Reporting 2021

Outlook

Future direction of the Group

Retention of the business model

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 during the coronavirus pandemic and the Ukraine crisis, through consistent process and quality management, the use of opportunities arising from digitalization, and strict cost management.

Expected macroeconomic conditions

Significant economic growth in 2022 at risk

Following the historic slump in the global economy in 2020, it initially bounced back strongly in 2021. When the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic triggered by the Omicron variant hit at the turn of the year 2021/2022, the economic recovery once again slowed. One reason for this was the many pandemic-related work absences. In addition, a sluggish Chinese economy and continuing supply bottlenecks are hampering the recovery in industrial production, even if these eased somewhat at the end of 2021.

Even assuming that by spring 2022 the pandemic has been managed medically to such an extent that the healthcare system is no longer permanently overstretched and economic activity therefore no longer needs to be substantially curtailed, the pace of economic recovery is expected to be severely slowed. The war between Russia and Ukraine, which began in February 2022, has once again severely impacted global economic development, and the future repercussions such as supply chain disruptions and continued high inflation, cannot currently be foreseen.

Before the Ukraine crisis, forecasts – depending on the institute – assumed economic growth of over 4 percent. As a result of the war, the supply bottlenecks in industrial production, which were slowly recovering, are expected to intensify again. Among other things, a number of suppliers to the automotive industry are located in Ukraine, and important industrial raw materials such as palladium come from Russia. Macroeconomic development also depends to a large extent on oil and gas prices. Price increases have an impact all the way to the end consumer and thus also on general demand.

Apart from this, consumer spending and travel behavior are expected to return to normal in 2022. In addition to the introduction of the higher minimum wage, a rise in collectively agreed pay and in employment is also expected.

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 also entails enormous changes in the production and workflows.

Other uncertainties relating to the forecast can be identified against the background of a further escalation in the Ukraine conflict and the tense atmosphere between the US, Europe and Russia, as well as on the back of ongoing disputes between the US and China. At present, the impact on the global economy cannot yet be predicted with certainty.

Sources for this section:
Deutsche Bundesbank, Monthly Report, February 2021
IMK, IMK Report No. 172, December 2021
IMK, IMK Report No. 173, January 2022
IfW Kiel, Kiel Institute Economic Outlook, No. 85+86 (2021|Q4)
Tagesschau.de, February 25, 2022, 06:30 pm “Wie der Krieg auf die Wirtschaft wirkt” (“How the war impacts the economy”)
Weser-Kurier.de February 28, 2022, 08:49 am “Materialmangel hoch – Verschärfung durch Krieg befürchtet” (“High materials shortage – war adds to fears of worse to come”

Logistics industry with a good track record overall

BUSINESS CLIMATE AMONG LOGISTICS PROVIDERS

(Source: Bundesvereinigung Logistik e.V.; 2015 = 100 = normal level)

Development Business Climate 2012 until 2021

According to the SCI Logistics Barometer (December 2021), the business situation of the transport and logistics companies surveyed was at a high level toward the end of 2021 and before the outbreak of the war. Despite ongoing restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, a substantial hike in energy prices and disruptions to global supply chains, the logistics industry is generally upbeat and a majority rated the current business situation as good. The change of government in the US also restored the original confidence in the transatlantic logistics market. One important issue, however, continues to be the high staff shortages, in particular the lack of tens of thousands of truck drivers. No other profession is currently in such high demand. The war between Russia and Ukraine is likely to exacerbate the situation if fewer drivers from Eastern Europe are available. Overall, the majority of the companies surveyed expect the employment rate to rise. Adequate price adjustments are called for to counter rising costs.

The ifo-BVL Logistics Indicator showed a downward trend at the end of the year, particularly in the fourth quarter, with shippers in industry and the retail sector assessing the situation more positively than logistics service providers. Overall, however, the climate is above the level seen at the turn of the year 2020 to 2021. Rising prices, lower stock levels in industry and the retail sector and shrinking order backlogs at logistics service providers stood in the way of a further increase.

According to the ifo-BVL Logistics Indicator, the economic situation remains strongly influenced by the coronavirus pandemic and hardly any growth is forecast for the German economy in the winter half-year 2021/2022. In addition, there is a high level of uncertainty regarding the situation in Ukraine and its potential impact on transports through this region and supplies to industry, as well as rising energy prices.

The topics of sustainability and digitalization/artificial intelligence are increasingly in focus and affect and accompany us all. We believe that the best way to tackle the most important challenges, namely digitalization and climate protection, is not necessarily alone. Key here is the joint development of solutions, also by competitors.

The logistics industry will continue to benefit in the future from a strong, export-oriented German industry and Germany’s excellent position as a logistics center. Maintaining the infrastructure will remain a major challenge. Furthermore, climate policy will strongly influence the design of supply chains in the future, resulting in additional parameters.

