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ASSYSTEM S.A. ANNOUNCES FINANCIAL RESULTS

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ASSYSTEM S.A. ANNOUNCES FINANCIAL RESULTS

2017 results

  • Operating profit before non-recurring items (EBITA)([1]) up 17.6% to €26.0 million
  • EBITA margin up 0.8 pt to 6.6%
  • Free cash-flow([2]): €20.8 million, representing 5.3% of revenue
  • Dividend([3]): €1.0 per share

At its meeting on 15 March 2018, the Board of Directors of Assystem S.A. (ISIN: FR0000074148 – ASY), a leading player in engineering, reviewed the Group’s financial statements for the year ended 31 December 2017.

Dominique Louis, Assystem’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, stated:

“2017 was a year of major strategic moves for Assystem. We chose to boost the business development of GPS (now “Assystem Technologies Groupe”) by transferring its control to Ardian, while retaining a large stake in its capital to remain closely associated with its value creation.

In parallel, we acquired an ownership interest in Framatomein order to strengthen our positioning at the heart of the French nuclear industry with a view to helping promote the sustainability and development of low-carbon electricity both in France and worldwide, for which civil nuclear power has a key role to play. Thanks to its expertise and long-standing experience in nuclear engineering and more generally in infrastructure engineering serving energy transition requirements, Assystem is well placed to leverage the opportunities of this high-growth market”.

Key figures

In millions of euros (€m) – Audited figures 2016* 2017 Year-on-year change
Revenue 380.1 395.2 + 4.0%
Operating profit before non-recurring items  – EBITA 22.1 26.0 + 17.6%
% of revenue 5.8% 6.6% + 0.8 pt
Consolidated profit for the period 32.1 404.6
Free cash flow 20.8
% of revenue 5.3%
Net cash/(debt)([4]) (16.1) 23.9
Dividend per share (in €) 1.00 1.00

* Restated to facilitate year-on-year comparisons

AnalysIS OF THE 2017 INCOME STATEMENT

      Revenue

Based on its new scope of fully-consolidated companies, Assystem’sconsolidated revenue rose by 4.0% in the year ended 31 December 2017, breaking down as 4.0% in like-for-like growth (6.8% excluding the impact of revenue decreases from Radicon and the Staffing business), a 1.0% increase due to changes in the scope of consolidation and a 1.0% negative currency effect.

Revenue for the Energy & Infrastructure business climbed 7.4% to €341.3 million. Within this business, the Nuclear segment reported revenue of €205.5 million, up 8.9%, or 9.6% on a like-for-like basis, and Energy Transition & Infrastructures revenue rose 5.3% to €135.8 million, with 2.1% like-for-like growth (or 4.8% excluding Radicon’s revenue decline).

At €45.1 million, revenue for the Staffing business retreated 13.2% year on year at constant exchange rates, or 15.3% on a reported basis, as performance was weighed down by lower business volumes in the Oil & Gas sector. However, projects in the Industry sector have now started up, which should help to at least stabilise annual revenue in 2018.

      Operating profit before non-recurring items (EBITA)

Consolidated EBITA advanced 17.6% to €26.0 million in 2017 from €22.1 million in 2016, and EBITA margin represented 6.6% of revenue, up 80 basis points year on year.

EBITA for the Energy & Infrastructure business climbed €3.8 million to €27.9 million, which drove a 60 basis-point increase in EBITA margin to 8.2%.

Staffing EBITA decreased by €0.5 million to €1.9 million, representing an EBITA margin of 4.2%.

The Group’s “Holding company” expenses, net of the EBITA of the activities classified in the “Other” category, had a €3.8 million negative impact on consolidated EBITA in 2017 versus a €4.4 million negative impact in 2016 (as restated in order to facilitate year-on-year comparisons).

      Operating profit and non-recurring income and expenses

Consolidated operating profit after non-recurring items came to €14.2 million, up 11.8% on the €12.7 million reported for 2016.

Non-recurring items represented a net expense of €11.8 million, breaking down as:

–          €6.8 million corresponding to a provision recognized in addition to that booked in 2015 for a tax dispute concerning the former GPS division’s research tax credits for 2010, 2011 and 2012. The risks relating to this dispute are now fully covered by this provision.

–          €5 million primarily representing charges and provisions related to (i) adapting some of the Group’s resources to its new scope of consolidation and (ii) restructuring measures for conventional energy activities.

The contribution of Assystem Technologies Groupe (ATG) to Assystem’s consolidated profit for 2017 (before the tax recognised on the coupon on ATG convertible bonds held by Assystem) was €3.8 million, breaking down as (i) €2.3 million for Assystem’s 39.2% share of ATG’s profit for the period from 1 October 2017 to 31 December 2017 and (ii) €1.5 million in income from the convertible bonds.

