneration and diversity, has been in the spotlight in 2016. The Board has welcomed our discussions with shareholders around such important topics and we are mindful of how the landscape is changing in some areas. The Board is committed to continuing to refine our governance structure and practices to reflect what is in the best interests of all stakeholders.
Culturally, we believe that openness and transparency, accountability and responsibility should run throughout the Company. The Board takes matters of ethics and compliance very seriously, and aims to set a tone at the top which pervades throughout the organisation. We review processes and practices and oversee quality and regulatory matters. We take great interest in how we attract, retain and develop talent and the work underway to make Smith & Nephew a great place to work for all employees.
Our Chief Financial Officer, Julie Brown, left the Company in January 2017. We are grateful for her contribution during her four years at Smith & Nephew and wish her well in her new career at Burberry plc. Graham Baker will join as Chief Financial Officer on 1 March 2017 when he will also be appointed to the Board as an Executive Director. Having held multiple senior roles at AstraZeneca and elsewhere, I have no doubt that he will successfully ensure effective financial stewardship and I welcome him to Smith & Nephew.
Brian Larcombe will be retiring from the Board at the Annual General Meeting on 6 April 2017. Brian has served Smith & Nephew for many years, as our Senior Independent Director since 2014, and as a member of the Audit, Nomination & Governance and Remuneration Committees.
I am personally grateful that he agreed to stay on one extra year to provide continuity while Olivier was receiving treatment. We will miss his great wisdom and experience. On behalf of the whole Board I thank him for his service. We are fortunate that Ian Barlow has agreed to become Senior Independent Non-Executive Director. Ian has been a Non-Executive Director since 2010, and has been a diligent Chair of our Audit Committee. Robin Freestone will be appointed Chairman of the Audit Committee in his place.
Finally, Joe Papa has graciously agreed to stay on beyond his nine-year term as we undertake a search for a new Chair of the Remuneration Committee. As we make this, and indeed all appointments, we are conscious of the need to continue to seek individuals who bring diversity in its broadest sense, including background, thinking and gender.
In conclusion, 2016 has been a year where we have continued to make progress in the face of a number of headwinds. As a result, I believe we enter 2017 as a stronger business. There is no doubt that the world is facing a period of greater geo-political risk and companies need to be robust. The Board takes its responsibilities very seriously, to ensure that we perform financially, strategically and ethically against this changing and challenging backdrop. We thank you for your continued support and look forward to serving you in 2017.