A fundamental change in our business model is not currently planned. One strategic priority will be the further expansion of the AUTOMOBILE and CONTRACT Divisions. Our goal is to be profitable in all business areas and to continue to grow. We intend to grow our shares in existing markets, open up new markets and win new customers by continuing our acquisition activities, developing collaborations in a targeted manner and establishing strategic partnerships. We will also extend our value chains in the business areas. Moreover, we will seek to improve productivity in all areas, also in the crisis, through consistent process and quality management, the use of opportunities arising from digitalization, and strict cost management.
Expected macroeconomic conditions
Economic growth forecast for 2021
Following the historic downturn of the global economy in 2020, a marked economic recovery is projected for 2021. However, the leading economic research institutes diverge considerably when it comes to the anticipated strength of this growth, and the forecasts have to be continuously adjusted against the background of the uncertain further progression of the coronavirus pandemic.
The momentum of the global economic recovery has slowed somewhat during recent months due to the second wave of the pandemic and the corresponding measures on the part of governments aimed at containing the spread of infection. In Germany, massive constraints were imposed on parts of the services sector (hospitality, leisure industry) in particular, weighing heavy on the economy. The order situation in the manufacturing industry has picked up considerably in recent months, allowing production to be successively ramped up again. The avoidance of supply chain disruptions this time around prevented a new massive slump over the winter. Tighter border controls or similar measures could in individual instances lead to renewed impediments to production.
Following the approval of vaccines and the increasing proportion of the population receiving them, as well as the gradual return to normality, economists assume that the hoped-for economic recovery will kick in especially in the second half of 2021. With interest rates still low and financial policy income support measures still in place, there is also likely to be a renewed surge in private consumption and a corresponding desire to meet pent-up demand.
Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the US presidential elections has substantially lessened the risk of an escalating transatlantic trade conflict. Additional positive signals are emerging from China, which has coped better economically with the coronavirus pandemic than the Europeans. Indices point to above-average economic growth here, which would favor Germany’s export-oriented industry. This would also benefit substantially from a recovery of the global economy, which would create a framework for deferred economic investments.
The EU’s and the German government’s ambitious targets for lowering greenhouse gas emissions will create a massive need for investments and development in the coming years. This presents huge challenges for the automotive industry in particular, as well as for other large parts of German industry. The medium-term shift away from the combustion engine to electric drive technology entails enormous changes in the production and workflows. Another factor of uncertainty affecting the forecast is the impact of Brexit.
Sources for this section:
IMK, IMK Report No. 164, January 2021
IfW Kiel, Kiel Institute Economic Outlook, No. 73 (2020|Q4)
Tagesschau.de, “Hoffnung auf Erholung der Wirtschaft”, December 31, 2020, 5:51 p.m.
Logistics industry hopes for a positive year
According to the SCI Logistics Barometer (December 2020), the business situation of the transport and logistics companies surveyed stabilized toward the end of 2020, leveling out at the previous year’s figure. On the back of the difficult COVID year 2020, expectations for the 2021 financial year are mostly positive. Nevertheless, in the short term, with a view to the lockdown measures at the start of the year, we can expect there to be a strong impact on day-to-day business operations.
The ifo-BVL Logistics Indicator presented a similar picture at the end of 2020. The optimism expressed in the third quarter waned toward the end of the year and on balance the logistics service providers were slightly pessimistic with regard to the performance trend for the coming six months. The current economic situation continues to be strongly influenced by developments related to the coronavirus pandemic. Thus the business development of the transport and logistics companies surveyed will still be characterized by many uncertainties in the first half of 2021. This is compounded by the structural problems that major branches of industry, such as the automotive and mechanical engineering sectors as well as manufacturing, are experiencing. Growth impulses are coming from the consumer goods industry and retailing (especially e-commerce). It is not expected that the 2019 level will be reached again before 2023.
In post-COVID times, the topics of sustainability and digitalization will move back into the focus and generate capital expenditure in these areas. There will continue to be staff shortages in 2021, particularly in the areas of IT managers, warehouse workers, drivers and other skilled employees and managers.
