The EQTEC plc corporate governance statement in full
Jeff Vander Linden (COO) and Ian Pearson (Chairman)
The Board is committed to the highest standards of corporate governance and considers the Quoted Companies Alliance’s Corporate Governance Code (“the QCA Code”) to be the most appropriate framework for the Company to adopt. The Directors have adopted the QCA Code and the following sections explain how this is done. Where the Board adopts a different path from the QCA Principles to the extent they consider it appropriate having regard to the size and resources of the Company, an explanation is provided.
In his capacity as independent Chairman, Ian Pearson, along with the Board, has responsibility for ensuring that the Group has appropriate corporate governance standards in place and the 10 principles in the QCA Code are applied within the Group as a whole.
This section was last updated on 25 April 2022.
Strategy and business model
The Company’s target business model – found here – envisions EQTEC as the leading technology innovator and licensing partner to owner-operators for syngas technology and production of renewable, clean baseload energy and biofuels. The Company’s business strategy aims to develop that market, position EQTEC as a leader within it and scale the business through targeted development of capability and capacity, enabled by digital tools and techniques. Critical to the Company’s success with this strategy is growth of a qualified and well-integrated set of partners, who would deliver an increasing number of activities essential to integration of EQTEC technologies into the world’s energy and biofuels plants of the future.
The Company currently generates income through three revenue streams: development services, technology sales & services and other revenues. Development services include activities essential to achievement of Financial Close, from land acquisition, planning & permitting and engineering & design to Engineering, Procurement & Construction (EPC) selection, funding and legal execution of contracts. Technology sales & services include specification, manufacture and delivery on site of EQTEC-designed equipment and essential ancillary equipment, on-site construction advisory and further engineering as required, technology integration support with non-EQTEC technology and commissioning of the EQTEC-enabled plant. Other revenues include plant operations from part-owned or wholly-owned Market Development Centres, from consultancy or from provision of other non-core services.
The Company anticipates that its revenue streams will evolve in the future, with development fees declining as partners increasingly take over all but the core technology engineering work leading to Financial Close, with greater differentiation across technology sales & services as partners are able to integrate more fully and drive more projects with relative independence, and with increasing revenue from technology licensing, maintenance and other value-added services for operational plants running EQTEC technology.
The Company currently develops business in the USA, UK and the EU (including France, Italy, Croatia and Greece) and will target new geographies as substantial pipelines of qualified opportunities in those markets present themselves and as the viability of a business development and delivery capability in those markets can be established.
The Company is focused on maximising shareholder value in the near term through greater recognition and an increased valuation by the market, measurable in the share price. To achieve this, the Company is driving an increase in the number of operational plants running EQTEC technology, after which it will also increase the variety (in terms of feedstock inputs and offtake applications) of EQTEC solutions deployed in those plants. In addition to biomass conversion to combined heat and power (CHP), EQTEC is currently pursuing projects with feedstock from municipal waste (in the form of refuse-derived fuel, or RDF), from industry waste (such as contaminated plastics) and from a range of agricultural and forestry waste. In addition to CHP, EQTEC is currently pursuing projects that would apply EQTEC’s waste-to-syngas capabilities to production of hydrogen, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), synthetic natural gas (SNG) and other biofuels.
EQTEC plc is quoted on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange (LSE), bears the Green Economy Mark awarded by the LSE, and trades as AIM:EQT.
The identification and management of risk in relation to the achievement of our strategy and business model are addressed below in “Managing and mitigating risk”.
Our Patented Gasification Technology has a positive impact on societies, economies and the environment. Through taking waste which cannot be recycled and turning it into a pure syngas for transforming into energy and biofuels, we reduce the need for less environmentally-friendly methods such as incineration and landfill and contribute towards meeting country and global Net Zero targets, reducing carbon emissions and meeting renewable energy targets. We are passionate about using our technology to deliver sustainable, local outcomes for local businesses and the communities who are customers of the plants that use our technology, and to always deliver to the highest environmental, regulatory and business standards and practices.
