Chairman's Statement & Strategy

Guillaume Robin


Overall, the group had a good year, supported by growth of 3.4% to constant scope and the progressive onboarding of the companies and business acquired in 2017. Our operating profit increased by 8.8% to constant scope (+17% in absolute value) and reached new heights. And yet, the many very promising indicators at the end of 2017 progressively turned from green to amber during 2018. It would seem that political and social tensions throughout the world, including in Europe and France, have degraded the economic environment.

Launched on Lyon’s second stock market in 1987, Thermador Groupe has never decreased its annual coupon. We have no hesitation in continuing along the same policy lines, with a dividend of €1.75, up 2.9%. This represents a 3.1% return according to the average price over 2018, and 3.9% against the closing price of December 31, 2018.

For the first time since the 2008 financial crisis, the value of our share has dropped off considerably, losing more than 21% since December 31, 2017, much like the CAC Mid&Small index. Over a period of two years, the return is positive (+6.6%), and excellent over 15 years (+388%). This decline is not a concern for us given our strong belief that stock market performance reflects that of the company when measured over a period of more than 10 years. In the short term, decorrelation is a frequent phenomenon. Private shareholders have clearly taken note: their share in Thermador Groupe has increased from 31.1% to 34.3% over the past 12 months.

We provide detail about the business activity of each of our subsidiaries, including those acquired in 2017, on pages 75 to 90 of our annual report and on line at www.thermador-groupe.fr. To summarise, export now accounts for 17.5% of our business, and our dependence on the French construction market has fallen from 42% to 38% of turnover. On this topic, we are happy to say that we are now less exposed to the cyclical market of new-builds. Our sales are very much oriented towards maintenance and renovation, and we estimate that only 10% of our consolidated turnover fluctuates with the highs and lows of the new-build programmes in France.

The acquisition of Sanidom (the holding company that owns Rousseau), finalised on December 31, 2018 will reduce this exposure still further, since its range of sanitation taps targets private individuals exclusively via the DIY superstore distribution channel. By onboarding this new company, Thermador Groupe’s ‘retail activity’ should represent 24% of all turnover by the end of 2019. That will allow us to be simultaneously and substantially present across three distribution channels, thereby mitigating risk. It is a fact that nobody can predict the future share of business between the professional, retail and digital channels.

This latter point is the subject of all our attention and numerous initiatives within our subsidiaries. They are ready to organise, enrich and distribute their data via the web and thereby positively accompany the complexification of the distribution process.

To date, no advanced discussions are under way for any further acquisitions. This corresponds to our desire to act primarily on the traditional levers of our group: growing market share, launching new products, seeking out efficiencies, and tight cost management. Our strategy dedicated to our customers will not waver, in the knowledge that we can count on our high level of resilience and our exceptional employees and their commitment, loyalty and professionalism.

On December 31, 2018 our cash position was €23m, bank debt €46.7m, and equity after distribution €187.5m. This policy targeting financial solidity allows us to approach 2019 with a degree of calm, and all the inherent uncertainties - and opportunities - that come with it.