Letter from the CEO
(Chairman of the Management Board, CEO)
the pandemic and its economic impact have been a litmus test for TAKKT. We were, however, able to draw on our experience from previous crises and benefit from it. Our crisis management can be divided into different phases. At the beginning of the pandemic in March and April, the focus was on protecting employees, continuing operations during the lockdown and safeguarding our financial independence and ability to act. This included extending and expanding credit lines with banks ahead of time, suspending the dividend and launching a comprehensive program to manage costs as well as inventories and receivables.
Beginning in May, we expanded our activities towards benefiting from the recovery following the lockdown. This also included expanding the range with products that were particularly in demand during the pandemic. This enabled us to stabilize order intake significantly from quarter to quarter. Since around the middle of the year, we have also been identifying and taking advantage of opportunities to develop new additional business. In addition to organic initiatives, this also includes examining potential acquisitions.
We responded to the crisis very quickly and used the flexibility of our business model to take effective cost-cutting countermeasures. Due to the pandemic, overall organic sales development in 2020 was minus 11.8 percent. Despite the significant decline in sales and one-time effects, resulting in a negative impact on earnings amounting to EUR 8.6 million, we were able to generate EBITDA of EUR 92.6 million and a high single-digit EBITDA margin. The significant increase in our free cash flow to EUR 129.8 million was particularly satisfying. We thus achieved is the best figure in the company’s history to date in the crisis year of 2020. Our management of receivables and liabilities allowed us to generate substantial cash inflows from the release of net working capital. We also benefited from the sale of real estate in the second quarter. The very good cash flow allowed us to pay off all bank liabilities over the course of the year. We are therefore starting the new year free of bank liabilities and a very strong financial position.
Strategically, the focus in 2020 was the implementation of our new organizational structure. With TAKKT 4.0, we want to make the Group more compact, achieve greater scalability of key supporting and non-operational functions and introduce new management methods and processes. Even though the coronavirus has cost us considerable time and resources, we still made good progress with the implementation of TAKKT 4.0. In the Omnichannel Commerce segment, KAISER+KRAFT is realigning itself in order to achieve stronger growth and greater efficiency in the medium term. In Web-focused Commerce, we have also made extensive preparations to create new structures.
Hubert and Central follow a different business model from the other activities in Omnichannel Commerce. We therefore opted to form a third segment called Food Equipment & Supplies at the beginning of 2021, which includes these two business units. This enables us to improve and strengthen the integration of the other businesses within Omnichannel Commerce. At the same time, we can continue to work on strategic options for Hubert and Central.
The pandemic and the related uncertainty and volatility has led to a shift in perspective towards more short-term developments. Despite these circumstances, we at TAKKT are looking far ahead and have developed a new vision for the Group. This vision serves as our guide and ambition for the transformation in which we find ourselves. It makes communication easier internally and externally, and shows where we want to be by 2025:
We are the most sustainable provider of workspace equipment.
Committed to an outstanding customer experience, the responsible use of resources, and strong growth.
In keeping with the motto “We are all TAKKT,” we want to strengthen our employees’ identification with TAKKT in all business units and regions. We believe that a shared culture and identity will form the basis for our future success. Furthermore, our goal with the new vision is to be the most successful supplier in our market in terms of sustainability. Sustainability for us comprises environmental as well as economic and social components. We aim to impress customers with our outstanding performance and build long-term relationships with them. At the same time, we will manage our resources in a very responsible manner, both with regard to natural resources and
the environment as well as our employees. And we also want to achieve sustainable economic success and strong growth for the benefit of all our stakeholders. Our vision is ambitious and will serve as a guiding principle for our actions and decisions in the years to come.
There were two changes in the Management Board last year. We are delighted that we were able to gain Tobias Flaitz for TAKKT. He has many years of expertise with digital business models and has been responsible for developing the Web-focused Commerce segment since the beginning of June. Last year, Heiko Hegwein decided to leave the company in September for personal reasons and by mutual agreement with the Supervisory Board. On behalf of my fellow members of the Management Board, I want to take this opportunity to express my deepest appreciation to Heiko Hegwein for his dedication and the excellent collaboration. We wish him every success and all the best for the future both professionally and personally. As CEO, I have assumed responsibility for the transformation of the Omnichannel Commerce segment for the time being.
In September, I informed the Supervisory Board that I would not be renewing my contract, which expires at the end of April 2023. Ensuring management continuity beyond 2023 is necessary in order to continue to successfully drive the transformation process forward. I would like to initiate the necessary generational change now and personally support it as much as possible. The Supervisory Board and I are currently working on a succession arrangement, which we want to implement in the current year.
The continued implementation of the transformation will also play a key role in shaping the current fiscal year. The focus will be on further developing the segment functions in Omnichannel and Web-focused Commerce. The further course of the pandemic as well as the timing and extent of the easing or tightening of protective measures continue to be important factors for our business development. At the beginning of the year, we will see negative growth rates compared to the corresponding period of the previous year, which had not yet been affected by the pandemic. We then expect to see a significant improvement and clear positive organic growth starting in the second quarter. For the full year of 2021, we want to achieve organic growth of between seven and twelve percent and will support this through the implementation of strategic growth initiatives. EBITDA is expected to increase significantly in 2021. With the planned organic growth and without acquisitions, disposals or other significant impacts as a result of the pandemic, we expect EBITDA to be in the range of EUR 100 to 120 million in 2021.
In order to safeguard our financial independence and ability to act, we made the decision last year to suspend payment of the dividend in a very uncertain environment. We have made it through the crisis well so far, our equity ratio is over 60 percent and we generated high free cash flow. We now want to resume the reliable dividend policy of previous years and, besides a dividend payment of EUR 0.55 for the 2020 fiscal year, add another EUR 0.55 to make up for the suspended base dividend from the previous year. The Supervisory Board and Management Board therefore propose to the Shareholders’ Meeting a total dividend payment of EUR 1.10 per share. This dividend proposal is subject to the condition that the negative effects of the pandemic do not worsen significantly in the
weeks leading up to the Shareholders’ Meeting.
The past year has put a great deal of strain on all of us. The spread of the novel coronavirus had a marked impact on our business performance in Europe and the US. Unlike many previous crises, however, the pandemic also had a direct impact on our immediate professional environment, on how we work in the TAKKT Group. As the employer of over 2,500 people worldwide, we bear a great deal of responsibility in a situation like this, which we must live up to.
We are fully aware that 2020 has been a difficult year for all our employees. We are proud of how well we responded to the challenges and the new circumstances that resulted from the pandemic. Therefore, on behalf of my fellow members of the Management Board, I especially want to thank our employees for their outstanding work and dedication. In addition, I would like to thank our customers, partners and shareholders for their continued trust during this transformation phase.
(CEO of TAKKT AG)