Opportunity and Risk Report
Every business activity entails opportunities and risks, which have to be managed. The skill with which this is done goes a long way in determining the future development of a company's shareholder value. In managing risks and opportunities, Sartorius aims to identify and use business opportunities systematically, as well as to recognize and evaluate risks at an early stage and take measures to counter them where possible. It is unrealistic to expect risk management to eliminate all risks: rather, our approach is to intentionally to take a certain measure of risk in our business activities in order to be successful in unlocking opportunities. However, in this endeavor, it is important to keep risks contained within acceptable limits and to control them carefully.
Sartorius has no single organizational unit tasked with identifying and managing opportunities and risks. Instead, it prefers to make this function an integral component of the Group-wide planning and control system described below. The Internal Control Systems & Compliance department is responsible for the further development of the Group's risk management system, including the organization of the respective reporting process.
Our opportunity management centers on the analysis of target markets and sector environments, as well as the assessment of trends, both of which give strong indications as to future business opportunities. The identification of the potential for development in this context is one of the key roles of the relevant managers and initially takes place at the local rather than the central level. The market-facing functions, such as strategic marketing and product management in the individual divisions, play a leading role in this respect. The central Business Development unit additionally supports these areas with market monitoring, data analysis and the implementation of strategic projects.
As part of strategy reviews, the members of the Group Executive Committee regularly meet with the managers having operational responsibility and the Business Development unit to discuss short-, medium- and long-term opportunity potential for the various business areas. The subsequent steps of prioritizing the opportunities and evaluating them from a business management perspective, deriving strategic measures and allocating resources proceed in accordance with a standardized decision-making process that applies throughout the Group. If the opportunities are short-term in nature, they are considered in annual budget planning. Medium- and longer-term opportunities are tracked systematically as part of strategic planning. The status of opportunity management as a permanent fixture of the corporate management system means that it also features in the discussions and decision-making processes of top-level management, such as the Executive Board and the Supervisory Board.
Key areas of opportunity are presented below. Where appropriate, reference is made to the relevant section of the Group Management Report in order to avoid repetition. Most of the risks we describe in the section on specific risks represent opportunities, should events develop in the opposite, positive direction. For this reason, we discuss these opportunities in the section on specific risks and opportunities at the end of this chapter.
Areas of Opportunity
As a supplier for the pharmaceutical and laboratory industries, Sartorius operates in future-oriented and high-growth sectors. The significant opportunities generated by the various market and technology trends are described in detail in the sections entitled "Sector Conditions" and "Outlook for the Sectors", respectively.
Our assessments rank the company as one of the global market leaders in many subsegments and product areas. We believe the high quality of our products, our strong brand recognition and our established customer relationships give us strong opportunities to continue extending our market leadership. The corresponding division strategies and the growth opportunities and initiatives based on them are discussed in the section on the strategy of the Bioprocess Solutions Division and in the section on the strategy of the Lab Products & Services Division, which starts here.
Strict management of processes and costs provides opportunities to further increase our profitability. Key target areas in this respect include continued enhancements of our procurement chain and ongoing efforts to optimize production, which we present on pages Business Development of Bioprocess Solutions and Business Development of Lab Products & Services.
Other opportunities are discussed in the context of the presentation of specific risks and opportunities beginning here.
Just as for opportunity management, overall responsibility for the maintenance of an effective risk management system ensuring comprehensive and consistent management of all material risks rests with the Executive Board. Coordinating and developing this system is the responsibility of the Internal Control Systems & Compliance department. The Supervisory Board of Sartorius AG monitors the effectiveness of the risk management system, with the preparatory work necessary for it to do so being performed by the Audit Committee of this board. Furthermore, while carrying out their statutory audit mandate for the annual financial statements and consolidated financial statements, the independent auditors examine whether the early warning system in place is capable of prompt identification of risks that could jeopardize the future of the company.
Risk Management System and Risk Reporting
At the heart of the risk management system is the Sartorius Group Risk Management Handbook, which applies throughout the entire Group organization. The Handbook, which includes definitions of the framework, the structural organization, processes, risk reporting and monitoring and control of the effectiveness of the risk management system, is based on the internationally recognized COSO standard. There are also a number of other sources that contain stipulations for the handling of risks, including the articles of association and rules of procedure of the Group companies and other internal guidelines.