Assystem recorded net financial income of €0.1 million for the year, including €2.7 million in “Net financial expense on cash and debt” which was more than offset by a net €2.8 million positive impact from “Other financial income and expenses”.

The income tax expense for continuing operations was €4.8 million. This total includes €1.3 million in net income related to dividend tax and a €0.1 million tax charge on the coupon received on the ATG convertible bonds.

Profit from discontinued operations amounted to €391.3 million and primarily corresponds to the gain arising on the transfer of control of the former GPS division to ATG. It also includes the profit figure of the former GPS division for the first three quarters of 2017.

Consolidated profit for the period came to €404.6 million, of which €0.5 million was attributable to non-controlling interests.

The Group estimates that its pro forma consolidated profit for the period amounts to €29.0 million. This figure, which does not include non-recurring income or expenses, was calculated based on the following:

–        EBITA for the year (i.e. €26.0 million).

–        An estimate of what ATG’s contribution to Assystem’s 2017 consolidated profit would have been (including the income tax charge on the coupon on the convertible bonds) if ATG had been set up on 1 January 2017 and if Assystem had held a 39.2% stake in ATG at that date (i.e. €13.0 million).

–        An estimate of the annual recurring net financial expense based on the Group’s balance sheet configuration at 31 December 2017 (i.e. €1.9 million).

–        A pro forma income tax charge on EBITA after deducting financial income and expenses (i.e. €8.1 million).

      Information on the revenue and EBITA generated in 2017 by the entities controlled by Assystem Technologies Groupe

Revenue generated by the entities consolidated by ATG – in which Assystem currently holds a 38.2% interest (compared with 39.2% at 31 December 2017) – totalled €673.6 million for the full twelve months of 2017, up 16.7% year on year (with 13.4% like-for-like growth).

EBITA reported by the entities controlled by ATG was €56.8 million for full-year 2017.

NET CASH/(DEBT)

Assystem had net cash of €23.9 million at 31 December 2017 (versus €16.1 million in net debt one year earlier). This positive swing reflects the following:

–        €20.8 million in free cash flow from the Group’s continuing operations, representing 5.3% of revenue.

–        A €60.4 million net cash inflow relating to (i) GPS and the transfer of control of this division to ATG (a €409.2 million inflow) (ii) the share buyback offer carried out in the fourth quarter of 2017 (a €225.1 million outflow) and (iii) the acquisition of a 5% stake in Framatome (a €123.7 million outflow).

–        A €21.2 million dividend payment to Assystem’s shareholders.

–        A negative €20.0 million in other cash flows, mainly related to the acquisitions of BQG and ECP.

RECOMMENDED DIVIDEND FOR 2017

At the Annual General Meeting to be held on 16 May 2018, Assystem will recommend the payment of a dividend of €1.00 per share for 2017. If this divided is approved by the shareholders it would represent a total payout of €15.2 million([5]), corresponding to 52% of pro forma consolidated profit for the period.

OUTLOOK FOR 2018

In the nuclear market, Assystem expects to see continued robust growth in 2018 for services provided to existing power plants and a ramp-up of business for new-build projects in the United Kingdom, Turkey and the Middle East.

In its other markets, the Group expects to reap the benefits of strong momentum in the life sciences and transport infrastructure sectors.

The combination of the above factors is expected to support overall growth and operating margin but it is likely that the conventional energy sector will see significant decreases in revenue, EBITA and operating margin.

On a consolidated basis, the Group’s targets – which only take into account the acquisitions completed by end-2017 – are as follows for 2018:

–        At least 10% growth in consolidated revenue and EBITA, with stronger growth in the second half than in the first due to an unfavourable basis of comparison with first-half 2017.

–        Free cash flow representing more than 5% of revenue.

FINANCIAL CALENDAR FOR THE FIRST HALF OF 2018

–        26 April: First-quarter 2018 revenue release.

–        16 May: Annual General Meeting.

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Seven lessons from 2020

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Seven lessons from 2020 1

Rebeca Ehrnrooth, Equilibrium Capital and CEMS Alumni Association President

 

Attending a New Year’s luncheon on 31 December 2019, we played a game that involved predicting the world in 2020. Some of the questions included: would Uber become profitable? Would the three-decade bond rally finally come to an end? Would the US hit a recession?

Unlike any of our predictions based on a traditional approach to business and predicting, we now know that 2020 became the year where business, professional and personal plans were turned upside down, reshaped and put-on hold. The proverbial black swan had arrived.