Nevertheless, the logistics industry will continue to benefit from a strong, export-oriented German industry and Germany’s excellent position as a logistics center. Until the implementation of the Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan 2030, which has been adopted, the maintenance of infrastructure remains another major challenge.
BUSINESS CLIMATE AMONG LOGISTICS PROVIDERS
(Source: BVL; 100 = normal level)
Sources for this section:
BVL Logistics Indicator, 4th Quarter 2020, December 14, 2020including commentary
BVL-blog dated October 20, 2020, www.bvl.de, “Die Entwicklung der Logistik in 2021 – Prognose der Logistikweisen”
SCI Verkehr, SCI Logistics Barometer, December 2020
Development of the BLG Group in the following year
Seaport terminals business area
In the AUTOMOBILE Division, imports and exports will remain a determining factor for volumes at seaports. The seaport terminals business area was hit especially hard by the coronavirus pandemic. We expect that handling volumes, which declined sharply in 2020, will rise again in the 2021 financial year (Bremerhaven location: significantly; Cuxhaven: moderately), but will not yet reach the level of 2019.
Further earnings improvements will be achieved through the implementation of IT projects and increased vertical integration.
The XXL Logistics business area was dissolved at the end of 2020. The WindEnergy and High&Heavy cargo handling segments in Bremerhaven are now included in the seaport terminals business area.
As the influences of the coronavirus pandemic become evident with a certain delay through a decline in the demand for and production of industrial goods, we are anticipating the High&Heavy volume at the Bremerhaven site to decline by around 10 percent compared with 2020. We aim to counteract this by increasing vertical integration (for example packaging activities).
At the Neustadt port in Bremen (without allocation to individual business areas), we are expecting overall handling volumes to remain constant.
Inland terminals business area
Due to the continued difficult market situation for new vehicles in Germany and Western Europe, we want to further expand the processing of newer used vehicles and fleet customers in the mobility segment at our inland terminals. A decline in quantities of new vehicles can thus be partially compensated for by greater technical value creation.
At our Kelheim location, we will install a new car rack in 2021.
Car transport business area
On the assumption of a market recovery in 2021, we are also predicting a marked increase in the transport volumes by road. In a contrary trend, however, intensified crowding out is leading to persistent and permanent price pressure. To enable us to respond flexibly to fluctuations in capacity utilization, we intend to slightly reduce deployment of our own vehicle fleet and fall back on subcontractors instead.
AutoRail business area
In line with the general market expectation and a further shift from road to rail transport, we are anticipating a substantial year-on-year volume increase. We want to further expand the repair business for third parties, above all in the area of mobile maintenance.
The sophisticated technology of the young BLG wagon fleet enables internationally flexible use for transportation of all passenger car and SUV models, across manufacturers and countries. BLG currently owns around 1,500 car transport wagons. In addition to the agreed regular transport services, ad hoc transport is a regular part of the portfolio thanks to the outstanding functionality of our wagons. Dimensions and weights, particularly among SUVs, will require the rail logistics industry to make a significant investment in wagon fleets in the coming years. With its fleet, BLG is well positioned for the future.
Southern/Eastern Europe business area
A strong focus lies on the transportation of new vehicles by truck to former CIS countries.
In general, we expect an increase in volumes in the Eastern European business area with our existing and with new customers.
Overall, in the CONTRACT Division, the price pressure on logistics service providers is permanently increasing and margins are declining accordingly. Due to the high level of competition and the existence of overcapacities, personnel cost increases as a result of collective bargaining agreements cannot always be passed on in full to customers through price increases. In addition, there is still a high tendency among customers to make all costs as variable as possible. In return, however, no quantity guarantees are provided by the customers.
Industrial logistics (Europe) business area
In addition to the general uncertainty surrounding a sustained economic recovery, the 2021 financial year will also be characterized by effects such as calculated start-up costs for numerous new businesses that we were able to acquire at our Bremen, Berlin/Brandenburg and Waiblingen locations (all automotive sector). We also significantly expanded our business with existing customers at other locations.
