BERLIN — After several seasons of loss, divestment, and restructuring, Germany’s Metro Group AG reported positive net profit for the third quarter of its fiscal year, and announced its largest acquisition in some time. “This is a turning point,” said Metro Group chief executive officer Olaf Koch.
Favorable tax effects were the primary driver behind the net profit of 97 million euros, or $107.3 million, compared to a loss of 83 million euros, or $113.8 million, for the same period a year previously.
The period ending June 30 was an expectedly complicated quarter for the German group, both in terms of reporting and performance.
Reflecting the sale of the group’s Galeria Kaufhof department store chain to HBC in June for 2.825 billion euros, or $3.18 billion — a transaction that is scheduled to close in September — Galeria Kaufhof is now listed as a discontinued activity, and has been stripped from the group’s consolidated sales and EBIT figures. The department store segment was included in net profit figures.
Currency effects and a calendar impact relating to Easter business, which this year landed in the fiscal second quarter compared to the third quarter in fiscal 2013/14, sent sales for the group’s remaining core Cash & Carry, Media-Saturn (electronics) and Real (hypermarket) divisions down 1.4 percent in the quarter to 13.97 billion, or $15.45 billion.
EBIT before special items fell 17.4 percent to 209 million euros, or $231.1 million. There were special items for the period amounting to 35 million euros, or $38.7 million, related to restructuring expenses at Cash & Carry, Media-Saturn and Real.
Metro also noted that higher results from real estate transactions in the period a year previously, as well as currency effects, impacted operating earnings. Adjusted for income from real estate and currency effects, EBIT was roughly in line with the previous year.
Though no longer part of the portfolio, the Galeria Kaufhof stores posted a 3.9 percent decline in sales, which reached 667 million euros, or $737.6 million. Like-for-like sales for the now 135-door chain in Germany and Belgium slipped 2.6 percent. Pointing to the earlier Easter business and “negative developments in the textile area,” the group said EBIT plunged 59 percent to 9 million euros, or $10 million, compared to 22 million euros, or $30.2 million, in fiscal 2013-14.
Negative currency effects and the earlier Easter business put a 6.6 percent dent in EBIT before special items at the Metro Cash & Carry division, which reached 262 million euros, or $289.7 million. Sales at the 764-door chain fell 1.3 percent to 7.45 billion euros, or $8.24 billion, but like-for-like sales in local currency rose were up 0.1 percent, for the eighth consecutive quarter of like-for-like sales growth, the group pointed out.
Dollar figures are converted at average exchange for the periods in question.
In tandem with the release of its third-quarter results on Thursday, Metro Group announced its purchase of Singapore-based gourmet foods distributor Classic Fine Foods Group for $290 million. The company said the acquisition would boost the group’s competencies and facilitate entry into markets where Metro is not yet present. Classic Fine Foods brings 10 new territories to the Metro Group, and Koch implied that even more were on the horizon.
During a conference call, Koch said the firm is actively seeking new acquisitions, with more potentially on the horizon in the next twelve months. He said the firm had begun its “second chapter” after a period of cost-cutting and divestment.
New ventures will be partly funded by the sale of Galeria Kaufhof, as well as the sale of Metro’s Cash & Carry unit in Vietnam. That deal should be finalized in six to nine months, Koch said. Existing stores will be improved and optimized, he added. Koch also drew attention to Media-Saturn’s new app-driven entertainment portal, Juke, which launched on Aug. 3, extending an existing music-streaming service.
Earlier this week, Metro Group proposed a successor to chairman Franz Markus Haniel, who will step down in February after nearly four years in the position. Juergen Steinemann will join Metro Group first in September as a member of the supervisory board, replacing Wulf Bernotat, and then become chairman following the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting.
Steinemann arrives from Barry Callebaut, where he is due to step down as ceo this month after six years. Steinemann will remain a vice chairman at the Swiss chocolate maker. Haniel heads the family holding Metro’s largest shareholding group, which plans to lower its stake in the firm by 2020.
For fiscal year 2014-15, Metro Group forecast a slight rise in currency-adjusted group sales, as well as a minimal uptick in like-for-like sales for its continuing operations. Despite ongoing economic challenges in the world market, Metro said its continued realignment and strict cost controls should see the group ending fiscal 2014-15 with EBIT before special items slightly ahead of fiscal 2013-14’s level of 1.73 billion euros, or $2.34 billion.