Published: 21-08-2020 12:55 

Stern Groep N.V., listed Dutch mobility group in automotive retail and services, announces its results for the first half of 2020.
 

Highlights

  • The number of new passenger cars registered in the Netherlands of 55,000 units in Q2-2020 alone was 50.1% lower than in 2019. The number of new light commercial vehicles of 11,000 in Q2-2020 alone was also down on 2019 (-45.0%)
  •  Net revenue H1-2020 was down 12.5% on H1-2019
  • Operating profit from continued operations in H1-2020 came to € 4.0 million (H1-2019: € 4,8 million), this includes the compensation according to the NOW scheme and excluding the (accounting) recognition of an impairment of the goodwill of Dealergroup Stern
  • Other operating income in H1-2020 rose sharply as a result of the net gain on the interest in Bovemij
  • A (non-cash) impairment of € 20.0 million regarding the goodwill of Dealergroup Stern was recognised in H1-2020. Adjusted for this impairment in H1-2020 a positive net result was realized of € 1 million
  • Market share Stern in passenger cars improved slightly to 4.5% in H1-2020 (H1-2019: 4.3%), while the market share in light commercial vehicles declined to 6.4% due to a large one-off deal in 2019 (H1-2019: 7.3%)
  • The solvency ratio at 30 June 2020 stood at 28.4% (year-end 2019: 26.6%)
  • The group has ample liquidity, with no use made of the available finance facility at the credit institutions of € 57 million at the end of June
  • Net asset value per share at 30 June 2020 was € 23.54 (year-end 2019: € 26.90)
  • We are not able to make a reliable estimate of the results in H2-2020 due to uncertainty as to the further development of COVID-19. Meanwhile, several (new) cost-saving measures have been initiated, as we expect the negative effects of COVID-19 on operating profit to continue for some time

 

Henk van der Kwast, Chief Executive Officer:

The current situation is unprecedented. COVID-19 has had a material impact on profit in H1-2020, although it should be noted that the NOW scheme (the Temporary Emergency Bridging Measure to Preserve Employment) has significantly mitigated the negative consequences. Sales of new cars halved in Q2-2020 due to the collapse of the business market. Sales of used cars were also much lower in April and May than during the same period in 2019. Sales of used cars however recovered markedly in June. We estimate that the negative effects of COVID-19 on the future operating profit of Dealergroup Stern eventually will be limited. This limited negative adjustment, combined with an increased WACC, results in an impairment of the goodwill of Dealergroup Stern. Moreover, this does not mean that we have no confidence that profits at Dealergroup Stern will recover strongly. The (accounting) impairment has no effect whatsoever on our solvency and liquidity, also from the perspective of the banks.”

Due to the sale of Heron Auto B.V. on 2 January 2020, the comparative figures for Heron Auto B.V. (the figures for 2019) are presented as discontinued operations. The figures and numbers for 2019 in this press release have been adjusted for the purpose of comparison.
 

State of affairs in H1-2020

Sales of new cars in the Netherlands declined sharply, mainly due to COVID-19, with 30% fewer passenger cars registered in the Netherlands in H1-2020. Stern’s net  revenue came to € 382.0 million, a marked decline of 12.5% compared to H1-2019. The fall in revenue was limited, mainly due to the sale of SternLease in May 2019. Until that time, sales of cars to SternLease were eliminated from the consolidated revenue under the reporting rules. Now that SternLease has been sold to an external party (ALD Automotive), sales to SternLease since June 2019 are no longer eliminated.

The relative gross margin percentage in H1-2020 came to 18.0% compared to 18.6% in H1-2019, partly due to the above-mentioned removal of the elimination of sales to SternLease in 2020. The gross revenue result was down by € 12.4 million (15.3%), due to a combination of lower revenue and this lower relative margin.

Other operating income was sharply higher than in H1-2019, mainly due to the recognition of a net gain on the interest in Bovemij due to revaluation and dividend.

Employee expenses were down 15.4% on H1-2019, despite the CLA increase of 3.2% with effect from 1 February 2020. Use was made of the temporary Emergency Bridging Measure to Preserve Employment (the NOW scheme) in Q2-2020. This contribution has been deducted from the employee expenses. In addition to the effect of the NOW compensation, the decline in employee expenses was due to the reduction of the number of FTE by 197 in organic terms compared to the start of 2019. The organic reduction of the number of FTE in H1-2020 was 77.

Operating expenses (excluding the impairment of goodwill) were 4.2% lower than in H1-2019, due to the cost-saving programmes introduced in 2019 and the closure of branches of Dealergroup Stern. The decline in operating expenses was offset by the costs of the re-branding to ‘One Stern’ recognised in H1-2020, the non-recurring costs of implementing a new CRM software at Dealergroup Stern and the acquisition of a car body repair business in Bemmel.

