Slight revenue decline to 1.38 billion euros (-3.6 per cent): domestic service business and public sector have stabilising effect
Solid financial basis: 64.3 per cent equity ratio and 95.0-million-euro liquidity reserve are record values
Attractive return: dividend proposal 0.60 euros
Outlook: positive order development in the first weeks creates optimistic mood for 2010
Neckarsulm, 19 March 2010 - In 2009, Bechtle AG did well despite the difficult setting. In the most severe crisis after World War II, the IT service and trading enterprise generated total revenues of 1,379.3 million euros (prior year: 1,431.5 million euros). The 2009 EBT exceeded general market expectations, totalling 43.7 million euros (prior year: 61.5 million euros). At 3.2 per cent, the EBT margin remains at a level that is outstanding compared to the industry average (prior year: 4.3 per cent). The earnings per share amounted to 1.64 euros, compared to 2.14 euros in the prior year. In view of the group's excellent liquidity position, the Executive Board and the Supervisory Board will propose the distribution of a dividend of 0.60 euros per share at the Annual General Meeting to be held in June 2010.
"Thanks to the strong closing quarter, the fiscal year turned out better than expected. With a revenue loss of only 3.6 per cent, the Bechtle Group has done exceedingly well compared to the general market development in the industry. In terms of our earnings, we were able to reduce the gap to the prior year from quarter to quarter," says Dr. Thomas Olemotz, Spokesman of the Executive Board of Bechtle AG.
IT System House & Managed Services Segment Reports Positive Business Performance in Germany.
In the IT system house & managed services segment, Bechtle generated revenues of 920.0 million euros in 2009, only 0.8 per cent less than in the prior year (927.5 million euros). Especially the business of the domestic system houses and the development in the public sector division had a stabilising effect. The IT system house & managed services revenue in Germany even increased slightly from 778.7 million euros to 779.3 million euros. The business with public-sector clients surged by 32.8 per cent to 290.6 million euros (prior year: 218.8 million euros). This means a share of 21.1 per cent in the total revenue (prior year: 15.3 per cent).
In 2009, the EBIT in the IT system house & managed services segment dropped by 33.0 per cent to 25.8 million euros (prior year: 38.4 million euros). Accordingly, the EBIT margin declined from 4.1 per cent to 2.8 per cent. This was mainly due to the weak revenue performance in comparison with the costs and the increase in personnel expenses.
Sights Set on Further International Growth in the IT E-Commerce Segment.
In the IT e-commerce segment, revenue totalled 459.4 in 2009, 8.8 per cent less year-on-year (prior year: 503.9 million euros). In the reporting period, the price pressure continued especially in the field of hardware products, resulting in an average price slump of about 12 per cent. Despite the considerable increase in the quantity sold in some product groups, this price slump could not be fully compensated. In the fiscal year 2009, the revenues of the foreign companies amounted to 317.1 million euros (prior year: 343.8 million euros). The domestic trading companies accounted for 142.3 million euros of the revenue (prior year: 160.2 million euros).
In the reporting period, the EBIT in the IT e-commerce segment receded from 21.8 million euros to 16.9 million euros. Though the necessary headcount reduction resulted in cost savings, this only compensated part of the revenue decline. In 2009, investments were made in the two new national markets Ireland and Portugal; moreover, preparations were made for the market entry of Bechtle direkt in Poland and of Comsoft direct in Belgium. Thus, the EBIT margin in the trading segment fell from 4.3 per cent to 3.7 per cent.
Solid Balance-Sheet Structure and Significantly Improved Free Cash Flow.
Despite the balance sheet extension, the equity ratio improved from 62.8 per cent to 64.3 per cent as of 31 December 2009. As of the reporting date, cash and cash equivalents including capital investments and securities had increased from 77.6 million euros to 95.0 million euros. Together with unused credit lines of 34.7 million euros, Bechtle AG has a comfortable liquidity reserve of 129.7 million euros as of 31 December 2009 (prior year: 117.5 million euros).
Despite the lower earnings, the operating cash flow still remained at a high level of 46.7 million euros (prior year: 49.9 million euros). The free cash flow increased by 19.5 per cent to 33.8 million euros (prior year: 28.3 million euros).
Irrespective of the decrease in earnings, the dividend of 0.60 euros per share proposed by the management for the fiscal year 2009 corresponds to the prior-year level. Thus, the dividend payout ratio amounts to approx. 40 per cent, reflecting the reliability of Bechtle's dividend policy and the excellent liquidity.
Number of Employees Down Slightly.
As of 31 December 2009, the Bechtle Group had 4,354 employees, compared to 4,405 at the end of 2008. The decrease, which mainly took place in the IT e-commerce segment, was necessary because of the poor capacity utilisation in this segment. In the reporting period, personnel expenses increased by 2.7 million euros to 220.4 million euros. The personnel expense ratio thus climbed from 15.2 per cent to 16.0 per cent.
Optimistic Outlook for 2010.
In view of the improved economic situation and the strength of Bechtle AG, the Executive Board is confident that both business segments will grow this year and the company's performance will again be above the industry average. The expansion in Europe is expected to contribute to this growth in the IT e-commerce segment. Thus, the group will launch its business operations in Poland with a new trading company in the first half of the year and plans to enter the Czech market in the second half of the year. The growth of the group is also supported by the concentration on fast-growing business fields in the IT system house & managed services segment and expansion of the activities in the public sector division, especially since the demand in this customer segment is expected to remain stable in the current year due to the funds from the economic stimulus package 2. Furthermore, acquisitions will remain an integral element of the growth strategy. "We are satisfied with the incoming order volume since the beginning of the year, and believe there are good chances for a tangible rise in demand in the second half of the year. Moreover, Bechtle AG's adequate funding provides enough freedom for future organic growth and acquisitions," explains Dr. Thomas Olemotz.