- Top line increased to CHF 4'572 million, up 10%, organically 7%
- Operational result increased to CHF 382 million, 9% above previous year
- Earnings per share up 11% to CHF 69, proposed dividend increase to CHF 25/share
- Portfolio actively reshaped towards higher value businesses
GF grew again double-digit in 2018 to reach CHF 4'572 million. Free of acquisitions, divestments and currency effects, growth amounted to 7%, well above the 2020 strategy objectives of 3-5% per annum. The main pillar of organic growth has been GF Piping Systems, recording a high 8% organic growth rate for our largest division. The Corporation increased sales in all three regions Europe, Asia and America with America growing the most. After a very strong first semester, markets were affected during the second half-year by the ongoing trade tensions, which led to a softening of the GF growth rate.
The operational result (EBIT) increased by 9% to CHF 382 million. Both GF Piping Systems and GF Machining Solutions are the drivers of this increase.
The return on sales (ROS) stood at 8.4%, (2017: 8.5%), well in line with our 8-9% objective range. The return on invested capital (ROIC) further increased to 22.4%, compared to 20.3% in 2017, marginally surpassing our 18-22% objective range. The number of employees at year end decreased to 15'027, compared to 15'835 per end of 2017 as a consequence of the divestments of two iron foundries at GF Casting Solutions, whereas the acquisition of Precicast Industrial Holding SA (Switzerland) in April 2018 added 812 employees to the Corporation.
GF achieved a net profit after minorities of CHF 281 million, an increase of 12% compared to 2017 and a free cash flow before acquisitions of CHF 147 million (previous year CHF 204 million), basically at the lower end of GF's target range of CHF 150-200 million. The main difference with previous year comes from future-oriented investments, namely in the new production facility of GF Machining Solutions in Switzerland and the new US light metal foundry of GF Casting Solutions.
Earnings per share reached CHF 69, compared to CHF 62 in 2017. In view of the positive financial development in 2018, the Board of Directors will propose at the upcoming Annual Shareholders' Meeting an increased dividend of CHF 25 a share, up from CHF 23 in the previous year.