The Group-wide risk reporting system forms the cornerstone of internal risk communication. The object is to make it possible to address risks in a structured, continuous manner and to document them in accordance with the relevant statutory and regulatory requirements.
The prescribed reporting process in the risk categories subsequently described establishes the rules for the ongoing review of and information on the risk situation. New organizational units joining the consolidated Group companies are successively integrated into this reporting process, which involves evaluating specific risks by probability of occurrence and scale of potential impact, as well as reporting cases to the central risk management unit whenever defined thresholds are breached.
We have an urgent reporting procedure in place to ensure that when a new or emerging significant risk to our net worth, financial position and profitability is identified and estimated as involving €2.5 million or higher, the Executive Board of Sartorius AG receives all of the necessary details without undue delay.
The first level of risk management relates to the four main risk categories defined by Sartorius: external risks, operating risks, financial risks and corporate governance risks.
The second level consists of additional subcategories that we classify within these main categories, such as supply chain risks, sales and distribution risks, and quality risks.
We categorize risks according to the scale of their implications too, and also perform a specific evaluation in which all risks are assigned the value of their maximum impact at the time of risk analysis. In other words, we record the maximum risk without considering the probability of occurrence or the effects of risk mitigation measures.
For the purposes of this report, we have assessed the probability of the risks as shown below and, in the adjacent columns, classify their particular significance for the entire Group.
|Probability of occurrence|
|Medium||5% – 20%|
in thousands of €
|Impact on Assets*|
|Of limited significance||< 1,000||< 5,000|
|Significant||> 1,000||> 5,000|
Explanation of Principal Risks and Opportunities
General and Macroeconomic Risks and Opportunities
Business Cycle Risks
The nature of our various business areas means that Sartorius as a whole is insulated to a certain extent from the full force of wider cyclical effects. While macroeconomic effects have very little bearing on the progress of the Bioprocess Solutions Division, they are particularly relevant to the Lab Products & Services Division and can represent a risk to the latter's growth in this context. If economic developments prove more positive than expected, this, in turn, can additionally stimulate stronger growth for Lab Products & Services.
Our ability to foresee and mitigate the direct and indirect effects of risks in the broader sense, for example, currency crises or natural disasters and associated damage to commercially significant and critical infrastructure, is limited.
Supply Chain Risks and Opportunities
Our supply chain extends all the way from procurement to production to sales and distribution. Problems within this workflow can have consequential effects including delays in deliveries. The global supply chain management system we have instituted throughout our production processes to prevent such problems largely minimizes the associated risks by analyzing and controlling all of the operations involved. The strongly international alignment of our organization opens up a whole series of opportunities too. The various risks and opportunities encountered within our supply chain are explained in detail below.
Procurement Risks and Opportunities
We purchase a wide range of raw materials, components, parts and services from suppliers and are consequently exposed to the risks of unexpected delivery bottlenecks and | or price increases, as well as obligatory minimum purchase quantities that may result in claims for compensation if we do not reach such quantities. Our global supply chain management system reduces these risks by enabling us to monitor and control procurement activities. Moreover, we conduct regular supplier reviews and also use early warning systems. In addition, we always maintain reserve inventories for strategic raw materials and work with alternative suppliers where possible.
Opportunities can arise in the area of procurement when our growth enables us to increase order quantities and thereby strengthen our position with our suppliers. Increased globalization of our supplier pool holds the prospect of purchasing on more favorable terms, moreover, and there is also a possibility of our expanded purchasing activities in the international markets, leading us to identify suppliers with special product and technical expertise that could eventually enhance our own competitive edge.
Production Risks and Opportunities
We ourselves manufacture a large proportion of the products that belong to our core areas of technical expertise and involve a high level of vertical integration. Examples include filters and laboratory balances. Other products, such as reusable fermenters and bioreactors, are manufactured in collaboration with suppliers so that some of the production risk is transferred to external third parties. When we manufacture products ourselves, we also bear the associated risks of capacity bottlenecks | overcapacity, production downtimes, excessive reject rates and high levels of tied-up working capital. We contain and reduce these risks by planning production capacities carefully, using versatile machines, semi-automated individual workstations and flextime work schedules, and by continuously monitoring production processes. Moreover, our global manufacturing network enables us to compensate for any capacity bottlenecks by shifting production to other regional plants.
