Published: 10-05-2016 18:09

Stern Groep N.V., a Dutch listed automotive group, announces its results for the first quarter of 2016:

Key points in Q1 2016

  • Net revenue was up 9.8% to € 285.2 million, with most of the increase generated by Dealergroup Stern (7.7%) and SternLease (13.3%)
  • The operating result (EBIT) was up 13.7% to € 4.1 million (Q1 2015: € 3.6 million)
  • The result after tax was € 2.4 million (Q1 2015: € 2.1 million)
  • The solvency ratio stood at 26.6% at the end of March 2016 (year-end 2015: 25.7%). The excess solvency at 31 March 2016 stood at € 8.8 million (year-end 2015: € 4.3 million)
  • Equity per share increased further to € 27.02 (year-end 2015: € 26.57)
  • Dealergroup Stern again increased its market share to 5.6% for passenger cars (Q1 2015: 5.4%) and 8.3% for light commercial vehicles (Q1 2015: (7.7%)
  • The lease portfolio showed further organic growth to 9,252 contracts as at 31 March 2016
  • The final dividend for 2015 of € 0.75 per share will be available for payment on 9 June 2016

Market share continues to grow

The market for registered new passenger cars showed a 10.1% decline in Q1 2016 to 98,559 units (Q1 2015: 110,148 units). Our prediction at the end of 2015 was realised. The big run on cars with low additional tax liability rates at the end of 2015, driven by the possibility of securing the 7% additional tax liability rate on plug-in hybrids for 5 years, led to lower demand from the business market in Q1 2016 than in the previous year. Dealergroup Stern achieved sales of 5,488 new passenger cars, a 7.1 % decrease compared to Q1 2015, consequently outperforming the market development nationally. Dealergroup Stern’s market share for new passenger cars accordingly came to 5.6% in Q1 2016 (Q1 2015: 5.4%).

The market for new light commercial vehicles showed a clear increase of 27.1% in Q1 2016 to 21,341 units (Q1 2015: 16,785 units). Dealergroup Stern sold 38.7% more new light commercial vehicles, a significant outperformance of the national increase. Dealergroup Stern’s market share for new light commercial vehicles in Q1 2016 accordingly came to 8.3% (Q1 2015: 7.7%).

State of affairs in Q1 2016

Net revenue increased by 9.8% compared to Q1 2015 to € 285.2 million. Most of this increase was visible at Dealergroup Stern (up 7.7%) and at SternLease (up 13.3%). Gross profit was up € 2.5 million to € 47.4 million (Q1 2015: 44.9 million).

Other operating income was down € 0.4 million, mainly due to lower (net) income from the interest in Bovemij. Operating expenses (including depreciation expenses) rose slightly by € 0.9 million (5.7%) to € 16.4 million, partly due to additional housing costs as a result of the Sale + Leaseback transaction at the end of 2015 and additional sales costs in order to boost sales. Total employee expenses showed a small (2.3%) increase, mainly due to the higher number of FTE’s, which was to some extent caused by the acquisitions of Lakeman Purmerend (Skoda) in mid-2015 and Middelbeek Alkmaar (Fiat brands) in February 2016. The operating result (EBIT) in Q1 2016 came to € 4.1 million, compared to € 3.6 million a year earlier.

Dealergroup Stern

The 7.1% decline in the number of new passenger cars sold compared to Q1 2015 was fully offset by the 8% increase in the average sale price. The increase in sales of used cars (+16%) and new light commercial vehicles (+38.7%) contributed to the increase in revenue. The relative margin on sales remained virtually unchanged, but due to the higher sales revenue the sales margin was up € 0.9 million on Q1 2015.

Revenue from after-sales rose € 4.4 million (10.8%) due to higher sales of workshop hours, but also due to a clear increase in revenue from parts. The relative margin on after-sales was more or less unchanged on Q1 2015. This led to a higher gross profit and, in combination with more or less unchanged operating expenses, to a strong increase in the operating result of Dealergroup Stern.

Stern Financial Services

The number of lease contracts at SternLease rose by 2.3% in Q1 2016 to 9,252 (year-end 2015: 9,045 contracts and as at 31 March 2015: 7,729 contracts). Stern Financial Services once again delivered a satisfactory result in Q1 2016.

