Ladies and Gentlemen:
This Interim Report for the business year 2019/20 differs from its predecessors in many ways. We entered a phase of great uncertainty at the start of the business year 2019/20 following a long period of economic expansion. The leading economic indicators for the manufacturing industry that are key to our interests point to a significant weakening of the economic momentum worldwide. And Europe, our most important market, is the one where the downturn is the most pronounced.
Having made extensive investments in recent years, now is the time for us to create new financial leeway for further development options. This means that questions related to the Group’s total asset structure, its ability to generate cash flows, and earnings optimization—in this order—are at the top of our current agenda. All requisite programs have been launched and are already being implemented.
While the current uncertainties and the resulting business climate will constrain our strategic options in the near term, our longer-term strategy of growing and extending the value chain remains valid, and we are pursuing it with an eye toward our liabilities.
The most recent changes in the global economic order—first and foremost the global trade war, but also the future development of Europe as an economic region whose interest in maintaining an all-encompassing industrial value chain is obviously waning—require an agenda that transcends purely short-term optimization strategies at the operating level. In the coming months, therefore, we will look closely at the ramifications of the changes in the global economic order for the positioning in the long term of all of the Group’s key business segments.
That such phases are demanding and challenging is only natural. The Management Board’s current focus thus is on reducing debts and stabilizing earnings.
The Management Board