The risks set out below could take on a medium or high impact on the Schaeffler Group’s earnings, financial position, and net assets within the planning horizon. Risks are divided into strategic, operating, legal, and financial risks and are described in decreasing order of the magnitude of their impact on the Schaeffler Group’s net assets, financial position, and earnings. Unless the extent to which one or both divisions are affected by these risks is explicitly described, the discussion of the risks relates to both of the Schaeffler Group’s divisions.
The key operating risks of the Schaeffler Group are described below.
Electrification of automobiles is progressing, and as a result, the further development of conventional drive trains is coming under pressure. Firstly, improvements to conventional drive trains will become less relevant, and secondly, existing products and applications will be replaced. The Schaeffler Group has established its E Mobility business division with the intention of further expanding a portfolio of products for this field that is designed to offset any potential future losses in revenue from conventional drive trains. Should the initiatives undertaken not have the desired effect, this could have a medium impact on the Schaeffler Group’s financial position and earnings.
Changes in the social, political, legal, or economic stability in certain markets could hamper the Schaeffler Group‘s operations or planned expansion projects. The current heightened uncertainty about the future of the EU, particularly regarding the negotiations for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, could make customers hesitant to buy and could result in additional adverse currency impacts. Depending on the specific nature of new barriers to trading with the EU market (assuming a hard Brexit), duties payable and increased administrative expenses could have a medium impact on the net assets, financial position, and earnings of the Schaeffler Group. The Schaeffler Group continually monitors the withdrawal process and, in addition, has established a task force to coordinate its local and global activities in this area.
Protecting the environment is a high priority for the Schaeffler Group. Since the Schaeffler Group’s production and manufacturing locations are located all over the world, they are subject to a wide variety of environmental standards. The locations meet high environmental standards, a fact highlighted by the large number of locations certified under EMAS. New legislation or changes in the legal environment, both at the national and at the international level, could entail risks jeopardizing trouble-free production that could adversely affect the Schaeffler Group’s value added. These risks could have a medium impact on the Schaeffler Group’s net assets, financial position, and earnings. Since the group’s environmental management system, which has been rolled out worldwide, is constantly being improved and enhanced, occurrence of these risks is considered improbable.
Strategic market and technology risks
The markets for the products offered by the Schaeffler Group are subject to significant technological change, continuously developing technological standards, changing customer preferences, and constantly emerging innovative products. Existing technologies and products may be entirely replaced by newly developed and marketed technologies and newly introduced products. For instance, the Schaeffler Group holds an excellent competitive position with respect to drive trains based on the internal combustion engine. This exceptional position may be jeopardized by the loss of the competitive advantage as well as by expiry of key patents.
Schaeffler currently relies on a high degree of vertical integration and comprehensive production expertise that facilitate improvements in the production process and ultimately safeguard the company’s ability to maintain its margins. The evolution of the company’s business from being component-driven toward being more systems-based is ongoing, and this change could reduce the proportion of value added by Schaeffler. The company is taking a variety of measures to address this trend, including, for instance, strategically enhancing its production system to be more modular and building strategic supplier relationships.
The Schaeffler Group’s competitiveness depends fundamentally on its ability to keep up with the technological developments discussed above, maintain its technology leadership, and continue to manufacture innovative products cost effectively. Not achieving this objective would represent a medium risk to the Schaeffler Group’s financial position and earnings that would last beyond the planning horizon.
The Schaeffler Group operates in a highly competitive and technologically fast-paced environment. The Automotive division‘s high-margin component business is facing considerable pricing pressure driven by increasing demands for price reductions on the part of customers, purchasing cooperatives, and certain focused and leaner competitors, especially in the emerging markets. The company is currently not fully passing these demands for extensive price reductions on to its own suppliers and cannotabsorb them entirely with its existing structure. Like the Automotive division, the Industrial division is also increasingly faced with competitors from emerging countries who are aggressively exerting pressure on market prices, considerably so in some cases. Customers increasingly prefer standardized products over customer-specific developments, and this trend benefits competitors from emerging countries as well. Both of these trends require the Schaeffler Group to constantly improve its efficiency and diversify into new lines of business in order to safeguard and further expand its market position. The increasing pricing pressure could have a medium impact on the Schaeffler Group’s financial position and earnings.
Digitalization is progressing rapidly and has already completely transformed certain sectors. The Schaeffler Group recognized the issue of digitalization early on, has developed a Digitalization strategy – its “Digital Agenda” – and is in the process of implementing it at a rapid pace. The pace of implementation and adaptation represents an important success factor in this regard and, therefore, also a risk. Digitalization is also affecting the work place and will lead to changes in the working environment. As part of the “Digital Agenda”, employees with varying skills and qualifications are increasingly confronted with new products, processes, and structures requiring extensive training and also re-qualification. The Schaeffler Group has focused its activities on this issue on a timely basis. However, should the Schaeffler Group nevertheless be unable to overcome these challenges as quickly as necessary, this could have a medium impact on the group’s financial position and earnings.
The key operating risks of the Schaeffler Group are listed below.
