First quarter 2020 financial information – Sales

- First quarter sales increase 12.2% on published basis and advance 11.0% organically - Half the growth was driven by exceptional sales at major retail chains in the second half of March, in connection with the global health crisis

Amounts are expressed in millions of euros and rounded off to the nearest million. Ratios and variances are calculated based on underlying amounts, not rounded off amounts.

In Q1 2020, Bel generated consolidated sales of €909 million, up 12.2% on a published basis versus €810 million in the prior-year period. The appreciation of the U.S. dollar against the euro accounted for the lion’s share of the foreign exchange effect, which positively impacted consolidated sales by 1.2% or €9 million. Excluding the foreign exchange impact, Bel’s consolidated sales advanced 11.0% organically y-o-y in Q1 2020.

Bel estimates that the environment sparked by the global Covid-19 pandemic accounted for about half the reported Q1 sales growth. In March, the company observed an increase in sales due in part to stockpiling and daily household food purchases as a result of lockdown measures and the closure of restaurants and catering services. All company brands in all geographies contributed to the growth, with the exception of markets in the Levant region, which remains in a recession.

Excluding the impact of the pandemic, organic sales growth was very dynamic and fueled by the strong fundamentals of the company’s sales policy in Europe and preparations for the Easter and Ramadan holidays.

The sales breakdown by market segment is as follows:

 

Global Markets

Bel reported strong sales momentum in the first two months of the year in global (mature) markets, prior to the March sales acceleration that arose from consumer lockdowns enacted in most countries. Bel still has a weak presence in the catering market, which was particularly hard hit by the pandemic.

In Europe, 2020 began with buoyant sales growth, particularly in France and Germany, before the sales acceleration seen in all markets in March.

The contraction in the Levant markets since the second half of 2019 accounts for the weak 2.3% Q1 sales growth reported in the Middle East, Greater Africa region.

In North America, sales accelerated in March as governments began rolling out lockdown measures.

 

New Territories

Sales of all MOM products and brands in the New Territories market segment were particularly strong in the United States and France.

 

2020 results outlook

Against the backdrop of a global pandemic and economic crisis, and in view of the strong volatility in global demand expected to prevail in the months ahead, Bel is unable to provide a clear outlook at this time. The first weeks of April indicate a return to more normal consumer purchasing patterns, although coming trends in consumer purchasing remain uncertain.

Bel continues to monitor the situation very closely in order to adapt its response as the pandemic evolves.

As a major food sector player, Bel fully assumes its duty to do everything possible to ensure the continuity of its operations.

To date, the company’s production sites continue to operate, with mobilized and committed teams. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Bel has strengthened its safety procedures and health rules to ensure the health and safety of all its employees, in particular by implementing the strictest health and precautionary measures at all production sites, as noted in the company’s March 31st and April 9th press releases.

Along with its production teams, partner farmers and suppliers, Bel is doing everything to continue its operations and to participate in the collective effort to uphold the food supply chain.

The company has:

  • increased its food and packaging raw material inventories to ensure production continuity,
  • taken measures to ensure the supply of raw materials to its plants and products to its retail partners,
  • established plans for operations continuity at its plants,
  • adapted its production lines to best meet the needs of consumers during the lockdown period,
  • adapted its supply chain to ensure that products are delivered to market under the best conditions.

Bel will also continue to evolve its distribution methods and product offerings with agility, to accommodate the new consumer trends expected to result from these unprecedented times in the markets where it operates.

Bel’s financial position remains healthy, with strong liquidity both in terms of cash and untapped credit lines. As a reminder, at December 31, 2019, Bel had €403 million in surplus cash and cash equivalents, with just €30 million in outstanding NEU CP commercial paper, and €820 million in untapped credit lines maturing in 2023 and 2024.

 

Dividend cut

In view of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Board of Directors meeting today voted to lower the 2019 dividend initially proposed by the March 11 Board of Directors, reducing it by nearly 30% versus the dividend paid out for the 2018 financial year. A dividend of €3.50 per share, with an ex-dividend date on May 20 and payable as of May 22, 2020, will be proposed for approval by the Annual General Meeting (AGM) scheduled for May 14, 2020. The conditions for the AGM will be provided in a separate, dedicated press release.

With a long-term commitment to champion healthier and responsible food for all embodied by its new “For All. For Good” signature, Bel is fully in sync with a sustainable and profitable growth model.

 

Bel’s financial performance indicators

The Group uses non-IFRS financial performance indicators internally and for its external communication. These non-IFRS indicators are defined below:

Organic growth corresponds to reported sales growth, excluding impacts from foreign exchange fluctuations and changes in the scope of consolidation, i.e. on a constant structure and exchange rate basis. The organic growth rate is calculated by applying the exchange rate for the prior year period to the current year period.

This press release may contain forward-looking statements. Such trend and/or target information should in no way be regarded as earnings forecast data or performance indicators of any kind. This information is by nature subject to risks and uncertainties that may be beyond the Company’s control. A detailed description of these risks and uncertainties is provided in the Company’s Universal Registration Document, available at (www.groupe-bel.com). More comprehensive information about the Bel Group can be found in the “Regulatory Information” section of the www.groupe-bel.com website.