We consider it an opportunity that the various production facilities are able to concentrate on specific manufacturing technologies and, as a result, enhance their production operations for greater efficiency. Our international production network also makes it possible to capitalize on the cost advantages offered by individual sites. Furthermore, continuous improvements in production, such as simplifying processes and increasing levels of automation, can help to drive efficiency even higher.
Sales and Distribution Risks and Opportunities
We use a variety of channels to sell and distribute our products around the world. The potential risks entailed are unexpected changes in the demand structure, growing price pressure and non-compliance with supply agreements concluded with customers. We employ targeted market analyses to identify emerging demand trends in individual segments early on so that we have time to respond appropriately. Our technical innovations and our focus on less price-sensitive sales markets, such as products for validated production processes in the biopharmaceutical industry, reduce our exposure to the risk of growing price pressure. We have minimized our risk exposure in the area of logistics in recent years by setting up and using central warehouses to optimize distribution logistics.
Opportunities arise in the area of sales and distribution when the increasing breadth of our product range – in both bioprocess and lab segments – puts us in a position to sell new products to existing customers. Our business relationships, most of which are established for the long term, and our global presence provide opportunities, moreover, and our ongoing project to strengthen direct sales, especially in the lab segment, also promises to enhance our sales prospects.
Quality Risks and Opportunities
Our customers use Sartorius products in a wide range of critical production processes, including the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, foods and chemicals, and in research and development laboratories. The main risk encountered in these areas is non-compliance with agreed quality criteria, which can lead to losses for our customers, or their customers, for which we may be made liable through compensation claims. We employ rigorous quality checks and state-of-the-art production methods and processes, such as cleanroom technology, to ensure that our products satisfy the most stringent quality standards and high regulatory requirements. These manufacturing methods and processes are subject to constant review under our continuous improvement processes, moreover, and are refined appropriately as requirements evolve. Our successful completion of a host of annual audits by customers and our accreditation under ISO 9001 and ISO 13485 together document the high level of quality achieved in Sartorius products and processes. Irrespective of these measures, we also maintain significant insurance coverage against product liability risks. Sartorius has established a traceability system that enables us to recall an entire production batch immediately, if necessary, and minimize any adverse consequences in the event of defects being discovered in a product.
Quality requirements are growing more and more stringent all the time, not least as a result of regulatory pressure, so we actually regard this first and foremost not as a risk but as an opportunity that opens up new market prospects. Also, challenging quality demands represent a considerable barrier to entry for potential new competitors and provide stimulus for further technical innovation to which we actively respond.
R&D Risks and Opportunities
We devote a considerable share of our resources to research and development. Potential risks in this area may arise from development results that diverge from market needs, exceeding planned development deadlines or unintentional transfer of know-how to competitors. Our advanced project management, intensive R&D controlling and early involvement of our customers in the development process substantially limit these R&D risks. Patents and continuous tracking of the technologies and competitors relevant to us secure our technology position.
On the other hand, the R&D sphere also offers a number of potential opportunities. Our intensive collaboration with partners that rank among the global market leaders in their own fields opens up the opportunity for us to jointly develop products with an especially high level of innovation. In areas such as membrane technology and weighing technology, in turn, the expertise of our own specialists puts us at the very forefront of global research and development and presents us with an opportunity to turn this technical knowledge into potential sales and an even stronger position on the market.
Customer Risks and Opportunities
Sartorius sources its key customers from the pharmaceutical, chemical and food industries and from research and educational institutions of the public sector. These customers are usually relatively large organizations that have been in existence for some time and have strong credit ratings. Most of our business areas have a highly diversified customer base, so the Group as a whole is not dependent on individual key accounts to any significant degree.
Competitive Risks and Opportunities
Sartorius has a leading competitive position in most of its markets. Some of our competitors are larger than us, and most share our status as a globally operating company. Examples include Merck|Millipore, Danaher|Pall and Mettler Toledo. As we serve a large number of customers from highly regulated sectors like the pharmaceutical and food industries, and the technology barriers to market entry are substantially high, we regard the probability of new competitors emerging within the short term as low. Furthermore, our global presence significantly mitigates individual regional risks.
Changes in the competitive environment, for example, consolidation in the markets, can pose opportunities. Our sectors find themselves in an ongoing process of change in which Sartorius has been actively participating. We have made acquisitions continuously in recent years to reinforce its market position and open up new potential synergies.
