Uzwil / CH. (bg) In 2022, Swiss Bühler AG expanded its business and improved profitability in an uncertain and volatile business environment. The company was able to mitigate effects of the war in Ukraine, tense supply chains, and soaring energy and raw material prices, while further improving its financial position with a high equity ratio and repaying the first tranche of its bond. The company continued to invest in innovation, new partnerships, and education and training. With numerous opportunities in its markets and a high order backlog of over CHF 2.1 billion, the company’s ambition is to continue its positive development in 2023. «The impressive dedication of our employees worldwide helped us to be agile, resilient, and creative, even in the face of increasing volatility and uncertainties,» says Bühler CEO Stefan Scheiber.
At the Group level, order intake rose 8.7 percent to CHF 3.3 billion and order backlog was robust at CHF 2.1 billion. Turnover increased by 10.3 percent to CHF 3.0 billion. Ebit improved by 36.0 percent to CHF 199 million, reflecting an Ebit margin of 6.7 percent (prior year: 5.4 percent). Net profit went up 35.7 percent to CHF 154 million (prior year: CHF 113 million). With these results, Bühler has largely managed to reach pre-pandemic business levels.
Advanced Materials as growth driver
The growth in volume came mainly from the Advanced Materials business, where order intake soared by 40.6 percent to CHF 871 million, nearly doubling its volume within the last two years. Within Advanced Materials, the Die Casting business showed an outstanding performance, growing orders by 60.4 percent. Turnover in Advanced Materials increased by 31.8 percent to CHF 671 million. The Consumer Foods business continued its recovery with strong order intake growth of 21.6 percent to CHF 710 million, and turnover growth of 13.6 percent to CHF 578 million. The Grains + Food business, Bühler’s largest business, showed solid performance despite being particularly impacted by disrupted supply chains and a slow feed market in China. The segment saw order intake in 2022 of CHF 1,663 million, down 6.5 percent, while turnover grew by 2.6 percent to CHF 1,696 million, and with this managed to keep business very stable throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
All regions contributed to Bühler’s turnover growth, with the Americas and Middle East Africa + India standing out. Regional growth rates and turnover shares were as follows: Asia 6 percent growth to 32 percent of the total share of turnover; Europe 3 percent growth to 30 percent; North America 17 percent growth to 17 percent and South America 26 percent growth to 5 percent; Middle East Africa + India 24 percent growth to 16 percent. With these successes in important markets, Bühler’s global distribution of turnover is very robust and balanced.
Bühler’s Customer Service business (including Single Machines) also grew by 3.4 percent and added substantially to the 2022 results with turnover amounting to CHF 955 million, representing a 32 percent share of Group turnover. Bühler offers a holistic service portfolio with seven modules from hardware, components, and spare parts to upgrading, maintenance, software and process optimizations for systems, with the objective of improving the performance of the existing customer asset base in terms of efficiency, safety, and sustainability. Sustainability gained importance in 2022, as services are the fastest lever to reduce energy, waste, and water in existing plants. «We judge the good business performance in 2022 as a confirmation of our strategy to be a provider of sustainable solutions and services, and to be a reliable and innovative partner in creating value for our customers,” says CEO Stefan Scheiber.
Strong financial position
In 2022, Bühler’s financial position improved further, with the equity ratio increasing by 2.6pp to 49.8 percent (prior year: 47.2 percent). An important milestone was the repayment of the first tranche of the corporate bond of CHF 180 million in December. In 2017, Bühler raised capital on the financial markets for the first time in the form of a CHF 420 million dual tranche bond to invest in its growth and innovation capabilities. The second tranche of the bond of CHF 240 million is due in 2026. «Our ongoing solid financial position enables us to continue investing in new solutions and services and to remain fully independent in the long term,» says CFO Mark Macus.
Innovation and collaboration through partnerships
In 2022, Bühler expanded its innovation and education ecosystem. The Networking Days event in June provided the opportunity to bring together 1,000 industry leaders who engaged with each other on how to improve energy and food security, reduce waste, cut water usage, lower CO2e emissions, improve biodiversity, and rethink mobility. Bühler announced several joint ventures and partnerships that will facilitate the transition towards more efficient food and feed production and accelerate the shift towards sustainable mobility during this key event.
2022 also marked an important milestone for Bühler in terms of sustainability as it announced the next level of targets with more tangible goals and action plans. Bühler has developed a pathway to achieve a 60 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in its operations by 20301 and has committed to having solutions ready to multiply by 2025 that reduce energy, waste, and water by 50 percent in the value chains of its customers.
To keep the pace of innovation high, expenses for research and development (R+D) remained stable at CHF 141 million representing 4.7 percent of Group turnover in line with the Bühler strategy to be the technology leader of the selected industry segments. Continuing its innovation promise to sustainably transform value chains, Bühler launched some 40 new products, including six new core products, in 2022.
Investing in people
It is thanks to the efforts and dedication of our employees that Bühler was able to achieve these good results despite the many challenges faced by the markets. All our employees around the world showed great commitment and resilience. A special mention should be made to our colleagues in Bühler China. Though they faced strict zero-Covid restrictions, regional lockdowns, and energy disruptions, they kept production facilities running.
Throughout 2022, Bühler has been building on and complementing the programs it has in place for the development and lifelong learning of its more than 12,700 employees globally. In 2022, Bühler onboarded 230 new apprentices across Europe, North America, South America, Africa, and Asia who are enrolled in three- and four-year courses covering nine different vocational fields. In total, Bühler employs 500 apprentices globally.
Creating one food segment and increased focus on services
To further increase the value offered to customers, Bühler will integrate its Consumer Foods segment into the Grains + Food segment and will strengthen its focus on its service offerings for the whole Group. Building one harmonized food and feed segment will allow for more direct interfaces to customers and increase the efficiency of processes. It will be led by Johannes Wick, CEO of Grains + Food. Germar Wacker, who headed the Consumer Foods segment, will take up new opportunities outside of Bühler. He will support Johannes Wick in the transition and leave the company at the end of Q1 2023. «We thank Germar Wacker for his massive contribution in making the acquisition of the Haas Group a success and wish him all the best for his personal and professional future,» says CEO Stefan Scheiber.
To accelerate the positive development of Bühler’s service business, Samuel Schär, who held the positions of CEO Advanced Materials and Chief Services + Sales Officer, will fully focus on leading the global Services + Sales organization going forward. The Advanced Materials business will be led by Marcel Natterer, who successfully managed Bühler’s Value Nutrition business area in the past 10 years. He has also been appointed Member of Bühler’s Executive Board.
Outlook: continue positive development
While 2023 will likely continue to be challenging, Bühler is starting the year with a solid financial position and high carryover of orders. Thanks to developments in the markets Bühler serves, there are many opportunities for which the company can provide solutions that create impact and value for customers.
Despite all the uncertainties, Bühler’s ambition is to continue its positive development. «Overall, we are convinced that Bühler is well prepared to take another positive step in developing the business successfully in 2023, even in a very dynamic market environment,» says CEO Stefan Scheiber.