Despite surge in medical technology: Philips cancels annual targets

Frankfurt A sharp decline in the business with household appliances and consumer products due to the corona crisis has occurred in the Dutch PhilipsGroup slump in profit in the first quarter. In medical technology, however, the pandemic led to higher sales of ventilators and monitoring monitors for patients and ventilators, among other things. The demand for IT solutions for the healthcare industry and telemedical offerings also increased.

CEO Frans van Houten withdrew the annual targets still issued at the end of January, according to which sales should increase between four and six percent. Now the Philips CEO only expects a modest increase in sales and a similar improvement in the margin.

“Given the uncertainties and volatility, we cannot give a more specific outlook for 2020 at this point,” said van Houten. The company anticipates a further decline in business in the second quarter as the pandemic has spread worldwide since March. The company boss hopes for a recovery in the second half of the year.

The bottom line, the Philips boss sees the corona crisis as a confirmation of the corporate strategy of the past few years, in which the company has focused heavily on digital technologies. “We have always said that health IT and cloud-based solutions have to play a greater role in order to network providers with each other and with the patient.

The demand for such offers is now accelerating due to this crisis, ”said van Houten in an interview with the Handelsblatt. Among other things, Philips has developed a smartphone app that makes it easier for doctors to remotely care for Covid patients.

Nevertheless, medical technology was unable to compensate for the weak business with consumer products at Philips: Overall, sales in the first quarter remained almost stable at 4.2 billion euros. Calculated on a comparable basis – i.e. without currency effects and purchases and sales – sales shrank by two percent. Net profit decreased from € 162 million in the prior-year quarter to € 39 million.

Order intake increases by 23 percent

The first quarter results were below analysts’ expectations. Still, many stuck to their recommendations. Philips’ position as a manufacturer of urgently needed medical products will help the company to survive the crisis without major damage, say the analysts of the Commerzbank.

Positive news from Philips includes that order intake rose 23 percent in the first quarter. The company also adheres to the planned dividend payment of 0.85 cents, which is now to be paid out in shares.

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At the Euronext in Paris, Philips’ shares temporarily rose by more than seven percent. The titles of other medical technology companies such as Drägerwerk and Siemens Healthineers won.

The fact that the corona crisis brings medical technology companies an order boost does not apply to all companies in the industry. Because the pandemic is delaying some predictable operations, which has negative effects on manufacturers of artificial joints and surgical equipment.

The US company, for example, had last week Johnson & Johnson significantly reduced its sales forecast for the medical technology division. The family-owned company B. Braun, whose subsidiary Aesculap manufactures artificial joints and surgical devices, also expects demand in this business area to decline temporarily in the regions affected by the Corona crisis.

Philips also feels that these predictable, so-called elective interventions are being postponed. Especially in the cardiovascular area. Many cardiovascular surgeries that are supported with Philips imaging technology are being put on hold.

Frans Van Houten believes the impact on imaging techniques is quite large. For this reason, Philips expects sales in the Diagnostics & Treatment business areas to decline overall. “We expect these patients to come back in the third quarter when the situation normalizes,” says van Houten.

Production capacity is greatly expanded

In order to meet the significantly increased need for ventilators and patient monitoring systems, Philips is investing more than 100 million euros in expanding production capacities in the USA and also at the German location in Böblingen.

For example, the production of clinical ventilators is expected to increase fourfold by the third quarter. Among other things, Philips wants to serve a major order from the US government for 43,000 respiratory advisors and at the same time supply other regions with the urgently needed medical equipment.

Despite its corona crisis, Philips is sticking to its plan to split off the household appliances division. The company announced in January that it was parting from the 2.3 billion euro business with coffee machines, deep fryers and vacuum cleaners because it does not fit the company’s medical technology focus.

“We are making progress with the preparations to split off the household appliances division. We said the process takes 12 to 18 months. We are on target. ”Although the division saw double-digit sales losses in the first quarter, Houten does not believe that this will have a negative impact on price negotiations in a possible sales process.

“The household products business is a strong business. We know from previous crises like the SARS pandemic or the economic crisis how quickly business is recovering. We have a strong brand, ”the Philips boss is confident.

More: Philips CEO: “There will be no Google model in the health sector”

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