Münster. Following the previous year's significant rise in earnings, the 2016 financial year has been pleasing as far as the Westfalen Group is concerned. At € 1.59 billion, Group turnover was down by € 57.4 million, or 3.5 percent, on the 2015 figure (€ 1.65 billion). The falls in turnover are primarily due to lower prices for liquid gas and motor fuel in the Energy supply and Service stations divisions compared with the previous year. Earnings before tax (EBT) in the Group reduced by € 4.0 million from € 32.0 million to € 28.0 million. These drops predominantly reflect the negative earnings contributions from Medica-Technik GmbH, which has been part of the Westfalen Group since the middle of 2015. "We can be pleased with our business performance. Excluding the structural measures we implemented at Medica-Technik in Brachbach, we achieved similar earnings before tax as last year," stressed CEO Wolfgang Fritsch-Albert. The Westfalen Group invested € 50.8 million into the Group during the 2016 financial year, € 4.3 million more than the previous year (€ 46.5 million).
Service stations stay on the road to success
The Service stations division generated new record results in 2016 with another increase in sales volumes. It significantly exceeded the previous year's result, underpinned, in particular, by a high-margin fuel business. The service sector business also continued to perform very positively. The service station network was expanded during the reporting year with a large service station with attached Burger King® restaurant opening in Cologne-Lövenich. The Westfalen Group made a clear statement in energy turnaround by opening the first hydrogen service station in Münster-Amelsbüren. Furthermore, in June 2016, the first high-performance lorry wash Westfalen Truck Wash was opened at the Kerpen-Türnich service station. "Thanks to positive customer feedback and good business performance, we plan to extend the business model to other locations in our service station network in the future," explained Chief Sales Officer Reiner Ropohl. "As one of the few German service station companies, last year the Westfalen Group introduced its own concept brand coffee. As well as excellent service, we are offering our customers at the around 70 service stations of our secondary brand Markant, a range of refined speciality coffees under the name Alvore Caffè, made from the high-quality beans of one of the oldest family-owned coffee roasting companies in Italy," said Ropohl.
Stable results in the Energy supply division
Thanks, in particular, to a good fourth quarter, the Energy supply division operating results were slightly higher than in 2015. A short heating season and adverse market conditions meant a fall in sales, especially in liquefied gas drop shipments. LPG sales performance was adversely affected by the low mineral oil price and the still unresolved matter of whether tax incentives will continue. Despite volatile markets and dependency on the weather, sales of fuel gas were higher than the previous year, thanks to stable price and margin conditions. In terms of bottled gas, the launch of the new Grillmeister cylinder was extremely positive. Several hundred sales partners have already been supplied with the handy gas cylinder. Thanks to the very good customer response, sales targets for 2016 were exceeded.
Slight downturn in the Gases division
The positive sales performance continued in 2016 for the Gases Germany division. Apart from strong competitive pressure, this was due to the adverse effect of rising bottling costs and the high cost of gas cylinder maintenance on earning capacity.
The earning position of our subsidiaries improved noticeably in 2016. German subsidiary GlobalGas GmbH continued to develop positively, and once again exceeded expectations. The earnings development of our foreign subsidiaries varied greatly. The subsidiaries in Belgium and Switzerland, in particular, fared better than expected. The French subsidiary and Westfalen Medical BV in the Netherlands, in particular, did not meet expectations.
Focus on balancing work and family
On 31 December 2016 the Westfalen Group employed 1,710 employees across Europe, 1,441 in Germany and 269 in other countries. Compared to the previous year, the number of employees has risen by 40, or 2.4 percent. Westfalen has focussed on balancing work and family. The company impressed, not only with a flexible working day model, but also by offering its employees individual opportunities for personal development, with the company pension and with healthcare management. Westfalen received the berufundfamilie [work and family] certificate. Also in 2016, Westfalen AG was once again awarded top employer by news magazine Focus.
Against the backdrop of the positive economic outlook, Westfalen expects further success in the Energy supply division with the innovative Grillmeister cylinders and the Conneo propellant gas bottle. The company also expects the expansion of the "Machwerker" sales partner network and collaboration on the sale of condensing boilers along with solar systems to have a positive impact. The decision to extend the tax advantage for LPG should provide new impetus.
In the Service stations division, Westfalen has introduced new café and food concepts such as Alvore Caffè and Chopstix Noodle Bars. Other projects include AdBlue dispensers to assist diesel cars to comply with Euro 6 standards and the construction of an ultra-modern lorry wash in the Münster area. On the future of diesel technology, Wolfgang Fritsch-Albert says: "The energy turnaround, including the reduction in CO2, cannot happen without diesel. The future is what we all make it!"
In the Gases sector, the focus is on the implementation of more modern sales locations in the form of gas shops in line with the full supply principle and continuing international success in supplying tube welding systems. Westfalen has already delivered large systems to Singapore and more recently to Dubai.
The Westfalen Group is an energy sector technology company operating with a total of 23 subsidiaries and associates in Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Switzerland and the Czech Republic. The family business, founded in 1923, has over 20 production sites located across Europe and is headquartered in Münster. Its business sectors are gases, energy supply and service stations. With about 1,700 employees, the Westfalen Group posted sales of more than 1.6 billion euros in the 2016 financial year.