COMET Group strategy has traction – Strong profitable sales growth in 2013 – Further solid growth expected for 2014

  • Execution of growth strategy proves effective
  • Sales up 16.4% to CHF 249.6 million
  • EBITDA margin improves to 14.4% (2012: 11.7%)
  • Net income increases to CHF 16.1 million (2012: CHF 5.7 million).
  • Earnings per share grow to CHF 21.28 (2012: CHF 7.54)
  • Doubling of dividend to CHF 8 per share (2012: CHF 4)
  • Sales forecast for 2014 raised to CHF 270-290 million

The COMET Group's consistent execution of its organic growth strategy brought results in 2013. Aided by a recovery in demand from the semiconductor market, the Group generated substantial, profitable sales growth of 16.4% to CHF 249.6 million (2012: CHF 214.4 million). The Group grew in every operating segment and region – above all in Asia, which now accounts for 36.5% of sales, the largest single regional share (USA: 31.5%, Europe: 28.0%). To ensure sustained growth over the long term, the Group invested judiciously in marketing and in the strategic initiatives of ebeam, portable x-ray tubes and radio frequency (RF) generators. Through gains in operational excellence, cost increases were kept low relative to sales growth, resulting in an increase of 43.2% in EBITDA earnings to CHF 36.0 million and an EBITDA margin of 14.4% (2012: 11.7%). Net income rose markedly to CHF 16.1 million (2012: CHF 5.7 million). Earnings per share climbed to CHF 21.28 (2012: CHF 7.54). The equity ratio grew to 60.5% (2012: 57.7%).
 

Implementation of organic growth strategy well on track

New in 2013, the COMET Group now reports in three market-based segments: X-Ray & ebeam Technologies and Plasma Control Technologies (which together previously made up the Modules & Components division) and X-Ray Systems (the former Systems division). Significant progress was made on all core thrusts of the strategy. The Group strengthened its capabilities in marketing and sales across all segments, stepped up business with key customers and developed new applications. With the opening of a new sales and application center in Korea, the Group expanded its network of sites to 13 locations worldwide and paved the way for further growth in the strategically important Asian market. The Group's emerging businesses also made good headway: The ebeam activities, within the X-Ray & ebeam Technologies segment, were made into a separate business unit with its own brand. Besides the preparations for the Tetra Pak rollout, the ebeam unit is focusing on tapping new applications for its technology. In portable YXLON x-ray systems, stronger market development activities were rewarded by sales growth of 36%, while COMET-branded RF generators made inroads in the laser industry. With new performance management tools – the worldwide implementation of Beyond Budgeting and the introduction of a new variable compensation system that, from 2014, ties profit-sharing compensation directly to the Group's net income – COMET continued in 2013 to build and refine the foundation for value-based management.


Plasma Control Technologies delivers record result

With sales growth of 40.0% from the year before, Plasma Control Technologies (PCT) contributed the largest share of the Group's revenue expansion (growth in local currencies: 40.8%). Sales of the PCT operating segment rose to CHF 81.5 million (2012: CHF 58.3 million). In 2013, Plasma Control Technologies benefited from the strong recovery in the semiconductor market, driven largely by the industry's transformational embrace of the new, 3D chip architecture. Through the development of new products and the expansion of its customer relationships, PCT had prepared itself very intensively for this technological course-change and, in 2013, began to reap the rewards of these efforts. As well, the market for high-resolution flat panel displays recovered and thus stimulated demand, especially for vacuum capacitors. With its high-quality RF generators, the segment was also able to position itself outside the semiconductor market, in the laser industry. The strong sales growth and leaner structures led to an increase in EBITDA operating earnings to CHF 10.7 million (2012: CHF 2.8 million) and an EBITDA margin of 13.1% (2012: 4.8%).


X-Ray & ebeam Technologies: solid growth thanks to intensified market development

Similarly, the X-Ray & ebeam Technologies (XET) segment significantly expanded its position with x-ray sources in the core business of non-destructive testing, buoyed by strong market development activities and customized products. New markets were created through new applications like the detection of precious minerals and metals. This helped the XET segment grow its sales by 14.7% to CHF 64.4 million (2012: CHF 56.1 million; growth in local currencies: 14.1%). At ebeam, the new autonomous business unit, preparations are on track for the rollout with Tetra Pak of ebeam technology for the sterilization of beverage packaging. Through new applications, in the long term the unit intends to develop additional market segments for the environmentally friendly and cost-effective ebeam technology. Despite investment in the expansion of the ebeam business, the highly profitable X-Ray and ebeam Technologies segment achieved an EBITDA margin of 17.6% (2012: 22.3%). Operating earnings at EBITDA level were CHF 11.3 million (2012: CHF 12.5 million).


X-Ray Systems: further growth in profitability

A clear focus on high-margin products, the exploiting of market trends, and vigorous market development efforts were growth drivers for sales and profit margins in the X-Ray Systems segment. Bringing its many years of application experience to bear, the segment won new customers and boosted its sales by 5.6% to CHF 125.1 million (growth in local currencies: 7.3%). Business was very strong with laboratories and institutions that require high-resolution, highperformance computed tomography (CT) systems for 3D inspection. There was also brisk demand for microfocus systems in the electronics market and for automobile tire inspection systems. Within X-Ray Systems, the most rapid growth was realized in portable x-ray solutions, thanks to purposeful market development and marketing. For the operating segment as a whole, the tight focus on high-margin products and lean processes led to a further improvement in EBITDA margin to 12.9% (2012: 9.7%). EBITDA earnings rose to CHF 16.1 million (2012: CHF 11.5 million).


Doubling of dividend

At the next Annual Shareholder Meeting, the Board of Directors will propose a distribution of CHF 8.00 per share to shareholders from distributable paid-in capital (2012: CHF 4.00 per share). This represents a payout of 38% of net income.


Outlook: Expecting continuous profitable growth

With its innovative technologies and products, the COMET Group is superbly positioned to exploit current market trends. The business strategy proved its worth in 2013. The Board and management are convinced that, unless there is a deterioration in the economic environment and currency situation, the Group will be able to steadily maintain its profitable growth. On this basis, the guidance for 2014 is for sales of CHF 270 million to CHF 290 million and an EBITDA margin slightly above the prior year.


Annual report 2013

The COMET Group's current annual report is available at www.comet-group.com.


Media and analyst conference

COMET will present the published financial results for 2013 today, March 20, 2014, at 10:00 a.m. at the media and analyst conference in Zurich (location: SIX Swiss Exchange, Convention Point, Selnaustrasse 30).


COMET Group conference call

Thursday, March 20, 2014, from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. CET. Ronald Fehlmann, CEO, and Markus Portmann, CFO, will provide information about the Group’s full year results 2013 during a telephone conference call and answer questions. The dial-in conference call will be held in English. To participate in the conference call, please dial the following number (please call 10 to 15 minutes before the hour):
+41 (0)58 310 50 00 (Europe)
+44 (0)203 059 58 62 (UK)
+1 (1)631 570 5613 (USA)