Annual Results 2014: Conzzeta continues its transition

Zurich, March 26, 2015. – Conzzeta AG increased EBIT to CHF 104.3 million on constant revenues. On an adjusted basis, EBIT improved by 9,1% to CHF 93.4 million. The comparable EBIT margin was 7.7%.

Conzzeta's 2014 revenues of CHF 1195.7 million were on a par with the previous year's level (CHF 1194.0 million). This figure included a negative impact of CHF 26.1 million from the divestment of the Automation Systems business unit and a positive effect of CHF 15.3 million from the acquisition of acoustics specialist Benien. Currency effects reduced revenues by CHF 19.8 million. Currency-adjusted organic growth amounted to 2.7%, corresponding to CHF 32.3 million. Revenues rose, primarily in Europe, above all outside the eurozone, while Asia experienced a slight downturn and America a somewhat stronger decline. The divestment of the automation business also had a particular impact in the American market, its headquarters and main customer base being in the USA.

On revenues that were virtually unchanged year on year, the Group achieved an operating result (EBIT) of CHF 104.3 million in 2014. The EBIT margin for 2014 reached 8.7% (previous year: 7.5%), although this result was influenced by special effects. The adjusted figures show an operating result of CHF 93.4 million, a rise on the previous year (CHF 85.6 million) of 9.1%. The comparable EBIT margin for the reporting year was 7.7%. The Group result was CHF 61.4 million, lower than the previous year (CHF 75.4 million) owing to the negative effect of CHF 26.3 million from the divestment of the automation business.

In view of the Group result, the Board of Directors is proposing to the Annual General Meeting that a dividend of CHF 50 per registered share A and CHF 10 per registered share B be paid out. After the somewhat higher payout from the capital reduction in the previous year, the Board of Directors is returning to the dividend policy maintained over the previous years.

In the reporting year, Conzzeta AG embarked on a transition process, the Conzzeta management assessing the orientation of the Group, the portfolio and the deployment of resources from new perspectives. The first step, selling the automation business, has already been completed: Conzzeta split from a business unit that faced difficulties succeeding in an international operating environment, among other reasons because of its insufficient size. Although this transaction resulted in a one-time negative effect, it also saw the Group part company with a business unit that in the past had had a negative impact on the Group result. A further step is underway with the spin-off of Plazza Immobilien AG (see separate media release with today's date).

Conzzeta AG will take advantage of these changes to concentrate on the other business units. Among these are the businesses in the following segments: Sheet Metal Processing (Bystronic), Sporting Goods (Mammut) and Chemical Specialties (FoamPartner and Schmid Rhyner) and Systems Engineering (Bystronic glass), with the latter subject to a comprehensive review because of its earnings performance.

Group segments

The Sheet Metal Processing segment (Bystronic) increased net revenues in the reporting year by 3.7% to CHF 580.7 million (previous year: CHF 560.1 million) while the operating result rose to CHF 54.3 million (CHF 51.6 million). In local currencies, this corresponds to an increase of 5.8%. The EBIT margin was 9.3%. Compared with net revenue, order intake showed a marked rise. Despite a subdued start to the year, Bystronic reported pleasing sales. Business in the European markets was exceptionally good; in the Asian markets other than China there were signs of a recovery. Measures to improve market development were introduced in China. Customers' interest is generally focused on increased performance in the areas of automated manufacturing and laser machines. In order to stay ahead of the competition, Bystronic is focusing on technical innovations and new business models, including comprehensive service packages.

The Sporting Goods segment recorded revenues of CHF 249.9 million in 2014 (previous year: CHF 247.0 million). The operating result was stable at CHF 20.8 million (CHF 20.9 million). This corresponds to an EBIT margin of 8.3%. The Sporting Goods segment is facing increasingly tough competition worldwide. The core markets of Germany, Austria and Switzerland are showing increasing signs of saturation, while the Asian markets continue to grow. In sporting goods sales, direct contact with the end-customer is increasingly important; sales growth occurs above all in the business-to-consumer (B2C) sector. Mammut further strengthened this channel in 2014, opening 12 new mono-brand stores.

