With 9.000 employees throughout Europe, the Combined Berner Group is a leading European direct seller with major expertise in the construction and automotive sectors and other industries. A further core competence is the development, manufacture and marketing of specialist technical chemicals. The Group is comprised of the business units Berner, Caramba and BTI and represented by 60 companies in 25 countries.
Growth in all business units
The Combined Berner Group has experienced growth in all business units. Overall net sales increased by 8.5 percent to 1,029 million euros. In order to increase dynamic growth in Europe even more, last fiscal year the Group made its largest acquisition to date, purchasing Barnes Distribution Europe with its Kent, BD Services and Toolcom Supplies divisions, which with 550 employees in nine European countries achieves net sales of around 80 million euros. This acquisition is included in the results in fiscal year 2011/12 as from Jan. 1, 2012. Excluding this acquisition the Group achieved growth of 6.4 percent. Kent, the direct seller of chemicals, will be integrated into Caramba while BD Services and Toolcom Supplies will become part of Berner.
Difficult economic situation in southern Europe
Only the difficult economic conditions in the southern European countries Spain, Portugal and Italy have dampened the positive development. "Here the Combined Berner Group has had to accept falls in sales," explained Lothar Aulich, Chairman of the Executive Board of the Berner SE. "For this reason our results are slightly below expectations. Nonetheless we are still satisfied. We have achieved our main objective, breaking through the one billion euro barrier." 2011/12 was another year of major investments and acquisitions, although this has affected the result before tax, which at 34 million euros was around 19 percent lower than in the previous year.
61 percent of net sales were achieved abroad. The group companies in Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Slovakia, Romania, Croatia, Turkey, Latvia and Lithuania all achieved two digit growth.
At the close of the fiscal year, on March 31, 2012, the company had 9,052 employees (8,140 employees on March 31, 2011), about two thirds of whom work in field sales. About 2,985 employees work for the Combined Berner Group in Germany. The highest increase was at Caramba with the integration of around 400 employees following the takeover of Kent.
Berner: Modernization of the sales processes
The direct seller Berner operates in 25 countries, focusing on tar-geted, lucrative customer groups in the construction and automotive sectors. Berner’s turnover rose in the past fiscal year by 4.5 percent to 709 million euros. In Germany, France, Belgium and the south-eastern region, Berner achieved record results. "Here the expansion of Key Account Management combined with modernization of the sales processes and for example entering into strategic alliances, all played their part," said Armin Heß, Chairman of the Board of the Berner Trading Holding GmbH. The expansion of the logistics area at Berner Austria, the hub of all sales activities in south-eastern Europe with a total investment of 11 million euros, will be completed in September 2012. The purchase of BD Services and Toolcom Supplies has further strengthened the business unit, opening up access to new, attractive customer groups in the automotive and industrial sectors in France as well as sales opportunities in Great Britain.
Caramba: Growth through acquisition
Caramba’s core competence is the development, manufacture and marketing of specialist technical chemicals. This business unit experienced above average growth in fiscal year 2011/12. Taking the recent acquisition of Kent into account, Caramba increased its sales by 41.4 percent to 114 million euros. "In the past two years we have grown strongly through acquisitions. Our job now is to consolidate these, streamline our processes and make the best use of these different worlds for all organizations," concluded Thomas Stewing, Chairman of the Board of Caramba Holding GmbH.
Single brand strategy launched successfully
Over the past fiscal year Caramba has merged all the own brand products for both commercial and private customers successfully under the brand-of-the-century "Caramba" and also renamed all the organizations concerned accordingly. Through the acquisitions of Ambratec and Kent further brand ranges in the B2B sector have been added. "The Kent and Caramba brands complement each other very well. The direct seller Kent offers advice -intensive chemical products in the areas of cleaning, care and maintenance and has a strong presence in the automotive sector," explained Thomas Stewing. "We first want to gain initial experience with Kent and then decide on the future brand strategy in the B2B sector." In the past fiscal year Caramba has also created new product ranges for private end users. The aim is to position Caramba as the leading European system provider of chemical products and ser-vices for cleaning, care and maintenance.
BTI: Expansion of sales channels
BTI managed to increase its turnover by nine percent to 206 million euros. BTI is a specialist direct seller to the building trade, offering both 16,000 products and certified system solutions. BTI also in-cludes the mail-order business Krähe, specialized in professional clothing, and Bär, specialist for office furnishings and equipment with a strong foothold in eProcurement as well as in the industrial large-customer sector.
"BTI stands for growth through multi-channeling," reported Dieter Freisler, Chairman of the Board of BTI Holding GmbH. "We have expanded the BTI spectrum to include further product ranges of interest to tradesmen and are thereby able to profit from the synergies involved."
The Combined Berner Group with a new structure
Restructuring of the Combined Berner Group has continued over the past fiscal year. The Berner core business has been transferred to a separate holding company, Berner Trading Holding GmbH. In future Berner SE will focus on the strategic orientation of the business units, including the distribution of investments and strategic personnel development.
Despite the continuing difficult economic situation, particularly in southern Europe, the Combined Berner Group is aiming for continuing growth in the upper single digit range. Furthermore it plans to take on an additional 300 employees. "The Combined Berner Group has developed into a modern European Group, driven by ambitious growth targets," concluded Lothar Aulich. "But at heart we are, and will always remain, a family business focused on long-term, sustainable growth." In the second half of fiscal year 2012/13 Christian Berner, son of founder Albert Berner, will join the Executive Board of the Berner SE. Thus, after a gap of some 20 years, a member of the Berner family will again take over a position of responsibility, thereby strengthening the identity of the family business.
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