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For Orell Füssli, business in the past year was dominated by sideways drift featuring light and shade in the individual divisions. All in all, expectations for the 2017 financial year were only partially fulfilled. At Security Printing both output and productivity increased, resulting in further growth in net revenue and operating earnings compared to the previous year. Atlantic Zeiser fell far short of its target for the year due to a subdued market environment and the weak outcome in its packaging business segment. Impairments also had to be recognised at Atlantic Zeiser. Book Retailing continued to focus on implementing its transformation programme and was thus able to counteract the difficult conditions prevailing on the market.
The Orell Füssli Group posted net revenue of CHF 288.5 million in the 2017 financial year. Operating earnings (EBIT) amounted to CHF 12.6 million, including accumulated special items totalling CHF –5.3 million. The equity ratio remained at a very solid level (68%).
Atlantic Zeiser looks back on an unsatisfactory 2017, with a sharp decline in net revenue which was reflected in negative operating earnings. In addition, an evaluation of Atlantic Zeiser’s business prospects revealed the need for impairment charges, which reduced earnings further. In the traditional banknote serialisation business segment, the market returned to a normal level after an exceptionally strong year in 2016. In the field of card personalisation systems new models for personalising financial cards were launched on the market in a weak business environment. Finally, in the packaging business segment the company was unable to expand its position as planned, especially in track & trace and serialisation solutions. In light of the unsatisfactory overall situation, a start was made on setting out a future concept for Atlantic Zeiser. A decision on its implementation will be made in the first half of 2018.
At the Security Printing Division, the positive development trend from previous years continued. The output of the printing plant increased again compared to the previous year, which led to a new record in net revenue, while experience from previous years was utilised to achieve further improvements in productivity and quality. Further denominations were produced for two key customers and are already in circulation in some cases. The Swiss National Bank issued two new denominations in 2017 with the 10-Swiss franc and 20-Swiss franc notes. Orell Füssli acquired initial orders from new customers on the basis of the successful new issues and the presentation of prestigious industrial awards for the 50-Swiss franc note. The focused expansion of this acquisition activity and long-term customer retention with high standards in terms of quality and security features will be of primary importance for generating an attractive earnings situation in the next two years. Cooperation with Landqart AG, in which Orell Füssli acquired a minority holding in 2017, will broaden the potential for acquiring further customers.
Alongside efforts to enhance operating efficiency we shall analyse the potential at Security Printing for broadening the range of products and services on offer by expanding our in-house technology portfolio and thus substantially strengthen our competitive position in the coming years.
Book Retailing was once again faced with a contracting Swiss book market in 2017 and held its own well in this business environment with numerous measures and activities. The main focus remained on the systematic implementation of the transformation programme which had been launched in 2015 to secure the competitive position of the business for the long term. Orell Füssli has taken purposeful steps to boost the attractiveness of the bricks-and-mortar sales outlets while at the same time lowering the operating cost base. The inner-city branches in Basle and St. Gall, which have a long tradition, were re-opened in 2018 after moving to new locations. The merging of the company’s online presence on the www.orellfuessli.ch platform, which has now been completed, is an important basis for the implementation of an integrated omni-channel strategy.
For the 2018 financial year we foresee a downturn in the earnings situation. The steps taken in connection with the reorientation at Atlantic Zeiser are likely to depress earnings in the shape of special charges. At Security Printing we expect earnings to decline due to the change in the product mix towards lower-margin orders alongside further improvements in productivity. At Book Retailing work will focus on the ongoing implementation of the transformation programme.
The Board of Directors will propose to the Annual General Meeting to be held on May 8, 2018, that an unchanged dividend of CH 4.00 per share be paid.
Dear shareholder, the Orell Füssli Group continued to make significant progress in Security Printing and had to face setbacks at Atlantic Zeiser in the past year. The Board of Directors and the Executive Board continue to be convinced of the company’s potential and will set about tackling the challenges on hand together and with great determination.
Finally, our thanks go to our customers worldwide for their loyalty and their confidence in Orell Füssli. We also thank our employees warmly for their committed efforts, which have contributed crucially to the further development of the company.
Zurich, March 2018