The business unit Specialty Businesses comprises three sub-segments that serve different markets. These sub-segments are Building Products; Fiber Technologies; and Combustion Technologies. The characteristics they all three have in common are their high-end product portfolio and advanced technologies, and their continuous search for lightweight solutions and environmentally-friendly applications.
Building Products develops and manufactures products that reinforce concrete, masonry, plaster and asphalt. Fiber Technologies offers high-end products for filtration, heat-resistant textiles, electroconductive textiles, the safe discharge of static energy, sensor technologies, and the semiconductor business. Combustion Technologies targets heating markets with environmentally-friendly gas and hydrogen burners and residential and commercial heat exchangers.
Building Products represents the largest part of the business unit’s sales. Business conditions slowed down in 2020 due to temporarily suspended tenders for new public infrastructure projects in anticipation of government incentives and recovery programs, and due to global, pandemic-induced economic uncertainties. The growth potential of Bekaert’s Dramix® steel fibers for concrete reinforcement remains robust and promising, seen the environmental, ergonomic, and total cost of ownership advantages versus traditional bar and rebar reinforcement.
The Fiber Technologies activities saw a demand drop in diesel particulate filter media due to the slowdown in automotive OEM, offset by increased business in other sectors. Both the Fiber Technologies and the Combustion Technologies are orienting their focus on existing and adjacent applications and markets with growth potential arising from megatrends including renewable energy, decarbonization, and sensor technologies.
The business unit Specialty Businesses reported a sales decrease of -5.9% for the full year 2020, compared to 2019.
Specialty Businesses delivered an underlying EBIT result of € 45 million, -13% below last year and reaching an underlying EBIT margin on sales of 11.4% (versus 12.2% last year). The reduction primarily resulted from inventory write-offs and other adjustments in Combustion Technologies (€ -5 million), a lower result in Fiber Technologies due to weaker demand for high-value adding products, and higher loss generation in (diamond) sawing wire versus last year. The profit contribution of Building Products remained strong. The underlying EBITDA margin of the Business Unit reached 15.5%, slightly below the margin of last year.
See summary of financial review for more details on the segments’ financial performance.
Bekaert is collaborating with CCL, a global specialist in post-tensioning for the building industry, to develop new concrete reinforcing systems that lower the total cost of ownership as well as the carbon footprint of concrete constructions. Both companies combine their expertise to create a solution that is unique in the industry of elevated slabs.
The advantages are clear: we reduce labor, transport and material while improving building performance. Moreover, this system enables easier installation which leads to a faster construction cycle and a higher quality assurance. As a result, the total cost of ownership and environmental impact are significantly reduced.
Along with other major investors, Bekaert has invested in Cargo Sous Terrain (CST), a complete logistics system for the flexible transport of goods in Switzerland. The project aims at bringing most of the cargo transportation underground through tunnels that connect production and logistics sites with urban centers. Overground, CST plans the distribution of goods to their final destination in environmentally-friendly vehicles. The system aims at a reduction of overground traffic and the related noise and exhaust emissions.
Bekaert supports this ambitious, innovative program by investing capital and by offering technical advice on the concrete reinforcement and elevator solutions that will help realize the project.
Bekaert produces micro cables with an extreme performance that are used as antenna booster in durable RFID tags, for example in industrial laundering. With this long-lasting antenna, the RFID tags can withstand the harshest industrial environments.
RFID tags are progressively used as a replacement for barcodes as they offer added benefits: they can be (bulk) read from a distance even when covered and they are less prone to wear and tear, resulting in a longer lifetime.
Building Products has successfully brought Murfor® Compact to more applications and territories in 2020.
Murfor® Compact, Bekaert’s high-performance masonry reinforcement, is a sturdy mesh of high tensile strength steel cords, supplied on a roll for thin joint masonry and glued brickwork. This lightweight product is easy to handle and install. As the product can be cut to size on-site, scrap is reduced to an absolute minimum.