6. Message from Chairman and CEO
Dear reader, dear shareholder,
We look back at an eventful and geopolitically turbulent year. The continuing government austerity programmes and the monetary context also impacted the real economy. Together with revolutionary digital and technology developments, these produced a scenario of disruptive upheavals and innovation opportunities. Economic growth declined worldwide, and despite ECB efforts and persistently low interest rates, consumers remained hesitant and businesses took at times a wait-and-see approach towards further investment. This was reflected also in volatile equity markets.
Despite this, Gimv again produced excellent results, ending the past financial year with a profit of EUR 137 million.
Our shareholdings reported significantly improved results, with a favourable knock-on impact on their valuations. Aided by a positive exit environment and high levels of available liquidity, we made 13 divestments with an attractive realized capital gain of EUR 71 million. It was also a busy investment year. We invested at a fast pace, especially in the second half, signing 8 promising new partnerships with an investment outlay of EUR 130 million. And we continued our unceasing efforts to expand our existing portfolio, with 5 follow-on investments. All this created a dynamism that we intend to maintain this year.
Building tomorrow's leaders today. 8 new growth stories that respond to societal trends
Gimv's platform strategy continues to bear fruit. The new shareholdings - carefully selected to match our investment focus and the expertise that characterizes Gimv - respond to the trends of the current economic transformation. Each in its own way offers an answer to the challenges and needs facing society in consumer proximity, care, innovative production and services, and the pursuit of sustainable mobility and living environments.
For example, Benedenti (Health & Care) will, together with Gimv, roll out the principle of the modern, multi-disciplinary group practice for dental care throughout Flanders. Organization, consolidation and further professionalization are the keywords here.
The Dutch Itho Daalderop and Klimaatgararant group (Sustainable Cities) is another example: the newly merged group will be pulling out the stops to create energy-efficient housing in the Benelux.
We also added Biom'Up, Brakel, Contraload, Equipe Zorgbedrijven, Legallais and Topas Therapeutics to our portfolio
Growth levers driving sustainable value creation in the portfolio
Investing, divesting and, above all, strengthening companies is a skilled profession. If we as in investment company want to play a part in accelerating the growth of our portfolio companies, our active strategic involvement is a sine qua non. Levers like organic growth, buy & build and internationalization characterize the way we pursue sustainable value.
Mackevision (Smart Industries) for example, is a model of internationalization. For a leading player in computer animation with 3D visualization and visual effects, the market potential is both large and global. Our role is to help enable Mackevision's management grow the business internationally. Since our entry in 2014, the company has nearly doubled its sales and its employee count.
Almaviva Santé (Health & Care), in contrast, is a strong buy & build story. Through targeted acquisitions this specialist hospitals group has tripled from 7 to 22 entities in the Provence-Alpes-Cotes d'Azur and Paris regions.
These are just some examples of our approach. You can read more about it on our website.
We are proud of the great achievements of our 50 shareholdings, which last year achieved sales growth of 12%. This revenue growth, combined with 25% EBITDA and a number of new investments, is reflected in the 13% growth in the value of our investment portfolio last year to above EUR 1 billion.
Value creation and a propitious exit momentum offered strong divestment prospects
With our diversified portfolio, our task is to convert strong growth stories into divestments at the right moment. Over the past year we were able to sell a number of shareholdings, which contributed largely to our profit.
In spring 2016 for example, VCST (Smart Industries - producing among other things precision gears for the automotive market) was sold to BMT and integrated into a large international industrial group with Belgian roots, where it can fully realize its expansion potential. Punch Powertrain (Smart Industries - known for its continuously variable transmission technology) signed an agreement with the Chinese group Yinyi, which we hope to complete in summer 2016. The company's strong technological expertise and R&D department remain anchored in Sint-Truiden, while the growing Asian market is enabling it to win more and more customers.
Onedirect (Connected Consumer) too, Europe's largest telecom equipment supplier, was also successfully sold to Naxicap Partners, after capitalizing on the growth of e-commerce, an area in which the Connected Consumer team is particularly well versed.
2015-2016: another strong year
We are pleased with the past year's results, achieved despite modest economic growth, continuing market volatility and global uncertainty.
The net result of EUR 137 million represents a net return on equity of 12.6%, which exceeds our long-term return objective. It also confirms our ambition to create double-digit returns. On the basis of this result a proposal will be put to the general meeting to distribute an unchanged dividend of EUR 2.45 per share.
We are confident that we can continue with the same momentum, constantly looking for further investment opportunities, while mindful of the need to be selective. We want to continue to expand our portfolio by focusing on performance and sustainable value.
It remains to us to express our thanks to different people. Posting a strong result is is impossible without experienced and committed human capital.
Firstly we want to thank Mr Urbain Vandeurzen: under his chairmanship Gimv has, over the past five years, kept its investment strategy constantly up-to-date. Our sincere thanks also to all who have made Gimv's strategy and results attainable: the various management teams and employees of our holdings, our own employees, directors, investors and shareholders, along with the many other stakeholders who have contributed in one way or another to this result. Gimv is determined to continue the lively momentum.
Hilde Laga, Chairman and Koen Dejonckheere, CEO