Economic trends in the industrial logistics (Europe) business area will continue to be affected in the automotive logistics area by the development of the coronavirus pandemic, consumer reticence brought on by the crisis and the shift to alternative drive systems. A renewed tightening of measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus, for example through border closures, could lead to renewed plant shutdowns with severe ripple effects for our volumes.
We intend to expand our activities in the areas of spare parts and battery logistics. In addition, with “C3 Bremen”, we are planning a new location from where we will provide sustainable and efficient supplies to the foreign assembly plants of a car manufacturer.
Overall, we expect business to develop stably to positively at most locations. However, given the unpredictability of the pandemic, we are expecting 2021 to be a transitional year that is still subject to numerous risks.
Industrial logistics (overseas) business area
For 2021, we anticipate a continuation of the recovery following the considerable impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on this business area in 2020. At the US location, an upswing could be felt from midyear 2020. Furthermore, we won a new customer from the retail segment, which opened up a new service opportunity. In addition to combating COVID, South Africa is suffering from a severe recession. This also has an adverse effect on the production volumes at our locations, so that we are expecting the recovery here to be slow.
In India, one customer is now handling their own business due to the coronavirus pandemic. On the other hand, we opened a new logistics center for a long-standing customer. In Malaysia, we are assuming a stable development.
Retail logistics business area
The development of the retail logistics business area is characterized by stable existing business, the implementation of various large-scale projects (Geiselwind, Schlüchtern, Ochtrup locations) and the restructuring and turnaround at the Hörsel site (Sports & Fashion area). A sales drive is planned to bring the Hörsel site back up to full capacity in 2021. Additional earnings improvements are expected to result from restructuring measures and outside space optimizations.
Freight forwarding business area
BLG LOGISTICS has decided to place a strategic focus on national and international business in the AUTOMOBILE, CONTRACT and CONTAINER Divisions going forward. The nine freight forwarding locations of BLG International Forwarding with around 100 employees (previously CONTRACT Division) will from the start of April 2021 be integrated into the existing network of Rhenus Air & Ocean in Germany. Not affected by the takeover is the Bremen freight forwarding location, which concentrates on overland transport, heavy goods transports, project business and sea freight.
Despite the temporarily satisfactory shipping rates and low bunker price, the container shipping companies continue to be under high competitive pressure in the short to medium term to sustainably and adequately utilize the increasing tonnage of shipowners. Not least due to the increasing number of ever larger container ships being built, the container terminals face uncertainties as a result of the operational risks described above.
Here, further cooperation and concentration among the container shipping lines could have an impact. As a result, continuing price pressure on the container terminals cannot be ruled out.
From today’s perspective, we are anticipating a slight volume increase – albeit with a rising transshipment portion – for the 2021 financial year for EUROGATE Container Terminal Hamburg, due to the year-round handling of Ocean Alliance’s FAL-1 flagship service, which has only been calling at the terminal since spring 2020.
For the Bremerhaven site, we are currently expecting a slight rise in handling volumes in 2021.
Achieving reasonable capacity utilization of the EUROGATE Container Terminal Wilhelmshaven remains of high importance for the EUROGATE Group. However, in light of the increasing size of ships and the associated nautical restrictions of the shipping channels of the Outer Weser and Elbe Rivers – even after completion of the deepening and widening measures there – Wilhelmshaven is increasingly predestined for the handling of large container ships.
In view of the fact that the leading container shipping companies will put additional vessels, now with a capacity of > 23,000 TEUs, into operation in the coming years, the Wilhelmshaven site has a good chance of acquiring further liner services over the medium term.
For the Wilhelmshaven site, we are currently not expecting handling activity to pick up in 2021. An improvement in the capacity utilization situation will from today’s perspective not take place until the medium term at the earliest.
For the individual companies in the EUROGATE Group, the 2021 financial year will be dominated by the transformation, which has the in-house working title “Future EUROGATE”, and the accompanying implementation of cost-saving measures and negotiation with the respective employee representatives of organizational measures designed to increase efficiency and productivity.
The development of handling volumes at the EUROGATE locations may be adversely affected by the further development of the coronavirus pandemic, which in turn depends on the development of mass vaccinations and the possible tightening of the current containment measures.