The Board recognises that the ongoing and long-term success of the Group is significantly influenced by the efforts and commitment of the employees of the Group, its strategic partners (including but not limited to those with expertise in funding, technology, operational delivery and go-to-market), contractors and suppliers and on the Group’s relationships with these and other stakeholders including customers, investors, industry associations, political and media organisations, analysts, communities, the public and the regulators. The Board has put in place a range of processes and systems to ensure that there is close Board oversight and contact with its key resources and relationships.
In 2021, the Group set out its performance management cycle for all employees. This is designed to ensure that: every individual’s objectives and performances are directly linked and impacting on the most relevant Group performance and success; there is an open and confidential dialogue with each person in the Group with successful two-way communication with agreement on goals, targets and aspirations of the employee, across teams and the Group. These feedback processes will help to ensure that the Group can respond to new issues and opportunities that arise to further the success of employees and the Group.
The Board ensures that all key relationships with partners, contractors and suppliers are the responsibility of, or are closely supervised by, one of the directors.
Engaging and communicating with shareholders
The Board is committed to continually improving and maintaining frequent, open and two-way dialogue with its shareholders. Institutional shareholders and analysts have the opportunity to discuss topics, issues and to provide feedback at meetings with the Company. In addition, all shareholders are encouraged to attend and participate with directors in the Company’s Annual General Meeting and its regular interactive shareholder webinars through the Investor Meets Company platform, which it introduced in 2021. Investors also have access to current information on the Company though its website, www.eqtec.com and via Nauman Babar, CFO and David Palumbo, CEO, who are available to answer investor relations enquiries through the Group’s Marketing and Communications function, on request.
Managing and mitigating risk
Effective risk management is critical to the achievement of our strategic objectives. Controls are integrated into all levels of our business. As a board we continually assess our exposure to risk and seek to mitigate risks wherever possible.
The directors have established procedures for the purpose of providing a system of internal controls. In addition, there are a range of Group policies that are reviewed at least annually by the Board. These group policies cover matters such as share dealing and insider trading legislation.
The Board currently takes the view that an internal audit function is not considered necessary or practical due to the size of the Group and the close day to day control exercised by the executive directors. However, the Board will continue to monitor the need for an internal audit function.
Identified principal risks to the achievement of our strategic business objectives are outlined below, together with their potential impact and the mitigation measures in place. The Board believes these risks to be currently the most significant with the potential to impact our strategy, our financial and operational performance and ultimately, our reputation. The board reviews its risk register, identifying new risks and updating on an ongoing basis.
Key areas for on-going risk management are:
Central to achieving our strategy is winning and successfully delivering our contract portfolio. Our continuing financial health relies on our ability to successfully tender, mobilise, operate, and manage such contracts. Winning new and retaining existing contracts continues to be critical for the future success of our business.
Our tender, mobilisation and contract management processes operate under strict delegated authorities and are subject to rigorous executive management oversight and approval. These contracts are supported by teams of experienced tender, mobilisation and operational delivery specialists to mitigate the risk of failure at any stage. Ongoing contract assurance occurs together with regular dialogue to ensure service delivery is consistent with customer expectations.
Maintaining a strong reputation is vital to our success as a business. Significant impact to our reputation could be caused by an incident involving major harm to one of our people or clients/partners, inadequate financial control processes, or failure to comply with regulatory requirements. Impacts of this type would potentially result in financial penalties, losses of key contracts, an inability to win new business and challenges in retaining key staff and recruiting new staff.
Strong corporate governance and dedicated senior management remain the key elements of effective reputational management. Senior management provides a model of best practice and guidance to ensure our values and expected behaviours are clear and understood by everyone. As our business continues to grow and develop we will remain strongly focused on protecting the strength of our reputation through effective governance and leadership, and through cultivating open and transparent relationships with all stakeholders.
Attracting and retaining the best skilled people at all levels of the business is critical. This is particularly the case in ensuring we have access to a diverse range of views and experience, and in attracting specific expertise at both managerial and operational levels where the market may be highly competitive. Failure to attract new talent, or to develop and retain our existing employees, could impact our ability to achieve our strategic growth objectives. As we continue to grow and diversify into new areas, this risk will continue to be a focus for the Board.
Our business model has created a pipeline of opportunities for staff at every level of the business. This will continue to be the case as the Group develops. Our focus on competency at all levels of the business continues to ensure that we develop our people and enable them to successfully manage the changing profile of our business. A robust performance management framework coupled with a balanced incentive programme allows the business to mitigate this risk ensures that key individuals are retained.
