Orell Füssli reported net revenue of CHF 237.4 million in the 2019 financial year (CHF 264.9 million in 2018). The decline compared to the previous year was attributable mainly to the sale of parts of the Zeiser Division’s business as well as lower volumes at Security Printing. Earnings from operations (EBIT before special items) were maintained at virtually the previous year’s level despite lower revenues and amounted to CHF 19.7 million (CHF 20.1 million in 2018). Operating earnings (EBIT) increased to CHF 18.2 million in the 2019 financial year (CHF 12.0 million in 2018). This figure includes special items amounting to CHF -1.5 Mio. (CHF -8.1 million in 2018), which originate mainly from diverse expenditure and income in the Security Printing, Zeiser and Publishing divisions. After adjustments for special items both EBIT and net income were well above the previous year’s figures. Net income at Orell Füssli amounted to CHF 10.9 million (CHF -47.2 million in 2018). In 2018 this figure was depressed by non-recurring, non-cash expenditure in the amount of CHF 54.0 million relating to the sale of parts of Atlantic Zeiser’s business. Shareholders’ equity including minority interests remained practically stable at CHF 147.8 million (CHF 148.5 million in 2018). The equity ratio rose slightly to 66.8%.
Security Printing Division
The Security Printing Division posted net revenue of CHF 101.2 million in 2019 (CHF 112.3 million in 2018), equivalent to a reduction of 10% compared to the previous year. The decline in net revenue was attributable to changes in the product mix with an increase in export business and the completion of substantial orders from anchor customers. Earnings from operations (EBIT) before special items for action taken to make banknote production more flexible and the value adjustment of a minority interest totalling CHF -2.1 million amounted to CHF 11.3 million (CHF 18.8 million in 2018). As expected, a significant reduction in fixed costs compared to the previous year was insufficient to offset the decline in gross profit. Operating earnings (EBIT) were CHF 9.2 million (CHF 18.0 million in 2018).
In 2019 the Security Printing Division reported a slight increase in sales volumes (+5%) compared to the previous year. Sales efforts bore fruit and production volumes for the export market were higher (58% of total sales volume) than for long-standing anchor customers for the first time since 2013. The final denomination of the Swiss National Bank’s 9th banknote series was issued in September 2019 in the shape of the 100-Swiss franc note. The division’s successful positioning as a supplier of high-quality and at the same time economically attractive banknotes was maintained in an intensely competitive market environment in 2019, but remains a challenging task in the medium term. For the Security Printing Division 2020 will feature increased investment activity, intensified innovation efforts, a further increase in orders from the international market as well as the optimal orientation of the division towards the expected shift in the product mix in the direction of less complex notes in the export business.
In 2019 the Zeiser Division exceeded targets in respect of both net revenue and operating earnings. Net revenue amounted to EUR 26.2 million or CHF 29.2 million (EUR 43.9 million/CHF 50.7 million in 2018). Earnings from operations (EBIT) before special items amounted to EUR 4.2 million or CHF 4.8 million. Operating earnings (EBIT) after special items were EUR 5.8 million or CHF 6.4 million (EUR -7.4 million/CHF -8.5 million in 2018). When comparing the financial statistics with the previous year’s figures it should be borne in mind that the Zeiser Division’s business activities underwent fundamental changes in the previous year, and the production plant in Paderborn (DE) was also sold at the end of May 2019.
In the serialisation of banknotes, passports and security documents, such as revenue stamps or lottery tickets, Zeiser expanded its leading market position further and in particular was able to acquire an exceptionally large number of new orders for banknote serialisation. This resulted in a large order backlog in 2019, which ensures sustained and solid capacity utilisation for 2020. The focus in 2020 will be on the consolidation and expansion of the division’s leading market position as well as the further activation of business opportunities generating synergies. The closure of the production site in Andover (UK) and the resulting centralisation of manufacturing at headquarters in Emmingen (DE) will lead to further optimisation in production processes. Preparations for merging the production facilities at the two sites in Emmingen are also being pursued.
Book Retailing Division
Last year the Book Retailing Division again reported an increase in net revenue compared to 2018. In 2019 this amounted to CHF 97.4 million, an increase of some 6% compared to the previous year (CHF 92.2 million). Operating earnings (EBIT) increased in the year under review to CHF 6.5 million (CHF 5.0 million in 2018) as a result of the encouraging course of business. On the basis of comparable selling space sales volumes increased by 3.4 % and net revenue by as much as 3.8% (2.1% in 2018), while the market as a whole grew by 1.5% during the same period. Digital and online mail order business again grew in the double-digit percentage range in 2019. In the business customer segment the merger of the activities of Orell Füssli and Delivros also resulted in significant sales growth.
