Middelfart-based Selfinvest, which includes global group A/S United Shipping & Trading Company (USTC), can present a record financial statement for 2019/20 with a pre-tax profit of DKK 1 billion. USTC’s subsidiaries and the group’s car activities have all contributed to this year’s growth with strong results despite the impact of the Coronavirus crisis in the final months of the financial year. However, the outlook for the coming year is more uncertain.
“It is in every way a remarkable result, borne of the fact that our companies have succeeded in taking advantage of the special market conditions the year offered. This is particularly true in the Bunker Holding Group but also for our tanker shipping company Uni-Tankers, which can deliver a good result on top of last year’s negative figures,”says Selfinvest’s CEO and founder Torben Østergaard-Nielsen on the group’s recently completed financial year: "We are of course extremely proud to present a record financial statement, especially with the great effort, the internal cooperation and the business acumen behind it. Our employees around the world have done extremely well andhave also handled the last few months with lockdown and working from home in an exemplary way. In many of our offices around the world this is still the status quo, since few countries have come as far with reopening as Denmark has.”
Bunker Holding, the USTC Group’s largest business unit, doubles its bottom line compared to the previous year. An amazing result that reflects the Bunker Holding Group’s preparations for the period after January 2020, when the new environmental requirements for low-sulphur fuels came into force. The preparations were unparalleled in the industry and benefited the Group particularly in the last few months prior to the phase-in. Here, Bunker Holding cemented and strengthened its position in the market. Subsequently, the Group’s resilience, stamina and not least risk management have been tested by the trade war, the lowest oil price in nearly 20 years and the COVID-19 pandemic. So, despite Bunker Holding being strongly positioned in ‘the new normal’, the Group does not expect a repeat of the good results for the new financial year 2020/21, especially due to the decline in world trade and markets that are still heavily affected by the Coronavirus crisis.
Uni-Tankers, USTC’s tanker shipping company, achieved its best result in four years and is really beginning to see the impact of the last two years’ many initiatives aimed at bringing the business back into the black. The full impact is still expected to materialise only in the 2020/21 financial year, but Uni-Tankers has also benefited from the good market conditions for the tanker market in the last quarter of the financial year, where both the low oil prices and rising tank rates positively affected the market. At the same time, the company’s fleet continues to move towards both younger and more modern ships and with a flexible composition of own and hourly-chartered ships, which also contributes to the positive expectations for 2020/21, where only the impact of the Coronavirus crisis is a factor of uncertainty.
"Last year, we chose to write down the value of the company’s fleet to the current, estimated sales value, a new long-term financing agreement was negotiated, and the ownership of Uni-Tankers came back 100% into USTC’s hands. The company was thus given the best possible starting point for 2019/20, which they have used satisfactorily and with a tidy profit as a result,”says Torben Østergaard-Nielsen and continues:
“It also represents a pat on the back for Uni-Tankers’ employees and provides a renewed fighting spirit. It's more fun to have the right colour showing on the bottom line.”
SDK, the Group’s shipping and logistics company, has again delivered record profits, thus continuing its growth. But with modest growth in 2019/20, as the Cruise segment, which is one of the company's business areas, was particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, the entire 2020 season is considered to be lost, which will also have an impact on expectations for the new financial year, which is already well underway. Uncertainties notwithstanding, SDK continues its growth strategy, which also includes acquisitions and during the financial year has resulted in the addition of 5 companies to the portfolio. The companies, based in Odense and Esbjerg, are all well-known players within SDK’s existing business areas: Stevedoring, Agency, Chartering, Cruise and Logistics.
Unit IT, the name of the USTC Group’s IT operations following the merger of the companies Outforce, MindZet and IT-Craft, continues to benefit from synergies between the three companies and can present a new record profit of DKK 16 million before tax. During the year, the consultancy HostHouse has been incorporated into the business and has contributed positively to the result for the year. However, Unit IT is ready for more acquisitions and thus continues its ambitious growth strategy within the company’s business areas Private & Public Cloud, SQL, Business Intelligence, Support, Governance and Security.
The Selfinvest Group’s car activities, Selected Car Group, is also concluding an incredible year. The Group’s three areas of activity are Selected Car Leasing, which provides premium cars and sports cars for leasing, and Selected Car Investment, which provides advice on, purchases and sells classic cars for investment purposes. Furthermore, Selected Car Collection, which owns one of Europe’s finest car collections of its kind and also acts as an exclusive conference and event centre. The Group’s 2019/20 accounts offer record profits on both the top and bottom line, and Selected Car Leasing is close to doubling the number of leased cars under contract compared to last year. During the year, strategic partnerships have been established with renowned importers of sports cars and the premium car segment, which is already positively affecting the level of activity, and the group has expanded the physical facilities–both at the head office in Middelfart and with the addition of a new, impressive domicile in Køge. With the many new initiatives, Selected Car Group is expected to continue to grow and prosper.
“With our areas of activity as wide as they are, and with offices and activities in more than 30 countries around the world, we almost feel the Coronavirus crisis is having a snowball effect as it moves around the world. The last few months have therefore been an acid test of our business and the companies' strategies. We are not on the other side of the Coronavirus crisis yet, but so far we have made it through satisfactorily," says Torben Østergaard-Nielsen.
For the financial markets, 2019/20 was in every way an unpredictable and challenging year. The trade war between China and the United States was an ongoing, back-and-forth dispute, but was overshadowed by the first interest rate cut by the US Central Bank (Fed) since the 2008 financial crisis. In addition, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic caused a genuine meltdown in the stock and credit markets in early spring.
Selfinvest Family Office, which, among other things, manages Selfinvest’s investment assets, followed a cautious investment strategy throughout the year and had already uncovered significant risk factors before the pandemic took place. At the end of the financial year, Selfinvest therefore saw a positive investment performance well above the benchmark. In the overall portfolio, the positive contributions have mainly concentrated on private equity and properties, where returns have more than doubled compared to last year. On the negative side, exposure to the credit markets resulted in losses that were not regained before the end of the year.
Selfinvest’s equity grew to DKK 4.6 billion by the end of 2019/20.
“The 2019/20 financial year has been a unique year in every way. We have completed the first financial step in the planned generational change, so that my two daughters, Nina and Mia, are now co-owners of Selfinvest. We can present a record financial statement for the group, where we have managed to take advantage of the special opportunities there have been in the market. We have the financial strength to grow and expand our market positions, and then we have an ongoing Coronavirus crisis, a trade war and a collapsed oilprice that makes the road ahead both clouded and unpredictable. We therefore do not expect to reach the same excellent results for 2020/21, although I have to say that all of the group’s activities are strongly positioned for an exciting year,” concludes Torben Østergaard-Nielsen.
Selfinvest had more than 2,500 employees at the end of the financial year.