We deliver highly sophisticated and specialised engineering and design services leading to products that incorporate or use leading-edge technology, including hardware and software. Many of our products and services involve complex energy infrastructure projects and accordingly the impact of a catastrophic product failure or similar event could be significant. Any inability to deliver on time, to budget and to the right quality could result in financial loss or reputational damage.
We have built extensive operational processes to ensure that our product design, engineering, and other services meet the most rigorous quality standards. We have instituted project governance committees to ensure regular reporting, early risk identification and mitigation as well as monitoring of progress against project delivery plans. Our internal control procedures continue to be reviewed periodically and adapted whenever necessary to address any new challenges that the ever growing landscape has to offer.
Our financial strength makes us an attractive partner to our customers and suppliers. Our ability to grow our business organically and by acquisition will be impacted if our financial performance deteriorates, limiting our ability to access diverse sources of funding on competitive terms. This may cause an increase in the cost of borrowing or cash flow issues which could, in turn, further affect our financial performance. As a people business, our staff costs remain our most significant area of expenditure. Our ability to pay our people and suppliers regularly and at specific times relies not only on funding being available but also upon effective cash conversion.
We have developed and continue to enhance financial control procedures to oversee and monitor financial performance and cash conversion. These include daily monitoring of bank balances, weekly cash flow reporting, and regular financial performance and balance sheet reviews, which include detailed working capital reviews and forecasts. We believe we have strong banking, debt finance and equity relationships, and appropriate levels of gearing for our business. Furthermore, business growth and financial performance are monitored through monthly performance analysis around revenue and costs and mitigating actions are taken accordingly.
We depend on a number of significant counterparties such as EPC contractors, insurers, banks, clients, and suppliers to maintain our business activities. The failure of a key business partner, supplier, subcontractor, financer or other provider could materially affect the operational and financial effectiveness of our business and our ability to trade. Ensuring ongoing relationships with our material counterparties will underpin the Group’s ability to meet its strategic objectives.
We have developed, through strategic partnerships, relationships with a number of EPC contractors and also a pool of suppliers and providers to ensure limited dependency on any one provider, in turn limiting the impact of any potential failure. The Board reviews and monitors material counterparty risk and ensures that concentration levels are kept to a minimum.
Political and regulatory risk
Our technology can be deployed in a wide number of international markets and as such we are exposed to different political and regulatory regimes with different risk profiles.
We monitor and evaluate political and regulatory risk at board level. Decisions on the balance of our project pipeline are taken to ensure we are not over-reliant on one particular market over time.
Board of directors
The Board comprises four full-time executive directors: the CEO David Palumbo, the CFO Nauman Babar, the COO Jeffrey Vander Linden and the CTO Dr. Yoel Alemán; and two independent non-executive directors: Ian Pearson, who acts as the Chairman, and Tom Quigley. Each non-executive director devotes as much time as is required to carry out the roles and responsibilities that the director has agreed to take on.
Follow the link to biographical details of the current directors here.
Executive and non-executive directors are subject to re-election intervals as prescribed in the Company’s Articles of Association. At each Annual General Meeting one-third of the Directors who are subject to retirement by rotation shall retire from office. They can then offer themselves for re-election. The letters of appointment of all directors are available for inspection at the Company’s registered office during normal business hours.
The Executive Directors are employed under service contracts requiring three to six months’ notice by either party. The Non-Executive Directors and the Chairman receive payments under appointment letters which are terminable by three months’ notice by either party.
The Board encourages the ownership of shares in the Company by Executive and Non-Executive Directors alike and in normal circumstances does not expect Directors to undertake dealings of a short-term nature. The Board considers ownership of Company shares by Non-Executive Directors as a positive alignment of their interest with shareholders. The Board will periodically review the shareholdings of the independent Non-Executive Directors and will seek guidance from its advisors if, at any time, it is concerned that the shareholding of any independent Non-Executive Director may, or could appear to, conflict with their duties as an independent Non-Executive Director of the Company or their independence itself. Directors’ emoluments, including Directors’ interest in share options over the Group’s share capital, are set out in the Annual Report.
