The KWH Group is undergoing a very expansive growth phase. This is happening although the peak of the economic cycle has probably already been passed, and there is great uncertainty in the world economy. Our long-term, targeted strategies opened up new business opportunities during the year. Some of them have been realised, while we also have projects ahead of us that will be realised in the years to come. These projects will be of great significance to the growth and profitability of the Group in the long term. Investments during the year reached almost EUR 60 million, and we are planning for continued record investments in 2019 as well. We see this as recognition of our ability to carry out structured, targeted business development and constantly introduce improvements that generate increased customer value.
The KWH Group did a record result and achieved its profit target. Sales increased by 8% and the number of employees grew by 269 on average in 2018. At the year-end, the KWH Group had 2,241 employees. The plan is to recruit more than 100 new employees in 2019. We continue to invest in the development of our employees and offer opportunities for continuous professional development and greater professional expertise. Our growth strategy has entailed planned cost increases for employees and investments in equipment and facilities.
We are preparing for tougher times ahead
The beginning of 2019 has been dominated by Brexit. Regardless of the form it ultimately takes, it will have an impact on the economy in the short term. Germany, which has been Europe’s engine in recent years, is clearly heading towards recession. Growth figures for China are down. Combined with the trade war between China and the US, Trump’s domestic policy and monetary constraints by the banks, this means that we have a very interesting year ahead of us. Our management teams have analysed the business environment to understand how the world of business will develop in the next few years. We have made preparations to be able to react fast to changes. We are ready for tougher times in which competition for customers will increase.
Digitization, automation and robotics playing a greater role
The world of business is undergoing a phase of transformation in which digitization, automation and robotics are playing an increasingly important role. This can also be seen in the new strategy that the KWH Group launched during the year. The core values of the long-term strategy remain, but space has been created for digitization and commercial and technical innovation with the goal of dealing with an ever-increasing rate of change. The bottleneck is to find employees with the special knowledge required in this transformation. Skilled, motivated employees are the key to our ability to perform better than our competitors in the long term.
We are looking for new businesses to acquire. The top priority is to develop and build on the existing companies in the Group. We have a strong financial position and a long-term investment horizon that supports our companies in their work to create sustainable growth.
When making new investments, we focus on quality companies with links to our current sectors. Companies with a strong market position, a flexible business model, a strong cash flow, a continuous focus on innovation and a clear focus on sustainability are prioritised.
We expect positive development of the Group’s operations as a result of continued investments, employee commitment and an innovative spirit throughout the organisation.
Kjell Antus, Group president