Published: 18-08-2021 18:18 

Stern Groep N.V., listed Dutch mobility group in automotive retail and services, announces its results for the first half of 2021.

Highlights

  • Net revenue in H1-2021 up 10.0% on H1-2020
  • Operating profit in H1-2021 came to € 7.4 million (H1-2020: € 4.0 million, excluding the writedown of goodwill for Dealergroup Stern in 2020)
  • Other operating income in H1-2021 fell sharply as a result of the € 3.2 million lower net gain on the interest in Bovemij
  • Use of NOW-scheme in H1-2021 € 1,5 miljoen lower than H1-2020, but is nevertheless material due to loss of revenue at some operating companies as a result of COVID-19
  • The solvency ratio at 30 June 2021 stood at 32.3% (year-end 2020: 28.9%). Excess solvency rose further to € 44.8 million
  • Net asset value per share at 30 June 2021 was € 23.01 (year-end 2020: € 22.09)
  • The number of new passenger cars registered in the Netherlands of 163,000 units in H1-2021 was 3.2% higher than in H1-2020. The number of new light commercial vehicles registered in the Netherlands of 39,000 units in H1-2021 was 29.6% higher than in H1-2020
  • Stern’s market share in passenger cars of 4.1% was slightly lower in H1-2021 (H1-2020: 4.4%). Its market share in light commercial vehicles was also slightly lower, at 6.2% (H1-2020: 6.4%)
  • The group has ample liquidity, with only limited use of the available finance facility at the credit institutions (€ 54 million) at the end of June
  • We are not able to make a reliable estimate of the results in H2-2021 due to uncertainty as to the further consequences of COVID-19 and continuing production problems at the car manufacturers. Nonetheless, we expect to see a further improvement in our results in H2-2021
     

Henk van der Kwast, Chief Executive Officer:

“We are not displeased with the profit realised in the first half of 2021. Demand for cars is rising, but sales are under pressure due to the limited availability of cars. As a result, margins are higher than usual. The industry is going through a fundamental transition that requires significant investment and adaptation. The decline in the number of official brand dealerships in the Netherlands will accelerate in the coming years, as customer contact largely shifts to the digital domain. Car buyers and owners simply have less interest and less reason to physically visit a dealership. The car manufacturers and importers are also moving towards fewer branches and more digital solutions. The parties that respond quickest and most effectively to this fundamental change in our industry will have an opportunity to continue to play a meaningful role for their customers. This is the reason why over the past three years, we have invested heavily in a new digital platform, we have worked on adapting our organisation to become a modern automotive services provider and optimised our primary business processes. At the same time, we have strengthened our financial solidity and significantly increased our cash position. These are the factors that will determine the successful transition of Stern into a modern and effective automotive services provider.”
 

State of affairs in H1-2021

Stern’s net revenue came to € 419.5 million, a marked increase of 10.0% compared to H1-2020. Most of the increase in revenue came from higher sales of used passenger cars and new light commercial vehicles.
The percentage gross margin in H1-2021 came to 17.7%, compared to 18.0% in H1-2020. This modest decline is due to higher car sales, which generate a lower margin than after-sales revenue. The gross revenue result was up € 5.6 million (8.1%), due to a combination of higher revenue and this lower relative margin.
Other operating expenses were much lower than in H1-2020, mainly due to the € 3.2 million lower net gain (based on revaluation and dividend) on the interest in Bovemij.
Employee expenses were 2.0% lower than in H1-2020. Several operating companies made use of the Temporary Emergency Bridging Measure to Preserve Employment (the NOW scheme) in H1-2021. This contribution has been deducted from the employee expenses. The NOW scheme was also used last year in H1-2020, when the income from this scheme was € 1.5 million higher than in this year. 
The decline in employee expenses (despite the lower income from NOW) was due to the reduction of the number of FTE by 195 (11.3%) in organic terms compared to the start of 2020. The organic decline in the number of FTEs in H1-2021 amounted to 59, a decrease of 3.7% compared to year-end 2020.
Operating expenses (excluding the impairment of goodwill in 2020) were 3.3% lower than in H1-2020, due to the cost-saving programmes continued in 2020 and 2021 and the closure of more branches of Dealergroup Stern and SternPoint. Interest expense was considerably lower, partly due to less use of working capital.
Operating profit was thus € 7.4 million, compared to € 4.0 million in H1-2020.
 

Highlights Dealergroup Stern

A total of 163,000 new passenger cars were registered in the Netherlands in H1-2021, 3.2% more than in H1-2020. The number of new light commercial vehicles registered of 39,000 was also higher than in H1-2020 (+29.6%).
Dealergroup Stern’s national market share for passenger cars in H1-2021 came to 4.1% (H1-2020: 4.4%). The market share in light commercial vehicles was 6.2% (H1-2020: 6.4%). This modest decline in market share was due to the closure of three branches in H2-2020.
Revenue at Dealergroup Stern increased markedly on balance to € 52.9 million (14.2%) to € 424.3 million. The increase was mainly due to the increase in sales of new light commercial vehicles and used passenger cars, as well as a higher average sale price for new passenger cars. The relative and absolute margins on sales of used passenger cars showed a marked increase, mainly due to high demand for nearly-new used cars and the limited availability of these cars.
Delivery of some new cars has become problematic due to the limited availability of computer chips, as delivery times for some models have already increased to more than six months. Dealergroup Stern’s back order position at 30 June 2021 was therefore much higher than at the end of June 2020.
The number of mechanics was reduced, as a result of the closure of a further three branches in H2-2020 and less demand for maintenance as distances travelled by car have declined. The average number of mechanics has declined by 9.4% compared to H1-2020. Revenue per mechanic has however increased markedly, due to higher hourly rates and improved efficiency.
There was an organic decline in employee expenses of 4.3%, due to the organic reduction of FTEs and the reduced number of branches. Several operating companies made use of the NOW scheme in both H1-2021 and H1-2020, and this contribution has been recognised as a deduction from the employee expenses item. The income from the NOW scheme was lower in H1-2021 (at € 0.9 million) than in H1-2020.
Operating expenses were lower in organic terms, mostly due to the cost saving programmes continued in 2020 and 2021. Dealergroup Stern accordingly realised an operating profit (EBIT) of € 9.7 million in H1-2021 (H1-2020: € 2.6 million, before the writedown of the goodwill for Dealergroup Stern in 2020), which is 2.5% of the revenue in H1-2021.
The balance sheet total of Dealergroup Stern at 30 June 2021 stood at € 275.4 million (Including IFRS 16), down 9.3% on year-end 2020 and 12.7% lower than at 30 June 2020. The main reason for the lower balance sheet total is the much lower inventory of new and used cars, the write-off of goodwill (€ 20.0 million) and more efficient management of working capital.
 

