Healthy Corporate Development
Sales revenue in fiscal 2004 developed very encouragingly to CHF 1.46 billion, which is 9.3 percent higher than last year. This is purely organic growth which was not influenced by any acquisitions. It was possible as a result of the strong development of order bookings on an annual basis and the growth in the service business. Order bookings increased by 5.9 percent to CHF 1.47 billion, and also the order backlog at the end of the year improved once again by 2.8 percent to CHF 660 million.
All divisions with positive development
Sales in the Grain Processing division rose by 3.2 percent to CHF 826 million. The main contributors to this increase were the Milling and Optical Sorting business units. All the divisions again achieved a positive result. The Engineered Products division (food and surface coatings production systems) increased its sales revenue by 17.3 percent to CHF 441 million, with only the Thermal Processes business unit (PET manufacturing plants) lagging slightly behind the figures of a year ago. But despite the decline, this business unit achieved top earnings. Development was once again particularly encouraging in the Die Casting division. It boosted sales by 26 percent to CHF 178 million, and also its order bookings developed very promisingly, rising by about 20 percent over the previous year.
Increase in Asia
By regions, sales rose especially in Asia, which now accounts for over 24 percent of total revenues. Europe is still the largest market with its share of 42 percent of total sales, but has shrunk slightly from a year ago (44 percent). While markets in West Europe stagnated, the East developed favorably. As a region, America maintained its share of sales with about 16 percent, despite the weakness of the U.S. dollar. Thanks to brisk demand for staple food production plants, Africa improved as a region from 11 percent a year ago to over 14 percent. As a result of the uncertain situation in the Middle East, this region’s share of total sales slipped from 9 to 4 percent.
High increase in margins
The Group improved its profitability substantially in the year under review. The operating result rose by 54 percent to CHF 80.5 million. This translates into an EBIT margin of 5.5 percent (previous year: 3.9 percent). The improvement was achieved despite the highly negative impact of global steel price hikes. Contributors to this encouraging result were the progress made in streamlining internal processes and innovations which allowed good margins to be attained. Thanks to a solid financial result, corporate profits increased by 72.9 percent to CHF 70 million.
Strong financial structure
The equity ratio increased yet again, amounting to 43.3 percent as per the end of 2004. Also net liquidity improved to CHF 222 million (previous year: 217.3 million). As a result, Buhler continues to enjoy a very sound financial structure.
Outlook for 2005
Corporate management expects the growth trend to continue in Asia, justifying the Group’s intensified activities in that region. In the other regions, no major changes in the geopolitical and business situation are expected. But Buhler will further expand its market position by rolling out more innovations, implementing selective process refinements, and yet again improving its service business.
Buhler is a global Technology Group and the system partner for plant, equipment, and process know-how in Food Processing, Chemical Process Engineering, and Die Casting, with about 6100 employees worldwide.
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