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Merck, a science and technology company, held its 24th Annual General Meeting today at the Jahrhunderthalle in Frankfurt am Main. After Stefan Oschmann, Chairman of the Executive Board and CEO of Merck KGaA, briefly recapitulated the anniversary year 2018, he presented the company’s plans for future growth to Merck shareholders.

“Science and technology are transforming our world at lightning speed and we at Merck are helping to shape this transformation. Science is at the heart of everything we do,” said Oschmann. “We performed well in 2018, which was a challenging year. In 2019, we want to resume growth for all key figures: sales, EBITDA pre and EPS pre. Our objectives are ambitious yet feasible since we’ve created a solid foundation.”

As already reported in early March, Merck generated net sales in 2018 of € 14.8 billion, an increase of 2.2%. EBITDA pre, the company’s most important earnings indicator, declined by -10.5% to € 3.8 billion. This was largely due to negative exchange rate effects. Earnings per share pre (EPS pre), which is decisive for the Merck dividend, decreased in 2018 by -13.9% to € 5.10. Nevertheless, in the interests of dividend continuity, Merck is proposing to the Annual General Meeting a dividend of € 1.25 per share as in the previous year. As previously announced, Merck expects moderate organic growth of Group sales in 2019. For EBITDA pre, the company forecasts a pronounced organic percentage increase in the low teens range in 2019.

The company has also clearly formulated its long-term objectives and is resolutely focusing on them. In the Healthcare business sector, as of 2022 Merck aims to achieve around € 2 billion in sales annually with newly launched medicines or compounds still in its Biopharma pipeline at the present time. In 2018, Merck generated sales of € 160 million with its two new medicines, the immuno-oncology drug Bavencio and Mavenclad for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. At the end of March 2019, Mavenclad was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and thus in the largest single regional market for this medicine.

The firm has also filed for further approvals of Bavencio. The regulatory authorities in the United States, Europe and Japan are reviewing Bavencio in combination with Inlyta from Pfizer in the treatment of patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma. In addition, an important element of Merck’s strategy in the Healthcare sector is the alliance entered into in February with GlaxoSmithKline to co-develop and co-commercialize bintrafusp alfa (M7824), an immunotherapy from Merck currently in clinical trials. The agreement has a potential overall value of up to € 3.7 billion. Overall, eight clinical programs for this novel immunotherapy will be in progress or initiated this year.

In its Life Science business sector, Merck intends to continue to achieve above-market growth. Merck sees great potential particularly for the business with pharmaceutical companies, which is the main focus of the Process Solutions business unit. E-commerce is also playing an important role and already accounts for a large portion of Life Science sales. In addition, Merck is investing in growth fields such as bioprocessing technology for drug manufacturing. The company is forging ahead with promising new technologies, for example the BioContinuum platform. With BioContinuum, Merck wants to significantly simplify and accelerate the complex manufacturing process for biotech medicines by melding formerly separate steps into one continuous process for its customers in the coming years.

In Performance Materials, Merck intends to expand its position as a leading provider of solutions for the electronics industry. After 2019, the company is aiming to increase sales in this business sector by an average of 2% to 3% annually. On
April 12, Merck signed a definitive agreement to acquire Versum Materials for US$ 53 per share. The business combination is expected to significantly strengthen the Performance Materials business sector. The U.S. company Versum is one of the world’s leading suppliers of innovation-driven, high-purity process chemicals, gases and equipment for semiconductor manufacturing. The transaction is expected to close in the second half of 2019, subject to the approval of Versum stockholders at a Versum special meeting, regulatory clearances and the satisfaction of other customary closing conditions. “Versum will broaden our portfolio. Our competencies are highly complementary. Together, we can offer our customers more. This is very important because the digital revolution has only just begun and we want to considerably advance it further,” Oschmann said to shareholders.

Furthermore, Merck is also working to build new digital businesses beyond its three business sectors. The joint venture Syntropy, which Merck plans to establish with Palantir Technologies, wants to help scientists use scientific data better and securely. By enabling researchers to structure data from various sources and to analyze it via pattern recognition, Syntropy initially aims to considerably accelerate cancer research. Additionally, Syntropy will enable researchers to exchange and trace data reliably, with users always retaining full control of their data.

