With the strategic realignment in mid-2019, the Baby Care division now forms one of the two key pillars of the HOCHDORF Group, focusing on sustainable business development in a highly competitive, international environment. The key feature of 2019 was a significant dip in sales to some of our major customers, along with technical challenges posed by the activation of the new spray tower line 9 at the Sulgen plant in the second half of the year. Bimbosan AG continued to achieve good results and was able to further expand its leading position in the Swiss specialist market. The conversion to the new EU formulations was also implemented successfully. We were able to win some new customers but the division performed significantly below expectations overall.
The Baby Care division achieved a net sales revenue of CHF 72.8 million in 2019 (previous year 176.0 million; –58.6%). The decrease can be largely explained by a significant fall in sales to some large customers and sluggish sales for the former subsidiary Pharmalys Laboratories SA. A collapse in sales, necessary value adjustments on outstanding receivables and the technical challenges that arose in the second half of the year in connection with the launch of spray tower line 9 at the Sulgen plant all put pressure on operating results.
Lower sales coupled with the technical challenges led to a relatively low utilisation of the new production and filling line in Sulgen. The planned technical renovation of spray tower line 8 was largely completed. This enables the plant to produce new, high-quality formulations that meet the highest quality requirements.
The development of the new EU formulations was successful and a new product also achieved market readiness in the FSMP segment (food for special medical purposes). The SAMR brand audit for China took place in November 2019. Further discussions are currently underway between the Chinese authorities and the HOCHDORF Group, with the final outcome expected during the first six months of 2020.
Bimbosan AG recorded positive results in 2019 and slightly exceeded expectations, further expanding its strong position in the domestic market. At the end of 2019, its share of the Swiss specialist market was at a new record high of almost 38%. Two new markets were developed as part of the internationalisation of the «Bimbosan» brand.
There will be a key focus on providing sustainable business development in a highly competitive international environment in the future. The goal for 2020 is to promote growth with existing customers and acquire new customers with a market-oriented sales and service structure focused on regions and key customers, while significantly improving plant utilisation in the medium term. The business relationship with Pharmalys Laboratories SA is to be revived with a focus on sustainable growth based on «Swissness» and new market innovations, while the internationalisation of the company's own brand «Bimbosan» will play a central role in the successful implementation of the strategy. Several first-time deliveries to new customers and markets are planned for 2020.
Utilisation of the new plants remains a top priority. We are hoping for prompt approval on completion of the China audits, enabling us to introduce the registered brands onto the Chinese market. This would have a positive impact on plant utilisation and our sales and results. We will also continue to drive forward Cross Border E-Commerce (CBEC) with China for the «Bimbosan» brand.
Generating new customers in the Baby Care division is based on long-term projects that usually extend over a two to three year period involving complex approval processes between authorities and customers. It has not been possible to offset the significant drop in sales and results in 2019, even with new customers and the opening up of new markets in the current business year. The Baby Care division expects net sales revenue of around CHF 90 to 110 million in the current business year.