Sources for this section:

BVL Logistics Indicator, 4th Quarter 2021, December 13, 2021 including commentary

DVZ, August 10, 2021, “Diese Treiber sind 2022 relevant” (“These drivers are relevant in 2022”)

Frank Dreeke, “Collaboration – die Zukunft der Logistik?“ (“Collaboration – the future in logistics?”), www.blg-logistics.com, retrieved on January 31, 2022, 3:53 pm

SCI Verkehr, SCI Logistics Barometer, December 2021

Welt am Sonntag, February 27, 2022, “Transportunternehmen stellen sich auf Engpässe ein” (“Transport companies prepare for bottlenecks”)

Development of BLG LOGISTICS in the following year

At the time of preparing this report, the war between Russia and Ukraine, which we are following with very great concern, was in full swing. From today’s perspective, it is impossible to draw conclusions about how it will impact on our customers’ business and our related services. A specially established crisis team is reassessing the situation on an ongoing basis. However, we can assume that renewed supply chain disruptions, production losses at our customers and high inflation (in particular very sharp rises in energy prices) will have a significant direct or indirect impact on our earnings and that in some cases we will not be able to meet our targets. The automotive industry in particular is dependent on suppliers from Ukraine and our customers’ production may again be disrupted for months. In addition, it is to be expected that volumes that we have handled or processed for these regions in the past will be suspended temporarily or over the longer term. This applies to all business divisions of the BLG Group and will therefore not be repeated below for the individual business units.

AUTOMOBILE Division

Seaport terminals business area

For our Bremerhaven and Cuxhaven car transshipment sites in the seaport terminals business area, we expect transshipment volumes in 2022 to remain at a similar level to 2021. Due to the ongoing supply bottlenecks for parts, automotive producers are currently unable to provide reliable statements on planned production and revenue figures for 2022.

Given the difficult market situation and free space capacities at other ports, competition remains strong. Among other things, we expect the implementation of various projects, the optimization of external storage areas and the expansion of technical value creation to result in improved earnings.

We also expect positive effects for the Bremerhaven location from the joint venture with one of the world’s largest shipping companies, Hyundai Glovis. As part of the joint venture, it will use Bremerhaven as a European hub for its automobile shipments between Asia and Europe.

The high & heavy segment will continue to benefit from the low availability of containers in 2022 and will again ship more RoRo cargo. We expect handling volumes to remain at the previous year’s high level. We are aiming to further expand our technical value creation.

As a result of shipping companies switching volumes and ports, we are anticipating negative effects on earnings at the Neustädter Hafen in Bremen, which we intend to offset in the medium term by acquiring new business. Furthermore, we assume that, due to increasing demand for oil and gas products, the throughput of steel products will increase. In contrast, we expect a decline in the handling of forest products.

Inland terminals business area

The continued difficult market situation for new vehicles in Germany and Western Europe together with low technical value creation are leading to increasingly aggressive competition. We are therefore looking to leverage our high level of technical expertise and extensive terminal network to further expand the remarketing/used vehicles segment.

At our Kelheim location, we will start operating a new multi-story car park in 2022. This will enable us to generate additional storage revenue and quit external storage space.

In order to increase value creation, we are expanding the charging infrastructure for vehicles with alternative drive systems at all inland terminals. In terms of handling volumes, we expect a slight increase compared to 2021, subject to the uncertainties already mentioned.

Car transport business area

We also expect road transport volumes to remain at the previous year’s level. Intensified crowding out as well as the high energy costs are leading to persistent and permanent price pressure. We are maintaining the number of trucks in our own vehicle fleet at a constant level and are increasingly deploying them for long-distance transports in order to optimize capacity utilization.

AutoRail business area

In line with the general market expectation and a further shift from road to rail transport, we are anticipating a substantial volume increase compared with the previous year. However, volumes will still be below the 2019 level. We intend to further expand the repair business for third parties, including mobile maintenance.

The sophisticated technology of BLG’s young 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

Against the background of the war in Ukraine and the sanctions imposed on Russia, possible expropriations by the Russian state, and the fact that auto manufacturers are currently withdrawing from Russia, our site in St. Petersburg/Russia and our joint venture in Kyiv/Ukraine will be significantly affected. It is likely that we will have to suspend our operations temporarily or for the longer term, or that the basis for doing business will cease altogether. At the time of reporting, operations in Ukraine were suspended.

For the remaining sites, we expect volumes in the Eastern European business area to increase with our existing customers and with new customers.

CONTRACT Division

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 to customers in full 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 the industrial logistics (Europe) business area, almost all expiring contracts with existing customers were extended. The business at the plant of an automotive manufacturer in Leipzig – including the approximately 800 employees – will be taken over by a new service provider in 2022.

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.

We are predicting high volumes for the Bremen site. At the end of 2022, we plan to commission the new “C3 Bremen” logistics center, 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, certain uncertainties remain.

Industrial logistics (overseas) business area

In the industrial logistics (overseas) business area, we aim to continue our steady and positive development in financial year 2022, even though we are still grappling with the global challenges posed by the COVID pandemic.

In particular, we want to build on the expanded business in South Africa and India and the stable volumes in the US in 2022. The Malaysian site, which was severely impacted by the pandemic in 2021, has been on an upward trend since the last quarter of 2021, and we are seeing a steady increase in demand for finished vehicles.

