The European consumer environment has worsened further in recent weeks against the backdrop of rising unemployment, which has hit a new record high in the Eurozone, and intensified consolidation measures to contain the sovereign debt crisis. This has also started to materially affect METRO GROUP's business development, especially in Southern Europe and parts of Eastern Europe, despite our successful measures to increase sales and efficiency.
Taking these worsened trading conditions into account, METRO GROUP now expects EBIT before special items to amount to around €2 billion (former guidance: EBIT before special items to roughly match the previous year's result of €2,372 million). For 2012, the target of sustainable sales growth remains unchanged, as do the goals for improving cash flow and reducing net debt.
"In many countries, the conditions for our customers and thus for our business as well have significantly deteriorated in recent weeks. This has led to an even greater restraint in consumer spending especially in non-food, like consumer electronics. Thanks to our investments in new competencies, sales channels and our price positioning we are becoming more attractive for our customers and gain market share in many countries. We cannot, however, completely escape the effects of the general market trend", said Olaf Koch, CEO of METRO AG.
"In light of the continuous insecurity regarding the future economic development, we shall step up our endeavour to increase cost efficiency and improve cash flow. Our aim to reduce net debt still remains valid. Hence, we shall again critically review our 2013 expansion plan and focus our strategy accordingly. We shall at first limit our 2013 capex without reducing our expansion speed in METRO GROUP's strategic growth markets in order to safeguard our financial goals and provide room for manoeuvre. Even though the crisis has intensified in many parts of Europe, we remain convinced that the consequent repositioning of our business models will enable us to emerge from this difficult period a stronger player with a sustainably stronger balance sheet", said Koch.