Paul Wurth in 2020: a resilient performance and new opportunities

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Under the chairmanship of Michel Wurth, the Ordinary General Meeting of shareholders of Société Anonyme Paul WURTH was held on 11 May 2021 to approve amongst others the financial statements for the year 2020.

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11/05/2021 |
  • Paul Wurth

Given the very challenging global environment which prevailed in 2020, Paul Wurth Group’s business showed a good resilience to the Covid-19 triggered economic downturn. The year under review saw also a general strong drive towards decarbonisation of the industry, supporting the Group’s research and innovation strategy for carbon-neutral technological solutions.

Economic climate and commercial situation

The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic sharply exacerbated the already strained situation of the steel industry, with subsequent consequences on the steelmakers’ investment activity, on travelling and visits as well as on project execution. In the face of the coronavirus crisis, the primary focus throughout the Paul Wurth Group was on efficiently protecting the health of its employees, partners and other stakeholders, while ensuring business continuity. Whereas in spring, when the first lockdowns hit larger geographic areas and key economies, the outlook for the financial year was quite pessimistic, the remaining months of the year allowed to catch up the subdued demand to some extent. The order intake of the Group finally reached 393 million euros at the end of the year, which is only 7.7% down on 2019’s volume. This good result was achieved thanks to the contribution of two important orders secured by Paul Wurth’s cokemaking segment in the East Asian region. In blast furnace technology, the Indian group JSW Steel reactivated in 2020 its project to build a new blast furnace, generating some significant orders for Paul Wurth in early 2021. Finally, the Group’s service and maintenance activities largely supported last year’s order intake.

Making proven technology fit for the future

Over the last few years, the Group has been extending its offering of innovative CO2 reducing technologies for existing integrated steel plants. Paul Wurth’s “Enhanced Blast Furnace” is capable of substantially reducing the carbon footprint of this established and proven technology. This target was precisely achieved with the start of coke oven gas injection at Rogesa’s blast furnaces No. 4 & 5 in Dillingen/Germany in October 2020. A similar coke oven gas injection concept, allowing for a reduced recourse to fossil reductants and thus leading to reduced CO2 emissions, convinced Hüttenwerke Krupp Mannesmann to choose Paul Wurth for engineering and construction of a coke oven gas compression and injection system at its two existing blast furnaces in Germany.

Given the disruptive circumstances which prevailed during the year, project execution tasks and site activities often asked for creative solutions and remote connexions, giving a boost to Paul Wurth’s digital service offer. The Group reacted and identified key digital technologies that could help to quickly optimise project management processes, resolve specific issues and efficiently cope with the lack of physical presence at the customers.

Besides the Group’s industrial activities, Paul Wurth Geprolux as well experienced unprecedented working conditions on civil construction sites and supported its customers in implementing sanitary measures and updating project schedules as a consequence of the lockdown. Even though Paul Wurth Geprolux concluded the year 2020 with a strong business volume. Similarly, CTI Systems was able to even improve the order intake of the previous year thanks to important contracts in material handling and storage. The intralogistics specialist seized the opportunity to develop innovative solutions for the aviation sector that is looking for new, complementary business openings. This promising development materialised in 2020 in first orders.

Results for the financial year 2020

Turnover for the year was 403.7 million euros, down by 15.7% from the level reported in 2019. Paul Wurth closed the financial year 2020 with a net profit of 4.9 million euros (compared with 14.4 million euros in 2019).

Green Steel and decarbonisation of the industry

In 2020, the initiatives towards decarbonising the industry and the race to the first industrially produced green steel products gained momentum. The efforts for developing and scaling up carbon-neutral technologies and in particular the decisive potential seen in hydrogen, were echoed in politics, with many national governments and international institutions unveiling their roadmaps for energy transition and a hydrogen based economy. This effervescence about the carbon neutral industry of the future shows that the Group’s strategy to develop CO2 reducing, green technologies is on the right track.

In the steel industry, promising exchanges with leading players along the entire metal production chain, such as Rio Tinto in Canada, CAP in Chile, ArcelorMittal in France, Dillinger in Germany or NLMK in Russia, resulted for Paul Wurth in a number of partnership agreements and contracts aimed at evaluating the feasibility of green H2-based steelmaking.

As for the second pillar of the Group’s hydrogen related activities, which are Power-to-X applications in the energy sector, Paul Wurth’s development initiatives in 2020 have been well progressing. The company is namely participating in the Norsk e-Fuel joint venture, planning Europe’s first commercial plant for hydrogen based renewable aviation fuel in Norway, in the EU-funded Multiplhy project to build a green hydrogen generation plant for a biofuel refinery in Rotterdam as well as in the EU-funded MegaSyn project to install a high-temperature co-electrolyser system to produce renewable syngas at an Austrian refinery.

With the decarbonisation of the industry and the related enormous technological transformation, new opportunities are arising, calling for strong partners. To this end, Paul Wurth and its shareholder SMS group are pooling their competences and strengths with the common aim of continuing to set technological standards in these forward-looking fields. With this step, Luxembourg will become a global innovation center for metallurgy and hydrogen technology within SMS group. To strengthen scientific research and development of hydrogen technologies at the Luxembourg site, a strategic partnership was agreed with the University of Luxembourg by creating a Chair for Energy Process Engineering.

Thanks to this strategic positioning, the company is well-fitted to tackle the challenges ahead and confident that the Paul Wurth brand will remain synonymous worldwide for innovative, performant and sustainable solutions.

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