In an environment characterized by heavy turbulence in the semiconductor market, the Comet Group in 2018 was able to post sales of CHF 436.4 million, coming very close to matching the 2017 record of CHF 443.4 million. The weak demand especially for memory chips and some semiconductor manufacturers’ postponement of investments in factory plant equipment caused the global semiconductor equipment market to contract sharply in the second half of 2018. After several years of strong growth for the Plasma Control Technologies division that continued until the middle of 2018, this market slump led to a significant sales decline of 28% in the second half of the year compared to the first six months. On balance for the full year 2018, PCT’s sales thus remained steady at the prior-year level.
The Comet Group was quick to launch corrective measures in the middle of 2018 and completed them by the end of the year. It adjusted production capacity in line with the semiconductor market downturn, divested the ebeam systems manufacturer in Davenport, Iowa, USA, and streamlined the x-ray systems business in a sweeping earnings improvement program that, as already announced, will unfold its effects in 2019.
The one-time costs associated with the corrective measures totaled CHF 10.5 million at EBITDA level. To ensure the sustained development of its businesses, Comet kept up important investments in projects of strategic significance for the future. The Group’s EBITDA operating earnings therefore came to CHF 37.8 million (2017: CHF 63.2 million). The EBITDA margin of 8.7% was at the upper end of the expected range of 7% to 9%. Excluding the one-off costs, the Comet Group generated an EBITDA margin of 11.1% (underlying EBITDA operating earnings of CHF 48 million).
Net income was CHF 12.3 million (2017: CHF 35.3 million); excluding the one-time effects, the result was CHF 24.3 million. On balance, the Comet Group enters 2019 with an improved equity ratio compared to one year earlier and with low net debt.
At the Annual Shareholder Meeting on April 25, 2019, the Board of Directors will propose a distribution of CHF 1.20 per share from distributable paid-in capital (2018: CHF 1.50), exempt from Swiss anticipatory tax. Based on the underlying net income of CHF 24.3 million, this represents a dividend of 38% (2018: 33%).
The audited 2018 consolidated financial statements of the Comet Group will be published on March 14, 2019 and presented in detail on the same day at the media and analyst conference in Zurich. In addition, a conference call will be held, in English.
March 14, 2019: Publication of full-year results for 2018
April 25, 2019: Annual Shareholder Meeting
The Comet Group is a globally leading, innovative Swiss technology company with a focus on x-ray, radio frequency power and ebeam. With premium high-tech components and systems, we enable customers in numerous industries to both enhance the quality of their products and make their manufacturing more efficient and eco-friendly. Our innovative solutions under the Comet, Yxlon and ebeam brands are in demand for applications such as non-destructive testing and security inspection, the coating and treatment of surfaces, and non-contact sterilization.
Based in Flamatt, Switzerland, the Comet Group has a presence in all world markets. We employ more than 1,300 people worldwide, including over 500 in Switzerland. Besides production facilities in China, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and the USA, we maintain various subsidiaries in the USA, China, Japan and Korea. Comet (COTN) is listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange.