Dr Michael Noth, Dr Lars Gorissen, Hartwig Fuchs (Chief Executive Officer), Axel Aumüller and Mats Liljestam (left to right)
After two excellent financial years with very good earnings, we were again able to close the year 2013/2014 at a level that we can be very pleased with. Nevertheless, over the course of 2013 we experienced some steep price falls for quota and non-quota sugar, which are reflected in both revenues and earnings. Higher sales were able to make up for much of this pricing effect, however.
To give you the main figures in brief: we reported revenues of EUR 2,360.9 million in total, which was EUR 81.9 million lower than in the previous year. Consolidated net income for the period came to EUR 208.7 million, compared with the adjusted EUR 368.7 million in the previous year.
Part of our strategy and preparation for the era without sugar quotas post-2017 are extensive investments in our plants to boost market and customer focus, improve their efficiency and protect the environment. In the reporting year, they included investments of EUR 78.7 million in property, plant and equipment – over EUR 4 million more than in the previous year. Highlights of this capital expenditure were the first construction phase for the evaporation dryer in Örtofta and the second phase in Nakskov, an 80,000-tonne sugar silo in Uelzen, as well as the completion of the juice purification plant in Clauen and the wastewater treatment plant in Opalenica. Projects to increase energy efficiency and create additional silo capacities will remain the focus of investment in the years ahead. We are planning to increase our investment volume again substantially.
Beet farming in our European regions has a future.
The previous year’s net debt of EUR 59.4 million has now been paid off in full. As of the reporting date, cash and cash equivalents exceeded financial liabilities by EUR 52.4 million. Equity went up to EUR 1,385.8 million. As total assets remained roughly the same, the equity ratio went up from 53.7 per cent in the previous year to 59.3 per cent.
Together with the Supervisory Board, we intend to put forward a proposal at the Annual General Meeting this year to distribute a dividend of EUR 1.30 per share of share capital. This corresponds to a total dividend distribution of EUR 62.8 million. In the outstanding previous year, we distributed EUR 1.80 per share, adding up to a total of EUR 86.9 million. In a long-term comparison, the dividend is still high, however, and allows our shareholders to participate in the company’s strong earnings in the financial year 2013/2014. At the same time, a considerable portion of earnings has been retained to finance future profitable growth within the company.
We want to become one European company and, together with our motivated and highly qualified team, are preparing for the post-2017 era.
2013/2014 was a successful year. Our wide-ranging programmes to increase efficiency are having an effect, and this year again made a substantial contribution to earnings. We were able to complete our Profitability plus efficiency programme a year earlier than planned, because we have already reached the target set for 2014/2015. Now, with an eye on 2017, the aim is to set new targets, as improvement is a continuous process. We can be proud of a smooth campaign, a good beet yield – although weather conditions were not optimal everywhere – and a team that is driving forward the company’s continued development in all areas. This annual report is not only intended to provide you with a review of the past year, but above all to show you how Nordzucker staff in specific areas work each and every day to give their best for our customers and our company. They take care of customer requests, ensure compliance with our high quality standards, implement investment projects, improve workflows in our plants and work with our beet farmers to increase their yields. They are a strong team, who have been preparing for the new era for a long time. In particular, we want to highlight the fact that this team works together across national borders, that its members learn from one another and make use of knowledge from other plants. We want to become a European company and prepare ourselves for the time when the quota system expires. It is a time that will bring challenges, but also opportunities. Our thanks go to all our staff for their dedication and their willingness to confront the new challenges.
At the end of September 2017, the sugar market regime will cease to exist in its present form. The market will change and the global market, with its price fluctuations, will exert a much greater influence on the EU sugar market than before. From other markets we know that the phase following deregulation, in which a new market equilibrium is established, is demanding. Production volumes will go up, there will be greater competition with isoglucose and the market will consolidate as a result.
In recent years, we have done everything to prepare ourselves well for this situation. We are a strong company built on sound foundations, in terms of both our performance figures and our technical equipment. And we have a strong team with motivated and highly qualified employees. We are convinced that we will also emerge from this downturn all the stronger, especially as we offer our customers reliability and service, as well as a product that is sustainable and regional. Sustainability and social responsibility are our key themes, and we will continue to develop these in the future.
But strength also requires efficiency and foresight. It means thinking from a market perspective. We have to grow, but here in Europe we operate within narrow confines: sugar consumption will not go up and competition law will not really make consolidation in Europe any easier. So for us, the logical consequence can only be to look further afield to growth regions like Africa and Asia, where the market is set to grow, driven by economic expansion and an increasing population.
At the same time, our message is clear: beet farming in our European regions has prospects, and we are confident that you, our shareholders, will stay with us in future and keep Nordzucker strong.
The Executive Board
Dr Lars Gorissen
Dr Michael Noth