Highlights Stern Mobility Services

In order to continue to improve operational synergy and offer new service concepts, we have decided to merge the segments of Stern Mobility Solutions (car rental) and Stern Car Services (car body repairs and light commercial vehicle interiors) into a new segment named Stern Mobility Services.

Demand for rental cars fell sharply as a result of the additional measures introduced by the government with effect from mid-December 2020, and did not recover until May 2021 once these measures were eased. At year-end 2020, the fleet consisted of 1,968 vehicles. After a further modest decline in early 2021, the fleet has increased again after the easing of the measures to 2,292 vehicles at the end of June 2021. There was a further increase in July, to around 2,400 vehicles at the end of July 2021.

The car body repair shops have seen a significant decline in demand for car body repairs since mid-December 2020, after the announcement of the lockdown. Partly as a result of the government measures, the distance travelled by car in the Netherlands has declined, leading to fewer accidents.

In January 2021, the operations of the car body repairs branch at Purmerend were merged with the existing operations in Wormerveer, and the Purmerend branch was subsequently closed. In mid-July 2021, the operations of the car body repairs branch at Harderwijk were merged with the existing operations in Lelystad, and the Harderwijk branch was subsequently closed. A certain minimum level of revenue per location is a critical requirement for profitable operation of a car body repair business. Certain other branches will be assessed in the coming period to establish whether the merger of other operations would be beneficial.

Revenue at SternPoint was down 14.7% compared to H1-2020.

The operating result (EBIT) of Stern Mobility Services came to € 0.2 million negative (H1-2020: € 1.1 million negative). The balance sheet total at 30 June 2021 was € 55.5 million (year-end 2020: € 50.8 million).
 

Highlights Other

The operating result of the Other segment was € 1.7 million negative in H1-2021 compared to € 2.4 million positive in H1-2020. This includes holding costs not recharged, which were lower than in H1-2020 due to the reduction in the number of FTEs.
Most of the lower operating result was due to the € 3.2 million lower income from the interest in Bovemij. 
A non-recurring expense of € 0.5 million was also recognised in H1-2021 in connection with the redundancy of a number of employees. 
 

Statement of financial position and solvency

The balance sheet total at the end of June 2021 stood at € 404.6 million, a decline of € 28.8 million compared to year-end 2020. The main changes concerned:

  • A decrease of € 42.6 million due to lower inventory
  • An increase of € 11.8 million due to higher trade receivables

Group equity increased by € 5.1 million compared to year-end 2020 to € 130.6 million at the end of June 2021, mainly due to recognition of the profit in H1-2021. The solvency ratio of Stern Group at the end of June 2021 stood at 32.2% (year-end 2020: 28.9%). Stern comfortably met the ratios agreed with the banks at the end of June 2021. At year-end 2020, its excess solvency stood at more than € 29.5 million, and this has subsequently risen to € 44.8 million on 30 June 2021. 

Stern has a financing facility of € 54 million with its credit institutions. At 30 June 2021, only limited use (€ 17 million) was made of the existing credit lines after substantial repayments of captive finance.
Our management of working capital has now led to markedly less use of working capital, but this is still a priority. No use has been made of the option to defer tax payments, and taxes have been paid within the normal allotted terms.
The existing financing facility runs until the end of May 2022, and is therefore recognised in the statement of financial position on 30 June 2021 under current liabilities. We are in discussions with the banks regarding an extension of this facility for one year (until the end of May 2023). We expect this extension to be in place before publication of our figures for Q3-2021.
 

Outlook

The rest of this year will feature Focus on Service & Brand Value, with a continuation of our already initiated focus on strong car brands, first-class used-cars, our own brand and a strong financial position. Our decisions will continue to be driven by the delivery of added value.

We expect to see further recovery in our sales markets in the coming months, however the negative effects of COVID-19 on our revenue and operating profit will continue for some time to come. Furthermore, our now much larger order book will probably not lead to a significant increase in sales of new vehicles in the coming months, due to strong signals from the car manufacturers that availability of certain parts (computer chips) is still problematic. This means that margins on new and used cars will continue to be relatively high due to the increasing scarcity of cars. This expected improvement in margins, the increasing demand for maintenance and car body repairs and the effects of previously initiated cost savings will not be enough to fully compensate for the effects of less availability of (new) vehicles. Nonetheless, we expect to see a further improvement in our profit in H2-2021.
 

KEY DATES

Publication third quarter results 2021: 11 November 2021 before market opening
Publication of annual figures 2021: 10 March 2022 before market opening
General Meeting: 12 May 2022

Press here for the press release dated 18 august 2021 in English