The net sales in 2019 amounted to EUR 44.4 million, which is 4.2 % less than in the previous year (EUR 46.3 million). Currency effects amounted to 0.1 %, volumes fell by 5.2 %, and shifts in the price/product mix impacted sales by -1.0 %. While no emission certificates were sold in the previous year, sales in emission certificates amounted to EUR 0.1 million in the reporting year.
Everyday operations in Gabon were affected by numerous incidents. In the first half of the year, deliveries were impaired by official action and intervention against the illegal timber trade and corruption. As a result, customs clearance was no longer ensured, and the timber volumes could not be loaded for a long time. In the second half of the year, there were massive bottlenecks in rail transport. These resulted in an interruption of more than one month in the veneer plant, given that no logs could be delivered. The road to Libreville was also impassable, preventing us not only from delivering our products to the port but also from supplying diesel to Bambidie, which is necessary for the operation of our generators and vehicles. As a result, the sawmills also stood still for more than a month. All of this led to additional costs, reduced sales, production losses, and consequently to liquidity bottlenecks and once again to excessive inventories.
Due to these circumstances, we recorded a decline in sales from Gabon in 2019 of about EUR 2.2 million or 7.6 % less than the previous year. In contrast, sales from Brazil increased by EUR 0.4 million or 3.2 %. Trading sales in logs and sawn timber from Europe decreased by 15.6 % from the previous year, given that demand – especially from China – was not great. While no emission certificates were sold in the previous year, sales in emission certificates amounted to EUR 0.1 million in the reporting year.
Operational development: Costs and market
The production volume of sawn timber in Brazil increased by 33.0 %. Production volume increased especially in the second half of the year. Some of this additional volume could not yet be delivered. We are therefore recording a disproportionately low increase in sales. Yield was about 4 % higher than in the previous year, and fixed costs increased only marginally, resulting in a disproportionately high increase in our operating result.
The sawmills in Gabon processed 3.8 % fewer logs and at the same time a total of 1.3 % more sawn timber. This was due to an increase in yield of about 5 %. Since export sales were 11.4 % lower than in the previous year, the inventories of the sawmills increased substantially.
In the veneer plant in Gabon, production volume fell by 4.9 %, while 10.8 % fewer logs were processed. Yield increased by 6.7 % and sales were 18.3 % lower than the previous year. Inventories of veneer ready for shipment also increased enormously.
The investment volume was EUR 5.7 million (previous year: EUR 3.5 million). The focus was on the new hardwood sawmill in Gabon, which began production in April 2020. Replacement investments in machinery and vehicles, renewal projects in road construction, and expansion of seasoning capacities for sawn timber were also carried out. These targeted investments will improve the Group’s earning power. Maintenance work at all plants was carried out on schedule.
The average prices for sawn timber across the Group were 1 % below the previous year’s level. Market development was volatile, first and foremost in Asia and especially China. A special challenge for us continues to be the search for markets and applications for the 50 or so different timber species that we process each year. With our dual certification and credibility, we have good arguments and a head start here, given that sustainability is playing an ever-greater role in the procurement of tropical woods. However, the major challenge remains to establish even small quantities of lesser-known species on the markets and with customers. Europe continues to be our main sales market with a share of about 55.3 %, followed by Africa with 16.2 %, Asia with 14.5 %, and other countries with 14.0 %. The share in Europe decreased by 5.9 percentage points.
Production costs increased by 4.5 % across the Group, and the operational contribution increased by 2.3 % or EUR 0.7 million compared with the previous year. This was despite one-off costs of EUR 0.4 million in Brazil due to the interruption of deliveries from 2018, given that the last containers were not released until the second quarter of 2019. The interruption of operations in Gabon (sawmills and veneer plant) also had a negative impact on production costs.
Operating result (EBITDA)
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) on a normalized basis amounted to EUR 5.9 million, which was EUR 0.8 million or 15.0 % higher than in the previous year (EUR 5.1 million). This corresponds to an EBITDA margin of 13.2 % (previous year: 11.0 %). With the valuation of the biomass in Brazil a one-time effect resulted and the EBITDA amounted to EUR 18.4 million.
PW Amazon’s EBITDA margin without one-time effect increased by EUR 1.2 million and reached 22.3 % (previous year: 12.4 %). At PW Gabon, the EBITDA margin fell by EUR 0.4 million to 18.5 % (previous year 18.9 %). Consolidated depreciation was EUR 4.5 million, 32 % higher than in the previous year (EUR 3.4 million). This was due to replacement and new investments. At Group level, earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) on a normalized level reached EUR 1.4 million (previous year: EUR 1.7 million). This corresponds to a margin of 3.1 % (previous year: 3.7 %). Taking account the one-time-effect EBIT reached EUR 14.0 million.
At EUR -2.3 million, the financial result was below the previous year’s figure of EUR -2.8 million. At the end of the year, net debt was significantly higher; on average we did not record a significant increase and in some cases, we were able to refinance ourselves more cheaply. At EUR -0.2 million, the currency effect was practically at the previous year’s level of EUR -0.3 million. Net debt was EUR 7.2 million higher than in the previous year and amounted to EUR 41.6 million (previous year: EUR 34.4 million).
The net profit amounted to EUR 8.0 million compared with a loss of EUR 1.7 million in the previous year. This net profit was significantly influenced by the valuation of biomass, which could not be performed in the past due to a lack of basis for the valuation. The net purely from operating activities was EUR -1.1 million (previous year: EUR -1.7 million).
Production capacities in Brazil and Gabon were expanded, creating the prerequisites for higher processing volumes and improved yield. The total harvest volumes will be slightly higher in 2020. The hardwood sawmill in Gabon was completed in April 2020. Production volume will be increased mainly through yield optimization in Gabon and higher sawn timber volumes in Brazil. The increase in net sales will be between 5 % and 8 %, and it should also be possible to sell the inventories from 2019. The costs will not develop linearly and will be optimized again, resulting in a strong improvement in the operating result. The investment volume in 2020 is about EUR 7 million. The precondition for this is new loans in Brazil.