Thanks to its robust business model and the outstanding work of its employees, the Fielmann Group can report on a successful start into 2021.
The coronavirus pandemic continues to impact private life and business in Europe. As a systemically relevant healthcare provider, Fielmann continues to operate its business in all its 15 European markets. Fielmann applies its science-based hygiene standards and thereby reliably protects the health of both customers and employees. Thanks to our digital technologies, we have been able to limit the flow of customers in-store, give walk-in customers precise waiting times, and considerably improve productivity at the same time.
In the first quarter of 2021, the Fielmann Group generated sales revenues above the levels of the previous year and the pre-crisis period in 2019, despite the pandemic-related restrictions. The established markets are also above the previous year's level, excluding the acquired Spanish chain Óptica & Audiología Universitaria. External sales incl. VAT and changes in inventories increased in the first three months of 2021 by 9% to €445 million (previous year: €407 million). Consolidated sales rose by 8% to around €382 million (previous year: €355 million). Pre-tax profits rose to €41.8 million (previous year: €17.6 million) and the net income increased to €28.5 million (previous year: €12.1 million). This result is influenced by higher costs for infection protection measures, among other things. Approximately €6 million have also been included as corona bonuses for all employees working in direct contact with customers.
As at 31 March 2021, Fielmann operated 875 stores (previous year: 776), 288 of which also contained hearing aid studios (previous year: 209). Fielmann is Germany's largest employer in the optical industry with a total of 21,582 employees in the Group as at 31 March (previous year: 20,234), of whom 4,277 are apprentices (previous year: 4,065). As a family business, Fielmann has supported its employees throughout the crisis and continues to supplement the net earnings of employees in short-time work to 100%.
Financial year 2020
At its meeting on 15 April 2021, the Supervisory Board of Fielmann AG approved the consolidated annual accounts for the past financial year. External sales including VAT fell as a result of the pandemic to €1.63 billion (previous year: €1.76 billion) and consolidated sales stood at €1.43 billion (previous year: €1.52 billion). Pre-tax profits amounted to €175.5 million (previous year: €253.8 million) and the net profit for the year reached €120.8 million (previous year: €177.3 million).
Fielmann is maintaining its long-standing shareholder-friendly dividend policy. Considering the company's positive development, the management board and the supervisory board will recommend a dividend payout of €1.20 per share to the Annual General Meeting on 8 July 2021. This corresponds to a total dividend payout of €100.8 million and payout ratio of 87%.
Our Vision 2025 is the basis of our forecast for the financial year 2021. The coronavirus pandemic continues to significantly impact private life and business in Europe, with governments in many countries still taking far-reaching protective measures. These restrictions as well as potentially even more severe restrictions will have a negative effect on the number of units sold, sales revenue, and profits, the extent of which is hard to anticipate. For this reason, any forecast for the coming months and the year as a whole is subject to great uncertainty.
The optical market in Europe is currently in a process of consolidation. As one of the world's leading optical retailers, Fielmann is benefitting from this trend and will invest almost €100 million in its stores, digitisation and international expansion in the current financial year. The expansion into new markets offers additional potential. In 2021, Fielmann will enter at least one new European market.
Marc Fielmann, CEO of Fielmann AG, says: "The Fielmann Group's business development confirms our Vision 2025, as part of which we comprehensively digitise and internationalise our Group. With our omnichannel business model we already serve more than 27 million customers in 15 countries. While customers increasingly bought their contact lenses online during the coronavirus crisis, many people chose to delay their purchase of glasses. We now benefit from these purchases."
Further information and details will follow at the Annual Press Conference on 29 April 2021.
Hamburg, April 2021
The Management Board