The Schaeffler Group’s purchasing function ensures optimal supply of goods and services to the company, focusing on quality, cost, and delivery performance. Extensive cooperation with suppliers increases the quality of goods and services supplied. Improving logistics connections to suppliers helps secure supply.
Procurement risks arise mainly from fluctuations in market prices, particularly for purchases of raw materials. Adverse fluctuations in market prices could have a high impact on the Schaeffler Group’s financial position and earnings. By negotiating prices and utilizing synergies resulting from numerous cross-regional projects and programs, the Schaeffler Group was able to obtain competitive procurement prices.
As the Schaeffler Group is a global supplier in the automotive and industrial sector, demand for Schaeffler products is to a large extent driven by global economic conditions. The demand for products of the Automotive division depends considerably on the overall economic trend. This also applies to the engineering sector and industrial growth markets such as renewable energy. In addition, demand is subject to cyclical fluctuations.
In the Automotive division, demand is not only affected by global economic conditions, but also by other factors such as changes in consumption patterns, fuel prices, interest rate levels, and others. The large number of economic factors affecting global demand for automobiles leads to significant volatility in automobile production, which makes forecasting sales exactly considerably more difficult. Demand for Industrial products is influenced by a wide range of factors due to the large variety of business fields in which the Schaeffler Group operates. Renewable energy depends heavily on government subsidies. Sales of production machinery, on the other hand, depend on new developments and the resulting need for capital expenditures. Aerospace benefits from various new technological developments. Individual drivers can be identified for each sector.
The Schaeffler Group faces numerous competitors in its various business fields. As a result, the company is exposed to the risk of being displaced by existing or new competitors and of its products being replaced by product innovations or by new technological features. The Schaeffler Group mainly competes with other international suppliers, and to some degree also with regional suppliers, on price, quality, reliability of supply, and design, as well as on the ability to offer technological support and service worldwide. Should the company become no longer able to compete on one of these factors, customers may decide to obtain products and services from competitors. Loss of market share could have a medium impact on the Schaeffler Group’s earnings and financial position. As a result of the intense competition in the automotive supply sector, Schaeffler considers the risk of losing market share in the Automotive division higher than in the Industrial division.
Close cooperation with the Schaeffler Group’s key customers on product development and strict product quality control measures reduce the likelihood of substitution.
The ability to deliver and delivery performance represent a key competitive factor, which is constantly being enhanced by systematic improvements in production and delivery logistics. The company is building high-performance distribution centers for the Industrial division and the Automotive Aftermarket aimed at improving market supply and delivery performance with fewer logistics locations. Ensuring that contractual delivery dates are met could have a high impact on the Schaeffler Group’s financial position and earnings.
As the Schaeffler Group’s production is very capital-intensive, a large proportion of its costs are fixed. At several locations, ensuring the best-possible utilization of capacity requires having only one of a given type of machine available. The failure of one of these bottleneck machines can lead to a bottleneck in supply to internal and external customers. The period between failure of the bottleneck machine and when alternative means of production are set up is key. Alternative means of production can either be set up by a Schaeffler Group plant with comparable production lines or provided by an alternative supplier. Establishing safety stock can also help reduce losses. To minimize the probability of occurrence, the risk is mitigated by extensive maintenance. However, failure of a bottleneck machine represents a medium risk to the Schaeffler Group’s financial position and earnings.
Warranty and liability risks
One significant factor in customers’ decision to purchase the products offered by the Schaeffler Group is their high quality. To secure this level of quality for the long-term, the Schaeffler Group employs a certified quality management system, supported by additional quality improvement processes. However, there is a risk that poor quality products end up getting delivered, causing product liability risk. The use of defective products can lead to damage, unplanned repairs, or recalls on the part of the customer which can result in liability claims or reputational damage. Furthermore, deteriorating product quality can result in increased warranty and liability risk vis-à-vis the Schaeffler Group’s customers. The Schaeffler Group responds to such risks by adopting strict quality control measures and continually improving its production processes in order to minimize the probability of warranty and liability risks materializing. Individual risks becoming reality could have a medium impact on the Schaeffler Group’s financial position and earnings. All product liability risks are insured. The extent of actual reimbursements that can be claimed from insurers can only be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Product piracy risks
The Schaeffler product brands INA, LuK, and FAG are associated with a high standard of quality, making them increasingly susceptible to product piracy. Counterfeit products are normally sold at significantly reduced prices, which can lead to increased pressure on the Schaeffler Group’s prices. Combating product piracy is a high priority for the Schaeffler Group. The Schaeffler Group protects intellectual property not only using global patents and industrial property rights but also by actively combatting counterfeit products, which damage its image as well as its revenue. Based on the large number of counterfeit products seized, the Schaeffler Group estimates the impact of this issue on its earnings and financial position to be medium.
The Schaeffler Group’s operations give rise to legal risks, for instance those resulting from noncompliance with relevant regulations. Legal risks are reflected in provisions recognized in accordance with financial reporting standards.
As a company with operations worldwide, Schaeffler has to comply with varying laws and regulations around the globe. It is possible that violations of existing law occur despite careful observance of such legal requirements. Identified instances of noncompliance are immediately addressed with appropriate action. The consequences of these instances of noncompliance could have a medium impact on the Schaeffler Group’s net assets, financial position, and earnings as well as on its reputation. The Schaeffler Group cooperates with the authorities with respect to any current and future investigations of possible instances of noncompliance and responds appropriately to weaknesses identified.