Retail logistics business area

The development of the retail logistics business area also continues to be strongly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Supply chain disruptions and sales problems on the customer side will continue to pose major challenges in the 2022 financial year. Overall, however, we expect the successful continuation of existing and new business to contribute to earnings slightly above the previous year’s level.

Expectations for the 2022 financial year are based mainly on the volume projections of the respective customers and planned new business. In this business area, too, we succeeded in concluding continuation agreements with all but a few existing customers. In the future, we intend to further strengthen our industry diversification.

CONTAINER Division

Because the container terminals still have capacity reserves, at least in the medium term, the market power of the remaining consortia or shipping companies is increasing as a result of consolidation, and with it the pressure on earnings and the need to identify and implement sustainable cost reductions and efficiency improvements. This is being addressed through the implementation of the “Future EUROGATE” transformation program.

From today’s perspective, the Hamburg location is forecast to record a slight volume increase for the 2022 financial year, based on the return of a Far East service operated by the 2M consortium that was temporarily handled in Bremerhaven during 2021 and on expected largely stable volumes of the other services.

For the Bremerhaven site, a rise in handling volumes in 2022 is likewise expected.

Against the background of the ongoing ship delays and the resulting capacity and handling problems at the container terminals, the container shipping companies cannot rule out temporary reschedulings of container liner services between the ports in the North Range. Whether and to what extent such reschedulings will take place cannot be estimated at present.

The development of container throughput in Wilhelmshaven in 2021 was already very encouraging and was positively influenced by effects of the pandemic and a high number of inducement calls. Given the trend towards ever larger container ships and the increasing nautical restrictions that this imposes on the navigation channels of the Outer Weser and Elbe – even once the deepening and widening measures currently underway have been completed – Wilhelmshaven is becoming more and more relevant for the handling of ultra-large vessels.

With Hapag-Lloyd AG as a new partner and customer, the deep-water port of Wilhelmshaven will have very good growth prospects in the coming years due to the trend towards ever larger container ships. Furthermore, the double-track upgrading of the Oldenburg–Wilhelmshaven railway line by DB Netz, including renewal and electrification, will be completed in fall 2022. This will create additional capacity and provide the site with an efficient rail-based connection.

In the 2022 financial year, transshipment volumes at the Wilhelmshaven site are still expected to stagnate. From today’s perspective, a significant improvement in the capacity utilization is forecast from 2023 onwards. In the meantime, operational capacities will be enhanced by raising the existing eight container gantry cranes and procuring two more container bridges. In addition, it is planned to convert a first section of the landside operations to an automated system by spring 2024.

The development of handling volumes at the EUROGATE locations may be negatively affected by the repercussions of the war in Ukraine as well as by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the measures and restrictions that may have to be introduced in connection with this. Increased sick leave or the need to comply with pandemic-related quarantine requirements may also significantly curtail staff capacities. It is currently not possible to quantify such impacts.

In light of the macroeconomic conditions described above, combined with the one-off and exceptional factors included in the previous year’s result, the CONTAINER Division is expected to generate declining, nevertheless still clearly positive, consolidated net profit for 2022. To some extent – albeit on a low level – restructuring expenses will continue to impact on earnings in 2022 and subsequent years.

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. An investment volume of around EUR 102 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

At the time of preparing this report, war is being waged between Russia and Ukraine and it is impossible to quantify its future ramifications for our customers’ quantities, volumes, earnings and production. However, it can be assumed that it could lead to further major restrictions.

This has pushed into the background the fact that, despite increasing progress with the inoculation program, the Omicron wave is also having an impact on the global economy, with local restrictions and high levels of sick leave. The remainder of the year ahead will therefore be strongly influenced by challenging conditions. In this environment, forecasts on earnings and volumes are difficult.

EUR thousand Actual
2021
Forecast
2022
EBT 52,226 significant decline;
positive result
EBIT 61,507 significant decline
similar to EBT
Revenue 1,050,438 at previous
year’s level
EBT margin
(in percent)
5.0 significant decline
similar to EBT
RoCE
(in percent)
6.2 significant decline
similar to EBT/EBIT

Expected changes for 2022

Expected changes 2022

For 2022, we are working on the assumption that the Ukraine war will hinder economic recovery and the end to the turbulences in the logistics chains, as well as the elimination of supply bottlenecks. Furthermore, soaring energy prices, which we are not always able to pass on in full to customers due to various agreed transactions and services, are having a noticeable impact as a high, additional fixed cost burden in all business areas. Other influencing factors are the ambitious EU CO2 reduction targets and the further development of the “automotive crisis”. The ever more acute shortage of skilled labor is also having an increasingly detrimental effect on our business operations.

In this uncertain environment, based on the forecast for the BLG Group described above, we currently expect revenue to remain at the previous year’s level. Overall, we anticipate a significant reduction in earnings (EBT) in the 2022 financial year, which will, however, still be in positive territory. EBIT and RoCE and the EBT margin will develop accordingly. On the basis of the situation described, this forecast is subject to a high degree of uncertainty.

We pursue the goal of an earnings-related and consistent dividend policy. Accordingly, we will continue to allow our shareholders to participate appropriately in earnings in the future in line with our business performance.

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.