For almost all companies, the year 2020 was all about their ability to adapt. The Covid-19 crisis led to unprecedented situations for everyone; flexibility and creativity were required to carry on working under the Covid-19 measures applicable at any given time. First and foremost, we would like to compliment and thank all employees at Unica for their dedication, flexibility and perseverance. This meant that the negative effects of the Covid-19 crisis remained relatively limited for Unica. The Supervisory Board was naturally in frequent contact with the Board of Directors and Unica management throughout the year. They proved themselves highly skilled in managing the impact of the Covid-19 crisis. Unica’s management also deserves a compliment for the calm, focused and enterprising manner in which they dealt with the consequences of this crisis.
Of course, the main emphasis in their approach was on the health and well-being of the employees and the necessary preventive measures to minimise the risk of infection with Covid-19. The instruction for the office employees was to work from home wherever possible, while more extensive measures were required for the employees working in the field. The guiding principle here was to adhere strictly to the guidelines of the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) using the protocol ‘Carry on working together safely’ (Samen veilig doorwerken), which was developed by the industry association in the construction and technical sector. Even so, considerable alertness and adaptability were demanded of the employees working the field in particular so that they could continue their work without being subjected to health risks.
Thanks in part to the fantastic efforts of all the employees and the measures to limit risks, Unica once again managed to achieve substantial growth in 2020. With revenue growing by over 11.5% to €539 million, Unica was able to continue the already impressive growth figures of recent years. EBITA rose from €35.1 million in 2019 to €37.5 million in 2020. There was a slight fall in the EBITA margin from 7.3% to 7.0%. This break in the trend is due to the Covid-19 crisis: while the consequences were relatively limited for Unica, they could not be avoided entirely. It can be concluded that Unica is a highly crisis-proof organisation. The decentralised system of governance in which the various companies of the Unica Group operate independently encourages an energetic and entrepreneurial response deep in the organisation, which has many advantages in such uncertain times. Moreover, there is considerable diversity in Unica’s operations and the market segments that it serves, which means that it is not dependent on a few dominant sectors badly affected by the Covid-19 crisis.
This spread is reflected in the network of nine clusters into which Unica has grouped its companies. In the past year, all of those clusters made a positive contribution to Unica’s good results and its growth. Although in previous years the relatively new clusters, including Access & Security, ICT Solutions and Fire Safety, experienced the strongest growth, the traditional clusters Building Services and Building Projects also recorded healthy growth figures in 2020. The strategic focus on the industrial sector is evident in the results for the Industry Solutions cluster, which showed a strong growth in both revenues and return.
Part of the growth in the industry domain results from acquisitions. PCT Koudetechniek was acquired in March 2020, followed in December by the acquisition of Van Kempen Koudetechniek. With these acquisitions, refrigeration technology has been added as a new specialist field. Unica sees opportunities for this specialism not just in industry but also in other disciplines such as data centres, heating and cooling systems and air conditioning. What is more, the client portfolios of PCT and Van Kempen give Unica access to the food industry, a sector that is less susceptible to economic cycles.
In 2020, Unica also reinforced its network of companies relating to intelligent building automation. The expertise in measurement and control technology was boosted with the addition of Numan & Kant. Furthermore, the acquisition of this company in Strijen (Zuid-Holland) marked the further regional expansion of the Building Intelligence cluster, to which Numan & Kant was added. This cluster now operates nationwide with offices throughout the Netherlands, which means Unica can serve all clients in their own region.
Acquisitions will continue to play an important role in Unica’s growth strategy, whereby the aim for each cluster is to both strengthen nationwide coverage and extend the specialised knowledge.
Our Supervisory Board has of course had more frequent contact than usual with the Board of Directors this past year. At the start of the Covid-19 crisis, we met weekly to discuss the possible effects of the crisis in detail. The frequency of the meetings was scaled back in the course of the year. However, the ease of digital meetings was appreciated to such an extent that it was decided to increase the frequency of the regular meetings between the Supervisory Board and Board of Directors.
There were other topics on the agenda of the meetings as well, of course. Digitisation and innovation, employee engagement, the acquisition strategy and safety were all discussed in the past year, for example. Furthermore, the Supervisory Board invited various cluster directors and shared services directors to its meetings to discuss progress in the areas for which they are responsible. Additionally, one meeting was held with a delegation from the Works Council and one meeting with the full Works Council.
The Covid-19 crisis will have an impact on economic growth in 2021 and the years to follow, and there remains considerable uncertainty about the effects that may be expected. Permanent effects on the private sector will likely become apparent as the support measures introduced in the Covid-19 crisis are phased out. Although Unica is a strong, resilient company with a stable basis, caution is needed towards delayed effects of the Covid-19 crisis over the next few years. On the other hand, the expected changes to buildings as a result of Covid-19 present opportunities for Unica, as do the international climate objectives, which will remain a priority in the years ahead.
The need to retain and recruit employees will be as much of a focal point as ever in Unica’s strategy. Hundreds of new employees will be needed in the next few years if Unica’s growth targets are to be achieved. We are confident that Unica will still be able to attract sufficient new employees in the future given its positioning as an appealing employer, its clear-cut growth strategy and its good employee benefits.
The Board of Directors prepared the 2020 financial statements and Deloitte Accountants audited them and issued an unqualified auditor’s report. The findings were discussed in the presence of the Board of Directors and the external auditor, after which the financial statements were signed by the Supervisory Board. The shareholders were asked to therefore adopt the financial statements and accept the profit appropriation proposed by the Board of Directors. Furthermore, it was recommended that the Board of Directors should be discharged from liability for its management and that our Supervisory Board should be discharged from liability for our supervision.
Given the positive outlook for Unica and the enjoyable working relationship with John Quist and Bert Moser, who jointly form the Board of Directors, and my fellow members of the Supervisory Board (Luc Hendriks and Henk ten Hove), it has been my pleasure to chair the Supervisory Board. I look forward to continuing my contribution in that capacity to the success of Unica.
Hoevelaken, 26 March 2021
Chairman of the Supervisory Board