From 2017 onwards, Covestro expects to grow in line with its industries that are forecasted to grow above global GDP. These prospects are expected to result in continued strong cash generation: the company anticipates generating a cumulative free operating cash flow of EUR 5 billion over the next five years.
On the use of this cash, CEO and interim CFO Patrick Thomas said: “We see three basic ways: firstly, we remain committed to our attractive dividend policy of paying an increasing or at least stable dividend. Secondly, we look at bolt-on acquisitions to boost our specialty businesses. Lastly, we have no reason to hoard liquidity if no significant external investment opportunity arises. We intend to return excess cash to our shareholders after 24 months without significant M&A activity. This return could be done via share buybacks or special dividends.”
In order to support its continued organic growth ambitions, Covestro follows a smart capex approach that is set to bring back capex spending above depreciation and amortization in the mid-term, from its current position.This includes a number of debottlenecking projects as well as brown-field investments.
Meanwhile, the company’s portfolio should be increasingly geared towards differentiated products. Already today, more than 50% of sales and around 70% of earnings are generated with resilient businesses, based on FY 2016 numbers. Covestro is working on further detaching its business from cyclicality, partly through close collaborations with customers and tailored innovations, as Chief Commercial Officer and future CEO Dr. Markus Steilemann explained: “To outpace global growth we need to innovate and work closely with our value chain to anticipate and fulfill its needs. We are well prepared to develop tailored solutions and become even more customer-centric. In addition we are continuously looking for new ways to embed sustainability in our products and processes.”
Alternative resources are one focus the company has in this regard. Biomass for coatings, CO2 instead of oil-based feedstock for polyols, and bio-based aniline are three major milestones that Covestro achieved recently. So the company is well positioned to create value by supplying innovative and leading material solutions that help to solve the world’s challenges – constantly pushing boundaries to make the world a brighter place.