Against an exceptionally challenging backdrop, Wendel was able to rely on its teams, its digital resources and its values to navigate a year that was without precedent since the Second World War. Along with the Supervisory Board and David Darmon, my colleague on the Executive Board and Group Deputy CEO, I would like to congratulate our team which has been able to adapt to these challenging circumstances. Thanks to the intense work carried out over the past three years to refocus the Group, Wendel maintained its course. We continued to simplify our investment portfolio with the sale of Tsebo. We focused our activity and our offices on Europe and North America, and strengthened our balance sheet.
2020 demonstrated the value of a strong and committed reference shareholder. We have increased our efforts to support our portfolio companies which will emerge from this crisis better positioned for growth. Together, we rose to the challenge, and these companies knew they could count on the commitment and support of Wendel’s teams at all times. Our investments have displayed remarkable resilience and adaptation in the context of a sharp downturn, such that Wendel’s consolidated organic revenue growth fell by only 1% in the fourth quarter of 2020. Some companies have managed to maintain activity levels, proof of their exceptional fundamentals. This was the case for Constantia Flexibles, which maintained its production in compliance with a strict health protocol. With its Restart program, Bureau Veritas demonstrated its agility in supporting recovery in all sectors of the economy and its ability to adapt to a changing world. In 2021, assuming the absence of strict containment measures in its main countries, this testing, inspection and certiﬁcation group expects to achieve solid organic growth.
Our ESG strategy (Environment, Social, Governance) will also be ramped up in coming months. In keeping with its history and its long-term investor values, Wendel places this emphasis at the heart of its investment decisions and its support of operating subsidiaries. Our proactive approach was acknowledged by Wendel’s inclusion in the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI), which honor the best performing companies based on ESG criteria. To date, Wendel is the only French company in the Diversiﬁed Financials sector to be included in the DJSI Europe and World indices.
Refocused on its strengths, Wendel looks ahead with great conﬁdence. The Group possesses ﬁnancial ﬂexibility at a level not experienced for 20 years thanks to proceeds from disposals made in recent years and the cash ﬂow of its operating subsidiaries. With historically low debt levels and renewed ﬁnancial strength, Wendel will now be able to redeploy its assets. We aim to own circa 10 portfolio companies compared to 6 today.
Wendel will adapt to current market conditions including high valuations, but will remain focused on companies with signiﬁcant growth potential. Wendel’s unique strengths are more relevant than ever in a highly competitive market: rigorous investment processes based on intrinsic value-creation potential; a recognized ability to assist companies based on a long-term vision and sectoral expertise; and long-term collaborative and partnership approach with our portfolio companies.
The Wendel model endures thanks to the daily commitment of its employees. Bolstered by the renewed conﬁdence of the Supervisory Board, David Darmon and I will work to strengthen our teams and to develop the new generation of Wendel professionals while ensuring the continuity of the Group’s values.
Credit: Antoine Doyen