We look back once again on a turbulent and eventful financial year impacted by many factors, but a year that was extremely successful all the same. At the beginning of last year, the whole world was still hopeful that the pandemic year of 2020 would remain an exception. People started to understand Covid-19 and to protect themselves. Effective vaccines were developed and made ready for use within a very short space of time. They were produced and distributed worldwide just as quickly – also thanks to the drive of thousands of dedicated Kuehne+Nagel employees. Yet 2021 was indeed another unusual year for people all over the world who once again had to submit to the pandemic, as it was for companies too that had to contend with economic side effects such as disrupted supply chains alongside a sharp increase in consumer demand and the resulting bottlenecks.
For Kuehne+Nagel, 2021 was a year in which we were able to prove our brand promise to our customers day after day: offering the best and most flexible logistics solution under the most difficult of circumstances. Our 78,000 employees in Sea, Air, Road and Contract Logistics worked relentlessly for our customers, often even having to readjust routes during handling. In cases of Covid-related port closure, our specialists had to reroute the goods at short notice. Furthermore, in view of the surge in demand for healthcare and e-commerce services, we significantly adapted and transformed our offering very quickly, expanding it accordingly to meet the needs of our customers.
The Kuehne+Nagel Group demonstrated an impressive ability to adapt and proactively responded to the frequent changes around us. The Group performed very well in the financial year and seized opportunities that arose amidst the demanding environment. Kuehne+Nagel has proven its worth under these particular circumstances and also managed to demonstrate the essential role it plays for society — for example in the smooth and successful distribution of 1.2 billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine all the way to the most remote corners of the world.
In a challenging environment, the Kuehne+Nagel Group generated net turnover in financial year 2021 of over 32.8 billion Swiss francs, more than ever before in the Company’s history. At 2.9 billion Swiss francs, EBIT was also at a record level again. The conversion rate, which describes EBIT as a percentage of gross profit, reached 29.8%, far surpassing the average goal set for the long term of 16%. All our business units contributed to this success. Kuehne+Nagel’s integrated logistics solutions were also able to win customers over – particularly in healthcare or e-commerce as well as e.g. for logistics applications in the aerospace industry. Last but not least, substantial investments of previous years in the digitalisation of our processes and operations paid off in 2021. This testing financial year showed just how much our digital pioneer role contributed to overall success.
Be it on the seven seas or up in the air, Kuehne+Nagel is the first port of call for winning logistics solutions across almost 1,300 company branch offices on five continents. In road transport, we were able to significantly expand our presence outside of Europe – particularly with innovative digital solutions for less-than-truckload handling or customs clearance. Following successful completion of our Contract Logistics restructuring at the start of 2021, this business unit also performed well.
The strategic focus on Asia initiated around four years ago by Kuehne+Nagel’s Board of Directors has paid off in the form of organic growth, new key client wins and through acquisitions too. We have become one of the leading logistics providers in this important region and will continue to consolidate this position. The acquisition of our majority equity stake in Apex International Corporation (Apex) in 2021 is an important milestone in our strategy focussing on Asia, one of the fastest growing regions in the world’s economy. Together with Apex, Kuehne+Nagel is already the market leader today for air freight on the key transpacific route between Asia and North America. Winning Partners Group, a leading global private market firm with Swiss roots, to join as a strategic minority shareholder has enabled us to secure long-term success. We are confident that we have found an ideal partner for Kuehne+Nagel’s Asia expansion in Partners Group with its extensive experience and network.
2021 also saw Kuehne+Nagel decide on leadership transition. In November, our CEO to date, Dr. Detlef Trefzger, announced he would be stepping down from the position for personal reasons in August 2022. The Kuehne+Nagel Board of Directors appointed our long-standing head of Road Logistics, Stefan Paul, as the Group’s new CEO. One of Kuehne+Nagel’s principles is to plan the Company’s path as far in advance as possible, which primarily includes filling leadership positions. In doing so, we aim to ensure continuity in culture and strategy. We are sure that with Stefan Paul as CEO at the helm, our Company will continue its impressive journey.
Dear shareholders and dear reader, we would like to thank you for again placing your confidence in us in the exceptional year that was 2021. Many of you have been with us as shareholders for a long while — we recognise the great responsibility and obligations that we have to you. At Kuehne+Nagel, we are in extremely good shape and on an excellent track. Hence, we propose to the AGM for the financial year 2021, a dividend in the amount of 10 Swiss francs per share. I would like to thank you sincerely on behalf of the entire Board of Directors for your continued trust in Kuehne+Nagel. We would also like to thank the many thousand employees all over the world who make Kuehne+Nagel what it is: an outstanding company!
Dr. Joerg Wolle
President of the Board of Directors