Italia Informa interviews Pierre La Tour at the Virtual Star Conference of Borsa Italiana
Giuseppe Castellini, Editor of Italia Informa, interviews Pierre La Tour, CFO of Biesse, at the Virtual Star Conference of the Italian Stock Exchange. Let's take a look at the main points of the interview.
GC: "The Virtual Star Conference of the Italian Stock Exchange, an appointment with companies that represent the excellence of Italian medium-sized enterprises. I would like to thank Biesse and Pierre La Tour, CFO of the Group, who is here with us today. Biesse is a multinational leader in the technology for processing wood, glass, stone, plastic and metal. It designs, manufactures and distributes machines, integrated systems and software for manufacturers of furniture, door/window frames and components for the construction, shipbuilding and aerospace industries. I would like to highlight its drive towards innovation, as it invests 4% of its annual turnover in research and development and has more than 200 registered patents. It operates through 12 industrial sites, 39 branches, 300 agents and selected dealers, exporting 85% of its production. It is a fantastic Italian business story. Founded in Pesaro in 1969 by Giancarlo Selci, it has been listed on the Star segment of the Italian Stock Exchange since June 2001 and today has over 4000 employees.
Taking the international economic picture into account, I would say that the results you achieved in the first half of the year were satisfactory, especially compared to expectations. You have shown a certain ability to deal promptlywith the situation we are living through, displaying resilience, a word that I don't like, but which is meaningful: the ability to withstand sudden shocks and a certain flexibility of business model. Is that so? What is your assessment of this recent period?"
PLT: "First of all, I would like to thank you for your comprehensive introduction to the Biesse. The first semester was very challenging. The Group moved very quickly to protect the business, with cost-containment measures. We also saw this on the occasion of the six-monthly report, which mitigated the impact of the pandemic. We are now in the second half of the year, which is clearly better than the previous half. Our order book is better than we expected. We have maintained tight control over costs, but have not cut back on what we consider strategic initiatives, maintaining all R&D investments. Instead, we have focused on direct and indirect costs where we have put in place significant cost containment measures. You mentioned that exports account for 85% of our turnover, and the fact that we have a network of branches almost everywhere around the world allows us to mitigate the risk and effects of the pandemic."
GC: "In the light of your reply to the first question, it seems that the outlook for operations is fairly positive. I wanted to highlight the fact that you have maintained a strong level of capital to safeguard and consolidate a healthy financial situation and, even looking at the long term, you have protected the foundations by laying the foundations for a further leap forward."
PLT: "Absolutely correct. We started from an absolutely solid pre-COVID financial position and have moved in the past months to "armour" the company from a financial point of view. Our aim is to look ahead. In this regard, we have all the sources of finance necessary for complete peace of mind, aiming to continue to invest and above all to continue to try to grow, especially in foreign markets. The current problem is obviously lack of visibility, because we are dealing with completely changeable scenarios, so it becomes harder to plan in the medium to long term."
GC: "Impossible to give any guidance at this time because it would be too uncertain. You have a very rigorous culture which makes it difficult to give figures like that. It's not your style.
PLT: "We have withdrawn the guidance for 2020 and are thinking about the year-end result and about 2021."
GC: "I have seen that you have a strong commitment to full and comprehensive sustainability. We have talked about economic sustainability and environmental sustainability. It seems that the horizon of sustainability is one of your defining features."
PLT: "Yes, absolutely. We introduced the Sustainability Report within the company in 2018, and sustainability is becoming an increasing part of the company's logic and strategies. Following on from what we were saying a little earlier, we have launched a mixed instrument, financing and credit line, with BNP Paribas, a green loan, an instrument linked to the attainment of sustainability targets. It's just one example of how we are moving and how sustainability is increasingly married to our goals and our corporate DNA.
GC: "A final question on the composition of revenues in which the wood sector remains predominant with over 70%, followed by glass and stone with 17%. I think this is now an almost structural factor, regardless of COVID. Will this COVID situation, once it has taken shape, lead to a change in the geographical distribution of your business or not?
PLT: It is difficult to make predictions now, but I believe that the pandemic will have lasting effects. More than on markets and the geographical distribution of the business, it will affect what we previously considered the paradigms of the business itself. If we look at our history and our dynamics, trade fairs have always played a significant role, considered both as an international showcase and a tool to acquire orders, to do business. Today, that way of doing business is changing. More is being invested in the virtual, in digital channels, in the use of technologies. We see that there are changes in progress. At the market level, following on from what you asked previously, the pandemic has made changes to our lives, reducing travel and restaurant expenses etc., and this spending has partly shifted to other items such as DIY and home improvements. This obviously has had a positive impact on the entire supply chain. We have seen this post-pandemic in front of IKEA and various furniture manufacturers, and this also consequently has an impact on us as manufacturers of machinery for making those products."
Watch the interview here.