Mario Guevara: Our 2014 results are solid and particularly well balanced among geographies (Europe, North America and the emerging markets). We achieved our full year objectives, both in the Consumer business and BIC Graphic.
Net Sales in our Consumer business increased 4.6% in developed markets (Europe and North America) and 6.6% in developing markets, with particularly good performance in Latin America and Africa-Middle East. After a couple of difficult years, BIC Graphic sales recovered positive momentum, increasing by 2.5%.
Overall, the results are very encouraging positive, with a 4.9% increase in Net Sales on a comparative basis, 370 million euros Normalized Income From Operations (excluding non-recurring items) up 7.5% and EPS Group share increasing 8.6% to 5.57 euros.
Bruno Bich: In stationery, we have gained market share in nearly every region of the world where we operate.
Our “Champion Brand” strategy for classic products such as BIC® Cristal® and BIC® 4 Colours™, and added value products such as BIC® Atlantis®, has allowed us to consolidate our leadership positions. We continue to build for the future, by strengthening our teams and increasing our brand support investments. Our new writing instrument factory in Tunisia is performing well, and it has allowed us to progress in the Middle East and in Africa, which are very promising markets.
2014 was a very good year for our lighters. Sales increased in Europe, especially in France and in Eastern Europe, where we are extending our distribution network. Our sleeve design lighters are still increasing in North America. We are winning market share in Latin America by converting matches users to BIC® lighters. Our market share in value is increasing everywhere. It is close 70% in the United States, and is above 65% in Latin America. It remains below 30% in Europe where we face unfair competition from importers of non-conforming lighters. Our shaver sales have also increased, thanks to the success of our “high shaving performance at a fair price” brand positioning. We have strengthened our position across all geographies and our complete product range, from the classic ones to those equipped with our new moveable blade technology, such as the BIC® Soleil® Glow™ shaver for women, launched in North America. In the United States, we have gained nearly 2 points market share in value in non- refillable shavers to 25%. In 2014, BIC® shavers became the most purchased non-refillable shaver in the United States. We are now number one in volume and number two in value.
Mario Guevara: In 2014, BIC Graphic has indeed returned to the path of growth. The team in place since early 2014 was able to bring back customers confidence and to instill a positive dynamic. Quality, respect for safety standards and innovative products have become the growth engines in the promotional product industry where BIC Graphic’s longstanding experience in these areas has become a key asset compared to numerous competitors The challenges are not yet behind us but we remain confident in the ability of BIC Graphic to adapt to a constantly changing market. This means we will need to continue reinvesting, particularly in new products.
Bruno Bich: Integration is challenging and will take time but we’re making good progress. We have appointed a new General Manager, Vikas Gupta. Vikas is Indian; he has worked in India for international firms and acquired solid market experience with Consumer Goods products. He is supported by a multicultural team of Indians and expats with a long experience within BIC. They are all excellent professionals and they have our trust.
India has 1.2 billion inhabitants, and the stationery market will grow over the next years, based on the increasing consumer purchasing power and literacy rate.
The results for 2014 fell below our expectations but we remain confident in the mid and long-term potential of Cello Pens. The employees are competent, the quality of the products is good, the distribution network is broad and Cello is the number 1 Stationery brand in India, with a brand recognition rate above 90%.
Bruno Bich: When we launched our cartridge and then portable fuel cell device projects, our goal was to be able to sell a high quality consumer product at a reasonable price, just like other BIC® products. We developed a unique technology recognized by all, unfortunately, we could not reach a unit cost adapted to the market as it is developing. We have signed a 15 million dollar binding agreement with Intelligent Energy, a company specialized in fuel cell technologies.
This project was a valuable experience for our Group. We used our industrial know-how and worked alongside research organizations such as CEA-LITEN in the development of a new technology.
Our risk level was always under control. All the costs were expensed. The selling price covers the value of all assets.
Mario Guevara: Our approach to sustainable development is in a straight line with the Group’s vision, to “offer simple, inventive and reliable choices for everyone, everywhere, every time”. While using as little material as possible, BIC® pens offer a long-lasting writing life , a maxi BIC® lighters provides up to 3,000 lights and BIC® 3-blade shavers offer at least 10 shaves: by their nature, they are long lasting, reliable and responsible.
Our commitment in this area has become a major asset in our development, and shall continue on this path in the future. Nonetheless, we must adapt to social and environmental changes that will have a mid and long-term impact, on our Group as well as on many other firms. I am thinking of the globalization of commercial exchanges, the increase in the human population that will make access to widespread education essential, including for the poorest, and finally, the scarcity of certain raw materials and climate change. Our responsibility is to do our best in addressing these changes while continuing to innovate so as to reduce the carbon footprint of our factories and our products, while ensuring our employee well-being and employability, and also exercising our corporate responsibility across the value chain, for our suppliers, customers and consumers.
Mario Guevara: Our 2014 solid results have reinforced our confidence and optimism about the short and long-term prospects for our Group. While remaining attentive to macro-economic changes, we are confident going into 2015, with the aim of continuing to gain market share on all continents and in all categories.
In developed markets, in order to better address consumer expectations, we will focus on value-added products at the fair price. In stationery particular attention will be given to our “Champion Brands” (BIC® Atlantis®, BIC® 4 Couleurs™,…) with the launch of new models. In lighters, we have launched new sleeve designs and in shavers our first 5-blade BIC® Flex 5 should uphold sales in North America. In developing markets, we will continue to leverage increasing consumer purchasing power to broaden our footprint. We are investing across the board in order to reinforce the launch of new products, to strengthen our brand awareness and to accelerate our geographic expansion. For BIC Graphic, the priority is to deliver profitable growth while focusing on developing our brands and launching new products.
Bruno Bich: In a volatile and increasingly complex world, the repeated satisfaction of consumers when using our products is the foundation of their trust in our brand. This principal has always been, is and will always be the basis of our strength and our difference.
We remain passionate about our products, which are of high quality, reliable and sold at the right price. We adapt to the changing needs and desires of our consumers while perfecting our iconic models and offering ever more innovative products.
After over 70 years, our confidence in individual responsibility is intact. We remain fiercely anti-technocratic. Our worldwide teams are more and more efficient; the cornerstone of our success is our 17,000 employees.