Acquisition Risks and Opportunities
By nature, acquisitions provide many opportunities, such as sales growth, extension of our product portfolio and development of new markets. By contrast, the purchase and sale of companies or parts of companies entail a number of inherent risks, such as incorrect valuation assumptions or insufficient usage of anticipated synergy effects. To prevent these risks, we take various measures during each particular acquisition process, such as performing a standard due diligence review. In addition, we involve external consultants and experts in the purchase or sales process as required. We especially focus on drafting transaction contracts so that they adequately counter such risks, especially by clauses assuring specific characteristics or contractual warranty or guarantee provisions, as well as agreements on mechanisms for adjustment of the purchase price and on liability clauses. Immediately after an acquisition has taken place, an integration phase is initiated in which any potential risks can likewise be detected as early as possible and prevented or minimized by taking the appropriate counteractions.
Personnel Risks and Opportunities
As an innovative technology group, Sartorius employs a large number of highly qualified people. A possible scarcity of required specialists represents an opportunity as well as a risk if, for instance, the companyproves to be particularly good at training and retaining its own staff. We counter the threat of demographic change and of losing employees, especially those in key positions, by offering performance-related remuneration models, targeted continuing professional development options, further attractive social benefits, continuous education and training for junior staff members within our organization and interesting people development opportunities. The success of these measures is apparent in the low attrition rates of recent years and the many years of seniority our people accumulate on average. Employment contracts in certain cases contain a clause prohibiting any move to a direct competitor.
Opportunities for Sartorius primarily arise in that it can further qualify its staff by offering its own training courses and retain such staff over the long term, thus covering company needs for qualified personnel particularly well.
Financial Risks and Opportunities
The global nature of the Sartorius Group’s operations means that its business activities are inevitably exposed to financial risks. The most significant of these, aside from risks associated with Group accounting, are exchange rate risks, interest rate risks and liquidity risks, all of which are described below and addressed in detail in the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements. Vice versa, some financial risks, most notably exchange rate risks and interest rate risks, are balanced by opportunities of approximately equal magnitude.
Risks Associated with Group Accounting
Except for the general, typical risks inherent in any accounting process, no specific risks concerning Group accounting are discernible. Typical accounting errors in this connection are, for example, incorrect discretionary decisions in the measurement of assets and liabilities. The use of various common and standardized control mechanisms integrated into our accounting process ensures that such errors are recognized and corrected at an early stage.
Exchange Rate Risks and Opportunities
As we generate around half of consolidated sales revenue in foreign currencies and two-thirds of this total revenue in U.S. dollars or in currencies pegged to the U.S. dollar, we are positively or negatively impacted by currency effects, especially when converting the currencies of balance sheet items and profit or loss items, respectively. To largely compensate for the general risk resulting from the impact of individual foreign currencies, we have taken a number of measures besides hedging currencies. Our global production network thus enables us to offset the lion’s share of sales revenues received in foreign currency within the Group against costs likewise incurred in foreign currency. For example, we manufacture many of our products for the North American market locally, and are therefore not disadvantaged in any way in competition with our U.S. rivals. We continuously monitor both exchange rates and our net currency exposure – i.e. that proportion of our foreign currency sales revenue that remains after we have settled our costs, likewise in a foreign currency – and use derivative financial instruments for hedging. These instruments are primarily spot, forward and swap transactions, on the basis of current and anticipated net currency exposure and foreign currency levels. In individual cases, target redemption forwards are used to optimize exchange rates. We make it a policy to hedge up to 70% of our exposure in advance for the following 18 months. Due to the historic exchange rate lows, we extended our hedges for the U.S. dollar for up to 36 months in the reporting year. Hedging transactions are set up by one group of staff and monitored by another, separate group.
Interest Rate Risks and Opportunities
We have concluded fixed interest agreements for a portion of our outstanding loans to eliminate the risk posed by variable interest payments. However, most of the financial instruments outstanding on the reporting date are subject to interest based on the market rate. Almost two-thirds of these are currently covered by interest rate swaps, so interest rate risks and opportunities apply only to the remainder. We monitor interest rate trends and our interest rate exposure constantly and have the facility to arrange additional hedging transactions where we consider it necessary and economically advisable to do so for individual loans.
Liquidity Risks and Opportunities
The Sartorius Group actively manages liquidity centrally in order to check and minimize liquidity risks and optimize liquidity management within the organization. For this purpose, we use various long- and short-term financial instruments.
