Third quarter 2021 highlights
- Group operating income at EUR 977.6m, +0.5% compared with the same period last year.
- Group adjusted EBIT at EUR 39.1m (margin of 4.0%) decreased by EUR 30.4m compared to prior year but in line with pre-COVID seasonal pattern in which the third quarter is always the weakest. Group reported EBIT at EUR 31.0m.
Mail & Retail
- Total operating income at EUR 469.4m ( +1.2% ) driven by positive mail price impact offsetting volume decline.
- Underlying mail volume decline of -7.5% with one-off COVID-19 communication fading-out.
- Adjusted EBIT at EUR 20.2m (4.3% margin) down by EUR -15.5m ( -43.3% ) driven by fleet and energy costs, salary index and CLA impacts and capacity kept in the network for parcel volume growth in post-COVID new normal. Reported EBIT at EUR 13.5m.
Parcels & Logistics Europe & Asia
- Total operating income at EUR 238.2m ( -9.5% ) fully driven by the anticipated but higher than expected decline in Asian cross-border volumes versus peak of the third quarter 2020 and from impacts of low-value consignment relief abolished as of July 2021.
- Parcels B2X volume increased by +8.9% from sustained online sales, and negative price/mix of -5.8%.
- Continued e-commerce logistics expansion of Radial Europe and Active Ants ( +.3% ).
- Adjusted EBIT at EUR 12.0m (5% margin), down by EUR -17.7m ( -59.6% ) driven by cross-border development and OPEX for e-commerce logistics expansion. Reported EBIT at EUR 11.3m.
Parcels & Logistics North America
- Total operating income excluding International mail at EUR 313.2m ( +.9% at constant exchange rate ), reflecting accelerated contribution of Radial’s new customers.
- Radial’s top-line development offset by wage pressure in the US and costs from new sites.
- EUR +4.0m EBIT impact from insurance recovery from the ransomware attack in October 2020.
- Adjusted EBIT at EUR 12.8m (4.0% margin), up by EUR +4.0m or flat operationally, with reported EBIT at EUR 12.1m.
- 2021 guidance reiterated, group adjusted EBIT expected to be above EUR 340m.
Dirk Tirez, CEO of bpost group: “The 3rd quarter is softer as fully expected and in line with industry. We have set solid fundamentals that maintain our confidence in the end of year peak and the delivery of our upgraded full year guidance, which is an EBIT of “above EUR 340m”. I would like to thank all my colleagues for their focus on the end of year peak and on the management priorities aiming to accelerate the transformation journey of bpost. We are rebuilding the team at the top and have set clear priorities to build a long term sustainable future for bpost. It is also my pleasure to announce that bpost has increased its environmental ambitions, aiming to reduce our emissions under direct influence with 55% by 2030 when comparing to 2019. As bpost, we are focused on economic, ecologic and social sustainability. Today’s announcement represents significant progress to that end.”
Status on Management priorities 2021
Progress in line with plan
The 2021 priorities as announced in the second quarter have all progressed, giving us the confidence to maintain our outlook for 2021:
Preparation of the end of year peak in Belgium
- Secured distribution and sorting capacity to capture growth vs. 2020 peak.
- Optimized second distribution wave compared to Q4 2020, reducing it in time by two weeks and reducing it in size by approximately 50%.
- Continuous feedback loop between operations and major customers covering >80% of expected parcel volumes.
- Buffer capacity nationwide at low switch-on costs for additional parcel volumes up to 10-15% above forecast.
- Engaging temporary workforce on track.
Preparation of the end of year peak in the US
- Hiring and training temporary workforce on track through (i) use of additional temporary recruiting agencies with (ii) larger labour pool, and (iii) earlier initiation of marketing campaigns.
Anticipating on adverse macro-economic trends
- Mitigating exposure on e-commerce supply chain disruptions based on current stocking up by clients for e-commerce business.
- Mitigating exposure to inflation given standard indexing provisions in e-commerce agreements and stamp price increase mechanism.
Operational efficiency in Mail & Retail Belgium with 108 offices reorganized so far in 2021 (v. 77 in 2020).
Planning reduction in Belgian overhead and headquarters costs. Stabilized overhead FTEs in 2021, while continuously investing in our transformation.
Management priorities 2022
A Belgian organization that enables to accelerate the transformation
- Bundling of Belgian parcels activities with M&R into one Belgium business unit.