As stated above, a non-cash impairment of the goodwill of € 20.0 million was recognised on the intangible assets relating to the goodwill of the segment Dealergroup Stern. In note 13 to the 2019 financial statements, we had already noted that the difference between the value in use and the carrying amount of the cash-generating unit Dealergroup Stern was only € 1.0 million at the end of 2019. This calculation was based on an estimate of the future profits of Dealergroup Stern based on our knowledge at the end of January 2020 (in other words, before COVID-19), and a WACC of 5.3%.

This calculation was performed again for H1-2020 on the basis of scenarios relating to estimates of the future profits of Dealergroup Stern. We are now assuming a WACC of 6.3% instead of 5.3%. Moreover, this higher estimate for the WACC has a much larger impact on the value in use of Dealergroup Stern than the limited negative adjustment of the final result of Dealergroup Stern. Based on the impairment test we performed, the goodwill of Dealergroup Stern of approximately € 20 million has been written off entirely in H1-2020.

The profit after tax consists of the following:

*€ 1,000

 

H1-2020

 

H1-2019

Profit/ (loss) from continued operations

 

1,068

 

1,382

Impairment of goodwill

 

(20,023)

 

-

Profit from discontinued operations

 

-

 

25,982

Profit/(loss) before tax

 

(18,955)

 

27,364

Income taxes

 

(102)

 

(352)

Profit after tax

 

(19,057)

 

27,012

 

 

 

 

 

Profit from discontinued operations in H1-2019 consisted mainly of the profit on the sale of SternLease B.V. at the end of May 2019. 

Highlights Dealergroup Stern

The number of new passenger cars registered in the Netherlands of 158,000 units in H1-2020 was 30.0% lower than in H1-2019. The number of new light commercial vehicles registered of 30,000 was also down on H1-2019 (-31.1%). In Q2-2020 alone (the months most affected by the coronavirus) the number of new passenger cars registered in the Netherlands came to 55,000 units, a 50.1% decline on 2019. The number of new light commercial vehicles registered in Q2 alone of 11,000 was also down by 45.0%.

Dealergroup Stern’s national market share for passenger cars in organic terms in H1-2020 came to 4.5%

(H1-2019: 4.3%). The market share in light commercial vehicles was 6.4% (H1-2019: 7.3%). Market share therefore remained more or less unchanged, despite the closure of 10 branches in H2-2019.

Revenue at Dealergroup Stern declined on balance by € 85.7 million (18.8%) to € 371.4 million. The decrease was due to the weaker market and the stated closures and divestments in 2019. The relative margin on sales of new passenger cars declined marginally, mainly due to a lower proportion of sales to private customers. An additional write-off of € 1.0 million was recognised in H1-2020 on the inventory of used cars at the end of June 2020, charged to the gross margin.

As a result of the closure of 10 branches in H2-2019, which led to a 5.0% reduction in the number of mechanics, revenue from workshops was markedly lower than in H1-2019, mainly due to COVID-19. Revenue per mechanic was down slightly, due to higher hourly rates and improved efficiency.

Employee expenses were down 16.8% in organic terms, despite the CLA increases of 3.1% with effect from

1 February 2020. The reduction was due to the organic decline in the number of FTE and the reduced number of branches, as well as the application of the NOW scheme income that has been deducted from the employee expenses. Operating expenses were lower in organic terms, partly due to the cost-saving programmes initiated at the end of 2019. Dealergroup Stern accordingly realised an operating profit (EBIT) of € 2.6 million before impairment of goodwill in H1-2020 (H1-2019: € 5.8 million).

The balance sheet total of Dealergroup Stern at 30 June 2020 stood at € 315.3 million (Including IFRS 16), down 16.0% on year-end 2019 and 23.5% lower than at 30 June 2019. The main reason for the lower balance sheet total is the much lower inventory of new cars and the write-off of goodwill (€ 20.0 million). The inventory of used cars has on the other hand increased since year-end 2019.
 

Highlights Stern Mobility Solutions

The Stern Mobility Solutions segment now consists mainly of the rental operations of SternRent.

Demand for rental cars has fallen sharply as a result of the measures introduced by the government with effect from 17 March 2020. The rental fleet was reduced by around 1,000 vehicles immediately at that time in order to keep the utilisation ratio at the desired level. The fleet reached its lowest level of 1,800 vehicles in mid-May 2020. After the government eased the measures relating to COVID-19, we have seen an increase in demand from that time. At 30 June 2020, the rental fleet consisted of 1,916 vehicles, representing a 25.6% decline since year-end 2019. 

The operating profit  (EBIT) of Stern Mobility Solutions came to € 0.7 million negative (H1-2019: € 0.2 million positive). The balance sheet total at 30 June 2020 was € 42.1 million (year-end 2019: € 57.2 million).
 

Highlights Stern Car Services

This segment consists of SternPoint (car body repairs, minor repairs, light commercial vehicle interiors and lettering). There has been a fall in demand at the car body repair shops since the second half of March 2020. The overall distance travelled by car in the Netherlands has declined since the government measures came into force on 17 March, leading to fewer accidents. Demand for car body repairs has picked up slightly since mid-June 2020.

