Message from the Chairman and the Chief Executive Officer

Dear reader,

The year 2013 was a challenging year for the global economy. Most industrial and infrastructure markets remained depressed. The volatile and increasingly competitive environment in Asia has led to significant price pressure in most markets. GDP growth in the eurozone showed gradual improvement at a still low overall level. In North America, as a result of increased imports, domestic industries had difficulty leveraging the consumer demand rebound. Additionally, most of the Latin American economies stalled due to either lower demand or an unfavorable monetary and fiscal climate.

2013, the year that was: business and economy

In this volatile and uncertain year for global economies, Bekaert held strong. Our company was able to maintain stable volumes and raise profitability. Our teams actively defended our market positions in target sectors, and we are highly appreciative of our customers and other business partners who confirmed their confidence in Bekaert as a preferred supplier or strategic partner.

We took the measures needed to secure our unchanged strategic ambition of sustainable profitable growth. We continued to expand our market presence and product portfolio in response to the needs of our customers in the various sectors we serve. And we succeeded in regaining the financial and business power to invest in future growth.

A year of transition – preparing for future growth

2013 will be remembered as a transition year for Bekaert, one that positions our company well for the future. It was the first year after the implementation of a significant restructuring, which was necessary to adapt to the new business reality in the solar markets. 2013 was also the year where the ideas and actions of the € 100 million savings target gradually came into effect. We want to thank our employees for their active support and resilience in implementing the many savings and structural changes. We were convinced that these actions would help turn the tide towards increased profitability and competitiveness
- and our teams have proven that to be true. While a number of external factors overshadowed and tempered the impact of the savings efforts, including unfavorable market circumstances, the precarious situation in Venezuela, the adverse effects of currency movements and various monetary and fiscal regulations, the effect of the restructuring is visible in the 2013 financial results; it is expected to be durable and to grow to its full potential in the coming years. 

We went through many developments in 2013. We prepared ourselves to seize market opportunities wherever and whenever they occur. The seeds for future growth were sowed with investments and innovation initiatives in all business platforms and regions.

As we enter 2014 with a better starting ground, a greater determination to succeed, and a strong commitment to provide exceptional customer service, we are confident of the future perspectives for our business and of our resolve to manage both the opportunities and the challenges ahead.

2013 was also the year in which the succession process of the company’s Chairman and CEO commenced. We were proud to announce on 27 August 2013 the Board’s decision to appoint Matthew Taylor as CEO designate. Matthew will assume the position of CEO of Bekaert in May 2014. We are convinced that he will lead Bekaert to future successes, and will align the interests of our shareholders, customers, employees and other stakeholders with a view on long-term sustainability.

The Board of Directors also decided to appoint Bert De Graeve as Chairman of the Board in succession of Baron Buysse as from May 2014. These decisions followed a successful succession planning process that focused on the assurance of the continuity of direction at the level of the Board and of the Executive Management.

The Board is confident that the company’s strategy will continue to strengthen its growth potential. This confidence is demonstrated by the Board’s decision to propose to the General Meeting of Shareholders in May 2014, the distribution of a gross dividend of € 0.85 per share.

Bekaert’s Board of Directors, management team and employees are committed to achieving the company’s ambitions as a market and technology leader in the various sectors we serve, and will set the direction for sustainable profitable growth, in support of all our valued stakeholders.

Bert De Graeve
Baron Buysse CMG CBE
Chairman of the Board of Directors
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