LETTER TO SHAREHOLDERS
Letter to our shareholders
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In spite of the challenges posed by inflation and the end of the seven-year phase of negative interest rates, Züblin achieved a good result in financial year 2022/23. The value of our investment properties rose by 0.9% to CHF 227.1 million (previous year: CHF 225.1 million). Rental income was up slightly on the prior year at CHF 8.8 million, an increase of CHF 0.3 million. Successful lettings led to a further improvement in the letting ratio on individual property level. Organic growth through property purchases remained impossible in the last financial year due to continuing high price levels and a shortage of properties that conform to Züblin’s strategy. Our focus was therefore on value-enhancing investments to reposition and optimise our space offering. We also analysed the energy consumption data of our properties, on the basis of which we drew up our sustainability mission & values statement which will support both the planning of measures and the future sustainability reporting. As a result of the conservative valuation approach the Board of Directors and Executive Board have deliberately followed in recent years, Züblin believes its portfolio, which is strong in all key parameters, is well-positioned for possible changes in the market and potential price corrections.
Stable real estate portfolio
Züblin’s property portfolio performed well in the reporting year. As at 31 March 2023 the total value of the portfolio was CHF 227.1 million. Including investments of around CHF 0.8 million, the valuation of the properties increased by 0.9% or CHF 2 million from CHF 225.1 million in the prior year. Income from new lettings plus higher rental income from existing indexed leases largely compensated for the valuation impact of the average increase in discount rate by 43 basis points.
Rental income amounted to CHF 8.8 million in the reporting year (previous year: CHF 8.5 million). Due to the regular expiry of a longstanding lease at Morgenstrasse 136 in Bern the vacancy rate therefore rose to 8.9% (previous year: 7.9%). Our marketing efforts in Bern show first partial successes and a clearly increased frequency of visits. This gives rise to cautious confidence that the vacancy rate can be gradually reduced. Excluding the Bern property, the overall vacancy rate is at very low 2%. The weighted average lease term (WALT) of 2.9 years largely reflects the remaining lease term of 2.1 years for our biggest tenant.
Although the company remains committed to growth within the ambit of our investment guidelines, our asset management during the financial year focused on the ongoing optimisation of the quality of our property and space offering. In parallel with this, we used the energy consumption data of our properties as an input to evaluate and plan possible future investments in the properties’ energy efficiency. With three buildings certified to the Minergie® standard, Züblin’s existing portfolio now has a good, expandable foundation that will enable us to continue to make our contribution to the sustainability efforts of the real estate industry in Switzerland as an active participant.
Continued profitability – EBITDA rises by 22.4%
Good operating performance led EBITDA to increase by 22.4% to CHF 6.0 million. This reflected firstly a 5.1% increase in operating income from lettings to CHF 8.3 million as a result of successful new lettings. Furthermore, staffing changes and the optimisation of operating processes initiated in the prior year enabled us to reduce personnel and administrative expenses by 26.1% to CHF 2.4 million. In addition, expenses for third-party services in connection with purchase investigations were lower due to market conditions.
Taking account of the lower market value changes compared with the prior year and taxes, net profit for the financial year 2022/23 came to CHF 5.3 million (previous year: CHF 6.0 million).
Return on equity was 3.8% (previous year: 4.4%) and earnings per share amounted to CHF 1.61 (previous year: CHF 1.80).
Healthy balance sheet – long-term revolving loan facility
The company’s total assets rose by 0.9% to CHF 232.6 million in financial year 2022/23. This primarily reflected an increase in the value of the property portfolio by CHF 2.0 million to CHF 227.1 million as at 31 March 2023 due to investments and upward revaluation. The company’s equity ratio remains solid and stood at 59.5% on the balance sheet date (previous year: 59.2%). The loan to value ratio (LTV) fell from 29.7% in the prior year to 28.6%.
The revolving credit facility, which runs until 2029, offers flexible interest rate terms of between one month and a maximum of the remaining term. Complementing the revolving credit facility of CHF 100 million, the company still has access to authorised capital of CHF 37 million approved by the AGM in 2021 until the AGM in June 2023.
Continuation of previous dividend policy
The net profit earned in 2022/23 enables us to continue our stable dividend policy and allow shareholders to participate in the profits generated by the company. By paying a dividend of CHF 1.00 per registered share Züblin also wants to ensure that sufficient disposable funds remain within the company for potential property investments.
The Board of Directors will therefore propose to the 2023 AGM to pay a tax-free dividend of CHF 1.00 per registered share from the capital reserve.
Changes in the Board of Directors
In view of the upcoming Annual General Meeting on 22 June 2023, the Board of Directors proposes the election of Mr. Nicolas Gross as a new independent member. Furthermore, the Board of Directors supports the election of Mr. Yves Rossier as representative of the shareholder Lamesa Holding SA. The Board of Directors is convinced that the expertise of both candidates will provide a valuable contribution and additional impulses for the future of Züblin.
At the same time, Dr Wolfgang Zürcher announces that he will not stand for re-election. Dr Zürcher joined the Board of Directors in 2014 and has led the body as Chairman since 2019. He has played a key role in driving the development and transformation of Züblin Immobilien Holding AG. The Board of Directors and the Executive Board would like to thank him for his commitment and valuable support. The election of Dr Markus Wesnitzer as the new Chairman of the Board of Directors will be proposed at the 2023 Annual General Meeting. Dr Wesnitzer has been a member of the Züblin Board of Directors since 2006 and with his profound real estate expertise will be able to play an important role in the further development of the company.
At the time of writing, the rise in interest rates and inflation and the general economic backdrop have still only had a marginal impact on the Swiss real estate market. Societal changes and their impact on working patterns have been much more important over the past 12 months. To attract good tenants our marketing is seeing growing demand for flexible space to implement new approaches to space usage based on new models of working and living.
As market participants we have a greater duty than ever to all our stakeholders to make our office space product both financially and environmentally sustainable in the long term. In these uncertain and challenging times, we are therefore putting an even greater emphasis on our longstanding conservative values: discipline in formulating and adhering to our strategic decisions, care in selecting and evaluating investment opportunities and the vision to create and safeguard the company’s long-term success.
We would like to thank our shareholders for giving us their continuing trust. Our thanks also go to our long-standing partners, whose expertise and commitment the Züblin team can rely on at all times. And last but not least, in addition to our employees, our tenants with whom we can maintain an exchange and dialogue-based, trusting cooperation that forms an important basis for the success of our activities.
Dr. Wolfgang Zürcher
CEO / CFO