Vossloh, a long-standing and globally leading provider of products and services related to rail infrastructure, built on the successful first quarter of the 2021 fiscal year and increased its sales and earnings in the second quarter as expected. Group sales for the first half of 2021 came to €462.6 million, an increase of 17.7 percent compared to the previous year's figure (€393.2 million). Every division contributed to this improvement. The business with rail fastening systems provided by far the biggest sales growth in absolute terms. Orders received totaled €459.4 million (previous year: €494.8 million) in the first half of the current fiscal year, roughly equivalent to the significantly improved sales figure. In addition, Vossloh was able to announce the winning of multi-year framework agreements with a total sales volume well in excess of €100 million in the first half of 2021. The framework agreements are not reported directly in the orders received, but only at the time of the call-offs by the customer. EBIT went up to €42.4 million, a notable 41.2 percent rise compared to the previous year's figure of €30.1 million. The EBIT margin rose from 7.6 percent in the first half of 2020 to 9.2 percent in the period under review. EBITDA also went up from €55.0 million to €68.4 million year on year, while the EBITDA margin increased from 14.0 percent to 14.8 percent. The figures for the previous year included a significant one-time effect related to the transitional consolidation of a company in the Core Components division. The increase in earnings and profitability was therefore even more pronounced on an operational basis.
The Vossloh Group's financial position also continued to improve. The equity ratio went up considerably to 44.6 percent on the reporting date of June 30, 2021 (previous year: 31.7 percent). Net financial debt (excluding lease liabilities) went down significantly to €200.6 million (June 30, 2020: €358.0 million). These changes were driven mainly by the successful placement of a hybrid note of €150 million in February 2021 as well as the positive free cash flow in Vossloh's core business over the past twelve months. The hybrid note is recognized as equity in accordance with IFRS accounting standards.
On July 26, Vossloh signed an agreement to acquire the entirety of Dutch company ETS Spoor B.V. The transaction is due to be completed on July 30, 2021. ETS Spoor is currently a leading provider in the technologically sophisticated and highly innovative Dutch market for rail infrastructure components and services. ETS Spoor has close links with all of the major clients in the region and has a number of well-established business relationships with several partners, including Vossloh. ETS Spoor also has exclusive distribution agreements in place with providers of products and services which Vossloh does not offer. These will round out Vossloh's regional portfolio in the sense of a one-stop shop. This aspect, for instance, is of decisive importance with regard to future-oriented service models.
'Our outstanding performance in the first half of the year shows that the path we have chosen is the right one. Our decision to concentrate on our core competence of rail infrastructure is clearly paying off. The process of restructuring that we started in 2019 and meanwhile completed is continuing to bear fruit. After years of improving our operations, we are now turning our attention to shaping our future. The acquisition of ETS Spoor in the Netherlands is another strategically important step forward for us and will play a significant role in our development of innovative and future-oriented service models. Demand for passenger and freight mobility is increasing worldwide. This demand, combined with the growing importance of sustainability, will have a positive impact on our business over the long term. The major investment programs being implemented by countries around the world provide impressive evidence of this trend,' said Oliver Schuster, Chief Executive Officer of Vossloh AG. 'Our comprehensive and integrated range of products and services is unique worldwide. Our expertise and customer focus are highly regarded in the market. This position of strength and our excellent finances provide Vossloh with a lot of interesting room to maneuver. I am convinced that we will remain on course for profitable growth.'
Core Components division improves sales revenues by 39.9 percent
Vossloh's Core Components division increased its sales in the first half of 2021 to €230.4 million (previous year: €164.7 million). This significant increase was mainly driven by the Fastening Systems business unit's improved business in China, largely as a result of deliveries being delayed from 2020 until 2021 due to the pandemic. The sales revenues of the business unit went up by €64.7 million in the 2021 reporting period to €156.4 million (previous year: €91.7 million). The revenues of the Tie Technologies business unit remained stable at €77.2 million (previous year: €77.9 million). Orders received by the Core Components division came to €201.7 million in the first six months of 2021 (previous year: €187.4 million). The order backlog fell to €212.6 million on June 30, 2021. The decrease compared to the previous year's figure (June 30, 2020: €295.3 million) was largely due to the planned reduction of the high order backlog in Australia and China. The Core Components division achieved an EBIT of €35.2 million in the first half of 2021 (previous year: €27.9 million). The EBIT margin went down from 16.9 percent in the previous year to 15.3 percent. When adjusted for the one-time effect in the previous year, the EBIT margin went up substantially.
Customized Modules division records significant improvement in profitability
The Customized Modules division generated €192.3 million in sales, a slight improvement compared to the previous year (€186.5 million). Sales growth in markets including Australia, Egypt and the United Kingdom compensated for lower sales in France, Poland and Israel. Orders received came to €195.3 million in the first six months of 2021, down on the previous year's high figure of €251.2 million. The order backlog totaled €341.4 million at the end of the first half of 2021, exceeding the previous year's figure of €337.8 million. EBIT went up considerably to €14.6 million (previous year: €8.7 million). The EBIT margin rose to 7.6 percent (previous year: 4.7 percent). This improvement is mainly attributable to operational efficiency gains.
Consistent performance from the Lifecycle Solutions division
The Lifecycle Solutions division generated sales revenues of €47.8 million in the first half of 2021, in line with the previous year's performance (€47.2 million). Rail and switch grinding sales fell year on year as expected. This decline was compensated for by higher earnings from machinery sales and stationary welding and logistics. Orders received came to €71.1 million during the reporting period, a considerable rise compared to the previous year's figure of €60.4 million. The order backlog of €32.4 million also exceeded the figure from the previous year (€23.7 million). The division's EBIT came to €1.1 million, on par with the previous year. The EBIT margin also remained stable at 2.2 percent. Earnings from machinery sales went up while the division posted lower earnings from services. Vossloh expects the division's profitability to increase over the course of the year.
In the first half of 2021, the average number of employees in the Vossloh Group was 3,589 (previous year: 3,484). The increase in the workforce was largely due to the full consolidation of an Indian company in the Customized Modules division.
Sales guidance for 2021 raised in July
Vossloh has revised its sales guidance upwards for the current fiscal year. The company now expects sales to be between €900 million to €950 million, compared to the previous range of €850 million to €925 million. The Fastening Systems business unit and the Customized Modules division in particular are showing improvements. In terms of profitability, Vossloh has not changed its guidance of an EBITDA margin of 13 percent to 14 percent and an EBIT margin of 7 percent to 8 percent for the 2021 fiscal year. Vossloh remains committed to its profitability guidance even though the significant increase in material prices is expected to have a material negative impact on Vossloh's figures, particularly in the second half of 2021. The company's overall operational profitability will be considerably higher than in the previous year.