- Accelerate transition of mail and parcel operations into forward-looking and dynamic round model in consultation with the labour unions. First pilots of project OMEGA expected to be planned in 2022 in dialogue with the labour unions.
- Clear perspective for the Belgian organization on a future proofed company.
- Recognizes cost synergies between mail, retail and parcels.
Accelerated reduction in Belgian overhead and headquarters costs
- Reduction of overhead costs (currently in excess of 24% of revenues) to benchmark of e-commerce competitors (15% to 17% of revenues) over time, during our business transformation journey.
E-commerce logistics on both sides of the Atlantic
- Working on an ambitious industrial plan for Radial to grow with existing and new customers and take benefit of the continuous growth in the North American market.
- For Radial Europe and Active Ants, plan to continue to invest in e-commerce logistics in Europe with an ambition to grow revenues more than 5 times over a period of 5 years.
Sustainability / ESG
- Ambition for bpost group to become one of the greenest e-commerce logistics providers in the countries where we operate by 2030.
- Decrease of scope 1 and 2 emissions with 55% by 2030 against 2019, bringing bpost in line with a ‘below 1.5 °C’ under SBTi. Decrease of scope 3 emissions with 14% by 2030 against 2019, bringing bpost in line with a ‘below 2°C’ under SBTi.
- Investments to accelerate this transition are captured within the existing capex envelope.
Newspaper and periodicals contract ending 31 December 2022
- Tender process 2023-2027 launched with 2 lots (periodicals, newspapers).
- Excellent track record on delivery quality and other SLA requirements.
Strengthening the leadership executive team at bpost
Together with the new Board of Directors, the CEO is working to establish a succession plan to assure continuity in the future. They took the opportunity to review the roles and responsibilities of each member of the group executive committee to strengthen the leadership team, to focus on the execution of the Management Priorities and to accelerate the transformation journey of bpost. The new roles thus reflect the new ambition of bpost to accelerate the transformation of bpost into an international e-commerce logistics player and to build a long-term sustainable future for bpost:
- Mr. Jean Muls has been appointed in the new function CEO Belgium that has been created to strengthen the leadership position of bpost in Belgium and accelerate the transformation.
- Mr. Nicolas Baise has been appointed as Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer to coordinate the group strategy and lead transformation projects in an agile way.
They will both join bpost at the latest in January 2022.
- The process for the recruitment of the group CFO and of the Chief Technology Officer is ongoing.
The group CFO position has been redefined with an increased focus on group profitability and performance, and cost control, while the role of the Chief Technology Officer has been redefined with a focus on innovation, increasing customer experience through technology, and support of the growth in e-commerce logistics technology.
A succession plan is being established for all other functions in the group executive committee.
Outlook for 2021
Given current insight on normalization for e-commerce activities post-COVID, bpost confirms its earlier guidance and still expects the group adjusted EBIT to be above € 340m.
The group’s total operating income for 2021 is still expected to increase by a low- to mid-single-digit percentage compared to 2020, and group adjusted EBIT is still expected to be above EUR 340m.
For Mail & Retail, the outlook is revised as follows:
- Total operating income evolution to result from an underlying Domestic mail volume decline now expected up to -7%, an approved mail pricing of +6.0% expected to result in a price and mix impact of c. +7.0%, and an expected post COVID-19 recovery in Value added services.
- Adjusted EBIT margin now expected at 9-10%.
For Parcels & Logistics Europe & Asia, the outlook is revised as follows:
- Total operating income is now expected to grow by a low-single-digit percentage for the full year, reflecting the recent developments in Asian Cross Border volumes, and the normalization of parcels and e-commerce logistics volumes in the post-COVID new normal.
- Operating expenses include investments to grow omni-commerce logistics in Europe.
- 9-11% adjusted EBIT margin.
For Parcels & Logistics North America, the outlook remains unchanged:
- Mid- to high-single-digit percentage growth in total operating income driven by Radial existing customers growth and new clients launches, normalized for 2020 COVID-19 spike.
- 4-5% adjusted EBIT margin.
Gross capex is revised downwards to around EUR 180m. This capex envelope is geared towards the strategy to grow omni-commerce logistics.
The dividend relative to the results of the year 2021 will be in the range of 30-50% of IFRS net profit, and will be payable in May 2022 after the General Shareholders’ Meeting, in accordance with the new dividend policy.