Stern Mobility Services

Revenue at SternSchade rose 14% in Q1 2016 compared to Q1 2015. Based on the Audatex calculations, the car body repair market in the Netherlands increased by 10.8% in Q1 2016. Adjusted for incidental expenses, the result for SternPoint in Q1 2016 was similar to that in Q1 2015. SternTec (interiors for light commercial vehicles) once again achieved a strong improvement in result. As a result of a late television advertising campaign, progress at Mango Mobility only really got off the ground in March. The lower increase in revenue led to the result in Q1 2016 falling short of our forecast. At SternRent, the car rental fleet was reduced by 212 vehicles as planned in Q1 2016 to 1,907. The result of Stern Mobility Services in Q1 2016 was on balance slightly down on Q1 2015.

Solvency improves further

The balance sheet total of € 576.5 million as at 31 March 2016 was € 9.2 million lower than at year-end 2016, despite the further increase of € 4.7 million in the lease and rental portfolio in Q1 2016 and the purchase of the head office in Amsterdam (€ 5.2 million including transaction costs) in January 2016. The decrease was mainly due to an € 18.1 million reduction in the inventory of new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles and a € 9.9 million decline in trade receivables. Group equity rose to € 153.3 million as at 31 March 2016 (year-end 2015: € 150.8 million).

The solvency ratio of Stern Group at 31 March 2016 stood at 26.6% (year-end 2015: 25.7%). Based on a standard solvency ratio for the car leasing operations of 12.5% and for car rental operations of 20.0%, the solvency ratio of the other activities at the end of March 2016 came to 35.1%, compared to 33.7% at year-end 2015.

Refinancing

The Group’s operating capital is funded by three banks, and consists of Facility A for the retail finance (limit € 70 million) and Facility B (limit € 130 million) for the financing of the leasing operations.

The faster than expected organic growth at SternLease and the maturity of Facility A on 30 June 2016 were reason to consult with the banks regarding the refinancing of Facility A and increasing Facility B. SternLease’s lease portfolio has now reached a value in excess of € 165 million, meaning that the current € 130 million limit of Facility B is no longer sufficient. Stern reached an agreement with the banks that Facility A is extended for one year and that Facility B is increased from € 130 million to € 160 million. Both facilities will then mature on 30 June 2017. Next year will subsequently involve the arrangement of finance that corresponds closely to the growth targets of the new Sprong Voorwaartsà (Leap Forwardà) three-year plan. This will include thorough study of the possibility of securitising the lease portfolio. Given the growing size of the lease fleet, this funding method would offer sufficient cost benefits to justify serious consideration.

The general characteristics of the new deal with the banks are comparable with the existing terms. The interest margin, however, is considerably lower and the ICR convenant is set at a more favourable level. The financing documentation will be completed in the next several weeks.

Outlook has improved

The results appear to be developing more favourably than the forecasts made in March this year. The result after tax in Q1 2016 is already encouraging, and the development of the order book for a number of brands and at SternLease, along with the recent adjustments to Autobrief 2, give us reason to upgrade our forecast.

The debate on Autobrief 2 in the Dutch House of Representatives has led to amendments to the original proposals by the State Secretary for Finance. One of the amendments means that the additional tax liability rate for plug-in hybrids will be raised from the current level of 15% to 22% in one step with effect from 2017. Originally, the intention was to phase this increase in over a period of three years. This means that once again we expect to see a rush to register and deliver plug-in hybrids at the end of 2016, since business drivers will no longer be able to benefit from 60 months of a 15% additional tax liability rate on plug-in hybrids after 1 January 2017.

At Stern Financial Services, SternLease continues to show strong organic growth. At Stern Mobility Services, SternRent and SternSchade (which is to be combined with SternPoint) developed according to plan and SternTec continued the positive development shown in 2015. Revenue at Mango Mobility is now growing strongly, meaning that a permanent positive contribution is now within reach.

There is currently no agreement between employers and employees on a new collective labour agreement. The current CLA agreements in force are those which have applied since 31 October 2014. New CLA agreements are expected soon, including agreements on the much-debated division of pension expenses between employer and employees.

Dividend

The current dividend policy was established by the General Meeting in May 2012. The principle is that dividend may only be distributed if there is excess s0lvency. Excess solvency is calculated on the basis of a solvency ratio of 15% for the lease operations and 30% for the other operations. The excess solvency at year-end 2015 stood at € 4.3 million and has risen to € 8.8 million at 31 March 2016. An interim dividend of € 0.25 per share was distributed on 23 December 2015. The proposed final dividend of € 0.75 per share will be made payable on 9 June 2016.

Press here for the press release dated 10 Mei 2016 in English

Klik hier voor de pdf van het volledige persbericht d.d. 10 mei 2016 in het Nederlands