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In 2021, we achieved net sales of EUR 54.3 million, an increase of 17.6 % over the previous year (EUR 46.2 million). Currency effects amounted to -1.4 %, volumes increased by 5.6 %, and shifts in the price/product mix impacted sales by 3.1 %. Newly added is the revenue from electricity sales in Brazil of EUR 1.7 million. Sales of emission certificates amounted to EUR 0.1 million, as in the previous year.
Once again in the 2021 fiscal year, we struggled with major infrastructure problems. The transport routes in Gabon were at times unusable or at least severely restricted. Not enough containers were available, and rail capacity was not sufficient to transport the logs and sawn timber to the port on time. Fortunately, the high shipping costs did not result in any order cancellations, even though the cost of a container was at times higher than the value of the contents. After unrestricted operation of the container port in Manaus in 2020, difficulties arose in 2021. We could no longer ship with all companies, and the requirement of an additional government certification led to delays of several weeks, which are still ongoing. At the beginning of 2022, this meant that we were unable to generate sales in the months of February and March. Production operations in both companies were not affected by these logistics problems. However, these non-shipments were reflected in higher inventories and tied-up capital, leading to a deterioration in our liquidity situation despite positive earnings. In Brazil, we achieved consistently high log processing with increased yields. The order mix, including the possibility of producing products for the local market, made this increase possible. In Gabon, while we have not yet achieved full productivity in the new hardwood sawmill, there has been a significant improvement since the new equipment was put into operation. Further productivity increases are expected in this regard.
Despite the more difficult operating conditions, we achieved Group sales growth of about EUR 8.1 million or 17.6 % in 2021. The exchange rate effects of -1.4 % and the effect of the price/product mix of 3.1 % are primarily due to the sale of sawn timber in the local market in Brazil. Prices were affected due to the share of locally sold products in Brazil but also due to product shifts in veneer in Gabon. The price increase for sawn timber was several percentage points higher, given the good market situation. Operations in Brazil achieved an increase in sales of EUR 1.8 million or 13.3 %. In Gabon, we achieved an increase in sales of EUR 4.5 million or 14.3 %. This is also due to the fact that all veneer sales from the production merger are made through us. Trading sales in logs and sawn timber from Europe increased and amounted to EUR 3.4 million, 38.0 % or EUR 0.9 million higher than the previous year.
Operational development: Costs and market
The production volume of sawn timber in Brazil increased by 3.5 %. Yield improved by 0.9 percentage points. The harvest volume was only 160 300 m3, given that heavy rains blocked our operations starting in September. Nevertheless, the total volume processed in the sawmills was almost the same as the previous year. Sales of sawn timber for the local market increased by 2 % in terms of volume, and sales for the export market increased by about 13 %. Sawmill capacity was again expanded somewhat, thanks to targeted investments. Good capacity utilization throughout the year led to an increase in profitability.
The sawmills in Gabon processed 14.7 % more logs and at the same time produced a total of 19.8 % more sawn timber. This was due to a higher yield of about 1.6 percentage points. Export sales increased by 22.1 % over the previous year, but the inventories of logs and sawn timber in the sawmills also increased markedly.
Average prices for sawn timber across the Group were about 8 % higher than the previous year. This positive development will continue.
Our sales team achieves strong customer loyalty and retention, even though we are not always able to ship on time because of delivery delays beyond our control. We also see a general worldwide trend of increased demand for wood. This, and also the fact that we benefit from our reputation for sustainable forestry in the tropics, strengthens our market access and opportunities. A special challenge for us continues to be the search for markets and applications for the approximately 50 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 timber species on the markets and with customers. Europe continues to be our main sales market with a share of 60.3 %, followed by Latin America with 12.3 %, Asia with 10.0 %, Africa with 9.0 %, and other countries with 8.4 %. The share in Europe increased by 5.2 percentage points.
The investment volume was EUR 2.3 million (previous year: EUR 4.0 million). Replacement investments in machinery and vehicles, renewal projects in road construction, and expansion of production capacities for sawn timber in Brazil were implemented. These targeted investments will further improve the Group’s earning power. Maintenance work was carried out in all plants. In some cases, there were delays due to defective or delayed parts deliveries.
Production costs fell by 7.0 % across the Group. The operational contribution increased by 35.0 % or EUR 9.5 million over the previous year. Personnel costs fell by 4.9 % or EUR 0.9 million. Operational costs include the change in biomass, which amounts to an increase of EUR 3.2 million in 2021 over 2020.
Operating result (EBITDA)
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) amounted to EUR 15.1 million, an increase of EUR 9.3 million over the previous year (EUR 5.8 million). This corresponds to an EBITDA margin of 27.7 % (previous year: 12.5 %). The valuation for biomass in Brazil resulted in to an effect of EUR 4.1 million in 2021 and EUR 0.9 million in the previous year.
PW Amazon achieved an EBITDA margin of 72.5 % (previous year: 31.5%). At PW Gabon, the EBITDA margin was 16.2 % (previous year: 13.6%). Consolidated depreciation was EUR 4.3 million (previous year: EUR 3.9 million), 11.5 % higher than the previous year due to the investments made in 2020. At Group level, earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) reached EUR 10.7 million (previous year: EUR 1.9 million). This corresponds to a margin of 19.8 % (previous year: 4.1 %). The valuation for biomass in Brazil gave rise to an effect of EUR 4.1 million in 2021 and EUR 0.9 million in the previous year.
At EUR -2.8 million, the financial result was slightly below the previous year’s level of EUR -3.0 million. At the end of the year, net debt was EUR 42.2 million, EUR 0.3 million higher than the previous year (EUR 41.9 million). The currency effect of EUR -0.2 million was practically at the previous year’s level of EUR -0.1 million.
Net profit was EUR 4.7 million compared to a loss of EUR 2.2 million in the previous year. The positive development after the first half-year continued. Most of the order books for 2022 are already full, which makes us confident for the first half of 2022.
Outlook for 2022
The operational progress achieved in recent years has laid the foundation for the further development of Precious Woods. The strategic objective includes expanding our managed forest areas in Brazil and Gabon. In addition, we want to invest in the depth of our value chain, generating more margin. Negotiations for additional concessions are underway, and individual projects for the further processing of sawn timber are in development. For these projects, we depend on local financing opportunities that are on the horizon. We want to fulfil our mandate for profitable growth, even though external debt in relation to EBITDA is very high. This is in part due to our considerable assets tied up in the forest. If we did not have these, the revenue situation in Brazil would be somewhat reduced by concession fees, but we would not have any external debt. We expect increased profitability from our basic business in Gabon in 2022 and a high, but lower operating result in Brazil compared to 2021. This is solely due to the exchange rate effect after the strong depreciation of the EUR and USD. We assess the market situation as very good, given that building with wood has a positive impact compared with steel and concrete in terms of the climate targets, as has come increasingly into focus after the climate conference. We expect a gratifying development and a positive result in the current fiscal year.