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The OECHSLER Group, a leading polymer technology group with a global presence and headquarters in Ansbach/Middle Franconia, grew again in 2019 and increased its consolidated sales by 10.7 percent to 476 million euros in the past business year (previously 430 million euros). The group is operating three German and six other locations worldwide in the three business segments Automotive, Medical and Innovative Solutions. The Innovative Solutions business segment again developed positively in the reporting period. With an increase of more than 73 percent, it showed particularly dynamic growth and contributed about one-third to the group's turnover (previous year 22 percent). At three production sites worldwide in Ansbach-Brodswinden, Acworth (USA) and Taicang (China), this area also includes additive manufacturing, in which special materials are processed using 3D printing. Such components manufactured by OECHSLER are used, for example, as sports shoe soles and in the form of compressive grid structures, so-called "lattice structures", in protective equipment for the sports sector.
Due to the weaker industry environment in the automotive sector, turnover in the Automotive division fell by just under seven percent to around 300 million euros in 2019. Due to the simultaneous strong development of the Innovative Solutions division, the Automotive division's share of Group revenue fell. The third business segment, Medical, developed slightly downward with a revenue share of just under three per cent (previous year four per cent), as expected. The sales of OECHSLER AG, which comprises the two German locations Ansbach and Weißenburg, fell by 12.8 per cent to 255.8 million euros compared to the previous year due to the weak demand in the automotive industry.
Technological innovations and the targeted marketing of existing technical expertise in the form of new applications, processes (e.g. 3D printing) and products are the drivers of the OECHSLER Group's growth. In line with this maxim, a disproportionate share of the investment budget flowed into research and development in the reporting year: At 18.6 million euros, R&D investments in 2019 were a good 27 percent above the previous year. Adjusted for special effects, total investments in the OECHSLER Group in 2019 amounted to around 74 million euros (previous year 42 million euros), of which 22 million euros were accounted for by investments at the domestic sites in Ansbach, Weißenburg and Ansbach Brodswinden (previous year 20 million euros).
Research and development will continue to gain in importance in the future: On the one hand, the technological change in the industry is changing the needs and requirements of the manufacturers for the suppliers. On the other hand, ever shorter product cycles and increased demands for rapid local availability are creating new growth opportunities for the OECHSLER Group as a globally positioned group of companies. The Group also intends to exploit these opportunities in a targeted manner by consistently expanding its main plant in Ansbach to become the technological lead plant for the entire Group.
The field of additive manufacturing plays a special role in this: Here, OECHSLER already operates the world's largest fleet of systems from Silicon Valley 3D printing pioneer Carbon at locations in Europe, Asia, and North America. In addition, OECHSLER recently entered into a strategic alliance with industry leaders HP and BASF. The focus here is on the joint development of innovative applications with market-leading customers from the automotive, household, medical device and other industries to realize the full potential of additive manufacturing on an industrial scale with novel product designs. This brings OECHSLER a significant step closer to its stated goal of expanding a manufacturer-independent production strategy and the series production of 3D-printed parts. Already this year, the set-up of the series production of road-legal 3D printed full bucket seats, which will be available ex-works via the Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur, will start in 2021.
Dr Claudius M. Kozlik, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of OECHSLER AG, emphasized on the occasion of the presentation of the annual results: "In 2019, we have taken important strategic decisions: In the Automotive segment, we have further increased our innovation speed and are working with our customers on promising projects. In the Innovative Solutions business field, especially in additive manufacturing, we have built up the technical know-how to open up new customer segments, for example in the sporting goods industry. The Medical business area has developed modestly in 2019 but could receive new impetus in the medium term from the current efforts to strengthen national production capabilities in the field of infectious medicine. Last but not least, with six foreign locations, we believe we are well prepared for potential changes in global supply chains."
The positive business development also had an impact on the number of employees in the OECHSLER Group: At the end of the year, OECHSLER employed around 3,300 people, which is a good 200 more than in the previous year. Of these, around 1,400, including 88 trainees (previous year 84), were employed at the OECHSLER sites in Ansbach, Weißenburg (OECHSLER AG) and Ansbach-Brodswinden (OECHSLER Motion GmbH) - and thus around 150 fewer employees than in the previous year due to the changes in the area of sports shoe production.
Michael Meyer, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of OECHSLER AG, emphasized: "Our industry has been changing rapidly for years: digitalization, changing preferences of end customers, growing importance of electromobility and new trends such as additive manufacturing bring not only a lot of change for the OECHSLER Group and its employees, but above all great potential for the future. The Corona pandemic could accelerate this dynamic even further: We observe that our industrial partners are even investing more in innovation in the current situation and that the general interest in the possibilities of 3D printing is increasing substantially. With the new industry alliance with HP and BASF, we can make an extremely interesting offer to our existing customers and new customers in this area. However, the Corona pandemic also brings an increased level of planning uncertainty for OECHSLER and will strongly influence the business in 2020."
The innovative strength and attractiveness as an employer are confirmed by renowned awards that OECHSLER has received in recent months. Last year, OECHSLER received the "Bosch Global Supplier Award" from Bosch in the category Direct Purchasing/Mobility Solutions, making it one of the technology and services group's best suppliers worldwide. In addition, OECHSLER was recognized by the customers Mekra Lang and Kiekert for its product quality and as an innovation leader in the joint study "Germany's Innovation Leaders" conducted by the F.A.Z. Institute, IMWF Institute for Management and Economic Research and Prognos, which examines 33,000 companies from Germany. In May 2020, OECHSLER received the internationally renowned "Axia Best Managed Companies Award" for the second time.
In the planning for 2020, OECHSLER originally assumed a slight decline in sales, also due to the termination of the exclusive sports shoe production for the customer adidas at the OECHSLER sites in Germany and the USA. Slight growth was expected again for 2021. In the meantime, it has become obvious that the Corona pandemic will have a significant impact on the OECHSLER Group's business performance in the current fiscal year and possibly beyond. From today's perspective, it is not possible to make a concrete forecast of the course of business in 2020, since it is currently not foreseeable how long pandemic-related restrictions will negatively affect business life and the. The Executive Board's goal is to keep losses in the Group's results as low as possible through consistent cost discipline. With an equity ratio of almost 48 percent, which is high by industry standards, and access to sufficient liquidity, the Group is also in a rock-solid financial position. There are therefore no plans to raise additional debt or equity capital.
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