As revealed in a new CEMS Guide to Leadership in a Post-COVID-19 World, to which I contributed, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed deficiencies in the 20th Century vision of leadership, giving a rare opportunity to question the status quo.

So, what are the main lessons from 2020?

  1. Humans are enormously adaptive.  This is not an extinction scenario. The world is getting used to dealing with global human disaster which may become a recurring event. Life continues guided by new parameters.

  1. No sector or country is immune to rapid change. Just as the leveraged finance and equity markets ground to a halt during the Global Financial Crisis, we have seen a disruption in the financial markets (including M&A) in 2020, including a significant redistribution of wealth between sectors; think tech vs airlines and the hospitality industry. When a market is disrupted it has secondary and tertiary effects such as less work for accountants, lawyers, financiers etc.

 

  1. Location is not as important anymore. The belief that finance staff need to be based in one of the financial capitals to be effective has been forever altered. Pursuing a career in finance from anywhere is becoming possible. However, it’s likely that over time, financial controls and human interaction will move the work model back towards the traditional office approach, as work is a critical sanctuary for people. While working from home may allow more time for family, chores and sports, it is mainly effective for people who already have their internal and external networks. For junior employees it presents a notable challenge as they may be forced to spend their formative years without a chance to really build their networks.

 

  1. Change is likely to be lasting. The opportunity for alternative finance and tech focused providers is enormous and 2020 will accelerate this shift. For example, many retail banks are providing rather poor customer service, blaming the pandemic. Even the most loyal customers will be heading elsewhere. For recent graduates and current students this is a major shift; future winners and key employers may not be names we are used to seeing in the headlines.

 

  1. There will be a spotlight on leaders with visionary strategy and understanding of the operations. 2020 showed many politicians and business leaders behaving like they were playing a game of snakes and ladders, rather than executing a thought-out strategy. The next wave of thoughtful leadership is urgently required.

 

  1. Collaboration leads to success. The definition of a pandemic is an infectious disease prevalent worldwide. A global problem requires a collaborative solution rather than each country and industry on their own. Quoting Steven Riley, professor of infectious disease dynamics at Imperial College London: “Once you have the knowledge and you share the knowledge, then you are able to take measures to push transmission much lower”. This principle is transferable to management education. In a world more complex than ever, investing in a degree is hard currency. Combined with the full global alumni network, corporate partners and schools, CEMS is capital that doesn’t depreciate.

  1. Resilience has become a watch word. Saint-Exupéry’s quote resonates with me: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” We are in a new paradigm – so prepare for the next change. For COVID-19, while we hope that the vaccine will soon upon us, the broader long-term positive challenge remains.
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Data after Brexit: How does the end of the transition affect GDPR?

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UK's Post Brexit productivity puzzle

By John Flynn, Principal Security Consultant at Conosco

The UK has officially left the European Union now that the transition period has ended on January 1st 2021. But this could raise issues with one of the biggest bugbears for many companies – the international transfer of personal data.

Businesses can relax, somewhat – GDPR, which took businesses months to get their heads around, is not being replaced. It will continue as the UK GDPR 2018, and will still be based on the criteria of the Data Protection Act of 2018. However, the UK will retain the right to change the UK GDPR as it sees fit in the future.

The main changes apply to those who receive data coming into the UK from Europe. Transfers from the UK to other countries can continue under existing arrangements.

We know it can be difficult to cut through the legal jargon, so we have simplified what you need to know to protect yourself and your data:

1 – Update your privacy notice

Most businesses do not have the correct clauses in place ahead of January 1st, potentially exposing their liability, should something happen to their data. All company privacy notices online will need to be updated to specifically state ‘UK GDPR’, as opposed to ‘EU GDPR’. You will also need standard contractual clauses in place, which cover both parties – those transferring and those receiving the data.

 The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has a list of what needs to be included in the standard contractual clause here. The ICO will remain the UK regulator for data protection, regularly liaising with each EU member state.

This also applies to Multi Corporate Groups who operate in multiple countries, who need to update their documentation and privacy notice to expressly cover the data transfers.  The UK has applied for an adequacy assessment, which would negate the need for contractual clauses, however this has not yet been approved by the EU.

2 – Data privacy assessments

Any company which runs applications and software should always perform a Data Privacy Impact Assessment. This was also in the guidelines before, but these assessments are now more important for those who outsource their IT operations internationally.

For example, when using a service such as a cloud-based system, the company must be sure that its service provider adheres to UK GDPR and stores the data within the European Economic Area (EEA), or has a binding corporate agreement with the company, where data is stored outside of the EEA. You should also, as mentioned above, make sure that a contractual clause is in place.

