MUNICH (dpa-AFX) - Baywa, which has debts of over five billion euros, wants to emerge from the crisis with savings and the sale of unprofitable businesses. CEO Marcus Pollinger promised shareholders at the Annual General Meeting on Tuesday a "transformation process" after the loss-making year 2023 and a significantly better result this year. "Each unit must be profitable in the future," said Pollinger. Shareholders sharply criticized the company's development, both from shareholder associations and individual shareholders.

The Munich-based conglomerate, which emerged from the cooperative movement, had posted losses in 2023; in the first quarter, the company remained deep in the red with a net loss of 108 million euros. Compared to the first quarter of 2023, turnover shrank by 17% to just under €5.2 billion. The first quarter is traditionally weak for Baywa, but there have been no losses at the beginning of the year in recent years.

Debt has increased in recent years

Pollinger indicated that no turnaround for the better is to be expected by the middle of the year: "Accordingly, the first half of the year cannot yet stand for the desired upswing," said the CEO. The Group is an international agricultural trader, also active as a project developer for green energy plants and in the construction business as a trader and service provider.

Baywa's debt has risen considerably in recent years. At the end of the first quarter, short-term and long-term loans together amounted to a total of 5.6 billion euros. In addition, there were personnel disputes in the first quarter, which led to the resignation of Supervisory Board Chairman Klaus Josef Lutz.

Solar trading to be sold

The Executive Board now wants to sell the solar trading business, among other things. This was already planned for 2023, but the Management Board was unable to find a buyer willing to pay the asking price. The digital technology business for farmers has already been sold. CEO Pollinger also wants to cut jobs, "naturally in a socially responsible manner". He did not name a large number. In the Building Materials Segment, the Baywa management is examining short-time working.

The Schutzgemeinschaft der Kleinaktionäre (SdK) denounced a "serious corporate crisis" including a "mountain of financial debt" and a "management disaster". SdK board member Paul Petzelberger called on the Baywa supervisory board to reclaim a severance payment of 6.7 million euros paid to Lutz. According to the Supervisory Board, this is not legally possible, as Gregor Scheller, the new Chairman of the Supervisory Board, explained.

The shareholders' association DSW complained of a "catastrophic share price development", as Baywa shares have lost almost half of their value over the past twelve months. However, the main target of shareholder criticism was not so much the current CEO Pollinger as Lutz, who had managed the Group from 2008 to 2023 before moving to the top of the Supervisory Board./cho/DP/zb