'Today I will present the figures of a business year which can truly be described as challenging'. This is how BLG CEO Frank Dreeke opened his report at the virtual 141st Annual General Meeting of BREMER LAGERHAUS-GESELLSCHAFT -Aktiengesellschaft von 1877-. Dreeke explained that the coronavirus pandemic year had impacted BLG's business to an unprecedented extent. He added that not even the global financial and economic crisis of 2008 had had such an impact. However, he also stressed that the BLG Group, despite a clear loss, had weathered the crisis better than expected a year ago.
It was the second BLG Annual General Meeting to take place virtually. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was again held without the physical presence of the shareholders. The Annual General Meeting represented around 85 percent of the share capital. With a large majority, it discharged the Supervisory Board and the Board of Management and also agreed with all their proposed resolutions. That also covered the utilization of the net profit and therefore the payout of a dividend: In view of the effects of the pandemic on the results of the entire BLG Group, the Board of Management and the Supervisory Board proposed at the Annual General Meeting a payout of only the minimum dividend according to § 254 of the German Stock Corporation Act, which is EUR 0.11 per share.
Frank Dreeke explained the background to this decision: BLG LOGISTICS is not comparable with a 'typical group' where the holding company holds the financial shares in the operationally active subsidiaries. The result generated from operational business only has a minimal effect on the annual financial statement of BREMER LAGERHAUS-GESELLSCHAFT -Aktiengesellschaft von 1877- which, under German law, forms the basis for the dividend payout.
Sales decreased to just under EUR 1.1 billion
In his address, Frank Dreeke summed up the financial year 2020 as follows: Sales of the BLG Group declined by -8.1% to just under EUR 1.1 billion (2019: around EUR 1.16 billion). The result before tax amounted to EUR -116.1 million (2019: EUR 37.5 million). The EBT margin was around -10.9% (2019: 3.2%).
In all divisions, sales revenue collapsed due to the global restrictions in the lockdown months of March to May 2020, which led to an operating loss of EUR 25 million. However, this loss was much lower than predicted at the beginning of the year.
Additionally, severe special effects partly due to the pandemic negatively affected the result. In the CONTAINER division, the special effects added up to EUR 60.2 million, while the cumulative figure for the AUTOMOBILE and CONTRACT divisions was EUR 30.7 million.
Correspondingly, sales revenue generated by the AUTOMOBILE division decreased by -13.6% to EUR 521.3 million (2019: EUR 603.7 million). EBT dropped from EUR 19.3 million in 2019 to EUR -9 million in business year 2020. The EBT margin also fell: from 3.2 percent to -1.7 percent.
Total sales by the CONTRACT division were down -2% to EUR 552.6 million (2019: EUR 563.9 million). The result before tax declined on previous year by EUR 21.3 million to EUR -13.9 million. The EBT margin changed from 1.3 percent in 2019 to -2.5 percent in 2020.
The CONTAINER division is represented by half of the shares in EUROGATE. At EUR 263.5 million, sales revenue was -6.7% below the previous year (2019: EUR 282.3 million). EBT (50%) for the division was EUR -67.3 million (2019: EUR 23.7 million). The EBT margin dropped to -25.5% (2019: 8.4%). Provisions were set aside for the transformation program of EUROGATE and there were book value write-downs for the Container Terminal Wilhelmshaven.
Impact on the equity ratio
The new IRFS accounting standards applied in 2019 had already caused the equity ratio of BLG to decrease in that year from 34.5% to 15.8% - a fall of 19%. Due to the negative result of the financial year 2020, the equity ratio is now 5.0%. Frank Dreeke concluded: 'That is why we started last year to discuss with our shareholders options for boosting equity. The status today is that we have not taken up any financial support.'
Clear Course: Future!
Apart from the overview of the balance sheet performance indicators, Frank Dreeke also informed the meeting about successful projects in 2020. 'It is important to keep in mind that, in spite of the pandemic, we realized some outstanding, forward-looking projects in 2020,' said the CEO in his address. As an example, he named the new, state-of-the-art CI factory of Engelbert Strauss, a specialist for work clothing, in Schlüchtern in the state of Hesse. BLG was significantly involved in its planning, and sent the first package to an end customer in May 2020. In Meerane near Zwickau, BLG took on cable harness logistics for LEONI last year. Now it supplies important components for the manufacture of electric vehicles from the Volkswagen Group.
Frank Dreeke stressed: 'We will continue to shape tomorrow's logistics. Even in the pandemic year, we continued to drive ahead with our climate protection and digitalization programs.' The company aims to be climate-neutral by 2030. It plans to achieve this goal by cutting emissions within the company as well as external emissions caused by BLG's business activities. Furthermore, CO2 will be offset by investments in climate protection projects. BLG is the first German logistics service provider with a scientifically recognized climate protection goal.
Digitalization and automation continue to play an important role. Since 2020, BLG LOGISTICS has been a partner in three new research projects on artificial intelligence. They are examining how AI can be used in logistics. The total project volume is EUR 5.8 million.
BLG expects significant recovery in 2021
Frank Dreeke concluded his talk with a look at the current financial year: 'The BLG Group is broad-based and stands on stable foundations. The results from the first few months give us reason to be cautiously optimistic. We were able to close the first quarter with a positive result. The uncertainties remain, especially with regard to coronavirus and the bottleneck in component availability in the automobile industry. But we are still on our 'Clear Course: Future!''
More information on the BLG Annual General Meeting and 2020 Annual Report:
The BLG Annual Report 2020 bears the title 'Clear Course: Future!'. For the first time, the report is available as an extensive online edition with extra images and videos at reporting.blg-logistics.com.
We have put together all the documents relating to the 2021 General Meeting here: Downloads BLG-Hauptversammlung
Under this link, you can find press releases on the 2021 press conference: Business year 2020: BLG LOGISTICS on a clear course for the future despite losses