ALSO suffered year-on-year profit declines in 2018, after 12 months of "structural optimisation" at the €9bn-turnover distributor.
Operating profits and net profits shrank last year by three per cent to €136.7m and 12 per cent to €81.16m respectively, largely due to the firm racking up €8.8m in restructuring costs for the year as well as €900,000 in costs due to foreign currency effects.
Adjusted EBITDA, which excludes these one-off costs, grew by six per cent to €162.4m. Revenues meanwhile grew by 3.2 per cent to €9.2bn, driven by 90 per cent organic growth.
The Switzerland-based distributor claims that restructuring costs include investments in a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, business intelligence tools and a customer relationship management (CRM) system. ALSO claims the investments have helped optimise order entry and other administrative functions.
It claims the one-off costs of €8.8m have already generated savings of €9.3m in 2018, which almost offset other personnel costs stemming from restructuring and acquisitions. ALSO plans to invest a further €12m to €15m this year to continue its "digital transformation", and create cost savings of €25m to €30m for the year.
On a geographic basis, ALSO's core central European market grew sales by 1.6 per cent to €5.52bn and operating profits by 1.7 per cent to €109.4m.
Revenues in northern and eastern Europe increased by a more impressive 3.7 per cent to €4.02bn, but operating profits tumbled by 12 per cent, which ALSO attributes to currency changes and "intensified competition" in northern Europe, particularly in Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands.
Furthermore, ALSO pointed to how its hard price has fallen by 19 per cent over the course of 2018, in the wake of "global turmoil" that has affected the Swiss stock market. The Swiss Stock Index (SPI) has fallen by nine per cent year on year, with technology stocks among the worst affected.
ALSO is expecting profits this year to be €10m to €15m higher than 2018's. The firm is still aiming for €10bn to €14bn revenues as a mid-term target.
The distributor has made a huge push for market share in eastern Europe over the last 12 months. It acquired €80m-turnover Slovenian distributor DISS in November and €40m RECRO in Croatia. It also forged a partnership with Russian distributor Treolan and acquired HPE's sales and services division in three eastern European countries.
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