The pleasing trend in net revenue and operating earnings shows that the transformation programme launched in 2015 and resolutely implemented since then is taking effect and bearing lasting fruit. Steps such as ongoing work on the bricks-and-mortar product range and the expansion of customer loyalty programmes made an important contribution to the positive trend. With regard to expenditure the main focus of attention remained on increasing productivity per unit of space and optimising indirect costs. The bricks-and-mortar branch portfolio was further reinforced by new openings in the Seedamm Center in Pfäffikon and on Europaallee in Zurich. The emphasis for the Book Retailing Division in 2020 will be on the profitable expansion of market share across all sales channels.
Net revenue at Orell Füssli Publishing in 2019 was CHF 9.8 million, 3% lower than the previous year’s figure (CHF 10.1 million). While sales of legal media, educational media and children’s books were in line with the previous year’s outcome, non-fiction posted a decline due to a reduced autumn publishing programme. An extensive transformation programme in the context of the development of publishing activities was launched and will be implemented in 2020. This resulted in special items in the 2019 financial statements.
Investment in Procivis AG: entry into digital ID solutions
Digitisation is encouraging growing demand for efficient government and private online services. Digital identities open up attractive opportunities for serving government agencies, companies and the public efficiently with digital services and improving interaction. E-government, for example, offers the chance to process documents such as extracts from the companies’ register, the land register, the debt collection register, the record of previous convictions, as well as birth certificates, tendering processes, change-of-address certificates, incorporation of companies and also verifications in the sharing economy rapidly and inexpensively in future via secure digital identities and by means of electronic signatures.
As a long-standing partner of government and leading specialist in security technologies and individualisation of security documents, Orell Füssli plans to augment its expertise through security solutions for digital identities. Orell Füssli is investing for this purpose in Procivis AG, a technology leader in e-id products. Procivis solutions have become established as one of the leading technologies in recent years and offer government agencies, organisations and the public secure digital access to diverse services. Synergies with the Security Printing Division also arise, and Procivis can benefit from Orell Füssli’s experience in business with government agencies and its strong brand. The Procivis system is already successfully in use in Canton Schaffhausen and is being continuously expanded.
Elimination of the holding structure
In order to simplify the group structure, to optimize administrative processes and to take advantage of the possibilities offered by the reform of corporate taxation, Orell Füssli Holding Ltd and its wholly owned subsidiaries in Switzerland will merge to form the new Orell Füssli Ltd. Subject to the approval of this year’s Annual General Meeting to the amendment of the articles of association, this change will come into effect retrospectively on January 1, 2020. The management team of the Orell Füssli Group is expanded by the addition of the heads of the Security Printing and Zeiser divisions.
The Board of Directors will propose to the Annual General Meeting to be held on May 20, 2020, that a dividend of CHF 6.00 per Orell Füssli share be paid. The dividend will be payable after its approval by shareholders at the Annual General Meeting. Orell Füssli plans to distribute around 75% of the free cash flow to shareholders in future.
Changes in the Board of Directors
Dr Caren Genthner-Kappesz, Dr Beat Lüthi, and Peter Stiefenhofer have decided not to stand for re-election to the Board of Directors of Orell Füssli Ltd at the Annual General Meeting on May 20. The Board of Directors wishes to express its thanks to the retiring directors for their great commitment and valuable contribution to its work. Mirjana Blume, Dr Martin Folini and Dr Luka Müller will be proposed to the Annual General Meeting for election to the Board of Directors, which is confident that their extensive experience and profound expertise will ideally complement this body.
Outlook for 2020
Orell Füssli foresees a continued challenging market environment in the 2020 financial year. Due to the changes in the product mix towards lower-margin orders at Security Printing, this division foresees a solid first six months and significantly weaker earnings in the second half of the current financial year. Zeiser will be in a position to continue its positive development in 2020. Orell Füssli expects a stable trend at Book Retailing, whereby the effects of the Covid-19 virus cannot be assessed at present. For 2020 overall, Orell Füssli foresees slightly lower net revenue than in 2019 and an EBIT margin in the mid-single-digit range.
The company will hold an event for investors in autumn 2020 with the objective of offering investors, financial analysts and the media more detailed insight into Orell Füssli’s activities. Orell Füssli will also present its medium-term planning on this occasion.