The net turnover of the Ebro Group grew by 16.1% year on year in 2015, rising to €2462 million.
The EBITDA, or gross operating profit, was considerably better than year-end projections, closing at €314.8 million, up 9.6% on 2014, even after raising the investment in advertising by over 20% to €87 million.
Net profit remained more or less on a par with the previous year at €144.8 million, sliding 0.8% in comparative terms owing to the extraordinary income generated in 2014 on the divestment in Deoleo (€9.9 million). The profit before tax grew by 6.5% to €229.7 million.
Net debt had grown by 5% at year end and stood at €426.3 million, including the total amount of the ordinary and extraordinary dividend and the acquisitions of RiceSelect and Roland Monterrat. This gives a net debt to EBITDA ratio of 1.36, revealing a very comfortable financial position to face a new growth stage.
Despite the prevailing commodity scenario, marked by Asian rice imports in Europe and the irregular volume of North American harvests, the division has closed a highly satisfactory year, underpinned by the constant launching of new products and solid support from advertising. Our businesses have grown in several countries, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Spain, USA and Canada.
The new Brillante and SOS products have performed well in Spain, with Sabroz, brown rice with quinoa and special rice varieties. In North America, record growth has been achieved by brands such as Mahatma, Carolina and Minute in the varieties of Instant Rice, Minute Ready-To-Serve and the wild rice business.
The division posted a turnover of €1287.7 million and an EBITDA of €177 million.
This division has had to contend with price hikes on the different durum wheat markets, pushing costs up by €54 million.
Against this backdrop, we have had two different scenarios:
1. In Europe, specifically in France, in a market that is declining at a rate of 1.5%, we achieved a 3.8% growth. Garofalo had an excellent year and its penetration of different markets, such as Spain, Portugal, France, Germany and the Netherlands, is making good progress.
2. Meanwhile, the North American business, hard hit by the drop in consumption caused by the new trends in low carb diets, managed to reverse that trend towards the end of the year by promoting gluten-free, quinoa, ancient grains and 150-calorie products.
The division turnover grew to €1,224.46 million and its EBITDA to €148.6 million.
Objectives fulfilled. Now for a new growth cycle
The Group has closed its Strategic Plan 2013-2015 with the satisfaction of having fulfilled its objectives:
- Improve our most important financial parameters, with growth of over 25.8% in turnover, 11.4% in EBITDA and 9.1% in net profit over the period.
- Consolidate our rice and pasta businesses, incorporating important assets such as Riso Scotti and the rice plant in India. We have managed to increase our market shares in the most important business segments thanks to our intense development of innovations.
- Enter the premium pasta segment with Garofalo and extend its international establishment to the principal European and North American countries in which the Group is present.
- Boost and diversify the fresh products business by acquiring Roland Monterrat, building a major fresh products plant in Communay and broadening the product portfolio of Lustucru Frais.
- Start taking positions in organic foods and the healthy food segment by buying the North American company RiceSelect, building the first gluten-free plant in USA and developing organic and quinoa-based products, ancient grains and supergreens under the Netherlands, Spanish, North American, etc. brands.
- Create value and achieve an attractive shareholder return. The Group paid out some €250 million in dividends during the year.
- Ensure sustainable growth for all our stakeholders.
In short, a highly satisfactory Strategic Plan as far as results are concerned, in which the company has laid the bases for beginning a new growth cycle.