2015 saw a slow-down in the international economy which arose on account of a number of factors: first and foremost, the strong downturn in the emerging economies of the so-called BRICs, especially Chinese imports, the Russian economy, affected by sanctions and the fall in the price of oil and Brazil; evolutions of the financial markets which started with the collapse of the Chinese stock exchange and spread to all of the other main stock exchanges; finally, the collapse in the price of oil.
The impact of these factors brought about a significant reduction in world trade in general and commodity prices in particular. Coal prices returned to the lowest levels for a decade. This in turn led to a strong devaluation in the currencies of raw materials exporting countries, most noticeably in the Russian rouble, which lost 34% of its value, falling from approximately 51 RUB per US$ in 2014 to 68 RUB per US$ in 2015.
The fall in the price of oil and other raw materials favoured importing countries, but at the same time penalised producing countries.
The European economies benefited from lower import costs but suffered a fall in exports of goods and services and a consequent devaluation of the average value of the Euro compared to the American dollar, which strengthened from 1.33 in 2014 to 1.11 in 2015.
Many macroeconomic, social and political factors remain in a phase of development, which makes the international situation very uncertain and unstable.
Supply of coal remains high compared to demand which, while growing, has shown signs of weakness in both Europe and the United States, on account of the strong competition offered by shale gas, and mainly in China, where demand has fallen by more than 20%.
In 2015 the Group recorded a turnover of Euro 684 million, reflecting an increase of 16% on 2014, despite these difficult market conditions, consequent on the large impact of the appreciation of the American dollar against the Euro as well as an increase of 15% in tons handled.
In this difficult macroeconomic and sector-based context the Group’s financial results were further penalised by a number of extraordinary, non-recurring events.
Ebit, if measured before these events, would have been in line with the previous financial year at Euro 14.2 million (Euro 14.3 million in 2014), but was reduced to Euro 4.1 million, and equally the net result, which would have been effectively at break-even point (Euro -0.9 million), showed a loss of Euro 22.3 million.
Moreover, thanks also to the disposal of a number of assets no longer operational since they reached the end of their contracts, and to a cautious management of working capital, the net financial position improved from Euro 173 million to Euro 148 million.
The Logistics Division obtained excellent results, owing to the financial and operational performance of all of its vessels. In order further to improve the range of services offered to its clients, the Logistics Division implemented a loading system for the vessel Bulk Celebes which enables it to blend two different types of coal. This service was offered over the year to its main Indonesian clients.
The quantities handled by the whole Logistics Division amounted to around 24.6 million tons, an increase of 17% on the previous year.
At an organisational level, on 1st July 2015 the Holding Company contributed in kind to the subsidiary Coeclerici Logistics SpA (previously named Coeclerici Logistics Partecipazioni Srl) all its personnel dedicated to the shipping and logistics divisions. Coeclerici Logistics has thereby become the Group’s Logistics centre, as well as the sub-holding company in the Logistics and Shipping sectors. It is autonomous, and able to meet the present and future challenges arising from its development plans.
In addition, also the divisional structure was reorganised reducing non operative companies.
The Trading Division sold 9.8 million tons of coal, an increase on the previous year of more than 15%, in a market experiencing strong tension and difficulty, with indices in constant reduction.
During 2015, the Division completed the deep-seated reorganisation begun in 2014 which seeks to create the structures and conditions needed for future development. Starting in January 2015, the Asian business previously handled by the subsidiary Coeclerici Asia (Pte) Ltd was entrusted to the Swiss subsidiary Coeclerici Compagnie SA, which was renamed Coeclerici Commodities SA to underline its role as the centre of all the Coeclerici Group’s international trading activities. This aggregation built up autonomous commercial, operational and personnel structures and led to significant commercial and structural savings. The company became the sub-holding company of all the shareholdings in the Trading and Mining sectors.
In the first part of the year the Mining Division experienced a slowdown in production as a result of extraordinary events connected to the site’s geological structure, a situation set right in the second half of the year. Final extraction amounted to 1.3 million tons of coal, 21% more than the previous year.
Despite these excellent results, the fall in the price of coal, especially in the second half of the year, negated the enormous organisational efforts made in order to catch up with the initial production shortfall and, as a consequence, the mine’s results remained negative in 2015.
The short-term prospects for the price of coal in 2016 are not encouraging, but this negative effect is partially balanced by the positive operating margins resulting from the devaluation of the rouble, which has affected the cost both of production and of transportation.
Finally, as far as the Shipping Division is concerned, the first two Supramax sister vessels, of 60,000 DWT each, were delivered from the Oshima shipyard in Japan during the financial period: DACC Tirreno and DACC Egeo. Their delivery enabled the joint venture company dACC Maritime Ltd. to begin its own shipping business for the transportation of dry bulk. The investment plan is continuing, with the construction of two more vessels which will be delivered in 2016, enabling the Group to re-position itself in the shipping industry after more than ten years.
2015 is an important milestone for the Group, of which its shareholders, employees past and present, partners and collaborators can be justly proud. Coeclerici is celebrating its 120th anniversary, more than a century of hard work, ability to innovate and change, and resultant success in many sectors, nowadays reflected in its Trading, Mining, Logistics and Shipping divisions.
2015 was undoubtedly a difficult year, for the economy as a whole and for our industry, which was extremely negative and uncertain, with many factors being in transformation. The 120th anniversary is a further stimulus to both management and the whole Group to continue with what has been started: the redesign and innovation of the business model, of client services and company organisation, by following the long-term strategy with the same tenacity and pro-activeness as have always been used, the same values and ability to innovate which mark Coeclerici history.