Key focus on finances, as well as the event portfolio and company structure
"The reorganization of the infrastructure is completed. The focus now will be on structural issues," said Mayor and Supervisory Board Chairman Fritz Schramma as well as Koelnmesse CEO Gerald Böse at Koelnmesse's Annual Report Press Conference. They also announced further steps on the path of transforming the company "from a renter of space to a future-oriented provider of communication services." Now that the exhibition center is completed, said Böse, the focus is on finances and on the company structure and event portfolio. The key challenges result from the high fixed costs, particularly for renting property, as well as from the organization's complexity and the economic crisis, which has begun to affect the trade fair business. Despite the rather weak schedule of events in 2008, turnover at Koelnmesse was slightly above expectations, at €191.7 million. Net losses totaled €11.4 million as planned.
Important steps in 2008: 17 new fairs, Efficiency Program 2012plusAccording to Böse, several important steps were taken in 2008: "We have succeeded in attracting promising new sectors to Cologne as a trade fair venue. These include the games industry (gamescom), the digital advertising business (dmexco), and the building industry (WOWEX), as well as guest events such as CAR+SOUND, CareConcept - the trade fair for social welfare institutions, and the jeans trade fair JAM." A total of 17 new events will be added to the lineup in 2009, of which ten will be held in Cologne. Böse continued by saying that Koelnmesse was the first of the major German trade fair companies to launch an efficiency program (2012plus ), even before the economic crisis commenced. This is a concrete plan to boost efficiency, reduce costs, and generate additional turnover. "Through the 2012plus efficiency program we aim to save several million euros annually and be back in the black starting in 2012. The economic crisis has made it considerably more difficult to reach this objective."
The economic crisis: "The dry spell will continue"Böse stated that the effects of the crisis have reached the German trade fair business. Even though there is no general trade fair crisis and the events in the first half of 2009 were largely successful, some of the fairs are suffering from a drop in income and reduced visitor and exhibitor figures. The impact on the trade fair business is becoming visible with a time lag, and a sustained improvement will not set in before the second half of 2010. "The dry spell will continue," said Böse. Koelnmesse is facing additional challenges due to the company's complex structure in Germany and abroad, as well as the high fixed costs for the modernization and partial rebuilding of the exhibition center. The expenses here include nearly €27 million in rent payments each year.
To address the complex company structure, the Koelnmesse Executive Board is working on streamlining the organization, but has declared its intention of avoiding layoffs. In addition, it will engage in a proactive approach to strategic portfolio management, whose chief objective will be to "strengthen the company's strengths." The company will further aim to cut costs and grow profitably.
28,500 companies, 1,5 million visitorsIn the past business year, Koelnmesse organized 75 trade fairs and exhibitions on a total gross exhibition area of 2.5 million square meters. That included 24 events for which Koelnmesse was responsible and 25 guest events in Cologne, as well as 26 trade fairs and exhibitions abroad. Last year saw the premieres of eight events for which Koelnmesse is responsible, including spoga horse (spring), which is a new trade fair in Cologne, and seven new trade fairs abroad. Koelnmesse events all over the world were attended by approximately 28,500 exhibiting companies from 110 countries and almost 1.5 million visitors from 198 countries.
Turnover slightly above expectationsAccording to CFO Herbert Marner, consolidated turnover totaled €191.7 million in 2008. This was slightly above expectations and matched the result for the respective prior events. This result is especially good, considering that AUMA reports that the major consumer goods fairs shrank by 2.4 percent overall. This figure results from the consolidation of the turnover of Koelnmesse GmbH and the subsidiaries Koelnmesse Ausstellungen GmbH, Koelnmesse Service GmbH, and Koelnmesse International GmbH, as well as of the foreign subsidiaries.
The Koelnmesse consolidated companies posted a planned net loss of €11.4 million in fiscal year 2008. The earnings before interest, taxes and depreciation (EBITDA) but including property taxes were slightly negative, at minus €1.1 million. The equity ratio was 53.2 percent, or 2.5 percentage points higher than in the prior year. The largest share of the investment volume of about €7.5 million was spent in 2008 on further improving the exhibition grounds' appearance and the quality of stay, and therefore directly benefits the exhibitors and the visitors. Safety and lighting systems were replaced, the rest rooms were renovated, and the entrance to the Congress Center East was redesigned. In addition, Koelnmesse paid back loans totaling around €8 million.
The Koelnmesse consolidated companies had 647 people on its payrolls on average during fiscal year 2008, with around 130 of them employed by the foreign subsidiaries. The total in 2007 was 626 employees, of whom 96 worked abroad.
The year 2009 will see the largest number of events in the company's 85-year historyThe year 2009 will see a total of 77 trade fairs and exhibitions - the largest number of events in the 85-year history of Koelnmesse. That includes 27 events for which Koelnmesse is responsible and 25 guest events in Cologne, as well as 25 trade fairs and exhibitions abroad. Ten of these events in Cologne will be premieres, and there will also be seven premieres abroad - the same number as in 2008.