Neckarsulm, 18 March 2022 – Despite the global supply bottlenecks, 2021 turned out to be another record year for Bechtle AG. The business volume went up by 7.3 per cent to €6,245.8 million, and revenue underwent significant increase of 5.1 per cent to €5,305.5 million. Bechtle was able to boost its earnings before taxes (EBT) by a disproportionately high rate of 18.4 per cent to €320.5 million. The EBT margin thus improved from 5.4 per cent to 6.0 per cent. As of 31 December 2021, Bechtle had 12,880 employees, 700 more than in the prior year.
In the reporting period, Bechtle recorded a 16-per-cent increase in incoming orders, and its orders on hand amounted to €1,804.6 million, a year-on-year increase of 80 per cent. “In view of the difficult framework conditions, we are very pleased with our figures for the fiscal year 2021. At the same time, however, a glance at the significant growth in incoming orders and orders on hand reveals what would have been possible if we had not be hampered by the global supply problems on the IT market,” explains Dr. Thomas Olemotz, Chairman of the Executive Board of Bechtle AG.
Very Significant Earnings Increase in System House Segment
In 2021, we further expanded the service share in the IT System House & Managed Services segment. Both industrial customers and public-sector clients appreciated Bechtle as a partner especially in the field of digital transformation. In the fiscal year 2021, the segment revenue went up by 0.4 per cent to €3,394.8 million. The impact of the supply delays was particularly severe in this area, especially in the high-volume project business and in connection with framework agreements. Nevertheless, Bechtle was able to push up its EBIT in this segment by a remarkable 18.3 per cent to €212.2 million. Besides the said positive performance of our service business, special effects and cost savings due to the coronavirus pandemic had a positive effect on the earnings. The EBIT margin improved from 5.3 per cent to 6.3 per cent.
Growth Driver: E-Commerce
In the IT E-Commerce segment, the revenue in the fiscal year 2021 climbed by 14.5 per cent to €1,910.7 million. In this area, it was easier to overcome supply difficulties by offering customers alternative products. Moreover, thanks to its higher stock levels, Bechtle was able to supply goods when many competitors were not. Thus, we were able to gain numerous new customers in this segment. Growth was achieved in all 14 national markets of the Bechtle Group. The performance of our companies in Germany, France and Eastern Europe was especially strong. Segment EBIT increased by 16.4 per cent to €113.5 million. The EBIT margin was 5.9 per cent, after 5.8 per cent in the prior year.
Cash Flow Remains at High Level
Despite the high stock levels, the cash flow from operating activities amounted to €284.5 million, a high level similar to that of the prior year. This continuity was only possible thanks to our successful cash flow and working capital management. The free cash flow of €218.6 million was even higher than in the prior year (€204.1 million). The working capital merely rose by 6.3 per cent; the relation to the business volume dropped slightly, from 11.2 per cent in the prior year to 11.1 per cent in the year under review. For the first time since 2017, the liquidity of the Bechtle Group (€431.8 million) surpassed the financial liabilities (€345.5 million), i.e. on a de-facto basis, Bechtle is free of debt.
Twelfth Dividend Increase in a Row
In view of this strong business performance and the comfortable liquidity situation, the Executive Board and Supervisory Board of Bechtle AG propose a dividend increase to €0.55 per share. This would mean a year-on-year increase of 22.2 per cent (prior year: €0.45 per share) and would represent the 12th increase in a row. Measured on the basis of the consolidated earnings after taxes, the dividend payout ratio would thus amount to 29.9 per cent (prior year: 29.4 per cent).
Proposal of New Auditors
Apart from the dividend increase, the Supervisory Board has decided to propose Deloitte GmbH Wirtschaftsprüfungsgesellschaft to be elected as auditors at the Annual General Meeting on 2 June 2022. The change comes before the mandatory rotation according to law would apply.
Positive Outlook Despite Uncertainties
Although the macroeconomic situation in early 2022 was generally positive, the picture is tainted by two factors that are causing uncertainty: the war in Ukraine, whose consequences for the macroeconomy are unpredictable, and the global IT supply difficulties, whose further course remains a closed book. Bechtle AG currently expects the bottlenecks to be clearly noticeable at least in the first half of the year. From summer, the situation could gradually relax. Nevertheless, customers’ willingness to invest remains high. The will and the necessity to invest in IT in the course of the digital transformation continue unabated. All in all and despite the said uncertainties, the Executive Board is confident that in this fiscal year, Bechtle AG will again perform well. Revenue and earnings are to achieve significant growth, and we intend to keep the EBT margin at a high level.
“Going by the record high of our orders on hand and our customers’ ongoing strong willingness to invest, you would expect our forecast for 2022 to be fully positive. Yet, making reliable predictions has seldom been as difficult as it is right now. The war in Ukraine in particular has created great uncertainty with regard to the economic development. Moreover, the IT market is still encumbered by various supply chain issues. Against this backdrop, we consider our forecast to be ambitious, but nevertheless realistic,” says Dr. Thomas Olemotz.
Bechtle KPIs 2021
IT System House
IT System House
Earnings after taxes
Earnings per share
1Prior-year figure adjusted
2Adapted to share split
Cash flow from operating activities
1Prior-year figure adjusted
2 Including time deposits and securities