Slower growth in the construction industry
2019 will be challenging due to a general increase in volatility and the slowdown of construction activity in individual markets. However, the individual regions and sectors will perform differently. The assessment of construction activity in Europe remains positive as a whole. Despite healthy demand, growth potential in Germany is likely to remain limited due to capacity constraints of installers. A favourable market environment is emerging in Austria and the Benelux Countries, although with weaker growth momentum. A stagnating market environment is expected in France. The construction industry in Switzerland is set to decline slightly. In the Nordic Countries, the situation for the individual countries is expected to be mixed, with the market predicted to stagnate in the best case. The Eastern European markets are also predicted to perform differently, with a positive environment expected in Poland, for example. Italy is assessed more cautiously due to political circumstances, while a downward trend is foreseeable in the United Kingdom as a result of the uncertainty in relation to Brexit. In North America, a moderate recovery is predicted in the institutional construction industry – which is important to Geberit’s business in the USA – along with a decrease in residential construction. In the Far East/Pacific region, the Chinese residential construction sector should continue to perform positively; the construction industry in Australia is expected to decline, while the situation in India is viewed positively. In the Middle East/Africa region, the outlook for the Gulf States is considered uncertain and the construction market in South Africa is stagnating.
Fluctuations in the Swiss franc compared to other important currencies used by the Geberit Group will continue to affect sales and earnings. Gains and losses result mainly from the translation of local results into Swiss francs (translation effects). Currency fluctuations generally have no significant impact on operating margins due to natural currency hedging. Natural currency hedging entails making sure that costs in the various currency areas are incurred in the same proportion in which sales are generated. With regard to the impact of foreign currency effects, please refer to the information and the sensitivity analysis in the Management of currency risks section. Uncertainties related to raw material markets have increased and make an outlook difficult. After a declining environment in the first quarter of 2019, raw material prices are expected to increase again in the second quarter.
The objective is to perform strongly across the entire product range and in all markets and, as in previous years, to gain market shares. There will be concerted marketing of the new products that have been introduced in recent years. Markets in which Geberit products or technologies are still under-represented will be intensely cultivated, and the shower toilet business will be expanded further. In line with the Geberit strategy, these measures shall be accompanied by efforts to continuously optimise business processes and high margins shall be continued to be achieved in 2019. A focus will be placed on implementing the digitalisation strategy.
The Board of Directors and the Group Executive Board are convinced that the company is very well equipped for the upcoming opportunities and challenges. The opportunities offered as a result of combining technical know-how in sanitary technology “behind the wall” and design expertise “in front of the wall” will continue to be firmly seized. Experienced and highly motivated employees, a number of promising products that have been launched in recent years and product ideas for the more distant future, a lean and market-oriented organisation, an established cooperation based on trust with the market partners in both commerce and trade, and the Group’s continued solid financial foundation are vital to its future success.