In 2020, Bühler gained additional financial strength, with the equity ratio reaching 44.2% (+1.4 percentage points) and net liquidity soaring to CHF749m (+66.8%). Turnover was CHF2.7bn, down 17.0% from CHF3.3bn. The 2020 figures are impacted by the development of currency exchange rates, specifically of the Chinese yuan, euro, and US dollar against the Swiss franc. Adjusted for the impact of the foreign exchange rates, the reduction of the top line versus last year was 13%. “With high agility, we adapted quickly to the new situation to ensure continuity on all levels,” says CEO Stefan Scheiber. “In light of our global set-up and innovation power, we are looking into the future with bounded optimism.”
Bühler assured the health of its employees and its daily operations throughout the year. Supply chains proved remarkably solid, as Bühler was able to absorb the pandemic’s waves thanks to its global network of 33 factories, 100 service stations, and digital tools such as remote customer trials or commissioning, to bring much-needed food capacities online worldwide. “We have seen a sharp rise in customer demand for digital solutions, but also for sustainable solutions, such as CO2-reduced emissions, nutritious and healthy food, high-end deposition technologies, and clean mobility,” Stefan Scheiber said.
“Protecting our liquidity had the highest priority over the course of last year,” says CFO Mark Macus. “Our target was to remain a very solid and strong partner for all our stakeholders, and we achieved this even in a challenging year like 2020.” Driven by diligent finance management, operating cash flow jumped 211% from CHF 151 million to CHF 470 million. Strict cost management allowed Bühler to offset a significant part of the adverse volume impact, resulting in EBIT of CHF 146 million (previous year: CHF 248 million), and an EBIT margin of 5.4% (7.6%).
Along with the divergent course of Bühler’s businesses, there was also a shift in regional development towards Asia. While all markets reported lower volumes, Bühler Asia managed to be stably driven by the strong growth of Bühler’s business in China. Order intake in China rose sharply by 15% for the full year. Regarding turnover, Asia now makes up 35% (previous year: 31%), Europe 30% (30%), North America 16% (16%), Middle East & Africa 11% (14%), South America 5% (6%), and South Asia 3% (3%). Yet again, the global network of Bühler played a key role for Bühler in 2020, so that all customers on all continents were served without interruption.
Bühler took all learnings from 2020 to increase business excellence and develop the “new normal”, for example, by switching to digital customer communication formats, such as the Bühler Virtual World. Based on a strong purpose as a family company and dedicated employees across the globe, with its innovation power, broad portfolio, and global set-up, Bühler is looking into the future with optimism. “For 2021, we expect our business volume and profitability to stay stable, as the coronavirus crisis will have a longer-lasting effect on our businesses. At the same time, we are now laying ground to return to profitable growth in the future, by addressing new markets and adapting to new market conditions and opportunities with agility and determination,” says Stefan Scheiber.