As in 2020, 2021 once again placed huge demands on the adaptability of Unica. Although more was known about COVID-19, the degree of social disruption was still considerable. For Unica, this once again demanded real attention for the physical health and wellbeing of the workforce. Throughout that process, the huge willingness to change among the almost 3,500 company employees in the course of the year proved a real boon to the management of Unica. For many of the employees, going that extra mile for each other is self-evident. As a consequence, broadly speaking, they were able to continue operations despite constantly changing measures to tackle COVID-19. The dedication and flexibility of the entire workforce deserves a real compliment.
The efforts of the workforce in combination with the wide variety of services provided by Unica meant that the company once again achieved considerable growth in 2021. The € 663 million generated revenue represented growth of more than 20% as compared with the previous financial year (€ 539 million). The improved profit margin stood out as a highpoint. An EBITA of € 52 million was recorded in 2021, resulting in an EBITA margin of 7.8%. Last year, the EBITA margin had fallen slightly to 7.0% as a consequence of various effects of the COVID-19 crisis, but 2021 saw the upward trend return. Almost all clusters contributed both to the growth and the improved profit situation, further evidence of the deep-rooted healthy spirit of entrepreneurship in the organisation.
Whereas the rise in revenue in previous years was mainly due to autonomous growth, acquisitions represented a more prominent share in 2021. The acquisition of Van Kempen Koudetechniek in December 2020 was reflected in the results for this financial year, but the acquisitions that were completed in 2021 also made a solid contribution to the development of Unica.
In May 2021, Unica completed the largest acquisition in the company’s history to date. The market leading technical system supplier Pranger-Rosier, above all active in the Northern Netherlands and with offices in Dokkum, Leeuwarden and Sneek, became part of the Unica Groep. This acquisition has reinforced the company’s regional position in an area where previously Unica’s activities were limited to offices in Groningen and Emmen. Pranger-Rosier has also contributed an attractive customer portfolio with prominent clients across the Northern Netherlands. The activities of Pranger-Rosier tie in seamlessly with those of Unica Building Services. As a consequence of this acquisition, the cluster with a total of 17 locations now offers almost full nationwide coverage.
Also in May 2021, two other companies, Gerco and Applicom, were acquired. These leading players in the market for passive fire protection in the Netherlands have been responsible for the installation of fire safety solutions in more than 30,000 buildings. Unica Fire Safety now offers a broad portfolio of products and services in the field of active fire safety. The acquisition has further strengthened this portfolio, enabling the cluster to offer integrated total solutions for fire-safe buildings. The high level of digitalisation in the service provision of the newly acquired businesses has also delivered an innovative boost to the fire safety activities of Unica as a whole.
The specialist domain of ICT technology was further reinforced in 2021 with the acquisition of In2Scope, Maasdijk-based specialists in the field of Microsoft Dynamics. In2Scope is involved in the implementation of Dynamics solutions in the field of Finance & Operations. The company has been integrated in the Unica ICT Solutions cluster, which already had considerable in-house expertise in Dynamics. This new addition will simplify integrated implementations of Microsoft Dynamics for clients. Unica ICT Solutions is a fast growing ICT service provider, already with a staff of more than 250 ICT professionals.
In addition to acquisitions, organic growth remains a spearhead in the strategy of Unica. The entrepreneurial spirit deeply rooted within the organisation and reflected in Unica’s decentralised management model means that all the businesses that make up the Unica Groep are also able to achieve solid independent growth. All of the more than 35 companies that belong to the Unica network contribute to the solid results and still represent broad further growth potential. The favourable developments on the market, among others driven by the energy transition, changes in the demographic situation in the country and the trend towards smarter buildings, offer more than sufficient opportunities for further growth over the coming years.
Based on those solid foundations, Unica also sees plenty of opportunities to be of added value for its clients. Specifically by offering a range of integrated services for the built environment, Unica companies are an attractive cooperation partner for its clients, that eradicates the need for calling in a different party in each individual field. On an operational and commercial level, Unica continues to invest in one-stop shop offers so that clients can select from the range of services they require, all according to the same service model. The smart use of technology and digital applications is an essential element of that process.
The war in Ukraine that started in early 2022 is understandably the cause of considerable geopolitical concern. At the moment of writing, the direct impact on the solid foundations and activities of Unica is negligible; we would like to express our deepest sympathy to the people of Ukraine, for their indescribable suffering.
Reliable and dedicated.
Nevertheless, Unica can only fulfil its growth ambitions as long as the company has access to sufficient qualified employees. Against the background of a difficult labour market, in particular for technical staff, retaining existing and attracting new employees is a high priority. Providing an attractive and challenging working environment is of crucial importance. Within both the Supervisory Board and the management of Unica, attention is clearly focused on being a reliable and dedicated employer, in order to further underpin the attractiveness of Unica as a place of employment.
Contact and consultation with the Board of Directors always take place in an atmosphere of good harmony. The composition of the Board of Directors changed in the spring of 2021, with the appointment of Ron van Laar as new CFO. The qualities and energy he contributes are a perfect match with the company culture at Unica, and he is expected to deliver a solid contribution to the further implementation of company strategy. He has broad experience in the facilitation of company growth, and with his engineering profile, he is in a perfect position to put that experience to work for Unica. The two-man Board of Directors now consists of Ron van Laar and John Quist, as CEO.
Ron was appointed new CFO as a successor to Bert Moser, who after 33 years of service stepped down as a Director of Unica. Throughout the years, Bert made a major contribution to the development of the company. We would like to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt gratitude for his efforts. We are delighted that Bert will continue to contribute this extensive knowledge of the company as an advisor to the Supervisory Board.
In addition to the regular meetings, the Supervisory Board frequently organised short digital consultation sessions with the Directors. As well as discussing the usual subjects such as results and market development, HRM, ICT, compliance and Mergers & Acquisitions, much consideration was given in the past year to updating the Unica strategy, a project that was concluded at the end of 2021 and that now forms the framework for the company’s development over the coming years. The two consultation meetings attended by a delegation from the Works Council were much appreciated by the Supervisory Board.
Signing of the financial statements
The Board of Directors discussed the financial statements for 2021 with Deloitte Accountants and the financial statements were signed by the Supervisory Board. The shareholders were asked to adopt the financial statements and to accept the proposal for the appropriation of profits. The shareholders were also recommended that the Board of Directors should be discharged from liability for its management, and that the Supervisory Board should be discharged from liability for their supervision.
Unica enjoys a positive outlook and based on the services the company provides, is in a position to deliver a meaningful contribution to solving many complex challenges facing society. Together with my fellow members of the Supervisory Board, Luc Hendriks and Henk ten Hove, I look forward to contributing to the success of Unica in my capacity as chairman of the Supervisory Board.
Hoevelaken, 31 March 2022
Chairman of the Supervisory Board