Mario Guevara: 2013 was another good year for BIC. The Consumer Business (stationery, lighters and shavers) outperformed their markets in most countries and their net sales grew by more than 5%. Although Advertising and Promotional Products net sales decreased by 5%, they have been doing better throughout the year in a difficult market. Overall, results were consistent with our expectations for the year.
If I had to summarize what was most important about 2013, I would first mention our teams who, above and beyond their everyday commitment, have shown a positive, winning attitude that has been the key to our success. Then I would add our market share gains in all categories and most of our markets. Not to forget our continued investments aimed at building a solid future for the group.
Bruno Bich: BIC’s acquisition of 55% of Cello Pens, the leading Indian manufacturer of writing instruments. This company is going strong, and, like BIC, it offers high-quality products at the right price and opens up great opportunities for growth in India. This acquisition also provides us a good foothold in Asia and will contribute to the long-term growth of the group.
Mario Guevara: All our Consumer Business activities grew in 2013, both in mature and developing markets, with particularly strong developing in the Middle East-Africa region that posted growth of nearly 10%.
In stationery, we increased or maintained our market shares. In Europe, we had an excellent back to school period in France and Spain. Lighter sales again increased throughout the world and in particular in North America, where we continue to capitalize on our quality/safety/price positioning.
Lastly, in shavers we saw growth everywhere, but it was really Latin America that outdid itself, thanks to the market shift upwards to 3- and 4-blade shavers. And we mustn’t forget BIC Sport, with sales that grew more than 15% again this year, thanks in large part to the success of SUP (Stand Up Paddle) boards.
Mario Guevara: In addition to maintaining irreproachable quality for each of our products and selling them at the right price, we continue to invest daily in new products that correspond to what consumers throughout the world need and desire.
Regions experiencing high growth (Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia) will make up the major sources of growth for our group over the next 10 years. We will benefit from our historical presence in Africa and the leading position of Cello Pens in India.
Bruno Bich: From the beginning, BIC® products were always designed to offer the longest usage while using as little material as possible. A BIC® Cristal® ballpoint pen can write for 2 km, a maxi pocket lighter provides 3,000 lights in it and a BIC® 3-blade shaver gives at least 10 shaves. Yet we wanted to develop that value even further and so we committed to a complete Sustainable Development program. For example, in ten years we have reduced the weight of the BIC® Cristal® pen by 10% and reduced energy consumption at our plants by 30%. It is undeniably true that working in-depth on our environmental, social and societal responsibility has allowed us to make progress in many fields and our customers now recognize our products as “responsible.” Today we are more than ever convinced that our commitment to social and environmental responsibility is a major asset for our long-term development.
Mario Guevara: Based on our performance in 2013, we are confident going into 2014. In our Consumer Business, we will benefit from product launches in all categories and from the Cello Pens integration. We will continue of course to invest in our brand, in R&D and in our industrial production capacity around the world.
Mario Guevara: After four challenging years, we are beginning to see results from the efforts we’ve made to return this segment to growth. The customer service is again at its regular high standard, meaning that in 2014 we can focus our efforts on regaining customer confidence. With a new brand identity for BIC Graphic, a refocused range of innovative products, targeted marketing and communication operations and a continuing commitment to respecting product standards, we have confidence in the 2014 business outlook.
Bruno Bich: As our philosophy expresses in “Honor the Past, Invent the Future,” BIC will surely be very similar and yet very different from what it is today.
Similar because our ethical values of responsibility, teamwork and ingenuity are timeless. Together with the commitment and expertise of all our employees around the world, they have always formed the basis for the cohesion and success of our group, and they always will. We will also continue to innovate and offer consumers quality products at the best price. Remaining on the cutting edge of excellence, while still maintaining a solid balance sheet has been our constant obsession for the last 60 years and it will be so in the future.
Different because of our geographic presence will have evolved. Africa, the entire continent, will surely have made significant economic progress and BIC, present there since the 1960s, will be perfectly positioned to take advantage of that long-standing relationship.
With Cello Pens, our presence in India will surely have grown. We are working to make sure that the same will hold true for the rest of Asia, a continent that represents for us the largest geographic challenge in the coming years.
Our business portfolio will have evolved in order to keep pace with changes in consumer habits.
For example, we are convinced that handwriting, combined with new tools, will remain an essential means of communication. We have already begun to adapt our offer with the launch of BIC® Education, an innovative educational solution that combines digital technology and handwriting.
In another field, if our research project were to succeed, portable fuel cells could also constitute a lever for growth in the long-term. Our cultural and geographic diversity will continue to grow and we will develop new expertise. The commitment and the know-how of BIC employees will allow us to reach our goals. In this context, the most important challenge will be to manage these changes to build a solid, socially responsible future for our group.