SOURCE: Wienerberger AG

March 27, 2007 02:00 ET

2006: The Year of Growth for Wienerberger

VIENNA, AUSTRIA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- March 27, 2007 --

Final results for 2006:

--  Group revenues +14% to EUR  2,225.0 million, EBITDA +10% to EUR  471.9
--  Profit after tax +11% to EUR  218.3 million, earnings per share +11%
    to EUR  2.95
--  Managing Board recommends 10% increase in dividend to EUR  1.30 per
--  share Outlook on 2007:
--  Positive market development in Europe, difficult conditions in the USA
--  Continuation of profitable growth course
--  Goals remain unchanged for 2007
Vienna, March 27, 2007 - Wienerberger AG, the largest producer of bricks in the world and number two in clay roof tiles in Europe, was able to meet its ambitious growth and earnings targets for 2006 in full. All earnings indicators rose by at least 10% and growth investments of EUR 430 million were also realized. However, the year was characterized by a wide range of contrary effects, with a weak start followed by outstanding development in the second half-year. Positive factors included higher demand in Europe and the favorable effects of growth projects realized in previous years as well as the mild weather during the fourth quarter and resulting additional support for a strong increase in sales volumes. These factors were able to more than offset negative effects such as the severe winter at the beginning of the year, higher costs for plant start-ups and inventory reduction, a slump in new residential construction in the USA and higher energy prices.

Revenues and earnings increase by more than 10%

The Managing Board will present the annual financial statements for 2006 at a press conference today (10 am live in the web: The final operating results reflect the preliminary figures announced in mid-February. Group revenues rose by 14% to EUR 2,225.0 million and operating EBITDA increased 10% to EUR 471.9 million. Operating EBIT increased 11% to EUR 299.6 million in spite of the high level of investment activity in the previous year. "Wienerberger was able to meet all its earnings goals for 2006 because of its strong geographic portfolio and numerous profitable growth projects", commented Wolfgang Reithofer, CEO of Wienerberger AG, with satisfaction on the past business year.

Strong demand in Europe serves as growth driver in 2006

"The development of earnings was influenced by a number of different factors in 2006: support was provided by strong demand in Europe, and in particular by recovery in the German new residential construction market and sound development in Poland, Romania, Switzerland, Belgium and France. In contrast, a decline of 13% in US housing starts and significantly higher energy prices had a negative effect", commented Reithofer on the figures presented today. Reithofer considers it a clear confirmation of the Group's strategy that Wienerberger was able to utilize the good demand in Europe to substantially increase sales volumes and implement necessary price adjustments, and thereby more than offset an EBITDA decline of 5% in the USA as well as an additional charge of EUR 47 million from higher energy prices.

11% improvement in profit after tax and earnings per share

Wienerberger recorded an 11% increase in profit after tax to EUR 218.3 million and earnings per share to EUR 2.95, which resulted mainly from the improvement in operating earnings. Higher interest expense and lower income from investments, which were positively influenced by non-recurring effects in the previous year, led to a 10% deterioration in financial results to EUR -20.2 million. The tax rate declined slightly to 21.3% (2005: 21.8%). Non-recurring expenses from the shutdown of plants in the USA and Czech Republic were almost offset by income from the sale of a non-operating property in the south of Vienna.

Increase of 10% in dividend to EUR 1.30 per share

"We also want our shareholders to benefit directly from this development, and the Managing Board will therefore recommend that the annual General Meeting approve a 10% increase in the dividend to EUR 1.30 per share", announced Reithofer. That represents a yield of 3.4% on the average share price for 2006 and a pay-out ratio equal to roughly 45% of net profit. "We also want to offer our shareholders an attractive minimum return on their invested capital in the future in the form of appropriate dividends", added Reithofer.

Increase in equity chiefly from net profit

Group equity including minority interest rose by 7% to EUR 1,591.4 million. "This growth was supported by higher net profit, which was contrasted in particular by the dividend payment, negative foreign exchange differences and cash outflows for the share buyback program", explained Hans Tschuden, CFO of Wienerberger AG.

Growth financed above all from free cash flow

Wienerberger continued its expansion course during 2006 and invested a total of EUR 430.2 million in roughly 50 growth projects. These investments include 53% of acquisitions and 47% of new plant construction and capacity extension. The growth program was financed from free cash flow of EUR 272.1 million and additional debt. Net debt totaled EUR 1,159.8 million as of December 31, 2006, which represents an increase of 24% over the previous year. "In order to guarantee sufficient financial flexibility for the continuation of our growth course and also strengthen our rating, we placed our first hybrid bond with a fixed interest coupon of 6.5% and a volume of EUR 500 million in February 2007", indicated Tschuden.

Increase in the value of the Company as a sustainable goal

The focal point of the Wienerberger strategy is an increase in the value of the Company. "Despite the high level of growth investments in recent years, we have been able to generate a return that lies significantly above our 7.5% weighted average cost of capital. ROCE totaled 8.8% for 2006 and roughly matched the prior year level. After an adjustment for the acquisition of Robinson Brick during the year - which was fully reflected in capital employed, while we were only able to recognize six months of earnings - ROCE equaled 9.1%", explained Hans Tschuden.

Further growth expected for 2007

"We expect continued growth in 2007 based on the favorable development of markets in Europe, which should help us to offset potential market declines in the USA. Our forecasts call for an increase of EUR 30 million in energy costs, but we should be in a position to pass on the major part of these higher expenses through an adjustment to our selling prices, provided there are no significant declines on individual markets", indicated Wolfgang Reithofer optimistically. "The mild winter in large parts of Europe during the first quarter of 2007 is certainly helpful. However, it cannot be interpreted as an indication for the development of earnings in 2007 because of the low significance of this period for the full business year - experience shows that we generate only ca. 15% of our annual revenues during the first quarter", added Reithofer.

Strong demand in Europe, optimization measures in the USA

For 2007 Wienerberger expects continued growth in Central-East Europe and strong demand for bricks, especially in Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. In Russia construction has commenced on a second plant 800 km east of Moscow, and the Group's first plant near this city entered the start-up phase last October. "The signs are also good in Western Europe. Rising consumer confidence in Germany, stronger new residential construction in Belgium and France, and growth in the Netherlands and Great Britain from the current moderate level will provide support for the development of business this year", observed Reithofer. "We also intend to use the continued optimization of our plants as well as the full-year consolidation of Robinson Brick to generate earnings growth in the USA during 2007," stated Reithofer in spite of the difficult market conditions in the United States.

Goal for above-average growth in earnings remains unchanged

"Based on our strong geographic portfolio, I am confident that we will be able to meet our goal and again record an above-average increase in earnings during 2007. For this year we expect a total investment volume of EUR 500 million, whereby EUR 120 million will be directed to maintenance capex and at least EUR 250 million to bolt-on projects - in particular the construction of new plants and extension of capacity. Approximately EUR 130 million will be added to this amount if the UK competition commission approves the acquisition of Baggeridge Brick", added Reithofer in conclusion.

Download the press release from:
Online Annual Report 2006:
Live webcast of the press conference at 10.00 a.m. (CET):

For additional information contact:
Thomas Melzer, Public and Investor Relations
T +43(1)60192-463  |
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