The Board meets at least eight times a year. It has established an Audit Committee and a Remuneration Committee. The Board has agreed that appointments to the Board are made by the Board as a whole and so has decided a separate Nominations Committee is unnecessary at this time.
Skills, capabilities and Board performance
The Board of Directors has a strong mix of financial, operational, renewable energy, waste infrastructure, regulatory and political experience. The Board recognises that it currently has limited diversity and this will form a part of any future recruitment consideration if the Board concludes that replacement or additional directors are required.
The Company currently has two independent non-executive directors, Ian Pearson and Tom Quigley. The Company is satisfied that the Company’s Board composition is appropriate given the Company’s size and stage of development. The Board will keep this matter under regular review and to the extent additional independence is felt to be required on the Board, it shall be sought.
Internal evaluation of the Board, the Committee and individual directors is seen as an important next step in the development of the Board and one that will be addressed during the coming year. The aim is that this will be undertaken on an annual basis in the form of peer appraisal, questionnaires and discussions to determine the effectiveness and performance in various areas as well as the directors’ continued independence.
The Board recognises the importance of sound corporate values and the impact it has on delivering Group strategy, target business model and relevant stakeholders. The Board has implemented several initiatives to ensure that all personnel and partners who are engaged with the Group have a clear understanding of, the Code of Conduct that the business expects them to adhere to, transparent performance measurement and evaluation process and relevant support mechanisms in place to achieve personal and business objectives. In addition, the Company has also adopted a code for directors’ and employees’ dealings in securities which is in accordance with Rule 21 of the AIM Rules and the Market Abuse Regulation. As part of risk identification and mitigation, the Board constantly monitors Group’s culture through established processes and feedback mechanism.
Governance structures and processes
Authority for all aspects of the Group’s activities rests with the Board. The respective responsibilities of the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer arise as a consequence of delegation by the Board. The Board has adopted two statements; the first sets out matters reserved for the Board and the second establishes the policy on delegation of authority. The Chairman is responsible for the effectiveness of the Board, while management of the Group’s business and primary contact with shareholders has been delegated by the Board to the Chief Executive Officer.
The Board has adopted guidelines for the appointment of non-executive directors which have been in place and which have been observed throughout the year. These provide for the orderly and constructive succession and rotation of the Chairman and non-executive directors insofar as both the Chairman and non-executive directors will be appointed for an initial term of three years and may, at the Board’s discretion believing it to be in the best interests of the Company, be appointed for subsequent terms. The Chairman may serve as a non-executive director before commencing a first term as Chairman.
In accordance with the Companies Act 2014 of Ireland, the Board complies with the following duties:
- to act in good faith in what the director considers to be the interests of the Company;
- to act honestly and responsibly in relation to the conduct of the affairs of the Company;
- to act in accordance with the Company’s constitution and exercise powers only for the purposes allowed by law;
- not to use the Company’s property, information or opportunities for the Director’s own or anyone else’s benefit;
- not to agree to a restriction of the exercise of independent judgement;
- to avoid any conflicts of interest;
- to exercise the care, skill and diligence which would be exercised in the same circumstances by a reasonable person;
- to have regard to the interests of the members of the Company, in addition to the duty to have regard to the interests of the Company’s employees in general.
At present the CFO also acts as the Company Secretary.
The Audit Committee comprises Tom Quigley (Chairman) and Ian Pearson. Meetings are also attended by the CFO as appropriate. It meets as required and specifically to review the Interim Report and Annual Report, and to consider the suitability and monitor the effectiveness of internal control processes. The Audit Committee also reviews the findings of the external auditor and reviews accounting policies and material accounting judgements. The Audit Committee normally meets at least two times in each financial year and has unrestricted access to the Group’s external auditor.
The Remuneration Committee comprises Ian Pearson (Chairman) and Tom Quigley. The Remuneration Committee reviews the performance of the Executive Directors and makes recommendations to the Board on matters relating to their remuneration and terms of service. The Remuneration Committee also makes recommendations to the Board on proposals for the granting of share options and other equity incentives pursuant to any employee share option scheme or equity incentive plans in operation from time to time. The Remuneration Committee meets at least annually. In exercising this role, the Directors have regard to the recommendations put forward by the QCA Guidelines.