We acquired the operations of a car body repair business in Bemmel in February 2020. The operations in Amsterdam North were transferred to the new (larger) SternPoint branch in Amsterdam West. All the car body repair operations of SternPoint in Amsterdam have now been combined at this large facility, enabling optimal use of efficiency benefits. The number of SternPoint branches currently stands at 14. Stern Car Services aims to achieve national relevance with a network of larger car body repair branches with carefully selected brand certifications on a geographical basis. Revenue at SternPoint was down 10.2% compared to H1-2019. This (temporary) decline was mainly due to the fall in demand as a result of COVID-19.

The operating profit  (EBIT) of Stern Car Services came to € 0.4 million negative in H1-2020 (H1-2019: € 0.1 million positive).
 

Highlights Other

The operating profit of the Other segment was € 2.4 million in H1-2020 compared to € 1.3 million negative in H1-2019. This includes holding costs not recharged, which were actually lower than in H1-2019 as a result of the reduction in the number of FTE. The cost of the departure of a member of the Group Council (buy-out payment and continued payment of salary until termination of employment) was recognised in H1-2020.

The gain from the revaluation and dividend on the interest in Bovemij recognised in this segment was much higher than in H1-2019. One premises was sold in H1-2020 at the carrying amount. A book gain was realised on premises in H1-2019.
 

Statement of financial position and solvency

The balance sheet total at the end of June 2020 stood at € 469.8 million, a decline of € 103.7 million compared to year-end 2019. The main changes concerned:

  • A decrease of € 40 million due to the sale of Heron Auto B.V. on 2 January 2020;
  • A decrease of € 36.5 million due to lower inventory;
  • A decrease of € 20.0 million due to the impairment of the goodwill of Dealergroup Stern.

The sale of Heron Auto B.V. was completed in H1-2020. No book profit has yet been recognised as a result of this sale. The difference between the sale proceeds and the carrying amount has been reserved in the statement of financial position at the end of June 2020 for potential setbacks with respect to warranties issued. Greater clarity will be available on this item during the preparation of the 2020 financial statements. 

Group equity declined by € 19.0 million compared to year-end 2019 to € 133.6 million at the end of June 2020, mainly due to recognition of the loss in H1-2020. The solvency ratio of Stern Group at the end of June 2020 stood at 28.4% (year-end 2019: 26.6%). Stern comfortably met the ratios agreed with the banks at the end of June 2020.

Agreement has been reached with the financier of the used cars and the rental fleet regarding changes to the limits. The limit for the financing of the rental cars has been reduced, and the limit for financing of used cars has been increased by the same amount.

Stern has a financing facility of € 57 million with the credit institutions. We have devoted continuous attention to the management of our working capital during the past months. We have used the option to defer the payment of tax for a period of three months. At 30 June there was € 29.2 million in deferred tax outstanding, which was paid in full in mid-July. This deferral scheme has led to a very large liquidity position. No use was made of the existing credit lines at 30 June 2020, and in fact there was a credit balance at the banks of approximately € 12 million. We have been paying tax in line with the usual periods since July. We estimate that the bank facilities are adequate to cope with the further effects of COVID-19.
 

Status of negotiations with Hedin

In mid-March, we announced that the merger negotiations with Hedin Automotive, which were at an advanced stage, had been suspended due to COVID-19. There has been regular contact between Stern and Hedin Automotive regarding the situation in recent months. The merger negotiations will be resumed in the near future.
 

Outlook

Production of new cars by manufacturers, which had been temporarily halted due to COVID-19, has now resumed. Not all production facilities are fully operational as yet, due to reduced availability of certain specific car parts. This development could have a positive effect on the prices and sales of used cars. The national registration of new passenger cars in July 2020 was 4.0% up on July 2019, but it has to be noted that July 2019 was a poor month for registrations because of changes to the BPM (private vehicle and motorcycle tax) as a result of the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) regulation. The large lease companies are now less cautious with respect to purchases of already ordered cars than they were in the months until the end of June. Since June 2020, sales of used cars have returned to or exceeded the level seen in 2019. We are seeing a gradual recovery in our sales markets and expect this to continue, however it would not be appropriate to issue any detailed forecasts for the annual results in 2020 due to the uncertainties relating to COVID-19. Meanwhile, several (new) cost-saving measures have been initiated, as we expect the negative effects of COVID-19 on operating profit to continue for some time. We have not yet submitted an application for NOW-2, and we will make a decision on this by the end of August 2020. As a result of the divestments and considerable cost savings realised in 2019 and early 2020, Stern has a strong solvency position and has created a liquidity position that will be sufficient to offset even very significant setbacks.
 

KEY DATES

Publication first quarter results 2020: 12 November 2020 before market opening
Publication of annual figures 2020: 4 March 2021 before market opening
General Meeting: 6 May 2021

Press here for the press release dated 19 august 2020 in English