3 – Review local legislation

Contracts should now have contractual clauses that specify the responsibilities of the data controller and the data processor. If you are receiving personal data from a country territory or sector covered by a European Commission adequacy decision, the sender of the data will need to consider how to comply with its local laws on international transfers. You should check local legislation and guidance in this case.

4 – Cyber Security health check

The ICO is increasing its capacity and efforts to crack down on data breaches, post-Brexit. Now is a great time for all companies to have a health check to understand their Information Security posture and GDPR compliance. Nobody wants to be caught handling data improperly and fined when it could have been prevented with education and training.

A gap analysis performed by an expert is money well-spent. It’s also a fact that companies that have cybersecurity and Information Security controls are not only able to better defend against attacks but are also far better placed to recover from an attack.

Looking forward

It’s important that all businesses – large and small – are properly preparing their data storage and transferring for the 1st January. ICO has been busy setting examples by fining large, high-profile companies for failing to keep millions of customers’ personal data safe.

It will continue to come down hard on the data breaches of personal identifiable information and special categories of data. The saying ‘prevention is better than a cure’ rings truer than ever this year, and you will thank yourself if you make the efforts to properly store your data now, and not when it’s too late.

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2020 reflections and 2021 outlook

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2020 reflections and 2021 outlook 2

By John Hunter, Head of Banking and Fiduciaries, Finance Isle of Man

Reflections on the most surreal year

The Covid-19 pandemic has completely changed the world as we knew it, resulting in catastrophic loss of life and fears of a downturn hang over global economies like a sword of Damocles. In the UK, the new strain has further exacerbated the situation. As I am sure many have already said we are living in what could be called the most surreal times. People have been trying to cope with this “new normal”, by changing their lifestyles and evolving behaviours.

The Isle of Man responded swiftly to the pandemic by closing its borders and enforcing social restrictions which everyone respected and adhered to. Socially and culturally the Island demonstrated all the good things that come from living on a relatively small Island where community still means so much.

The Isle of Man’s financial services sector adapted quickly, seamlessly transitioning to working from home. The banks too adopted flexible remote working practices and continued to support clients around the world helping them navigate the challenging situation and making the most of any opportunities that arose.

Although there is no substitute for face-to-face interactions, we all embraced web-conferencing platforms like Microsoft Teams and Zoom to stay connected with contacts around the world and build and nurture business relationships, whether it was with financial services firms or high net worth individuals looking to relocate to the Island.

Furthermore, a priority for the Isle of Man has been to reinvigorate the business and cultural ties with South Africa. In a normal world, we would have travelled to the country, held in-person meetings with businesses and industry representatives and talked about building on our wonderful historic ties. However, because of the scale and breadth of disruption we had to change all our plans! We hosted a virtual roadshow which comprised a series of webinars exploring why it has never been more important for South African businesses and individuals to choose the right jurisdiction for long term financial planning.

Looking ahead to the future

We are all hoping that the global rollout of vaccines will provide the pathway to some form of return to normality and all the things people are missing will be back. Like amidst all periods of immense turmoil, interesting, new possibilities have emerged such as the revolution in work culture and a renewed importance of being close to nature and green spaces is. And these possibilities can help reshape society for the better.

The global economic recovery and rebuild might seem further away in the current environment especially amidst the new lockdowns. But we are confident in the resilience of economies and are hopeful that different industrial sectors and governments working together would result in green shoots.

The financial services industry has an important role to play in getting the world economy back on its feet. It is a core component of the solution to continue facilitating the financing of corporates, as well as to develop sustainable finance and nurture digital technologies which have proven to be vital during the pandemic. The sector should continue its cooperation and collaboration with governments and regulators to ensure efficient capital flows and financial stability for businesses and individuals.

Banks too have a crucial role to play as they are instrumental to the effective transmission of monetary policies and stimulus packages. As mentioned in a report by EY: “Financial insecurity in the wake of COVID-19 will require banks to boost consumer confidence and help build a more resilient working world.”

We expect the Isle of Man’s financial services sector and banks to continue navigating the situation with resilience as they have been doing thus far and contributing to the global recovery process. Also, we truly hope this will be our busiest year ever (subject to our ability to travel), with an extensive global schedule of planned activity to promote the Island as an international financial centre of excellence and innovation. Personally, I had planned to be in South Africa for the British & Irish Lions tour, but regrettably, it might not take place and as such we will look forward to catching up with friends there as and when we can.

Conclusion

No doubt, there are significant challenges for the world ahead but as Albert Einstein said: “in the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity”. And it is this opportunity that we all need to work together to identify and make the most of. We are confident that in 2021 the Isle of Man will continue to support financial services businesses help their clients, employees, and the wider society through these surreal times. We are all in this together.

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