The newly formed Chemical Specialties segment combines the FoamPartner and Schmid Rhyner business units, both of which manufacture highly specialized products based on chemical raw materials and processes, primarily for industrial applications. In the reporting year, the segment generated revenues of CHF 219.2 million (previous year: CHF 192.6 million), about half of this growth of 13.8% is attributable to the acquisition of acoustic foam specialist Benien in Germany. The operating result reached CHF 23.8 million (CHF 20.0 million), corresponding to an EBIT margin of 10.8%. For the FoamPartner business unit, the most important development in 2014 was the acquisition of acoustics specialist Benien in Delmenhorst, Germany. The acquisition strengthens FoamPartner's expertise in the acoustics segment. The new company brings not only products, services and customer contacts, it also has highly specialized processing know-how and development capacity. For the Schmid Rhyner business unit, the further development of UV varnishes for packaging, especially for food, beverage and tobacco, continues to play an important role. Schmid Rhyner is building its global market position in the tobacco segment through new innovations, expanding the business by entering the packaging market in China and other Asian countries.

The Systems Engineering segment, which for 2014 comprises Bystronic glass and ixmation, recorded revenues of CHF 126.8 million in the reporting year (previous year: CHF 174.1 million). The operating result was CHF negative 9.0 million (negative CHF 14.2 million), with an EBIT margin of negative 6.7%. During the reporting year, the business segment was divested of the ixmation business unit. Ixmation was able to process a number of orders in the first half of the year, but again failed to fulfill expectations. Conzzeta accordingly sold the business unit, which was largely responsible for the segment's poor result. The performance of the Bystronic glass business unit was mixed. While sales of architectural glass machinery advanced only hesitantly toward the targeted improvements in results, demand for automotive glass machinery was very high. The architectural glass segment is concerned, on the one hand, about the weakness of the construction sector, above all in Europe. In the reporting year, capacity at the Neuhausen-Hamberg site was adjusted in response to the sluggish order situation. The business unit also discontinued the manufacture of laminated safety glass systems. On the other hand, sales of machinery for automotive glass manufacture were buoyant once more in 2014 and Bystronic glass again won orders from major customers abroad. In view of its unsatisfactory earnings performance overall, the business unit will continue to be subject to a comprehensive review. Further measures to improve profitability are being implemented.

In the reporting year, the Real Estate operating result generated revenues of CHF 19.3 million (previous year: CHF 20.3 million) and an operating result of CHF 19.8 million (CHF 10.5 million). On this basis, the EBIT margin was 102.6%. This exceptional result arose because of the reassessment of inherited environmental liabilities based on a new expert report. This meant that provisions amounting to CHF 10.5 million could be reversed, which had a direct positive impact on the operating result. The reporting year saw a slight decline in rental income because it was not possible to sublet some commercial properties to the same extent as before. Overall, Plazza Immobilien judges its market position as good since the focus of the business is the mid-price segment of the residential market.  Demand for apartments in this price range continues to hold up well. The planning process for the “Im Glattgarten” development in Wallisellen, with some 220 apartments, also in the mid-price segment, continues to advance. In Crissier, the development plan was finalized and submitted to the cantonal authorities. Following the decision in principle of the Board of Directors in spring 2014, management immediately set about planning the spin-off of Plazza from the Conzzeta Group, which should follow in 2015.


Trends and outlook

Conzzeta is aiming for more growth, an objective that may prove a challenge in certain segments, considering their diverse market environments. The Sporting Goods segment faces a tough market trend overall in Europe and is likely to see demand levelling out, while Chemical Specialties and Bystronic can look forward to modest growth. However, the discontinuation of the minimum euro rate by the Swiss National Bank and the resulting marked appreciation of the Swiss franc will have a tangible impact on Conzzeta. Switzerland is the Group's principal location: almost half the personnel expenses are in Swiss francs. In the framework of the strategy assessment and planning for Conzzeta’s transition, the exchange rate of the franc against all major currencies will play a significant role and the introduction of measures to restore profitability will be introduced without delay. Conzzeta will not lose sight of the growth objectives it has set itself. It cannot be assumed that immediate measures will be able to compensate for the negative currency effects. Accordingly, the Group expects a downward business trend. Finalizing the strategy, with the resulting medium-term measures, is expected to lead to improved profitability as of 2016.


 

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