Given the macroeconomic conditions affecting the subsidiaries and equity investments described above, along with the exceptional items (impairment losses on non-current financial assets and provisions for restructuring expenses) included in the previous year’s result, the CONTAINER Division is expected to generate significantly improved net profit in slightly positive territory for 2021.
The division’s overall profit is strongly influenced by the earnings of the container terminals and by handling volumes and throughput rates as well as cost structures, which are key determinants here. It is therefore a prerequisite that the implementation of first restructuring measures already leads to corresponding earnings improvements in the 2021 financial year.
Administrative costs in the central departments of BLG are reviewed constantly. In order to meet the efficiency requirements and make our internal processes and systems fit for the future, objectives such as digitalization and automation are being implemented and developed intensively.
Planned capital expenditure
We adjust our investment plans to the constantly changing market conditions, paying particular attention to our liquidity and results of operations. Significant expansion, process optimization and replacement investments are planned in the coming year in the AUTOMOBILE Division, e.g. for the continuous replacement of older trucks and the buyback of car wagons from leasing in the car transport and AutoRail business area. In the seaport and inland terminals business areas, capital expenditure mainly relates to various measures to expand and modernize spaces and buildings and the upgrading of handling equipment. In addition, investments will be made to optimize the division’s IT network. In the CONTRACT Division, capital expenditure relates to the development and expansion of new logistics centers and the expansion of existing businesses in the areas of industrial and retail logistics. In the central departments, a major investment is planned among other things for the renewal of the ERP system in the area of finance. An investment volume of around EUR 119 million is planned for the necessary expansion and replacement investments and for investments in process optimization. This capital expenditure will be mainly financed through borrowing.
Overall statement on the expected development of the Group
Significant improvement; Almost break-even result
At previous year’s level
EBT margin (in percent)
Significant improvement; Slightly negative
At the time of preparing this report, we were still in the middle of the pandemic. The year ahead will continue to be very much determined by challenging conditions. The further progress of the inoculation program and a return to pre-COVID normality is not foreseeable at present. Disruptions in the supply chain and goods flows caused by the coronavirus pandemic (for example due to stricter border controls) could once more lead to a sharp downturn in earnings. Projections are difficult in this environment, all the more so since our customers’ planning also has many question marks. Hence at BLG LOGISTICS we are also “driving on sight”. However, we expect 2021 to be significantly better.
The other uncertainties, such as the trade conflict between the US and China, the still-to-be-negotiated Brexit conditions, the ambitious CO2 reduction targets and the further development of the “automotive crisis”, could still exacerbate the situation.
On the basis of the forecasts described, we expect revenue to increase slightly in the AUTOMOBILE and CONTAINER Divisions. In the CONTRACT Division, the lost revenue in the freight forwarding business area will have the opposite effect and could lead to a slight decline. Total revenue of BLG LOGISTICS will therefore be at around the same level as in the 2020 financial year.
As things currently stand, we expect BLG LOGISTICS to see a considerable improvement in EBT in the 2021 financial year. We are aiming for a year-end result narrowly in the plus column. In line with this, the EBT margin will also improve significantly, but will probably remain below break-even. The longer and more intensively the restrictive measures introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic last, the greater the negative impact on earnings will be.
Expected changes for 2021
In view of the uncertain conditions and on the basis of the estimates currently possible for the 2021 financial year, the Board of Management assumes that, despite the burden of the pandemic, the liquidity of BLG LOGISTICS will be sufficient to allow payment obligations to be met at all times.
We pursue the goal of an earnings-related and consistent dividend policy. Therefore, depending on business performance, we will continue to allow our shareholders to participate appropriately in earnings.
This annual report was prepared on the basis of German Accounting Standard 20 (DRS 20) in the current version. Apart from historical financial information, it contains statements on the future development of the business and the business performance of BLG LOGISTICS which are based on estimates, forecasts and expectations, and can be identified by wording such as “assume”, “expect” or similar terms. These statements may, of course, vary from actual future events or developments. We are not under any obligation to update these forward-looking statements with new information.