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Letter from the Management Board
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
2020 was a special and eventful year for ALTANA. The first few months were very gratifying and promising, but from the spring onward the focus of our activities was on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
From the very outset, our priority was to protect our more than 6,500 colleagues worldwide. Together, we managed to ensure that the virus did not spread significantly at any of our sites. In addition to each individual who actively contributed to protecting the health of all by adhering to hygiene and distance rules, the crisis teams in the ALTANA Group, in particular, performed outstanding work. Moreover, we were able to further significantly reduce the number of occupational accidents reported at our sites last year, once again reaching our ambitious safety targets.
At the same time, thanks to our global network of sites, we succeeded in maintaining our delivery capabilities and efficiency, continuing to provide our customers with the best possible support, and leveraging numerous opportunities in a volatile market environment.
While there were many product areas for which demand was significantly lower due to the pandemic, other consumer-oriented applications, such as innovative solutions for food packaging, increased in importance. As a result, the ACTEGA division was able to continue on its growth path. And the trend toward greater sustainability, which was intensified by the pandemic, especially in the domestic realm, also provided BYK, ECKART, and ELANTAS with positive impetus in terms of demand.
Overall, sales fell by only three percent despite the effects of the pandemic, while EBITDA even exceeded the previous year’s level. Asides from the temporary easing of raw material prices, countermeasures in view of the significant demand decline in some months particularly contributed to this result.
Furthermore, we achieved important milestones for our sustainable success.
In January, we announced our ambitious goal of becoming climate neutral by 2025. We began consistently implementing this plan in 2020, creating the first facts in line with the goals of the UN Global Compact initiative for responsible and sustainable corporate governance. Already in March, we switched our entire electricity procurement worldwide to renewable energies. In the summer, the independent rating company EcoVadis honored our commitment to sustainability, awarding ALTANA gold status for the second time.
Our great financial strength enabled us to continue to make targeted investments in innovation in 2020, including in the future digital printing market. ALTANA’s internal startup ACTEGA Metal Print, for example, was able to get its first beta customers and a distribution partner for a new type of technology that achieves decorative metallic effects with considerably less material, costs, and production time than the processes commonly used to date. Overall, research and development expenditures in the ALTANA Group remained with eight percent of sales at a high level.
We also successfully continued our strategy of growing by means of acquisitions. In February, ACTEGA completed the acquisition of Swiss Schmid Rhyner AG, a specialist in overprint varnishes for the packaging and printing industries. In the course of the year, ECKART agreed to purchase the business of not one but two companies. With the internationally leading TLS Technik GmbH & Co. Spezialpulver KG and the British specialist AMT, we are expanding our portfolio in industrial, metal-based 3D printing. This will enable ECKART to offer its customers even more high-performance materials in the future.
The fact that we were able to maintain customer proximity even in 2020 is reflected by our business results. But it also shows how deeply ALTANA’s innovative solutions are anchored in the daily lives of many people. Whether at the supermarket, doing sports, at home, or while traveling, almost everywhere the knowhow of our researchers and developers contributes to making people’s day-to-day lives more pleasant, safer, and more sustainable. In the magazine section of this report, you can find out more about where you encounter ALTANA repeatedly, even in your private life.
In the past business year, mobile work from home was part of the everyday life of many ALTANA employees. The digitalization of many processes that had already been achieved in recent years, and the opportunities created to work well together even in virtual spaces, enabled us to switch to the mobile working mode literally overnight, for the protection of all of our colleagues. But that ALTANA was able to demonstrate its innovative strength, customer orientation, and willingness to change in this way is rooted primarily in our corporate culture. The latter is and remains one of our most important success factors. Only in an atmosphere of openness and trust, empowerment to act and appreciation, can we remain the innovative solution provider that our customers want at their side, both now and in the future, whether on site or digitally. With these values, we can create sustainable value – for our customers, our employees, our owner, and society as a whole.
In this spirit, we would like to express our sincere thanks to our employees for their high level of commitment in the extraordinary year 2020 and their personal contribution to the wellbeing of ALTANA and all the people who work in the ALTANA Group across the globe. Our thanks also go to the members of the Supervisory Board for their constructive support and their trust in ALTANA’s work.
Dr. Christoph Schlünken