«Against the background of numerous global challenges, we were pleased to achieve a Group EBIT of CHF 34.7 million and exceed the previous year's result by 7.8 per cent, which corresponds to a record result. »
Andreas Fecker, CFO
mobilezone can post a very gratifying result with net profits of CHF 26.0 million, which is an improvement of CHF 2.1 million compared to the adjusted previous year's result (an increase of 8.8 per cent). At the gross profit level, we succeeded in boosting profitability to 19.9 per cent (previous year: 19.0 per cent) and at the EBIT level to 6.9 per cent (previous year: 6.6 per cent).
We had the best operating EBIT result in our company's history in the first half-year 2021 with CHF 32.2 million. In short, the bar was already high. On top of this, we had to deal with challenges from the after-effects of the pandemic in the industry or rather for our manufacturers as well as the insecure geopolitical situation, above all in Europe, with consequences for all of us. The high inflation, above all in Germany, along with the geopolitical instability affects people and leads to uncertainty. We managed to cushion these factors with various measures in the first half-year 2022. What undoubtedly helps us here is the fact that communication and as a result smartphones and mobile subscriptions as an "aid" are a vital part of everyday life. In this environment, we managed to outdo the previous year by 7.8 per cent with a very gratifying EBIT result of CHF 34.7 million, which corresponds to a record result, despite a negative currency effect of CHF 1.2 million.
In the 2021 Annual Report, CEO Markus Bernhard was confident that you would achieve the increased EBIT guidance of CHF 70 to 80 million. You're off to a good start with an EBIT of CHF 34.7 million. What is the roadmap for the second half-year 2022?
We took the first step in the first half-year 2022 with an EBIT of CHF 34.7 million, an increase of CHF 2.5 million compared to the previous year. This was despite the negative currency effect of CHF 1.2 million. We achieved an EBIT of CHF 72.7 million in the previous year with a strong second half-year. Due to different highlights, such as new product launches, various special offer weeks and the Christmas business, the second half-year is stronger than the first half-year. If we can continue our business activities under normal circumstances, we're very confident that we'll reach the forecast EBIT guidance.
mobilezone aims to achieve a steady further increase in the EBIT margin in the next few years. With what measures do you want to achieve this?
We achieved an EBIT margin of 6.9 per cent in the first half-year 2022 (previous year: 6.6 per cent). The EBIT margin in Switzerland is 10.5 per cent, in Germany 5.7 per cent. In the past, the EBIT margin was much better in the second half-year in each case. To improve it, we are working on two main measures. On the one hand, we want to further expand our business, especially in high margin fields, such as services, mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) TalkTalk and High and the accessories business. On the other hand, we have been working on keeping our operating costs as low as possible. This is no obstacle to investing in important system-relevant areas such as IT infrastructure, cyber security, and logistics to secure and optimise our processes in the background. The investments in the touch points with our customers, be they physical shops or online platforms, secure the margins of the future for us. Nevertheless, we have to keep reviewing and questioning our operating costs to ensure our growth also has a positive effect on our EBIT.
You decided on a share buyback programme in February 2022. In view of the low net debt/EBITDA of 0.92 at the end of 2021, analysts assume that mobilezone will conduct further share buybacks or pay out an increased dividend. Can you say anything about this?
mobilezone has a healthy balance sheet and stable operating cash flows. Apart from an attractive dividend, this allows us to return money to our investors with further measures. On 21 June 2022, we announced that we would conduct another share buyback programme during the period 2022 to 2025 to the maximum extent of CHF 45 million. This will begin after the publication of the 2022 half-year figures. The share buyback programme will result in further consolidation of the earnings per share.
To what extent has mobilezone been affected by the high inflation figures and interest rate development in Europe, and how does this make itself noticeable?
Up to mid-2022, both in Germany and Switzerland, we were only affected in individual areas, such as the higher petrol and energy prices. We have not had any indications from the manufacturers on the product side so far that the prices will greatly change.
