Events of the last one year have reinforced my belief that the rate of change intoday's world is more rapid than at any other time during the four decades that I havebeen at the helm of affairs at Cox & Kings Ltd. Yet I am filled with a deep sense ofpride and satisfaction that your company has stood firm against the pressures of modernbusiness life to emerge stronger more capable and more profitable.
The last few years have been characterized by a whirlwind of change bothgeopolitically and technologically. There is mounting evidence that the era of automationand rapid technological advance has in fact been at the core of some of the socialpolitical and financial dislocations seen across the world of late. We may indeed be in aperiod of heightened geopolitical volatility that may take more than just a few years tofully resolve. In difficult times we return to the core values that defined us growing upin order to find the courage to survive and to thrive. I am very pleased that we at Cox& Kings have amply demonstrated our resolve to meet these myriad challenges bymaintaining our core values; in particular keeping the customer at the very heart ofeverything we do.
This customer-centricity has enabled our major business divisions to put up a muscularperformance in FY17 delivering market-leading growth. Our India business continued todemonstrate improving growth and margins widening the distance between itself and itspeers on both counts in the face of stiff competition. Our Education business stared downmultiple geopolitical challenges to emerge bigger and stronger; we are now expanding at amore rapid pace in the UK and in Australia to enhance our market leadership as well asmargin leadership. Our Meininger business added 25% of bed capacity within 90 days and Iam confident that the journey here has only just begun.
Shareholders are central stakeholders in the life of any company. Our listing eightyears ago was a promise that we would always stay focused on the underlying principle ofcreating shareholder value no matter what. I am very pleased that over the last few yearsyour company management has consciously worked to unlock the tremendous value that remainslatent within the Cox & Kings umbrella. We have reduced our debt trimmed the balancesheet and improved return ratios. The upcoming demerger of the fast-growing ForeignExchange business in India constitutes yet another step on this journey. Cox & KingsFinancial Service Ltd. can look forward to a dazzling future as an independent entity andall our shareholders will benefit from it.
As I reflect on the year gone by and look forward to the future I cannot but helpfeeling that the best is yet to come; and that adversity and rapid change may well be yourcompany's best friend. I would like to personally thank all the members of the staff andmanagement at Cox & Kings for their hard work and nimble-mindedness over the lastyear. I would also like to place on the record my deepest gratitude to you our dearinvestors for your support and patience over the years.
Anthony B. M. Good OBE