How did Schlumberger start

At Schlumberger, profits collapse

Vienna - The Schlumberger Sektkellerei made slightly more sales in the first half of 2011/2012 (as of the end of September), but made significantly less profit than in the previous year. In the traditionally weak first half of the year, the operating result fell to EUR 82,000 (after EUR 570,000). The previous year also included one-time income from the sale of equipment and the activation of a trademark in the amount of almost 400,000 euros, which did not exist this year, the listed company announced ad hoc on Wednesday. Consolidated sales rose slightly by 1.3 percent to EUR 96.3 million.

Schlumberger still has the most important time of the year with the Christmas and New Year's Eve business ahead of them, which is why the figures available as of September 30 "do not allow any conclusions to be drawn about the likely level of sales and the group result for the 2011/2012 financial year". CFO Wolfgang Spiller expects a growth in sales and turnover with stable earnings for the whole year, as he said.

In Austria, sales at Schlumberger Wein- und Sektkellerei remained stable in the first half of the year at EUR 52.4 million (+0.65 percent). In Germany, too, at EUR 29.9 million (-0.60 percent), there were no major swings up or down. In the Netherlands, Schlumberger achieved sales of EUR 13.9 million in the first six months of the financial year, almost 9 percent more.

Harsh wind in Hungary

While Schlumberger expects an increase in sales and earnings in Germany and the Netherlands for the year as a whole, the company in Hungary is facing a rough wind. The alcohol tax introduced in November and the increase in VAT from 25 to 27 percent make business more difficult and could lead to further declines in sales and earnings, according to the annual report. Schlumberger spokesman Benedikt Zacherl told the APA that they are not thinking of withdrawing from Hungary.

Viewed across all foreign markets, the sparkling wine and spirits manufacturer increased its export business by 8 percent in the first half of the year. In addition to the Netherlands, things went particularly well in Poland - a market that is to be developed more intensively in the future alongside Russia and the Ukraine. Schlumberger also delivers to China and Japan, but in manageable quantities. An interested party from India who wanted to sell Schlumberger there knocked for the first time, said Spiller.

At the end of September Schlumberger had 213 employees, six fewer than in the previous year. The decrease comes mainly from Germany and is related to the closure of three wine shops at the beginning of the year.

Difficult environment

Even if Schlumberger is satisfied with the development in the first half of the year, the "environment is anything but simple," admitted spokesman Benedikt Zacherl - starting with the economic environment, through the development in retail, to raw material prices. "The location around is not an advantage. We need twice the effort to achieve our goals."

In the gastronomy and upscale hotel industry, a reluctance to consume is becoming noticeable, which is being tried to cushion in retail. The price battles there are now so enormous that sparkling wine is selling for 1.49 euros. "And that hurts me," said Zacherl. Especially in the Christmas business, which is so important for the industry, the sparkling wine manufacturers try to undercut each other with offers. The Schlumberger Hochriegl brand's share of promotions during this period is 70 percent, while that of the Schlumberger brand is up to 40 percent.

On the raw materials side, Schlumberger is confronted with massive price increases, which is why the herbal liqueur Gurktaler is now more expensive after sparkling wine. Schlumberger raised sparkling wine prices in April 2011 by 50 cents to 1 euro. Due to the poor wine harvest in 2010, large quantities were missing, which drove up the price. This year the grape harvest was good, but the vintners' warehouses were still not full. "The prices are still the same as in 2010," said Zacherl. A kilo of grapes costs 1.20 euros, a few years ago it was 60 to 70 cents.

The prices for glass and cardboard were also "significantly" higher than inflation. Schlumberger is initially trying to compensate for the higher costs in the sparkling wine sector through savings, increased sales and new products. This is no longer possible with Gurktaler, sugar, herbs and high-proof alcohol have become so expensive that a price increase is due in April 2012. The Rossbacher herbal bitters could also get more expensive. "But there is still a calculation." (APA)