As expected, the biggest crisis in aviation history has left deep scars on RUAG International’s business figures. Net sales fell by almost 15 % to CHF 1,181 million (previous year: CHF 1,388 million) and EBIT to CHF –224 million (previous year: CHF –80 million). This was mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other things, it led to a massive slump in demand throughout the aviation industry. The corresponding activities of RUAG International suffered declines in sales of more than 30 % in some cases. But the pandemic also had a negative impact on business in all other areas through travel restrictions, lockdowns and project postponements. Most of the loss was due to impairments and provisions totalling approximately CHF 160 million, mostly related to COVID-19.
Impairments and provisions
The pandemic outbreak came at a particularly unfavourable time for some of RUAG International’s business segments, which were in the middle of restructuring. For example, the aerostructures business was in the final stages of a major stabilisation programme to put its activities on a resilient footing when the environment turned completely upside down. It is expected to take years for air traffic to return to pre-pandemic levels. For this reason, impairments and provisions totalling CHF 84 million were necessary in the year under review.
Added to these was a book loss of CHF 50 million in connection with the sale of the aviation activities in the RUAG MRO International business segment at the Oberpfaffenhofen site. A new strategic investor, General Atomics Europe, has been found for the site, which took on all 420 employees by the end of February 2021. Further provisions totalling over CHF 20 million relate to organisational adjustments decided at RUAG Space and the global support functions. At RUAG Ammotec and RUAG Space, pension obligations also had to be increased by CHF 7 million due to lower interest rates.
Performance of business segments
The four business segments of RUAG International performed differently in 2020. RUAG Space was held back in its development by the COVID-19 crisis and had to accept declining sales and also a negative business result. On the one hand, several major space programmes were postponed due to the change in priorities caused by the pandemic. Since none of the projects was cancelled, additional sales and profits can be expected in the future. The travel restrictions that came into force in the spring also had a negative impact on the segment’s results. They severely hampered the necessary transfer of know-how from Switzerland – especially to the USA – and thus the expansion of new production capacities at the Decatur site in Alabama.
Among other things, RUAG Space achieved promising successes with the launch of an extremely fast computer for satellites. “Lynx” is 250 times more powerful than many of the on-board computers in use today, perfectly meeting the artificial intelligence and machine learning requirements in space development programmes.
RUAG Aerostructures was the business segment most affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The massive slump of over 30 % in demand led to an immediate decline in business figures. Management responded swiftly by introducing short-time working hours, terminating temporary and contract worker agreements, and making adjustments to the working hours of permanent employees. It is encouraging to note that the relocation of work packages to the Eger site in Hungary was successfully completed practically at the same time as the outbreak of the crisis. At the end of the year, Eger also obtained EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) certification from the Hungarian aviation authority as an independent production plant. The three sites Emmen, Oberpfaffenhofen and Eger will thus be able to use their synergies and their specific qualities even more flexibly.
2020 once again proved to be a success story for RUAG Ammotec. Although the ammunition manufacturing business had to contend with some severe losses, both operationally and in terms of sales in various European market segments, due to the pandemic restrictions, sales increased by over 8 % compared with the previous year. The two growth drivers were the US Hunting and Sport market and the Armed Forces & Law Enforcement sector in Germany; in Switzerland, orders declined noticeably for the first time in years. With this year’s signing of a fiveyear contract for the Austrian police force, RUAG Ammotec is clearly one of the leading providers of police ammunition in German-speaking countries.
RUAG MRO International succeeded in selling its aviation business at the Oberpfaffenhofen site in the reporting year. The buyer, General Atomics Europe, intends not only to continue all activities but also to expand Oberpfaffenhofen into the Group’s European aviation core. However, the book loss associated with the sale, combined with the drastic effects of the pandemic, has led to a negative operating result for all aviation activities. On a positive note, the Simulation & Training business unit won an important contract for the French Army. This will involve RUAG MRO International developing simulators for the “Scorpion” land vehicle programme.
Organisation and personnel
With the separation of the balance sheets, as noted by the Swiss Federal Council on 22 April 2020, the material unbundling of the former RUAG was successfully completed. Since this date, RUAG International Holding Ltd and RUAG MRO Holding Ltd have been operating independently of each other, not only operationally but also legally.
