Just a few months ago, hardly anyone would have thought it possible – and yet at the end of May, we made a start on resuming production at our Ukrainian plant in Gostomel near Kyiv.
Claude R. Cornaz
Chairman of the Board of Directors
Board of Directors' report
Amid a market environment that remains tense and volatile, the Vetropack Group can report positive performance in the first half of 2023. During the first six months of this year, we increased our net sales from goods and services by 9.9% (or 13.9% after adjusting for currency effects) to CHF 477.9million (prior year: CHF 435.0 million). Consolidated EBIT rose to CHF 70.1million (prior year: CHF 48.3million). After 2022 – a year heavily impacted by the war in Ukraine – this puts Vetropack back on track for growth, with innovative products and state-of-the-art plants as key drivers of our business.
Just a few months ago, hardly anyone would have thought it possible – and yet at the end of May, we made a start on resuming production at our Ukrainian plant in Gostomel near Kyiv. Our site was severely damaged by Russian military attacks during the first weeks of the war in 2022 and for a long time, it appeared that we would be unable to resume operation of the furnaces. But now, Vetropack Gostomel has not only become a beacon of hope for our colleagues on site, but also a testimony to the strength of the entire Vetropack Group.
Team spirit and high motivation to perform
Without the team spirit and the immense motivation to perform shown by our employees across all Vetropack sites, our Group would not be back on the road to success so soon. In this same spirit, we were able to start paying out the first funds from the Vetropack Foundation Gostomel in February this year to assist Ukrainian employees who were most severely impacted by the war. Our employees, business partners and customers, the Vetropack Group and Cornaz AG-Holding have thus far donated over CHF 960,000 to support our Ukrainian colleagues through this difficult time. This sends out a strong message of solidarity that makes us very proud!
Attractive employer with a growing workforce
Our Group employed a total of 3,764 people in the first half of 2023 (prior year: 3,570 people). The most recent period has seen a substantial increase in our headcount, with 139 colleagues added to the number in Ukraine alone. In fact, we are currently recruiting new employees at virtually all our sites – and as we do so, we are benefiting from our reputation as an attractive and fair employer that stands out thanks to exceptionally sustainable and environment-friendly packaging solutions.
Good performance in a challenging market environment
The outstanding expertise of our workforce at all nine Vetropack sites has played a key part in enabling us to overcome a challenging set of market conditions. At 2.27 billion units, sales of packaging glass were below the figure for the first half of 2022 (2.69 billion units), so they fell short of our expectations. We see several reasons for this, including the unusually high sales of packaging glass we recorded in the fourth quarter of 2022 – which meant that our customers' warehouses were already full. In the first quarter of the previous year, moreover, we benefited from a catch-up effect resulting from the COVID pandemic – whereas this year, the inflation-related change in end consumers' behaviour is having a negative impact on our market environment.
We have fewer concerns this year about the development of energy costs, which have been less volatile in 2023 to date than in the prior year. Nevertheless, we also notice that the recent instability of energy prices has prompted some customers to adopt less price-sensitive procurement strategies, so they are increasingly reliant on other types of packaging. Even so, we assume that this is a temporary phenomenon – because glass packaging is the substantially more sustainable packaging solution in almost every case.
Despite this challenging market environment, the Vetropack Group managed to achieve consolidated net sales of CHF 477.9million in the first six months of the year. This corresponds to a year-on-year increase of CHF 42.9million or 9.9%.
Development of key figures
Half Year 2023
Half Year 2022
Cash flow margin
1 000 metric tons
Share price: registered share A high
Share price: registered share A low
*operating cash flow before change of net working capital
Innovation for the environment and the market
New products are also a key success factor in our fiercely contested market. This is why the Vetropack Group invests continuously in research and development, as well as maintaining its own Innovation Centre for these purposes in Pöchlarn (Austria). One result of this development work is Echovai, the product we unveiled at the last Drinktec trade fair which is now creating nothing short of a sensation. With Echovai, Vetropack becomes the world's first glass packaging manufacturer to offer an exceptionally stable type of lightweight glass bottle that is also very economical on materials. It is up to 30% lighter than a conventional returnable bottle – but at the same time, it is more resistant to abrasion.
With these advantages, Echovai scores not only because it weighs less and can be re-used for longer periods, but also in terms of sustainability. This also explains why Vetropack's innovation was honoured in several categories of the prestigious Swiss Packaging Award at the start of June: as well as winning an award in the "Technology" category, Echovai also received the jury's special prize.
The glass production of the future
Innovations such as Echovai have the potential to revolutionise the market for returnable containers – as demonstrated not least by the numerous enquiries we are receiving at present. At the same time, the Vetropack Group is continuing to invest in the expansion and modernisation of our plants. After a construction period lasting one and a half years, we began to heat up the two furnaces at our new plant in Boffalora sopra Ticino (Italy) this May. Our Group has invested over CHF 400 million in this 'factory of the future'.
Once the eight production lines are fully operational, the new facility will enable us to increase our production capacity by up to 70% as compared to the Trezzano plant. We have also invested in smart technologies that will give us more flexibility in our production – for items such as semi-specials (unusual types of packaging that come in smaller batches). Furthermore, the new site is designed to make production significantly more resource-efficient and sustainable: thanks to closed-loop systems, water used for production and waste heat from the furnaces will be re-used as far as possible, and emissions will be vastly reduced with the help of cutting-edge filter systems.
Outlook for the second half of 2023
We are also anticipating positive development for the second half of this year. We are now benefiting from major developments that we initiated throughout our group of companies in recent years as part of our Strategy 2030. We are therefore embarking on the second half of the year with confidence, and we expect a modest increase in unit sales as compared to the first half. We will respond to the changed market situation by making capacity adjustments and giving priority to pending optimisation projects. From the third quarter onwards, the newly created production capacities in our Italian plant will place us in an even better position to meet the demand we continue to face for white glass in particular.
Although the environment still presents challenges such as high energy costs, inflation, the decline in purchasing power and the start-up costs for our new plant in Italy, we expect the EBIT margin for the 2023 fiscal year to be less than the figure for the first half, but still in the double-digit range. Following 2022 – a year dominated by crises and the extraordinary expenses they entailed – we expect our consolidated result to increase significantly in 2023.