Despite the global COVID-19 pandemic and severe market uncertainties in 2020, COWI achieved the best ever EBIT and cash flow. COWI enters the new year with unprecedented high customer satisfaction, a strong order book and a positive outlook for 2021 – not least driven by continued, massive investments in the green transition across the world.
COWI looks back on a year which saw the company emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, securing progress on a number of key figures:
COWI delivered a record-high EBIT of DKK 350 million (an operating margin of 5.5 per cent), which is an impressive increase of 65 per cent compared to 2019. COWI also achieved the strongest operating cash flow ever of DKK 754 million – almost doubling the 2019 level and setting a new record for the company. Turnover went down by three per cent to DKK 6,340 million, which was primarily due to the divestment of COWI's mapping business and a weakened Norwegian krone.
All-time high customer satisfaction
Lars-Peter Søbye is thrilled about the strong bottom-line results, for which the Group can thank its employees and customers.
“It was an immensely challenging year for both colleagues and many of our customers. But I’m very, very impressed and proud of how my colleagues adjusted and fought for COWI at a time of crisis. That is testament to enormous loyalty and strong values, which was absolutely crucial to getting us across the finish line in such fine shape.”
“At the same time, we strengthened our customer relations. We’ve been more proactive during the crisis and improved our project execution. In return, our customers placed their trust in us and gave us positive feedback: Our customer satisfaction has never been higher,” says Lars-Peter Søbye.
He also points to external circumstances affecting the result of the year:
“Usually, public investments are sped up during crises, among other things, in infrastructure and, now, the green transition. These are areas where we hold strong positions and we’ve benefitted from that.”
Order book up by more than DKK 300 million
A reinforced, more targeted customer and market focus, including an even stronger prioritisation of selected tender projects, also played a key role in the result of the year and the order book:
“We succeeded in winning a number of significant projects that we actively pursued, for instance the DSB framework agreement on the Copenhagen Future Rail Network as well as the Houston Ship Channel Bridge in Texas. We also continued to see our collaboration with Arkitema develop positively, and together we won high-profile projects such as the development of the new sustainable Bosch headquarters in Ballerup.”
“As a result, our order book went up by a whopping DKK 327 million to DKK 4.3 billion,” says Lars-Peter.
Focus on growth and acquisitions in core markets
In line with COWI's focus on selected core markets, the company invested further in its presence in the UK and North America in 2020.
“In addition to Scandinavia, these are our key growth markets, going forward, and given our increased financial strength, we are in a solid position to welcome new members to the COWI family,” says Lars-Peter, elaborating on the markets:
“In the UK, we are truly seeing the effect of the massive public investments in, e.g., infrastructure that are designed to help kickstart the economy after Brexit and, now, the pandemic. Our activity level in the British market is unprecedented, and we grew by almost 20 per cent last year, hired 60 new colleagues and are planning to hire an additional 80.”
“We also expect the US – with Joe Biden at the wheel – to really put action to words in terms of massive investments in worn-down infrastructure and the entire green transition, especially in renewable energy. Indeed, we’re already seeing increasing demand in the market.”
The green transition drives growth
And the green transition will be the number-one driver of growth to COWI in the future years, which leads to a positive outlook for 2021 as well as the future in general:
“The pandemic will leave big traces on society and people well into 2021. Nevertheless, the large megatrends – climate change and urbanisation – are fostering an even greater and more critical demand for the green transition and sustainable solutions. For instance, in Denmark, COWI is already playing a strong role in a range of ambitious Power-to-X projects, as well as in the future energy islands. And demand will go up – across all the sectors in which COWI and Arkitema operate.”
Examples of new projects in 2020:
- Copenhagen: Framework agreement with DSB on the Copenhagen Future Rail Network
- Copenhagen: Fine screening analysis for the Danish Energy Agency regarding potential locations for North Sea energy island as well as cost-benefit analysis of different construction methods
- Copenhagen: Consultancy to Metroselskabet’s digital journey; increasingly data-driven approach to solutions etc.
- Nation-wide: Framework agreement for Energinet on consultancy regarding building and construction agreements at Energinet facilities
- Copenhagen: Arkitema was appointed by the FB Gruppen to prepare the masterplan for the 161,000 m² new residential area Søkvarteret in the new district Nærheden in Høje-Taastrup Municipality.
- Oxberg: Design of new signature bridge at Österdal River with Dissing+Weitling and Arkitema
- The Stockholm region: Framework agreement on sustainable water management for water and waste management company Roslagsvatten.
- Oslo: Framework agreement for the Port of Oslo; COWI is to deliver engineering consultancy on a major renovation and relocation of the port, which will make it the most efficient and environmentally friendly port in the world
- Fuglevik: COWI is to deliver consultancy and design services in connection with renovation of the treatment plant of the MOVAR water utility.
- Oslo: Arkitema won the task of designing the 171,000 m² New Aker Hospital for Helse Sør-Øst RHF.
- USA, New Jersey: COWI manages the electrical infrastructure on the Atlantic Shores project for Shell and EDF. The project involves onshore and offshore transformer stations as well as design and layout of inter-array and export cables.
- USA, Texas: COWI is part of the Vicinity Hurricane Flood Protection Project (HFPP), assisting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston District, in further climate-proofing the town of Port Arthur.
- The UK, England: COWI won contracts for the next phase of High Speed 2 (HS2) high-speed train link for the consortium EKFB (Eiffage, Kier, Ferrovial Construction and BAM Nuttall) regarding detail design of engineering works.
- Iceland, Reykjavik: Client consultancy for Betri Samgôngur/Vegagerðin in connection with new high-class public transit solution (Borgarlínan).