After a strong start to the year, Covid-19 caused havoc in the world and on our markets in the spring. WHO (the World Health Organization) declared on 11 March 2020 that a pandemic had broken out and the lives of companies and individuals were subsequently changed dramatically. Lockdowns were imposed, and this led to a lull in sales in many countries. Restrictions and limited opportunities to meet customers meant that we were forced to abandon the growth targets for the year.
After the crash in the spring, our operations recovered strongly in the second half of 2020 and sales ultimately only fell by two (2) per cent (%) over the year.
The pandemic has shown how important it is for organisations to be flexible and be able to rapidly adapt to changes in the business environment. With active leadership, we were able to lower overheads by around EUR 10 million without risking leaving any significant business undone in the short term. The KWH Group demonstrated again that its strength is based on a broad, strong local presence on the markets and a successful mix of sectors.
At the start of 2021, the pharmaceuticals industry gained approval for its vaccines and vaccinations have begun, which means that we can slow the advance of the virus by the end of the year. We are prepared to return to a different, new world in which the effects of the pandemic will be felt for a long time.
After two years of record investments, mainly in KWH Logistics, it is now time for consolidation and to focus on ensuring that our initiatives achieve their goals. We are not talking about a savings budget for 2021. Both Mirka and KWH Freeze plan major growth-driven investments.
It is important that we keep up with the times and actively follow and respond to changes in our business environment. We continue to focus actively on digitisation and new technology. In addition to the traditional renewal work, there is currently increased pressure to develop new business models and processes.
Our labour force is almost unchanged from 2019. During the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, we prioritised employee health and safety. The success of the KWH Group is based on all our committed, motivated employees. After a year of Covid-19 stress, it is important to take measures that boost solidarity, enhance well-being and maintain motivation and commitment. We have learned effective new working methods. Together, we will evaluate which of these will last, and will adapt them to optimise their integration in our future working environments.
Many of the political storm clouds have been overshadowed by the advance of the pandemic. The USA now has a new president, which is highly likely to create greater stability for activities on the US market. In the EU, Brexit is now a reality, and we are rapidly adapting to the new customs procedures. In the past year, we also witnessed a number of political decisions aimed at holding systems together and lowering economic risk. Massive liquidity has been built up, which will also generate strong demand on our markets as soon as the pandemic nears its end.
I look forward to a very exciting 2021 and hope that the ‘lost’ year of 2020 is history and we can return to focusing on growth and development. Our strong financial position gives us the freedom to act, even in times of financial difficulty.
Kjell Antus, Group President