We will face several issues in the next twelve months in the field of personnel and operating costs. To cushion such additional costs, we are already working on various cost-saving and efficiency enhancement projects.
We have already managed to negotiate better terms on the interest rate and financing side due to our good balance sheet structure and low degree of indebtedness. This will counteract potential future interest rate rises on variable-rate financing.
You made an assumption of investment increases ranging from
CHF 1 to CHF 15 million in the 2021 annual report. This was above all in connection with your digital and analogue infrastructure in Germany and Switzerland as well as in the field of customer acquisition. Could you go into more detail on this?
We continue to assume a total volume of CHF 15 million for 2022. 60 per cent (CHF 9 million) of the investments were already made in the first half-year. We are continuously investing in various areas of the company to put ourselves in a good position for the future and secure and expand our cash flows. This year, we will complete the conversions in our shops in the Swiss retail business area. As a result, all of our shops will appear in the attractive new shop layout and permit an even better shopping experience for our customers. In the first half-year of 2022, we invested CHF 1.8 million in the shops (previous year: CHF 1.6 million). In the digital area, we are above all investing in Germany in the technology of our online portals to set us up to be more efficient and enable us to offer our customers an attractive shopping experience through more options in the shopping process. The corresponding investments in the first half of 2022 were CHF 1.6 million (previous year: CHF 1.7 million). We will conclude this project in the first half of 2023. In the field of our MVNO TalkTalk (Switzerland) and High (Germany), we are investing in new customer acquisition to boost our customer base and recurrent income. In the first half-year 2022, we invested CHF 2.3 million (previous year: CHF 2.0 million). We expect investments of about CHF 3.0 million in the MVNO area. We made a one-off investment of CHF 2.0 million in warehouse logistics and in the new mobilezone reload location, our repair and refurbishing business segment (previously mobiletouch) in Switzerland.
Let's take a look at the Swiss business: At the EBIT level, the retail and B2B business achieved the best result in the company's history in the 2021 fiscal year. What is the outlook here for the second half-year 2022?
In 2021, we had a very good second half-year and will also do everything this year to conclude the second half-year successfully. In retail, we are almost CHF 1 million above the previous year at the EBIT level. Our B2B segment is in the range of the previous year at the gross profit level and we do not expect any marked changes in the second half-year 2022.
mobilezone expected growth above all in the online and MVNO business. Were these expectations fulfilled in the second half-year 2022?
In the online business in Germany, we grew from 279,000 to 315,000 concluded contracts or by 13 per cent. We see great potential here, which we can achieve with the new technology of our end customer portals Sparhandy and Deinhandy, especially in the accessories segment.
We are investing in customer acquisition at TalkTalk and High. The market for these customers is highly competitive. In the first half-year 2022, we gained 13,000 postpaid customers gross in Switzerland (previous year: 8,000) and in Germany 19,000 (previous year: 13,000). The sales of TalkTalk in Switzerland rose from CHF 8.5 million to CHF 9.9 million. In Germany, High's sales went from CHF 8.5 million to CHF 10.3 million. This corresponds to an increase of 16 per cent and 21 per cent respectively. We see great additional potential in both countries, which we want to develop.
Competition is intense in mobilezone's core business – the sale of mobile phone and landline contracts (Internet and TV). How does mobilezone manage to face this and survive?
With 203,000 contracts sold (previous year: 182,000), we managed to boost Swiss sales a striking 11.5 per cent. Our core competence is advising customers in our shops driven by good offers of the mobile communications providers and manufacturers. Customers benefit from a wide range of mobile subscriptions, thanks to the varied offers of all mobile communications providers in Switzerland and Germany. Only in our mobilezone shops and online portals do customers find this combination. In Germany, with 537,000 contracts, (previous year: 465 000) we grew 15 per cent over the previous year. We grew online and offline. While the growth online at 13 per cent was directly controlled by us, the growth of 19 per cent to 222,000 contracts in the offline area (indirect stationary trade) is also partially attributable to the Covid-19 situation in the previous year, where the lockdown in Germany lasted longer than in Switzerland.