Accell Group had an exciting year in 2018. A lot happened and we worked hard on the implementation of our refined strategy, the formation of the new team and the transition of our organisation. Towards the end of the year, we took the decision to focus on our core business in Europe and will explore strategic options for our North American business.
In 2018, net turnover came in € 26 million higher (+2.4%) partly on the back of the positive development in electric bike sales in the German-language, southern European and Scandinavian countries. Our bicycle parts and accessories business and the acquisition of Velosophy also contributed to the higher turnover. We saw a decline in bicycle sales in the Benelux and North America. In North America this was largely due to a drop in Diamondback and Raleigh sales, in part due to the loss of a large client in the multi-sports channel in the previous year. In the Benelux, the decline was primarily due to our decision to bid farewell with a large internet client.
The share of e-bikes in overall bicycle turnover increased to 71% in 2018, from 63% a year-earlier. The volume in bicycle sales declined by 1.9% in Europe and by 55% in North America, which resulted in an overall decline of 15% in the number of bicycles sold. The decline in volume involved traditional bicycles.
The added value increased by some 140 basis points to 29.7% in 2019 (2017: 28.3%). The main reason for this increase included cost-savings and the positive contribution from e-bikes in the product mix. North America made a positive numerical contribution compared to 2017, due to a one-off correction for import levies in that year. In addition, an accounting correction also contributed to the improvement in margin, as revenue from delivery costs invoiced to clients is now recognised in turnover, while it was previously included in the distribution costs.
The operating result declined to € 33 million in 2018, from € 38 million in 2017, partly as a result of an increase in the overhead and consultancy costs (which were € 28 million higher at € 292 million) and due to the implementation of the refined strategy. These costs were primarily expenses for the set-up of the centralised e-commerce, marketing and innovation department and associated costs related to the introduction of new IT systems (such as ERP and CRM). In addition, as part of our strategy we invested in the centralisation of activities in the field of bicycle parts and accessories. The acquisition of Velosophy also increased costs, while spending in our production facilities in Europe was higher due to the growth and increasing complexity of e-bike production.
The tax rate declined to 44% in 2018, from 65% in the previous year. This relatively high tax rate was due to non-compensable losses at our North American business.
Net profit came in € 9.2 million higher as a result of the net revaluation profit on the acquisitions Velosophy and Beeline in 2018.
Working capital had declined by around 300 basis points to 26.4% at year-end 2018 (year-end 2017: 29.5%). This was largely due to an increase in accounts payable.
The return on invested capital fell to 6.4% in 2018, from 7.8% in 2017. This was largely due to the lower operating result in combination with an increase in invested capital, due in part to the acquisition of Velosophy.
For purposes of comparison, the table below shows the condensed consolidated statement of income, as well as the condensed statement of income for our core business (excluding North America).
PERFORMANCE PER SEGMENT
Net turnover in this segment was up 1.7% at € 845 million. The share of e-bikes in overall bicycle turnover increased to 71% in 2018. The overall segment result declined due to the extra investments we made in connection with the implementation of our refined strategy.
Bicycle turnover in our core business (excluding North America) increased by 6.5%. Volume was down 1.9%, with the decline particularly marked in the Netherlands (where we bid farewell to a large internet client) and the United Kingdom (less focus on traditional bikes with a low margin).
The e-MTBs of Haibike, Ghost and Lapierre were once again responsible for the bulk of the growth. Demand for electric sports bikes continues to show strong growth in Europe, while demand for regular bikes is under pressure in most countries, both in terms of volume and value. In North America, we saw a sharp decline in both bicycle turnover (-36%) and sales volume (-55%).
The segment result declined due to the extra investments, largely related to the implementation of our refined strategy.
BICYCLE PARTS AND ACCESSORIES
Net turnover in the bicycle parts and accessories segment was up € 12 million at € 249 million in 2018 (+ 4.9%). We saw particularly strong growth in the second half of the year (+ 10.3%), partly driven by more integrated and centralised management and the growth of the XLC brand.
The segment result declined as a result of the extra investments in centralised management and investments in e-commerce and the IT infrastructure.
PERFORMANCE PER REGION
In Germany, turnover continued to grow mainly on the back of strong demand for e-bikes. Our brands Haibike, Ghost and Winora have successfully responded to consumer demand with the right innovations in e-bikes. Turnover in bicycle parts and accessories also increased in Germany. Bicycle turnover in the Netherlands declined, following our decision to bid farewell to a large internet client in 2018.
In Southern Europe, our bicycle turnover increased, primarily on the back of strong demand for Lapierre’s electric sports bikes in the second half of the year. In the United Kingdom, the greater focus on premium bikes and e-bikes resulted in stable turnover. In Scandinavia, our brands showed strong growth, particularly in e-bikes and bicycle parts and accessories. In 2018, the market in Sweden benefited from government subsidies on bicycle purchases.
Bicycle turnover North America declined substantially in 2018, as a result of the loss of a large client in the multi-sports channel and general pressure on turnover, in particular on the Diamondback and Raleigh brands, partly due to discounted sales of old inventories. At the end of 2018, we decided to run our North American business as a separate business and review the strategic options for eliminating the losses in North America.