At the virtual Annual Report Press Conference in Bremen, BLG LOGISTICS presented its business results for financial year 2020. 'The coronavirus crisis impacted on our business to an unprecedented extent. Despite the clear loss, the BLG Group came through the crisis better than projected a year ago. One reason for this is that we have increasingly diversified our portfolio in recent years,' explained BLG LOGISTICS CEO Frank Dreeke. 'Employee and customer numbers remained stable.'
Revenue declined in the 2020 financial year by -8.1% to just under EUR 1.1 billion (2019: around EUR 1.16 billion). Due to the global pandemic restrictions in the lockdown months of March to May, sales revenue in all divisions collapsed, leading to an operating loss of EUR 25 million. However, this loss was much smaller than had been forecast in early 2020. As the economy started to bounce back from the summer onward, especially in Asia, handling volumes and results steadily improved. However, this did not make up for the operating losses.
Additionally, earnings were negatively affected by one-time effects, partly due to the pandemic. In the CONTAINER Division, these exceptional factors amounted to EUR 60.2 million, while the cumulative figure for the other two divisions, AUTOMOBILE and CONTRACT, was EUR 30.7 million. Overall, the BLG Group posted negative earnings before tax (EBT) of EUR -116.1 million in 2020. The EBT margin was -10.9% (2019: EBT: EUR 37.5 million, EBT margin: 3.2%).
AUTOMOBILE Division hit by automotive crisis
Due to the pandemic, sales in the automotive industry in 2020 were around a quarter below the expected level. That had a direct effect on the volumes of all business areas in the AUTOMOBILE Division. At the largest company location, BLG AutoTerminal Bremerhaven, some 20% fewer vehicles (1.7 million) were handled, transported or technically processed than in the previous year. Across the total AUTOMOBILE network, BLG moved 4.8 million vehicles (2019: 6.3 million vehicles). Sales revenue generated by the AUTOMOBILE Division decreased by -13.6% to EUR 521.3 million (2019: EUR 603.7 million). Despite the coronavirus crisis, the Division was able to attract new customers, for example AIWAYS, a Chinese manufacturer of electric SUVs. The Division also gained new cross-border transport business within Europe. The rail business area achieved a positive result despite the challenging pandemic year.
CONTRACT Division with differing effects
Also in the CONTRACT Division, plant closures and significantly reduced volumes in the automotive industry had palpable effects on the industrial logistics and car parts logistics business areas. However, at the Bremen location, business with a major automotive customer was secured on a long-term basis. From 2022, important activities will be pooled in the new, sustainable 80,000-m2 logistics center 'C3 Bremen'. Business was better in many areas of retail logistics. While closures of brick-and-mortar stores caused declines in textiles and furniture, locations with e-commerce services and also returns logistics fared very well. Overall, retail logistics closed the year positively and better than projected. BLG launched new business activities at other locations, e.g. in Schlüchtern (CI factory of Engelbert Strauss), Ludwigsfelde (gas turbine logistics for Siemens Energy) and Meerane (cable harness logistics for electric vehicles). Total revenue generated by the CONTRACT Division was down by -2% to EUR 552.6 million (2019: EUR 563.9 million).
CONTAINER Division with high one-time effects
CONTAINER Division is represented by half of the shares in EUROGATE. At EUR 263.5 million, sales revenue is -6.7% below the previous year (2019: EUR 282.3 million). This development was caused by declining average selling prices as a result of the fierce competition as well as the effects of the pandemic on freight handling.
Considerable one-time expenses due to recognition of impairment losses on non-current financial assets as well as exceptional provisions for the company's restructuring program depressed earnings by EUR 60.2 million. The goal of the transformation process at EUROGATE is to reduce the total annual costs of the Group in Germany by EUR 84 million p.a. overall as quickly as possible, but no later than 2024. The EBT (50%) for the CONTAINER Division was EUR -67.2 million (2019: EUR 23.7 million), and the EBT margin was -25.5% (2019: 8.4%).
Clear Course: Future!
In his statement, BLG CEO Frank Dreeke said: 'BLG LOGISTICS systematically continued on its journey toward becoming climate-neutral by 2030. In fact, we are the first German logistics service provider with a scientifically recognized climate protection goal.' In fall 2020, the internationally renowned Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) recognized the company's goal targeting an absolute reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
At an early stage in the coronavirus pandemic, BLG implemented extensive safety and hygiene concepts. They were effective, because there have been no coronavirus infections at the workplace. The number of employees remained stable, with 11,609 (2019: 11,720) in Germany and 20,000 jobs worldwide - including all affiliated companies. From November, the Board of Management achieved parity, with equal male-female representation. BLG LOGISTICS is now among the top German companies in terms of the proportion of women in Management and Supervisory Board positions.
In 2020, BLG LOGISTICS was a partner in three new research projects examining how artificial intelligence can be used in logistics. The total project volume is EUR 5.8 million. Further digitalization projects include sensor-based tracking of containers for efficient customs processing, chatbots for personnel recruitment and optical parts recognition.
Outlook for 2021
In his address, Frank Dreeke also reviewed the ongoing financial year: 'There is still major uncertainty about the further impacts of the coronavirus pandemic - both on the global economy and on our customers. 2021 will not be an easy year, but we expect a significant recovery. The results from the first months of 2021 give us reason to be cautiously optimistic. BLG LOGISTICS was able to close the first quarter with a positive result.'
'Clear Course: Future!' is the title of the BLG Annual Report 2020. For the first time, the report is available as an extensive online edition with extra images and videos at reporting.blg-logistics.com.