Success for Messer despite credit crisis


Messer Group GmbH has achieved global sales of €797m for the 2009 financial year, a €2m increase on the previous year. EBITDA for the period was €175m.

Messer Group owner and CEO, Stefan Messer, commented, “We have invested over €600m in ten large new gas production facilities across Europe – a necessary step as in many regions Messer was reliant on externally sourced gas supplies. Today, almost all the products we sell are produced by ourselves.”
Resonances of the financial crisis were worst felt in Eastern, Central and South-East Europe, particularly among the steel, automotive and chemical sectors. Meanwhile, sales in China were up by 40% due to the joint venture with Pangang Iron and Steel, likewise Vietnam experienced sales growth despite the financial crisis.
Similarly, the total number of employees rose from 4696 to 5211, which was partly due to the joint venture with Chinese steel manufacturer Panzhihua Iron & Steel, part of the Sichuan-based Pangang Group, in which Messer holds a 60% stake.
Contracts totalling 200m cubic metres of gas were signed during 2009. Similarly, significant European contracts, such as those with EADS and Evonik, were concluded.
Executive Vice President of Finance and Corporate Controlling, Dr. Uwe Bechtolf, commented, “Western Europe has a more diversified economy. The same applies to our portfolio, which is more diversified in Western Europe than it is in Eastern Europe. For example, in Western Europe, we benefited from the fact that the food industry is far more developed there than it is in Eastern Europe. And the food industry is relatively crisis-resistant, as has been demonstrated once again.”
He continued, “As far as our company is concerned, I think that this crisis has shown that we are currently on the right path. Messer should have a diversified structure and a broad-based approach. At the same time, it is important that we do not allow ourselves to get sidetracked. Our business and our product portfolio must not lack direction.”
Chief Financial Officer, Dr Hans-Gerd Wienands, stated, “Like industry as a whole, Messer was hit by the global recession. Generally it can be assumed that we lost about 10% of sales in Europe compared with the previous year. However, we had a major advantage in that we had an excellent year in China with very good sales growth.”
Wienands tentatively advised, “Looking at the bigger picture, I have to say that the macroeconomic situation is still on relatively shaky ground.”
Key developments
During the financial year, measures were put in place to reduce the Group’s working capital. Consequently, net assets decreased from K€ 67,754 at the close of the 2008 financial year to K€ 46,002.
Meanwhile, the terms and conditions of Messer’s financial arrangements remained unchanged. Although January 2009, saw Messer Group GmbH become party, as borrower, to a new unsecured credit agreement covering €100m.
The group advised gasworld that capital expenditure policy remains based on economic principles outlined in 2007. Though Messer noted that increasingly focus is being turned to winning business for on-site projects. Capital expenditure throughout 2009 reached €164.7m, a sum equivalent to 20.7% of total net sales. The majority of this was spent on construction projects for air separation plants and other major facilities.

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