Message from
André François-Poncet

Grandstand
Back

Ordinarily, the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting is an opportunity to get together. This year, the
Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to make changes to the format for this event. As a first step, we
had postponed the Meeting, initially scheduled for June 4, to July 2, 2020, in the hope that we could meet shareholders in person. Since then, however, stay-at-home orders have limited gatherings (French government decree no. 2020-548 of May 12, 2020), so our Annual Meeting will in the end take place behind closed doors.

For David Darmon, my colleague on the Executive Board, Nicolas ver Hulst, the Chairman of the Supervisory Board, and myself, it is particularly important in these difficult times to maintain a dialogue with our individual shareholders. Accordingly, until June 26, every shareholder may send questions to Wendel, by addressing them to the General Secretariat. We will answer these questions during our Annual Meeting, which will be streamed on our website. We will also post written answers on our website. Please note that for the first time this year, you may vote electronically via the internet.

This event will be an opportunity to take stock of the past few months. For Wendel, 2019 was once again a year primarily devoted to strengthening our portfolio companies and improving our value creation. Bureau Veritas stepped up its growth and consolidated its financial model. IHS Towers continued on its trajectory. Stahl got off to a renewed start during the last few months of the year. Constantia Flexibles embarked on a vigorous plan to restore its competitiveness. Part of the proceeds from our successful Allied Universal investment were redeployed to Crisis Prevention Institute. 

2020 started with a brutal, worldwide economic slowdown. At this juncture, we cannot say what the future consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic will be, because certain regions of the world are still severely afflicted and because the major economies are surviving with government assistance. We now know that the intensity of this crisis goes well beyond that of all other economic crises since the beginning of the century. Over the last few years, we had prepared ourselves for a downturn in the macroeconomic and financial cycle, even though during that time we didn't know exactly what could spark such a downturn. So we exercised caution by selling half of our investments. We also freed up significant resources by selling Saint-Gobain and Bureau Veritas shares and by continuing to reduce debt at Stahl and Constantia Flexibles. We have helped strengthen Bureau Veritas's balance sheet by taking our 2018 dividend in shares and by focusing the company on cash generation. Overall, we have sold significantly more than we have acquired. We have consciously decided to go against the grain in an environment tending to favor speculative acquisitions. 

On March 18, 2020, after achieving very favorable results and a sound financial condition in 2019, Wendel had initially announced a dividend on 2019 earnings of €2.90 per share, an increase of 3.6%. On April 14, 2020, Wendel indicated that it was waiting for a clearer view of the economic and public health situation before confirming the amount of its proposed dividend. Since then, Wendel has sold its remaining stake in Allied Universal, raising additional net proceeds of around $196 million. As a result, Wendel's total liquidity, including this sale on a pro forma basis, was €2.1 billion as of March 31, 2020. 

We have decided to propose a reduction in the dividend announced on March 18 to the amount paid in 2019, i.e. €2.80 per share. Wendel made this decision after weighing the current situation against the Group's 2019 financial performance. 2019 was a good year for Wendel, in particular owing to the sale of Allied Universal at excellent terms. We feel that keeping the dividend at €2.80 per share strikes the right balance between moderating the dividend in the current, unprecedented healthcare crisis and legitimately remunerating our shareholders, a principle that we hold dear. 

In the future, we will have to make the right decisions in a disciplined manner while standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our stakeholders. When we emerge from this difficult period, Wendel will continue to orient its resources toward growing markets. We will be more vigilant than ever about maintaining a sound balance sheet, and we know now how crucially important that is! We will continue to support talented companies as they grow, and we will deepen our corporate social responsibility (CSR) commitments, which current events have made all the more important.

Notwithstanding the remote nature of this year's Annual Shareholders' Meeting, I hope as many of you as possible will watch our live stream on July 2. 

André François-Poncet
Group CEO

All articles

News

From the editor

Events

Save The Date

News

Thomas de Villeneuve joins Wendel’s Supervisory Board

Commitments

Supporting family-owned companies

News

Stahl: a new Center of Excellence opens in India

Commitments

Wendel strengthens its corporate patronage activities

Interview

Interview with...

Interview

Interview with...

News

Stahl joins the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials

News

Allied Universal: Wendel has sold its remaining stake

News

Constantia Flexibles:
awards for the Austrian group

Commitments

Wendel signs the
gender parity charter

Patronage

Folklore showcased at the Centre Pompidou-Metz

News

IHS Towers

Interview

Interview with...

 

From the editor

Focus

Wendel’s measures for protecting against
Covid-19

Focus

Crisis Prevention Institute

 

Save the date

 

With Crisis Prevention Institute, Wendel finalizes its fourth investment in the United States

 

Save The Date

 

Did you know?

 

Two new Family Enterprise Days

 

Chiara Parisi takes the helm at
the Centre Pompidou-Metz

 

Spotlight on sculpture at
the Centre Pompidou-Metz

 

"Le Revenu" recognizes Wendel for its shareholder communication

 

Constantia Flexibles: inauguration of a new, sustainable packaging production facility

 

Constantia Flexibles: Tanja Dreilich appointed as CFO

 

Significant merger for Allied Universal

 

Allied Universal: Wendel finalizes the sale of an additional portion of its holding

 

Jérôme Michiels joins the Board of Directors of Bureau Veritas

 

Bureau Veritas: fifth consecutive quarter of sound organic growth

 

2019 Investor Day

 

New appointments at Wendel

 

Interview with...

 

Interview with...

 

Message from the Group CEO

 

Two new exhibitions at the
Centre Pompidou-Metz

 

New Family Enterprise Day

 

A sound start to the year for
Bureau Veritas

 

CSR creates long-term value

 

Interview with...

 

From the editor

 

Cromology:
Wendel reinvests €125 million in conjunction with the renegotiation of Cromology’s debt

 

Save the date!

 

Family Business: Strategic alliances between family-owned enterprises

 

Inhabiting time with Lee Ufan

 

Two Operating Partners to strengthen the Wendel team

 

Allied Universal acquires Securadyne Systems

 

Wendel to sell large stake in Allied Universal

 

Bureau Veritas and Microsoft join forces in artificial intelligence

 

Bureau Veritas: 2018 Results

 

Wendel Lab

 

From the Editor

 

Three questions for...

 

From the Editor

 

New awards for Insead

 

Appointment at Bureau Veritas

 

Face-to-face with modern couples

 

Reflections on the World Economic Forum

 

The Wendel Running Team goes the extra mile for Helen Keller International

 

Wendel is partnering with Clubhouse France

 

Nicolas ver Hulst joins the Board of the Centre Pompidou-Metz

Archives