BENE AG

EANS-Adhoc: BENE AG
Sales decline for Bene in the financial year 2009/10

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annual report

19.05.2010

- Consolidated sales decreased by 32.4 % to EUR 179. 3 million compared to the previous year - Gross profit margin increased from 50.7 % to 52.3 % - Operating cash flow of EUR 7.4 million still clearly positive - Solid financing structure: equity ratio 31.7 % and net gearing 24.6 %

Vienna/Waidhofen an der Ybbs, May 19, 2010. In a very challenging economic environment and after an impressive development in prior years, the Bene Group had to record significant declines in sales and earnings figures in the financial year 2009/10 (February 1, 2009 to January 31, 2010). "Even though the Bene Group had to record a substantial decrease in sales and thus a sharp loss in the business year 2009/10, our strategic measures being implemented since 2001 bear visible fruit." Frank Wiegmann, Chairman of the Management Board of the Bene AG, sees the Group on the right track and specifies: "In a highly competitive industry undergoing consolidation, in the past year we have further increased the gross profit margin and have generated a clearly positive cash flow and we have a solid gearing." "Essential elements for this success are the strong own sales organisation, several product innovations, which made Bene a full range supplier, the strong international brand name and the highly automated, centralised manufacturing."

Key figures remain solid - strong financing structure. Despite the economically difficult environment and the decline in sales and earnings, the Bene Group has consistently pursued its strategy also in the business year 2009/10. The international specialist for office and working environments has improved the gross profit margin from 50.7 % to 52.3 % and with EUR 7.4 million generated a clearly positive cash flow. With 31.7 % resp. 24.6 %, the Bene Group likewise reported solid values in the equity ratio and net gearing and has a long-term oriented financing structure. These figures should be valued even higher, considering that the European office furniture industry undergoes radical changes with obvious consolidation trends.

Sales declines in all markets - gross profit margins increased. After the historic record value in the business year 2008/09, the Bene Group recorded a considerable decrease in sales by 32.4 % to EUR 179.3 million, however - not least due to the strengthening of the own product portfolio - Bene could improve the gross-profit margins (contribution margins).

The detailed segment reporting shows that in the financial year 2009/10 sales of the Austria segment decreased by 30.3 % to EUR 53.5 million compared to the reference period of the previous year. Despite the difficult market conditions, the international specialist for office and working environments could implement several major projects for renowned companies. In a generally difficult economic environment, likewise sales of the Germany segment dropped by 27.7 % to TEUR 50,936 in the financial year 2009/10 (2008/09: TEUR 70,495). In the UK segment - due to the continuing weak investment climate - Bene had to report declines also in the business year 2009/10. In the year under review, sales fell by 26.5 % to TEUR 15,797 (2008/09: TEUR 21,494). In the Russia segment, the positive trend of the previous years has not continued in the business year 2009/10 and thus compared to the historic record high of the previous year, sales declined by -40.6 % to TEUR 23,624 (2008/09: TEUR 39,792). Compared to the previous year 2008/09, sales of the "other markets" segment decreased by 37.6 % to TEUR 35,445 (2008/09: TEUR 56,813) in the business year 2009/10. The individual sales regions showed quite different trends in the sales development compared to the prior year, as for example France -26.0 %, Belgium -2.0 %, Middle East -24.2 % or Poland -86.5 %. As already in previous years, mainly the Middle East region has realised major projects for customers such as Emirates Nuclear Energy or Dubai Chamber of Commerce.

Decline in earnings figures. In consequence of the sharp declines in sales but also as a result of the intensive investment activity of the prior years as well as the build-up of a comprehensive own sales net, the Group´s EBIT amounted to EUR -14.0 million in the reporting period (2008/09: EUR 11.4 million). To counteract this development, as of the first quarter of 2009, Bene has initiated extensive measures to adjust costs, to reduce liquidity requirements and for the improvement in margins. Thus, personnel and material costs were significantly reduced in all companies.

Balance sheet structure still solid. With a value of EUR 161.7 million as of the balance sheet date January 31, 2010, the balance sheet total was 11.1 % higher than the previous year´s reference value (January 31, 2009: EUR 145.6 million). The equity ratio amounted to 31.7 % (January 31, 2009: 46.8 %). Here, the issue of the corporate bond in April 2009 had significant influence on the increase in the balance sheet total and on the change in the equity ratio. Furthermore, with a net gearing of 24.6 %, Bene has a very good financing structure.

Headcount adjusted. On the balance sheet date January 31, 2010, the Bene Group occupied 1,248 employees (January 31, 2009: 1,518). This corresponds to a decrease of 270 persons or 17.8 % in comparison to the prior year. In total, on the reporting date, 863 people were employed at the BENE AG and 385 at the subsidiaries outside Austria. For the reduction in personnel costs, in July 2009, a part-time model was introduced for all employees in Austria.

Dividend policy. Due to the economic environment and the development of earnings, it will be proposed to the General Meeting not to distribute a dividend for the business year 2009/10.

Outlook. As late cyclical, the Bene group is hit time-delayed by both, positive and negative economic developments. Towards the beginning of the third quarter of 2009/10, Bene experienced a slight stabilisation in demand, although at a low level. The Management of the Bene Group makes a conservative estimate for the financial year 2010/11 due to the still prevailing general uncertainty in the markets and the related volatile situation. When and to what extent an economic upturn might be expected, cannot be answered from today´s point of view. Therefore, the Management Board expects, that the Bene Group will report a negative result for the financial year 2010/11. However, in the medium term, the Bene Group has a strong organic growth potential on the basis of existing capacities. Since Bene has introduced profitable products to the sales organisation in the last years and has made essential investments in the capacity at the site in Waidhofen, in case of a market recovery, the Bene Group should be able to realise a considerably higher increase in sales and earnings, compared to the industry.

Note. Among others, this report contains statements on potential future developments, which were made on the basis of currently available information. Such statements, which reflect the current assessment of future developments by our Management Board, cannot be construed as guarantees for future performance and bear unforeseeable risks and uncertainties. There may be a variety of reasons for actual results and conditions to diverge from the assumption, on which the statements were based.

About Bene. Bene is convinced that there is a clear connection between the design of office and working environments, corporate culture and the success of a company. Bene´s concepts, products and services put this philosophy into reality. Development, design and production as well as consulting and sales are covered under one roof. With 83 sites in 33 countries and 1,248 employees worldwide, Bene offers its customers regional access to all of its services. In the business year 2009/10, consolidated sales of the Bene Group amounted to EUR 179.3 million. Bene is market leader in Austria and number six in Europe. The Annual Report 2009/10 is available under http://bene.com.

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ots Originaltext: BENE AG
Im Internet recherchierbar: http://www.presseportal.ch

Further inquiry note:
Investor Relations:
Martina Vomela
Schwarzwiesenstraße 3
A-3340 Waidhofen/Ybbs
IR Hotline: +43-7442-500-3100
ir@bene.com

Branche: Furnishings & Furniture
ISIN:      AT00000BENE6
WKN:        
Index:    ATX Prime
Börsen:  Wien / official market



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