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Viscofan BioEngineering
ABOUT VISCOFAN
Letter from the chairman
 
Viscofan Chairman 

The launch of the Beyond25 Strategic Plan in the 2022 financial year coincided with one of the most unstable economic and political years in recent history. This has compelled us from the outset to guide our business activity in the long term to also respond to the demands of a world that has undergone significant changes in just one year.

It should be noted that our working assumptions for 2022 were blown out of the water less than two months into the year by the war in Ukraine, which further accentuated the imbalances that economies were suffering as a result of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tightening supply chains and shortages of materials, transport and energy started an unprecedented spiral of inflation, uncertainty and geopolitical tension. In retrospect, on the cost side, the transport strike in Spain, the increase of more than 40% in the prices of the main raw materials and of more than 60% in energy, the flexibility to change suppliers of raw materials, some because they are located in Ukraine or Russia, others due to the need to find more cost-competitive alternatives in this scenario, without forgetting wage inflation, all stand out. On the revenue side, while it is true that the market has accelerated this year, it has not been easy to cope with the strong increase in demand worldwide for all technologies, as well as extraordinary circumstances in some markets, such as the trade embargo on Russia as a result of EU sanctions, and the lower activity in China caused by the strict confinement resulting from the COVID-19 zero policy in that country.

All these challenges have occurred while operationally we were implementing the new strategic plan, with a new organisation, and the most ambitious investment plan in the company's history.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the excellent work carried out by the Viscofan team, more than 5,300 people who have shown that they share a solid commitment, a desire to improve and a search for excellence. Otherwise, it would be hard to understand why they have successfully completed the projects planned for this year and even undertaken new initiatives that strengthen Viscofan's operational profile. In 2022, the largest investment in the company's history was made with more than 125 million euros, of which more than 100 million euros corresponds to the initiatives planned for this year, and another 25 million euros corresponds to new initiatives aimed at strengthening competitive advantages, especially in the field of energy, and the anticipation of projects planned for 2023.

As part of the planned initiatives, we have increased collagen casing capacity in Spain, Germany, Serbia, and China and started preparations for new capacity in the United States, which was commissioned in the first months of 2023. In addition, we have invested in new cellulosic technology for the Danville plant in the US, and we have started up the new collagen hydrolysates plant in Germany to drive New Business development. As a result, the investment needs for this year have been reduced, with investments for the year in the region of 75 million euros.

In this perspective, the results obtained this year are even more significant, as we have achieved the main objectives we set out in our roadmap for the year.

Revenues grew by 23.9%, driven by higher sales volumes of casings and New Businesses, which had to be significantly supported by price increases that could partially offset the increase in production costs, mainly raw materials and energy.

All this work to improve revenues has enabled us to continue improving our operating results, with EBITDA growing by 8.3%, an all-time high in absolute terms, which in turn has required a sacrifice of 3.2 p.p. in the margin, reflecting a disciplined commercial policy that has combined the need for a greater volume of casings by our customers with the necessary increases in sales prices to guarantee sustainable returns.

Net income grew by 4.8%, below the increase in operating income due to the impact of exchange rate differences with the sudden recovery of the euro in the last months of the year, although it was also in line with the growth targets provided to the investment community.

With these results, the Board has proposed for approval at the AGM a shareholder remuneration of €1.95 per share, 6.0% higher than the previous year and equivalent to a pay-out of 64.6%.

The progress we have made has been underpinned by our four strategic pillars: service, technology, cost and sustainability, where all of us who work at Viscofan, regardless of our position, must contribute to excellence.

I would like to highlight progress on the sustainability pillar within the Beyond25 plan. In addition to our explicit commitment to our adherence to the United Nations Global Compact, it is backed by our Sustainability Action Plan with initiatives and projects that have made significant progress this year.

By 2022 we have reduced by 14% our CO2 emissions per km produced, above the progress expected in our decarbonisation targets for the year under the Sustainability Action Plan. Examples of the work done in 2022 have been the pioneering trial of the use of green hydrogen in one of our cogeneration engines in Cáseda, the promotion of the use of renewable electricity, the preparations to be able to use our cellulose as biomass, as well as the studies to achieve greater self-consumption of electricity from photovoltaic sources in 2024. However, the volatility in energy prices, the threat of shortages and restrictions, a particularly dry and warm climate this year in Europe, and new regulatory obligations have reinforced the need to work against climate change and to have a greater diversification of energy sources, in order to achieve, as far as possible, greater self-consumption, and to commit to a greater mix of energy from renewable sources.

Within the corporate governance of the company, I would like to welcome Cristina Henríquez de Luna, Andrés Arizkorreta and Javier Fernández, who joined the Viscofan Board in 2022, confident that their knowledge and experience will help to continue building this Group, and sincerely thank the work carried out during their mandate by the directors Néstor Basterra, Ignacio Marco-Gardoqui and Juan March, who have contributed very positively to Viscofan's results and leadership in all these years.

When I was writing these lines last year, I expressed the conviction that Viscofan was better prepared than ever to face the demands of the environment, and the results confirm this. Again I want to reiterate this message. Viscofan can look to the future with optimism. In 2023 we expect to grow revenues by 9% to 12%, driven by volumes, necessary price increases and despite the unfavourable currency environment currently envisaged. In addition, in a context where inflationary risks remain, especially in energy, we expect EBITDA to grow by 6% to 9% and net income by 10% to 15%.

Results to be accompanied by new initiatives. The start-up of the new cellulose technology and the new collagen dry-tech capacity in the USA, the opening of the sales branches in Italy and the Philippines, or the installation of a new converting centre in Thailand are some of the most representative examples.

The environment remains demanding for this new financial year, but thanks to Viscofan's formidable team and the support of customers, suppliers and shareholders, we can face them with optimism, setting ourselves new challenges of profitable growth and sustainability.

Thank you for your trust.

Jose Domingo de Ampuero and Osma

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® Viscofan Group