Introduction by the Chair
"We are very grateful for Feike's tremendous contribution to DSM. He has demonstrated that a company can deliver financial and sustainability returns while creating value and purpose for all its stakeholders."
Rob Routs, Chair of the Supervisory Board
The year 2019 was a special one for my colleagues and me on the Supervisory Board. With Feike indicating, after 20 years on the Managing Board and almost 13 years as CEO, that he intended to step down, we went through the process of identifying and announcing his successor. While we were in this process, DSM delivered a good financial performance in 2019, while also engaging in quite some M&A activity. All in all, it was an intense year, as indicated by our increased meeting frequency, and we are proud of how our company navigated all of this.
Under Feike's visionary leadership, we have gone through a significant transformation, from a bulk chemicals company into one focused on Nutrition, Health and Sustainable Living, generating a Total Shareholder Return of about 400%. During the course of more than a decade we have significantly expanded our nutrition business, divested our non-core bulk chemical activities, and upgraded our Materials portfolio. Our company transformed itself into a financially healthy, high-performing, sustainable, and innovative company. Today, DSM is a truly global company with a diverse and engaged employee and leadership base, creating value for all our stakeholders. We are very grateful for Feike's tremendous contribution to DSM. He has demonstrated that a company can deliver financial and sustainability returns while creating value and purpose for all stakeholders. We all wish him the very best for the future.
After a thorough process and external benchmarking, including the advice and input of an international search firm, we concluded that we had the very best candidates in-house. The Supervisory Board therefore decided to appoint both Geraldine and Dimitri, Feike's two Managing Board colleagues, in a joint leadership as Co-CEOs. Together with Feike, they have driven the transformation and successes of the business in a highly collaborative and effective way, creating considerable value for all stakeholders. Together, they will maintain the focus on business performance, financial discipline, innovation, sustainability, and people, as DSM continues its journey. This joint leadership structure is rooted in the long history of their collaboration, which we have keenly observed over the years, and is expected to create a strong basis for continued profitable growth. In conjunction with their Co-CEO role, Geraldine Matchett will retain her responsibilities as CFO and Dimitri de Vreeze will hold the COO responsibilities.
DSM reported a good financial performance in 2019, and achieved key milestones in the first year of Strategy 2021. Besides organic growth, part of Strategy 2021 is inorganic growth, predominantly in Nutrition. As a Supervisory Board, we spent a considerable amount of time discussing M&A strategy, developments in our sectors and opportunities. We are pleased with the additions to the company we were able to make this year: the expansion of our share in Andre Pectin, the creation of a 75:25 partnership with Nenter, and the acquisitions of AVA, Royal CSK and SRF. We look forward to next steps in this area.
As this Report also shows, DSM wants to deliver on People, Planet and Profit. In all areas, great strides were again made in 2019 as described throughout this Report. Within People, there is one topic that always has our close attention, which is Safety. This is a core value at DSM and very close to our hearts as a Supervisory Board. We discussed the safety performance at each and every meeting in 2019, trying to help the Executive Committee with our own experiences and best practices, and understanding the trends in the indicators. Although every incident in 2019 was still one too many, as a Supervisory Board we are very happy to see an improved safety performance in 2019. As Board members, we will continue to focus on safety going forward, as this is a topic that requires continuous commitment every day.
Looking back at 2019, we are again grateful to all the employees and the leadership of the company for what they have delivered and how they have delivered it. It was again a good year for DSM, and our gratitude also goes to the many stakeholders who continue to place their trust in our company. DSM's businesses are well positioned to capitalize on many strong fundamental growth drivers related to the world’s most pressing challenges, and DSM expects its large innovation programs to begin to contribute in 2020, and to further expand during 2021 and beyond.