A glance at 2020
Salzburg, March 23rd, 2021. The past year was special in many ways. Brexit, trade conflicts, the US election – and of course the Covid-19 pandemic. Professional, social and private lives were turned upside down. For many people it meant new challenges, such as balancing home office and home schooling. And 2020 also presented us at BENTELER with new challenges. CEO Ralf Göttel explains in an interview how we mastered them.
Mr. Göttel, what impressions did the year 2020 leave on you?
It's said that a crisis reveals true character. At BENTELER, we demonstrated courage, showed strength and lived solidarity over the last year. Together, we confirmed our position as a system-relevant, reliable partner to the industry.
In one of the most challenging years, both economically and individually, we not only consistently continued the transformation that we began early on, we intensified it. We made the high fixed costs customary in the industry more flexible, increased our efficiency and secured strategically important new orders. What's more, despite the pandemic, we stabilized our liquidity and successfully agreed on refinancing through to 2024. All of the financing partners went along with it – they know that we deliver what we promise and that our market position and strategy are fit for the future.
How did the pandemic affect the BENTELER Group’s results?
The automotive industry has been in a state of upheaval for several years now. The previous year’s weak market continued in 2020, exacerbated globally by the Covid-19 pandemic. Global automobile production fell by 17%. This led to a downturn in our business as well: At €6.358 billion, revenues in 2020 were more than 1 billion less than in the previous year. But we acted quickly and consistently, intensifying and accelerating our transformation. And so, together as a team, were able to turn the tide. That’s also shown by the results. Thanks to a joint effort, we achieved a clearly positive result in the fourth quarter and thus closed the year with an EBITDA of €160 million. Many thanks go to all employees whose passionate commitment made this possible.
How do you see the coming years in terms of the pandemic?
The pandemic is determining the present and the future: Although the markets have already started recovering, the positive trend is dependent on declining infection figures. The pre-crisis level will not be reached until the end of 2022 at the earliest.
How well prepared for the future is BENTELER?
In 2020, we prepared ourselves rigorously for what are now even more volatile markets. We will continue on this path with the goal of being agile, efficient and thus resilient to the new disruption. In order to remain an independent business, we will continue this transformation consistently and passionately. Just as we work every day to make mobility even lighter, safer and more sustainable. Side by side with our customers. Because we are their strong partner on the journey to the future of mobility.
What is the focus for 2021 and the coming years?
We will continue to systematically pursue our transformation in order to achieve long-term, profitable growth and secure the future viability of the company. We are concentrating on our core business as a metal processing specialist. We can draw on over 100 years of expertise in working with metal. The satisfaction of our customers and our positioning in the market show that we know how to form and join metals like no-one else. We will consistently continue the transformation of the BENTELER Group and further optimize our product range. At the same time, we have our sights firmly set on the important topics of the future, such as operational excellence in our production, Industry 4.0 and also e-mobility.
What role do Industry 4.0 and e-mobility play for you?
We are increasingly focusing on Industry 4.0 solutions. With predictive maintenance, for example, we can prevent production downtime and ensure timely delivery at fair prices for our customers. To this end, we were collaborating with the internationally renowned Fraunhofer Institute in the EU-funded research project BOOST 4.0. Together we developed a model for predictive maintenance of machines using Big Data. We will continue this path of digitalization, drive forward the automation and digital transformation of the production sites and adapt apprenticeships to new profiles with additional technology skills.
In addition, we are working with strategic partners to shape the transformation of mobility in an agile and efficient way. Together with Bosch and Pininfarina S.p.A., we have covered the complete development process of an electric vehicle up to the start of production since 2020. In this way, we are now bringing our customers' e-mobility solutions to the road even faster and more efficiently. We will continue to make targeted investments and develop product innovations in growth areas such as e-mobility, lightweight construction and CO2-reduced drive solutions. In the past year, we have already pushed ahead with numerous product innovations: These include an electrically heated catalytic converter that reduces emissions to almost zero during cold starts; production-ready airbag tubes that ensure greater safety; and BTR 2000, our new hot-formed steel which saves up to 15% in weight, helping protect the environment. Because we see low-emission mobility as an opportunity. 85% of our product offerings are drive and technology independent.
We are therefore well positioned to make tomorrow's mobility lighter, safer and more sustainable - worldwide.
Thank you for the interview.