In a weak market environment, Autoneum not only significantly increased sales in 2015 but was also operationally more profitable than ever before thanks to its operational excellence, innovation leadership and globally balanced production network. While net sales in local currencies grew by 10.6%, net sales in the reporting currency rose by 6.7% to CHF 2‘085.9 million despite the strength of the Swiss franc. The EBITDA margin increased to a new record high of 10.7% before non-recurring expenses. The EBIT margin before non-recurring expenses improved to 7.6% and exceeded the 7% mark for the first time. Notwithstanding the lower year-on-year net profit due to non-recurring expenses and a normalized tax ratio, the Board of Directors proposes an unchanged dividend of CHF 4.50 per share.
Strong sales growth in weak market environment
With 88.6 million light vehicles produced and a growth rate of only 1.4%, the global automotive industry in 2015 recorded its weakest growth momentum since the automotive crisis of 2009. While automobile production in Europe, North America and Asia grew, production volume in South America decreased due to the economic crisis and the related drop in demand over the previous year. In this low-impulse market environment, Autoneum was able to increase net sales in local currencies by 10.6% and thus significantly exceeded global market growth thanks to a good order situation and the corresponding utilization of production capacities. Despite the strength of the Swiss franc, net sales in the company currency rose by 6.7% from CHF 1‘954.7 million to CHF 2‘085.9 million. Except Business Group SAMEA (South America, Middle East and Africa), all business groups contributed to this rise in sales.
Profitability further increased
Autoneum’s ongoing rise in profitability also continued through 2015. EBITDA increased by CHF 21.5 million to CHF 223.0 million before non-recurring expenses in relation to the payment of CHF 31.5 million to the German Federal Cartel Office. Accordingly, the EBITDA margin of 10.7% surpassed the previous year’s already high level. EBITDA after non-recurring expenses totaled CHF 191.5 million (2014: CHF 201.6 million). EBIT before non-recurring expenses improved by CHF 22.8 million to CHF 158.0 million. The EBIT margin of 7.6% surpassed the previous year’s margin by 0.7 percentage points and exceeded the 7% mark for the first time in company history. High capacity utilization in Europe, material efficiency in North America and Asia as well as the increased productivity thanks to operational excellence contributed to the once again improved results. EBIT after non-recurring expenses amounted to CHF 126.5 million (2014: CHF 135.1 million).
Investments in expansion of global presence
Net profit decreased on the previous year by CHF 34.1 million to CHF 68.7 million. Despite the further improved operating result, non-recurring expenses associated with the payment to the German Federal Cartel Office and a higher tax burden resulted in the lower net profit. Whereas benefits from loss carryforwards recognized in 2014 led to a disproportionately low tax ratio of 14.4%, after adjustment for non-recurring expenses in relation to the payment to the German Federal Cartel Office, the tax ratio again attained a sustainable level of 28.8%. Investments made predominantly to expand global presence, including in the US plants in Jeffersonville, Indiana, and Monroe, Ohio, and in the relocation of a Brazilian plant, amounted to CHF 120.7 million (2014: CHF 101.9 million). Operating cash flow decreased by CHF 26.5 million to CHF 111.7 million (2014: CHF 138.2 million) due to the payment to the German Federal Cartel Office, operational losses at Business Group SAMEA and the higher net working capital at December 31, 2015. The lower net profit also took effect on the total return on net assets (RONA), which at 17.7% before non-recurring expenses stood below the previous year’s level, but again significantly exceeded the cost of capital. The equity ratio of 35.7% was unchanged compared to the prior year. The decisive cause of net debt rising to CHF 105.4 million (2014: CHF 53.9 million) was a payment of CHF 31.5 million to the German Federal Cartel Office in June 2015. Earnings per share before non-recurring expenses were at CHF 15.92 (2014: CHF 17.03), and cash and cash equivalents on December 31, 2015, totaled CHF 78.7 million (2014: CHF 140.9 million).
Dividend payout at prior year’s level proposed
Despite the lower year-on-year net profit, the Board of Directors will propose to the Annual General Meeting on March 30, 2016, the payment of an unchanged dividend of CHF 4.50 per share.
Net sales of Business Group Europe went up in 2015 by 13.1% in local currencies due to numerous production ramp-ups and thus significantly surpassed the already dynamic market growth in this region. Due to pronounced currency effects, net sales in Swiss francs only grew by 3.7% to CHF 833.2 million (2014: CHF 803.3 million). Crucial to the rise in EBIT of Business Group Europe from CHF 31.7 million to CHF 44.7 million was strong capacity utilization due to high-volume customer orders for models of European and Korean OEMs and gains in productivity through material efficiency, which among other things included lower scrap rates in production. The EBIT margin accordingly reached 5.4% of net sales for the first time, surpassing the previous year’s margin by 1.4 percentage points.
Business Group North America grew organically by 8.8% in the reporting year. This was the result of supply for high-volume US and Japanese models. Almost all of the 15 best-selling car models in the USA were equipped with Autoneum products. Net sales in Swiss francs rose by 10.8% to CHF 977.9 million (2014: CHF 882.7 million). EBIT increased by CHF 16.6 million to CHF 91.7 million (2014: CHF 75.1 million). The EBIT margin of 9.4% was 0.9 percentage points above that of the previous year. The result achieved in North America improved thanks to lower material costs and the further expansion of vertical integration.
Business Group Asia again reported striking sales growth of 20.6% in local currencies, achieved through extensive series start-ups for models of international and local OEMs and with Japanese customers who were overproportionately successful in China. In Swiss francs, sales improved by 24.5% to CHF 180.9 million (2014: CHF 145.3 million). EBIT of Business Group Asia rose by CHF 5.1 million to CHF 25.0 million, corresponding to a further increase in the EBIT margin to 13.8%. Material efficiency and continuous improvement of production standards contributed to the high EBIT margin.
Net sales of Business Group SAMEA were decimated by the collapse in the main market Brazil. Whereas sales in local currencies declined by 5.7%, due to significant devaluation of the Brazilian real and Argentine peso, net sales in Swiss francs were reduced by 23.9% to CHF 94.3 million (2014: CHF 123.9 million). EBIT declined from CHF 1.5 million in the previous year to CHF –12.5 million. Burdening the result of Business Group SAMEA was the ongoing recession and associated massive drop in demand in Brazil, as well as non-recurring expenses associated with relocating a Brazilian plant. High production volumes in Turkey and South Africa were able to partly offset the declines in South American production.
Changes to the Group Executive Board
The Board of Directors of Autoneum Holding Ltd appointed Andreas Kolf as Head of Business Group Asia and member of the Group Executive Board of Autoneum Holding Ltd as of March 1, 2016. Andreas Kolf has many years of experience as a managing director of international automotive suppliers and a profound knowledge of the Asian automotive market. He succeeds Dr Uwe Trautmann, who made a personal decision to leave the company at the end of February 2016 and return to Europe after 20 years in Asia. Uwe Trautmann headed Business Group Asia from 2007 until 2011 as a member of the Executive Committee of the Automotive Systems Division of Rieter Holding Ltd and served on the Group Executive Board of Autoneum Holding Ltd since its foundation in May 2011. The Board of Directors of Autoneum Holding Ltd and CEO Martin Hirzel regret Uwe Trautmann’s resignation, thank him for his major contribution to the development of Business Group Asia and wish him all the best for this new s