The term of the syndicated loan agreement that Sartorius AG entered into in 2014 was extended by one further year until the end of 2020. Sartorius AG subsidiaries continue to be financed primarily through financing contracts within the Group.
For short-term liquidity procurement, we also employ various instruments. In addition to the credit line that can be accessed and repaid at short notice, we have a number of bilateral credit lines in place on a smaller scale for individual Group companies. Furthermore, we use cash pooling agreements between selected Group companies as the primary tool to manage liquidity within the Group.
Our role as a supplier to the biopharmaceutical industry and health care providers means that Sartorius can also be affected by underlying developments in these areas. The possibility of the regulatory authorities (FDA, EMEA) adopting a more restrictive approach to the approval of new medications remains the principal source of risk in this context. Such a move would reduce the number of new pharmaceutical products to be marketed and would consequently downgrade future prospects for Sartorius over the medium term.
Sartorius has established an environmental management system that encompasses, and is integrated into, all divisions and covers a whole series of environmentally relevant regulations to minimize environmental risks. This management system has been certified for compliance with ISO 14001 at a number of the company's relatively large manufacturing sites. The respective company organizational units ensure at the particular sites that the laws and regulations relating to environmental protection are observed and that further technical possibilities for limiting environmental risks are identified on an ongoing basis.
IT Risks and Opportunities
Besides the risks already described, the Sartorius Group is exposed to potential risks in the area of IT as a result of its pronounced dependence on these systems, since their error-free operation is essential for the smooth functioning of the company's business processes. We reduce IT security risks by continuously enhancing and implementing IT security guidelines and policies. These rules and measures are based on the requirements of ISO 27001 and the standards of the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI Standards). Furthermore, our company's existing IT applications and IT systems are checked for potential risks in regular external and internal IT audits, and appropriate measures are taken to minimize any risks identified. Continuous alignment of our IT strategy and business strategy, tracking of new technical developments and the use of advanced hardware and software minimize the risk inherent in the operation of our IT system environment. A new ERP system commissioned by Sartorius at its Goettingen Group headquarters in 2012 has been successively rolled out to the Group sites around the world since 2015. This ERP system was successfully commissioned in 2015 in North America. In conducting this IT project, we have continued to focus on controlling the risks involved, such as by maintaining a precautionary backup system. The implementation of the new system brings with it a whole series of opportunities, especially in relation to efficiency gains and the standardization and harmonization of business processes worldwide.
Process risks for Sartorius can arise from pending or forthcoming legal disputes or from administrative proceedings. All judicial or extrajudicial disputes are attended to the company’s own attorneys and legal experts, who engage external lawyers as needed.
At present, there are no pending or discernible legal disputes or proceedings that lack any cost coverage allowances in the statement of financial position or that could have a substantial negative impact on Group.
We have taken out insurance policies to cover a wide range of risks where possible and economically advisable. These insurance policies include coverage against liability, property damage, business interruption, transport, material and pecuniary damages and other risks, and provide comprehensive coverage for legal costs. An independent department working in conjunction with an external insurance broker regularly reviews the nature and extent of our insurance protection and makes any adjustments necessary.
Assessment of the Overall Risk Situation and Risk Outlook
Where feasible, we adopted countermeasures and | or arranged for balance sheet measures during the reporting year to cover all discernible risks within the Sartorius Group that had the potential to damage our net worth, financial situation and profitability.
For the purposes of this report, we have assessed the probability of occurence for the risks as shown below and, in the adjacent columns, classify their particular significance for the entire Group.
|Risk Category||Probability of Occurrence||Significance|
|General and macroeconomic risks|
|Business cycle risks||Medium||Significant|
|Supply chain risks|
|Procurement risks||Low||Of limited significance|
|Sales and distribution risks||Medium||Significant|
|Customer risks||Low||Of limited significance|
|Competitive risks||Low||Of limited significance|
|Personnel risks||Low||Of limited significance|
|Risks associated with Group accounting||Low||Of limited significance|
|Exchange rate risks||Medium||Significant|
|Interest rate risks||Medium||Significant|
|Regulatory risks||Low||Of limited significance|
|Environmental risks||Low||Of limited significance|
|Process risks||Low||Of limited significance|
After thorough analysis of the entire risk situation and according to our current review, there are no discernible risks at present that could jeopardize the continued existence of the Group.
Similarly, based on our current review, there are no discernible risks that could jeopardize the future existence of the Group.