Financial year 2017 saw our company deliver a satisfactory result for the full year with a broad based performance which strengthened during the course of the year. With operating EBITDA at EUR 836.0 million, we hit the mid-point of our earnings guidance. On a constant currency basis, this represents a rise of 4.5%. Operating gross profit amounted to EUR 2,554.1 million, an increase of 6.5% on a constant currency basis.
This encouraging performance was supported by both our existing business and acquisitions. The North America and Asia Pacific regions delivered particularly encouraging results, posting sound organic growth. In our EMEA region we saw some weakness in the first half of the year which we countered through internal measures such as a programme to increase efficiency and improve margins in certain countries. Our Latin America region saw challenging conditions, here too there was an improved performance in the second half of the year.
We continued our successful acquisition strategy in 2017, closing acquisitions in all four of our regions. We attach considerable importance to carrying out a careful M&A process and detailed due diligence and were able to sign on four acquisitions at the end of last year alone. In total, this represents an investment of approximately EUR 270 million which is in line with our previously stated acquisition strategy.
Brenntag has long enjoyed an excellent reputation on the capital markets, which is one of the reasons why we were able to refinance our syndicated loan ahead of schedule at the beginning of 2017. In September, we then issued a corporate bond in the amount of EUR 600 million. Both transactions bring another significant improvement in the terms and the Group’s maturity profile, while also laying the foundations for the further development of Brenntag’s business over the long term.
On the capital market, we are also in constant dialogue with existing and potential shareholders and so are particularly pleased to be able to pass on the Group’s positive performance to our shareholders in the form of a dividend. The Board of Management and the Supervisory Board will therefore propose to the General Shareholders’ Meeting a dividend of EUR 1.10, representing an increase of 4.8 % on the previous year. This is now the seventh year in succession since our IPO in which we wish to pay a higher dividend.
Last year, we continued to systematically pursue our sustainability approach and published what is now our fourth sustainability report and the first in which we have reported annual consolidated data on Group-wide energy consumption and the related CO2 emissions.
» In 2018, we expect a positive macroeconomic environment overall. We are well placed for the current year and will be well able to meet the challenges that may arise in individual countries. «STEVEN HOLLAND
In 2018, we expect a positive macroeconomic environment overall. We are well placed for the current year and will be well able to meet the challenges that may arise in individual countries. Our internal initiatives will pay off in the EMEA region in particular. We expect the North America and Asia Pacific segments to remain on their growth track – with the pace especially strong in the Asia Pacific region. The Latin America region is likely to remain challenging. We continue to focus on our core competencies and drive the expansion of our business in both industrial and specialty chemicals.
On behalf of the entire Board of Management, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our employees for their commitment and our shareholders, customers, suppliers and business partners for the trust they place in us and our strong working relationship.
Essen, March 13, 2018
Chief Executive Officer