With 6,299 full-time positions (previous year: 6,492) the number of employees has only slightly reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic. RUAG International managed to absorb the sometimes massive reductions in work volumes in close cooperation with staff representatives, for the most part through short-time working hours, flexible working models, the reduction of temporary and contract workers and the reduction of accrued vacation.
The reduction of up to 90 jobs at RUAG Aerostructures announced in February was a consequence of the strategic realignment of activities at the Emmen site and had nothing to do with the pandemic. In contrast, the announced reduction of up to 150 jobs in global support functions by the end of 2021 was connected to COVID-19 and prompted the company to adapt the support functions at an early stage to the reduced size of the company following the unbundling. Fair and socially-responsible solutions are being sought for all employees affected by job cuts. In Switzerland, a redundancy plan is to be implemented. The unbundling and founding of the new company were also accompanied by staff changes at management level in the reporting year. André Wall took over the management of RUAG International at the end of November. The experienced aviation manager comes from the Spanish airline Iberia, where he was CTO (Chief Technical Officer). Prior to that, Wall was CEO of SR Technics and Jet Aviation, among other positions. André Wall succeeds Urs Breitmeier, who left the company at the beginning of the year after 18 years. Under his leadership, RUAG has developed further into an international group.
Angelo Quabba took over the function of Chief Financial Officer in November 2020. He has extensive experience in the international M&A environment and most recently worked at Gurit and at Bruker BioSpin. He was also CFO of SR Technics for many years. Previous CFO Urs Kiener, who took over the CEO position on an interim basis at the beginning of the year, has decided to leave the company. He played a key role in shaping the Group over a total of 24 years in various management positions.
The Board of Directors and Senior Management would like to thank all those who have left for their exceptional commitment over many years and wish them all the best and continued success, both professionally and privately.
The pandemic has fundamentally changed the economic environment. In early summer, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the future of RUAG International was analysed and a strategy review was conducted. Based on this, the strategy of forming an Aerospace Group was halted. Instead, individual privatisations of the business segments are being implemented. The challenges are very different for the various business segments of RUAG International.
For RUAG Space, the aim is to seize the market opportunities offered by major space programmes worldwide in the coming months and years as successfully as possible and to return to profitability. To this end, the business segment launched a restructuring programme in December.
RUAG Aerostructures, on the other hand, has to adapt to a completely changed market situation. It is likely to take at least until 2025 for aircraft manufacturers to return to pre-pandemic volumes. The company also plans to make the necessary strategic adjustments in close coordination with its main customer Airbus.
RUAG Ammotec will continue to press ahead with the divestment plans approved by the Swiss Federal Council and is aiming for a sale by the end of 2021. For the business segment, which has been growing extremely successfully and stably for years, the aim is to work in coordination with the owner to find a buyer that wants to maximise the existing potential and that can open up additional market opportunities for the company.
RUAG MRO International continues to focus on the step-bystep divestment of the remaining business units. This includes, on the one hand, the business activities in Australia and Malaysia and, on the other hand, the search for a partner for the Simulation & Training business. The sale of the maintenance, repair and operations activities for business aircraft and military helicopters as well as the production of the Dornier 228 at the Oberpfaffenhofen site was closed by the end of February 2021.
Following the challenging reporting year, the Board of Directors and Executive Management are looking forward to rolling up their sleeves together with employees. We must adapt to the new situation, seize the opportunities that present themselves and together forge a path to a successful future.
RUAG International repositions itself
With the change at the top, the company is realigning itself. The new CEO, André Wall, has set out to make RUAG International faster and more agile and to align it more closely with the market and customers. In the long term, RUAG International will concentrate on cutting-edge technology for the space market and invest in innovative solutions. The focus will be on expanding market leadership in Europe and increasing global market access, particularly in the USA, but also in Asia – both for institutional and commercial programmes in the New Space environment. Instead of building a joint aerospace group, the individual business segments will continue to develop individually and will be privatised in the medium term. RUAG International has submitted the implementation plan for the new strategy to the Swiss Federal Council, which has noted and approved it.
RUAG International Holding Ltd.
sig. Dr. Remo Lütolf
sig. André Wall