Dr. Joerg Wolle, Chairman of the Board of Directors
It is hard to imagine a financial year that has been more demanding for our employees and management teams at all levels than 2020. The Corona phenomenon has taken a huge toll on the global economy. Since January, firstly in China and then throughout the world, the pandemic initially took people by surprise and then became a matter of deep concern. Many things have changed beyond all recognition.
At Kuehne+Nagel we showed great commitment and flexibility in adapting quickly to the changed situation. We now look back with some professional pride and can say that 2020, the year of the pandemic, was a highly successful year for your company, the Kuehne+Nagel Group. We managed to overcome the challenges, some of which were huge, as well as taking opportunities as they presented themselves. Our company has proven successful under these extraordinary circumstances and shown itself to be crisis-proof. This year has also demonstrated what this company is capable of with its 78,000 employees even under the most adverse of circumstances.
In a global economy that has taken a considerable hit, with significant drops in trade flows, net turnover for the Group were only slightly down on the previous year at 20.4 billion Swiss Francs. At 1.1 billion francs, EBIT was almost one percentage point up on 2019, a record high. All of Kuehne+Nagel’s business units generated new client business and increased profitability, particularly in the second half of the year.
We feel justified in saying not only that this has been a successful year for Kuehne+Nagel despite the pandemic, but also that in spite of the global lockdown the company has made a crucial contribution towards maintaining global supply chains that are so important and under threat right now. The range of services we offer to the pharmaceutical industry has meant we were able to ship millions of items of protective equipment, and we are now setting standards in the secure, reliable global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. By doing so, we are also making an important contribution to the public health situation, which will hopefully ease soon.
This is partly a payoff from the bold strategic decision we took several years ago to focus, expand and extend our presence in China and other parts of Asia. That region now largely has the pandemic under control and is acting as one of the key drivers of the global economy. Our company is one of the most significant players in integrated logistics in China. That was another factor that helped us in the pandemic year. In the past, Kuehne+Nagel focussed mainly on Europe and North America, whereas the Group is now systematically expanding its position in the Asia-Pacific region. The Board of Directors is firmly convinced that Asia will be the central driver of global economic development in the years to come. We are not only committed, but also have the capacity, to play an active part in this process. The announcement of the acquisition of Apex International Corporation in February 2021 is an important milestone in this respect.
It has paid off that we began to strategically build and expand our presence in China and other parts of Asia with purpose, several years ago.
Dr. Joerg Wolle
We’re particularly proud of the fact that all four of our business units were involved in the preparations for vaccine logistics: Air and Road Logistics in particular, of course, for shipping the vaccines, but also Contract Logistics, for storing the vaccines properly at below-zero temperatures as well as Sea Logistics, for shipping in ancillary materials such as vials and syringes. The Kuehne+Nagel Group demonstrated convincingly that it can hit the ground running when it comes to rapid-response, integrated, networked and rapid logistics solutions.
But 2020 was also an eventful year for Kuehne+Nagel from a structural perspective: With the disposal of parts of the Contract Logistics activities in the United Kingdom, France and Argentina, we completed the comprehensive restructuring of this unit successfully. We launched a strategic review of these activities at the Board of Directors meeting at the beginning of 2019 and informed you, our business partners and the public accordingly. The division is now in excellent shape to focus globally on scalable solutions, particularly in e-commerce and pharma.
Ladies and gentlemen, dear shareholders, many of you have been with our company for years. We view this as a great responsibility and duty. So I am all the more delighted that we have been able to propose issuing a dividend of 4.50 Swiss Francs per share for the 2020 financial year. This too is definitely an expression of strength and continuity at a time of huge uncertainty. On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks for your continuing confidence in Kuehne+Nagel.
Dr. Joerg Wolle
Chairman of the Board of Directors