Sound financial foundation
Once again, the substantial contribution from free cashflow allowed the attractive dividend policy and the share buyback programme to be continued while also maintaining the very healthy financial foundation of the Group.
Total assets increased from CHF 3,601.1 million to CHF 3,742.8 million. Liquid funds decreased from CHF 509.7 million to CHF 412.7 million. In addition, the Group had access to undrawn operating credit lines for the operating business of CHF 541.9 million. Debts were reduced to CHF 895.2 million (previous year CHF 970.9 million). The changes in terms of liquid funds on the one hand and debt on the other resulted from lower free cashflow, the dividend payment to the shareholders, share buybacks and the repayment of debts (see also Decline in free cashflow). This resulted in a slight increase in net debt of CHF 21.3 million to CHF 482.5 million at the end of 2017.
(in CHF million; as of 31 December)
Net working capital increased by CHF 25.7 million year-on-year to CHF 173.0 million. Property, plant and equipment increased from CHF 726.5 million to CHF 812.8 million, while goodwill and intangible assets rose from CHF 1,681.1 million to CHF 1,748.9 million mainly as a result of currency effects.
The ratio of net debt to equity (gearing) improved from 28.2% in the previous year to 26.3%. The equity ratio reached a very solid 49.1% (previous year 45.4%). Based on average equity, the adjusted return on equity (ROE) was 35.2% (previous year 38.3%); the non-adjusted value of this ratio was 30.7% (previous year 35.9%). Average invested operating capital, comprising net working capital, property, plant and equipment, and goodwill and intangible assets amounted to CHF 2,696.0 million at the end of 2017 (previous year CHF 2,704.6 million). The adjusted return on invested capital (ROIC) was 22.4% (previous year 21.5%); the non-adjusted value of this ratio was 19.5% (previous year 20.2%). For details on the non-adjusted gearing, ROE and ROIC calculations, please refer to the Financial Statements of the Geberit Group, Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements, 5. Management of Capital.
The Geberit Group held 391,640 treasury shares on 31 December 2017, which equals 1.1% of the shares entered in the Commercial Register. Of these, 205,250 (0.6% of the shares entered in the Commercial Register) originate from the ongoing share buyback programme, while the remaining 186,390 are earmarked for participation plans. The total number of shares entered in the Commercial Register stands at 37,041,427 shares. The aforementioned share buyback programme announced in March 2017 began on 6 June 2017. As part of this programme, shares to the value of up to CHF 450 million are to be repurchased, less withholding tax, over a maximum period of three years. The shares will be repurchased via a separate trading line on the SIX Swiss Exchange for the purpose of a capital reduction. By 31 December 2017, 205,250 shares had been acquired at a sum of CHF 91.8 million. The average purchase price per share was CHF 447.08.