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Bilfinger
Virtual Annual General Meeting planned for June

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Due to the spread of the coronavirus (Sars-Cov-2), Bilfinger is planning to conduct its regular Annual General Meeting on June 24, 2020 as a virtual general meeting without the physical presence of shareholders. The protection of the health of employees, shareholders and service providers is given the highest priority.

The framework for holding a virtual Annual General Meeting is provided for by the regulations created by the German legislator for the year 2020 to mitigate the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Annual General Meeting shall only be accessible to shareholders who have registered in due time via the company’s website. By using a previously established online portal, these shareholders shall be able to observe the entire Annual General Meeting and to exercise their voting rights electronically (postal vote) or by granting a proxy. The online portal will in addition enable them to submit questions on agenda items up to two days prior to the Annual General Meeting.

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Konica Minolta and Merck
Oled Patents for Display Applications

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Merck Acquires OLED Patents for Display Applications from Konica Minolta
Picture: Merck

Merck, a science and technology company, announced that it acquired the Oled patent portfolio for display applications from Konica Minolta Inc., a global technology company that provides innovative solutions to businesses and society. The acquired portfolio comprises over 700 patent families.

“Adding Konica Minolta’s patents to our already strong portfolio will further boost our Oled development pipeline”, said Kai Beckmann, Member of the Executive Board of Merck and CEO Performance Materials. “With this step we will further strengthen our power to drive innovations in the fast-growing market of Oled displays.”

For more than 15 years, Merck has conducted research and development in the Oled technology field, and, as a result, became one of the leading Oled material suppliers.

The acquisition of Konica Minolta’s Oled patents for display applications is effective immediately. Financial terms were not disclosed.

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Artificial Intelligence
Bilfinger to become a DFKI shareholder

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Industrial plants consist of many elements. PIDGraph recognizes these from the plant plans and transfers them to the digital world. (Picture: Bilfinger)
Industrial plants consist of many elements. PIDGraph recognizes these from the plant plans and transfers them to the digital world. (Picture: Bilfinger)

Bilfinger, through its subsidiary Bilfinger Digital Next, is joining the group of shareholders of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). The DFKI is an industry-focused research institute in the field of innovative software technologies incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) and is considered one of the most important “Centers of Excellence” in the international scientific community. The purpose of the stake is to develop innovative solutions based on AI for the process industry. Bilfinger is the first industrial services provider in the DFKI shareholder group, which also includes companies like Google, Microsoft and SAP. Franz Braun, CEO of Bilfinger Digital Next: “Artificial intelligence technologies give companies in the process industry groundbreaking new opportunities to manage and maintain their plants with a greater degree of efficiency and effectiveness. Plant operators can generate substantial competitive advantages using AI. We want to demonstrate these possibilities to our customers and support them with future-oriented solutions based on the broad range of advantages delivered by artificial intelligence”.

Prof. Dr. Antonio Krüger, CEO and Chairman of the DFKI Management Board: “We are pleased to be taking the next step towards a lasting partnership on the basis of the success we have enjoyed in our joint project work to date. Bilfinger’s commitment attests to our cooperation and underscores the industrial relevance of the work DFKI researchers are doing. DFKI’s circle of shareholders will be strengthened by the addition of an ambitious industrial services provider, with whom we plan to continue implementing the results of AI research into products and solutions for the process industry”.

Bilfinger has been collaborating successfully with the DFKI for some time on the development of digital solutions for the process industry. Joint developments that have been launched on the market include PIDGraph, a software for the digitalization of plant documentation. Through the application of AI methods, the software is able to digitalize piping and instrument flow diagrams (P&I diagrams) that are only available in paper or PDF formats. The symbols, texts and lines of the diagrams are converted into a digital format with the help of neural networks trained to recognize patterns. The software records the corrections made by the user and thus continuously improves itself. The digital formats created by PIDGraph can be processed by any modern engineering and asset management system, thereby forming the basis for creating “digital twins” of industrial plants, for example. The digitalization of P&I diagrams is not only significantly cheaper with PIDGraph, but also much faster than conventional methods.

“The AI algorithms recognize the complex elements in the plant diagrams, analyze them, assign them semantically, making them readable for the computer. PIDGraph shows how mature AI methods can comprehend complex corporate knowledge and make it available for digital use,” says Prof. Dr. Andreas Dengel, who started the cooperation with Bilfinger and leads the research area Smart Data & Knowledge Services at the DFKI.

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