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Confident Basler sees earnings rise

31 Mar 2021

Machine vision firm optimistic on continued growth in semiconductor and logistics markets, and robust demand from China.

Germany-based Basler, one of the key players in the machine vision sector, is planning a large dividend payout to shareholders, after recording strong increases in sales and orders last year.

Despite the myriad challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, the Ahrensburg firm posted annual sales of €170.5 million - up from €162 million in 2019.

Meanwhile orders jumped by nearly 10 per cent to €182 million, thanks to strong demand towards the end of last year.

“The growth signals from the application fields of logistics, semiconductor, and electronics - as well as the confidence in China - make the management optimistic for the new fiscal year,” announced the firm as it revealed the 2020 figures.

Special dividend
Based on the current momentum, Basler is anticipating that sales will rise to between €190 million and €210 million this year - equivalent to growth of up to 23 per cent. The firm’s mid-term goal is to reach annual sales of €250 million by 2023.

That uptick has been retained in the company’s bottom line as well, with pre-tax earnings of €20.4 million up 21 per cent on the prior year, and free cash flow swinging to a net positive of €14 million.

As a result of the improvement, Basler’s board has proposed a special dividend for shareholders, on top of a regular dividend of €0.45 per share. If adopted in the company’s annual general meeting, the measures would amount to a total payout of €5.8 million.

Just over half of Basler is still owned by the holding company of co-founder Norbert Basler, who set up the firm while still at college and is now chairman of its supervisory board.

‘Crazy but successful’ period
Looking back on the market trends and unprecedented challenges faced during 2020, Basler’s CEO Dietmar Ley and his management team wrote in their annual report:

“Whereas the German industry for image processing components recorded a decline of approximately 5 per cent already in the first half-year, our incoming orders and sales increased by almost 10 per cent within the same period of time.

“Despite a weaker third quarter, we positively set apart from the development of the industry in the second half-year.”

Noting improved margins - partly thanks to a significant decrease in operating costs as a result of the pandemic - Ley and his colleagues added: “What a crazy and at the same time successful year!”

With 2021 already showing strong signs in some key markets, the Basler team is confident that both sales and earnings targets can be achieved, assuming that there are no major interruptions in the supply of key electronic components that have so far impacted mostly the automotive industry.

• Investors seem to share that optimism, with Basler’s stock price currently trading at an all-time high on the Frankfurt exchange. Around a quarter of the firm's shareholding is currently floated on the market.

At just under €97 on March 31, the stock has more than doubled in value from the pandemic-related low of just over €36 a year ago.

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