Message of Nayla Hayek, Chair of the Swatch Group Board of Directors on the occasion of the Annual General Meeting of May 23, 2017, at the Velodrome in Grenchen (SO), Switzerland.
The spoken word (in German) is valid
Dear Fellow Shareholders,
Dear Madam, Dear Sir,
As you know, 2016 was a challenging year for all of us. But even more than in successful years, it is in the difficult ones that the two key principles guiding all our activities demonstrate their effectiveness: on the one hand, to remain true to the successful strategic courses we have steered throughout the existence of Swatch Group; and on the other, to act according to a long-term perspective.
Among these fundamental strategic courses, several deserve a special mention:
- the firm commitment to maintaining jobs throughout this difficult time even in the event of a significant reduction in turnover, or – still more significantly – in the event of a substantial reduction in net profit. We have never, even in hard times, regarded our staff simply as commodities, but as partners fully involved in future results, in innovation and in ensuring that our company thrives.
- the firm commitment not to exert unhealthy short-term negative pressure on our partners and retailers, but rather to continue investing in marketing in order to appeal to our millions of consumers all over the world.
- the refusal to adhere to an “end of the world” mentality in the oft-predominating global catastrophe scenario.
- the unshakable confidence in our expertise and the Swiss Made concept, the bedrock of all the fine qualities of our products.
Perhaps you remember that these guiding principles, as well as the desire to focus on the long term, can be traced back to our father, who was my predecessor as Chair of the Board of Directors. Among all the tangible, rational and reasonable steps that he constantly suggested and supported in the face of difficulties, there is one that might give the impression of being a black sheep in the midst of a white herd, namely: “Embrace the imagination of your six-year-old self, the fantasy of your childhood!” A veritable leitmotiv repeated on many occasions was: “You must be able to maintain the spirit of your childhood and continue to believe in Santa Claus. The entrepreneur filled with innovative ideas and imagination is in fact every one of us from the moment of our birth. Remember when we were six year-olds playing in the sand and building sand castles? Our imagination was boundless!”
These days, we only believe in Santa Claus in a somewhat distant manner. We have, however, decided to revisit this powerful idea of embracing the spirit of when we were six, the spirit of our childhoods. We decided to make it the theme of this year’s Annual Report, to reflect upon it and to see how it can open up new perspectives for us in a global environment beset by all sorts of issues.
The Swatch that you have received this year addresses this subject very specifically. A Swatch like this is not on the market – its strap has been specially made so that you can draw or write a message on it. Thus, the watch is white and along with it, you have received a colored marker. I invite you to let your imaginations run wild and to color the watch band according to your own personal taste, with a drawing or a message to a loved one or as a souvenir for yourself. But please, only color the top of the strap. This watch will definitely be a unique expression of your imagination!
It’s worth remembering that as six-year-olds, we almost never lose hope: if, when we are on holiday by the sea, a wave destroys the sand castle we’ve been building for hours while Mom works on her tan and Dad is thinking about having a drink, we start all over again. We start over because the result is not the only thing that counts. What matters is the project and carrying it through.
This imagination that we must rediscover, keep, and use is that which, combined with all our business experience, in conjunction with our in-depth assessments, our informed strategic decisions and our tireless endurance will enable us to return to the brilliant results that were denied us in 2016. It is this imagination that has enabled us, together with Swatch, to implement ‘the coolest way to pay’ with the Bellamy in China; to relaunch the POP collection; to develop the SISTEM51 Irony; to launch the “Deep Black” at Omega and the new version of the Fifty Fathoms at Blancpain; to dazzle with Harry Winston’s incredible pieces of jewelry; to introduce the ‘Industry 4.0’ concept at ETA and in our production companies; to continue to develop innovative industrialization methods at Renata for watchmaking batteries; and to conceptualize so many other exceptional products created by our company each year.
Imagination in a child is to do with the heart, not only the head. And heart is what is required of the management of a global industrial company.
Net sales of 7 553 million Swiss francs, a decrease of 10.6% in comparison to last year; an operating result of 805 million Swiss francs, equivalent to an operating margin of 10.7% (down 44.5% compared to 2015); net income of 593 million Swiss francs, equivalent to a net margin of 7.9% (down 47.0% compared to the previous year); and equity of 11.1 billion Swiss francs, equivalent to a still very high equity ratio of 84.5%. Taking these results into consideration, and in spite of the encouraging first months of 2017, the Board of Directors of Swatch Group is proposing a dividend of CHF 6.75 per bearer share and CHF 1.35 per registered share. Please note that despite the 47% decrease in net profit from last year, there is only a 10% drop in dividend from that paid in 2016 based on the results from the 2015 fiscal year.
And we are all happy that 2017 appears to be very promising.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Fellow Shareholders, by taking part in the future of our company, you share both the good and the more difficult times with us. I would like to express my warmest thanks to all of you. I also wish to express my gratitude to the Board of Directors, the Executive Group Management Board and the Extended Group Management Board, and to all of our 35 700 colleagues for their unwavering commitment during 2016, a year that was particularly filled with hurdles to overcome. Finally, I would like to thank each and every one of you for the trust you have placed in our company.
Chair of the Swatch Group Board of Directors
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