Sound financial foundation
Once again, the strong 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 fell from CHF 3,743 million to CHF 3,502 million. Liquid funds decreased from CHF 413 million to CHF 282 million. In addition, the Group had access to undrawn operating credit lines for the operating business of CHF 384 million. Debts were reduced to CHF 837 million (previous year CHF 895 million). Overall, this resulted in an increase in net debt of CHF 73 million to CHF 555 million at the end of 2018.
(in CHF million; as of 31 December)
Net working capital increased by CHF 33 million year-on-year to CHF 206 million. Property, plant and equipment increased from CHF 813 million to CHF 829 million, while goodwill and intangible assets fell from CHF 1,749 million to CHF 1,652 million as a result of amortisation as well as currency effects.
The ratio of net debt to equity (gearing) increased from 26.3% in the previous year to 31.8%. The equity ratio reached a very solid 49.8% (previous year 49.1%). Based on average equity, the adjusted return on equity (ROE) was 34.5% (previous year 35.2%); the non-adjusted value of this ratio was 32.9% (previous year 30.7%). Average invested operating capital, comprising net working capital, property, plant and equipment, and goodwill and intangible assets amounted to CHF 2,823 million at the end of 2018 (previous year CHF 2,696 million). The adjusted return on invested capital (ROIC) rose to 22.6% (previous year 22.4%); the non-adjusted value of this ratio was 21.6% (previous year 19.5%). 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 999,182 treasury shares on 31 December 2018, which equals 2.7% of the shares entered in the Commercial Register. Of these, 650,801 (1.8% of the shares entered in the Commercial Register) originate from the ongoing share buyback programme, while the remaining 348,381 are mostly 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 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 2018, 650,801 shares had been acquired at a sum of CHF 276 million. The average purchase price per share was CHF 424.80. During the reporting year, 445,551 shares were acquired as part of the programme at a sum of CHF 185 million.