Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Charter of the United Nations came into force in 1945, founded on a firm determination to save future generations from the unspeakable suffering of another world war. And yet today, we are left aghast as we look eastward, where the war in Ukraine poses a threat to the very foundations of our peace and freedom. And so 24 February 2022 was suddenly no longer a normal Thursday, but rather the beginning of a turning point for all of us: war in Europe. War only 1,500 kilometers away as the crow flies. The only hope we have lies in our common strength, cohesion within Europe, the West standing together resolutely for peace and freedom.
Unprecedented sanctions are putting the world order to the test, as the exclusion of Russian banks from the international financial communication system Swift has so clearly shown. The United Kingdom and even Switzerland, with its neutral stance, have also joined the EU sanctions. Nevertheless, the times of German, European, and global certainties are well and truly behind us. Rather, our times present us with enormous challenges that we can only hope to overcome together. These are exacerbated further by the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, raw material shortages, and supply chain bottlenecks that we have been facing since last year. And yet we are still able to look back on a fiscal year that was extraordinarily successful for the Würth Group. This success was achieved because we, as a company, resolutely joined forces with our employees, our customers, and our partners. Let us continue to hope for shared determination in all the tasks that lie ahead of us this year, both big and small.
The Würth Group achieved sales of EUR 17.1 billion in 2021, up by 18.4 percent. At EUR 1.3 billion, our operating result was also significantly higher than the year before. The fact that we were able to set a new sales and operating result record against the backdrop of these major political and economic challenges fills us with a humble sense of achievement. My most sincere thanks go to our more than four million customers worldwide: Without their trust in our performance and service philosophy, this would never have been possible. Due to their systemic relevance, the skilled trades have been operating continuously throughout the pandemic: Hospitals, government authorities, stores—a great many adjustments were needed to meet the new COVID-19 regulations in addition to the demands of day-to-day business, all this amidst a lack of skilled workers and young talents in the trades. This deserves our utmost respect.
With our multi-channel sales, we were on hand to assist our customers at all times: E-procurement, the Würth App, and our online shop offer digital procurement options that complement the bricks-and-mortar network of our 2,500 pick-up shops worldwide and our more than 33,000 sales representatives. Therefore, I would also like to thank our more than 83,000 employees who give their all for our customers day in, day out. Be it in the pick-up shops in line with the corresponding hygiene regulations or via contactless purchases, Würth customers get the goods they need. This underpins the Group’s strategic focus on digitalization: At EUR 3.4 billion and 19.9 percent of total Group sales, e-business sales rose to a record high. All in all, it was a very successful 2021.
It is, however, almost impossible to predict how 2022 will unfold. At the beginning of the year, a global economic recovery still appeared to be within reach, particularly because the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic had been overcome in a large number of European countries and the individual economies had unveiled plans to reopen. Experts expected Germany to achieve stronger growth than in 2021 overall. But the current dystopian climate and the mixed global macroeconomic situation make it difficult to come up with reliable forecasts: for sectors, companies, national economies, and the global economy.
This means that the gap separating security from insecurity is even narrower than it was last year. There are manifold issues facing us, and we are all tired of many people insisting on putting their own principles above the good of an entire society, or indeed the world. All of us want something to look forward to, to start over and find something that inspires hope in us. One beacon of hope for us as a company is the new Würth Innovation Center, which we will open in the third quarter of 2022. Watching the construction progress is a source of motivation for all of us: With an investment volume of EUR 70 million, one of the world’s most efficient test centers for fastening technology is being built on a site spanning 15,000 square meters. We are combining research and science with the needs of our customers in state-of-the-art workshops and laboratories to bring our products to market even faster. This sends out a clear signal in terms of our innovative strength and manufacturing expertise. The project has us looking forward to the future. Let us hope that our spirit of optimism is not nipped in the bud. Let us hope that the war in Ukraine can be resolved soon.
The Central Managing Board of the Würth Group would like to thank everyone joining us as we look ahead: our customers, employees, the Councils of Confidence and Works Councils, the members of the Customer Advisory Board, the Supervisory Board of the Würth Group’s Family Trusts, the Advisory Board, and the Würth family, in particular Prof. Dr. h. c. mult. Reinhold Würth and Bettina Würth.
For the Central Managing Board
Chairman of the Central Managing Board of the Würth Group
(Photo: Frank Blümler)