Letter from the Chairman
Dear Sir or Madam,
We look back on a year in which Haniel was able to create the leeway it needs in order to grow its business. At the beginning of the year – despite massive efforts by an aggressive hedge fund, to exert its influence – we successfully completed the sale of the Celesio division. We used the proceeds from the sale to further reduce the Holding Company’s financial liabilities in 2014. For instance, Haniel bonds were not only repaid on schedule but also redeemed early. In addition, we used the proceeds of sale to strengthen the capital resources of the divisions and acquired low-risk, yet currently low-interest, financial assets for the interim.
The Haniel Holding Company is thus essentially debt-free. We now have sufficient means to acquire new divisions. We thus view 2014 as a strategically important year, during which Haniel has paved the way towards a sustainably successful future.
FULL-SCALE SEARCH FOR NEW BUSINESS DIVISIONS
The primary objective is to acquire new divisions. We have been examining a variety of potential acquisition targets over the course of the year – thus far, without having initiated any transactions. Aside from high valuations and low interest rates for capital investment, this was due primarily to the fact that many companies did not meet our standards of quality.
As a family-equity company, we pursue a long-term investment approach and make growth capital available for our divisions. This is also why we have a clear vision of what we are looking for: our focus is directed on sustainable companies which will contribute to the diversification of Haniel’s portfolio and promise an appropriate return on investment. It is our conviction that healthy mid-market companies in particular generally make a good fit with a family-equity company such as Haniel. In addition, we ensure that we are able to acquire a significant majority in the target.
Based on these criteria, we review all companies offered for sale – as well as internally developed proposals. Haniel has analysed megatrends and, based on that analysis, defined search fields in which potentially interesting business models are carefully examined. Haniel uses its investment filter to screen for well-positioned, medium-sized companies which operate in attractive niche sectors and can leverage our support and competence to become market leaders.
We are back on track for growth and there is much work ahead of us also in the existing portfolio. Thereby, the focus lies on sustainable growth and a long-term improvement in the operating profits of our equity interests at the highest possible level.
BUSINESS REVIEW: 2014
The economic development, particularly in the United States, had a positive effect on our businesses. The uptick in business with the public sector in the wake of the resolution of the budget dispute in the US proved to be a plus for TAKKT. ELG benefited from an increase in demand for scrap metals in the stainless steel and superalloys market segments.
In addition, the divisions continue to work on their strategic projects. TAKKT further aligned its business model with multi-channel sales – with good success. In addition to the previously reported efficiency enhancement measures in its laundry, procurement and logistics areas, CWS-boco also strengthened its sales organisation. The METRO GROUP’s strategic realignment is also advancing, although this also entailed losses in revenue, primarily as a result of divestments and negative currency translation effects. Its operating profit also declined due to massive one-off expenses, meaning that we had to record a decrease in Haniel’s investment result.
In order to streamline the ownership structure of METRO AG, Haniel terminated its pooling agreement with the Schmidt-Ruthenbeck family at the end of October 2014. This agreement primarily served to pool voting rights and was a unique structure amongst listed companies, which was practically never used.
We live in an exciting era of change. Over the years to come, we will grapple with how to continue driving the portfolio restructuring forward to enable us to position ourselves so as to increase value over the long term.
As a family-equity company, we act with responsibility and deliberation. Before we strike out on a new path, we reflect on the consequences of our decisions and weigh the benefits of investing against the costs. We believe that we have an obligation to the society in which we work and live. This is why we consider the common good in every business decision and try to strike the right balance between people, planet and profit.
In the countries in which we operate, we follow the principles of fair competition and respect the laws as well as the traditions and social values. We help to protect the environment and support social causes. We also encourage our employees to do the same by backing them up in their commitment. In line with Haniel’s objective of being “enkelfähig”, the only candidates for acquisition are thus companies which already make a positive contribution to the environment and society through their sustainable actions, or which will be able to do so in the future.
In order to underscore our commitment in this area, we joined the UN Global Compact in March 2014. We support the principles of the UN Global Compact such as human rights, labour standards, environmental protection and the fight against corruption, and ensure that they are proclaimed loud and wide.
I see a willingness to change and grow sustainably everywhere I look in the Company – within the management and among the employees, as well as in the shareholder bodies and the Supervisory Board. I would like to thank you all – also in the name of my colleague Dr Funck – for the trust you have placed in us. We look forward to continuing to work with you and are confident that we will be able to expand our portfolio in the coming year and together to make Haniel even more “enkelfähig” than it already is.
Duisburg, 5 March 2015
Chairman of the Management Board