More on the company’s compliance management system in chapter "Governance structure".
The company uses a material compliance management system to help it meet its commitment to using only components and raw materials that comply with the applicable laws and regulations. However, there is a risk that legal requirements and changes therein are not identified in time and that products are distributed in the market in violation of the law. This could have a medium impact on the Schaeffler Group’s financial position and earnings.
Certain Schaeffler Group companies are involved in various legal cases or could become involved in additional litigation. These could lead to claims for damages or to other claims. In addition, the company’s or their opponents’ legal expenses could be significant. These legal cases are mainly related to the Schaeffler Group’s sales and purchases of goods and services. Existing legal cases could have a medium impact on the Schaeffler Group’s financial position and earnings.
Current and future investigations and proceedings regarding violations of antitrust law could have an adverse impact on the financial position and earnings of the Schaeffler Group as well as on its reputation. Possible payment obligations in connection with these investigations and proceedings may result in unplanned cash outflows. The Schaeffler Group cooperates with the investigating authorities in current and future investigations as a matter of principle. The imposition of penalties cannot be ruled out. In Spain and Korea, the company has appealed judgments imposing penalties.
In addition, claims for damages have been filed against Schaeffler Group companies as a result of known antitrust proceedings. These claims could have a medium impact on the Schaeffler Group’s financial position and earnings. The Schaeffler Group has recognized appropriate provisions for possible charges to earnings.
Financial risks include tax risks and pension risks as well as the impact of changes in foreign exchange rates and liquidity risks.
The Schaeffler Group is subject to tax audits worldwide. Tax authorities’ interpretation of the tax law or of relevant facts made in current or future tax audits may differ from that of the Schaeffler Group. This may lead to adjustments to tax bases and increases in the tax liability. An additional tax payment as a result of an adjustment to the tax base could have a high impact on the Schaeffler Group’s financial position.
The Schaeffler Group has extensive pension obligations, particularly in Germany, the U.S., and the United Kingdom. The obligations in the Anglo-Saxon countries are financed by pension funds. Pension obligations are measured using actuarial valuations based on assumptions regarding possible future events, such as the discount rate, increases in wages, salaries, and pensions, and statistical life expectancy. Plan assets may be invested in various asset classes, such as equity instruments, fixed-income securities, or real estate, which are subject to fluctuations in value. A change in the parameters listed above could have a medium impact on the Schaeffler Group’s net assets, particularly in Germany and the United Kingdom.
The Schaeffler Group is exposed to a wide range of currency risks due to its international reach. The largest such currency risks from operations result from fluctuations in the U.S. dollar and Chinese renminbi exchange rates.
Currency risks from financing activities arise mainly from the impact of changes in the U.S. dollar exchange rate on the portion of the bond issued in U.S. dollars that is not hedged.
Currency risks from operations and from financing activities are continually monitored and reported. Currency risk is managed at the corporate level. Currency risks are aggregated across the group and hedged using hedging instruments. Hedging instruments used include forward exchange contracts and cross-currency swaps. Currency risks, market values of foreign currency derivatives, and developments in foreign exchange markets are continuously monitored and managed as part of the risk management system.
To the extent competitors from other currency areas can offer lower prices due to movements in exchange rates, changes in foreign exchange rates can adversely affect the Schaeffler Group’s competitive position. The Schaeffler Group’s manufacturing locations are spread around the world, enabling the group to reduce the impact of changes in exchange rates on its competitive position. However, exchange rate trends could have a medium impact on the Schaeffler Group’s earnings and financial position.
The risk that the Schaeffler Group will not be able to meet its payment obligations as they come due is referred to as liquidity risk. The Schaeffler Group differentiates between short-, medium and long-term liquidity risks.
Liquidity risks can arise if financing needs cannot be met by existing equity or debt financing arrangements. The Schaeffler Group’s financing requirements were met throughout 2017 by existing financing instruments and by the refinancing arrangements completed.
To avoid unforeseen short- or medium-term liquidity needs to the extent possible, short- and medium-term liquidity risk is monitored and managed using a rolling liquidity budget with a forecasting period of up to twelve months. Short-term fluctuations in cash flow are monitored daily and can be offset using lines of credit. To this end, the Schaeffler Group has an RCF of EUR 1.3 bn and other bilateral lines of credit held by various subsidiaries.
The Schaeffler Group’s loan and bond agreements, which are generally long-term, contain certain constraints including a requirement to meet certain financial covenants. The creditors are entitled to call the debt prior to maturity under certain circumstances, including if covenants are not met, which would result in the debt becoming due immediately. Compliance with financial covenants is monitored on an ongoing basis and regularly reported to the lending banks. To date, the company has complied with the financial covenants as stipulated in the debt agreements. The Schaeffler Group also expects to comply with these covenants in the future.
Any noncompliance with the covenants contained in the debt agreements as well as any liquidity requirements exceeding those that can be covered by the existing lines of credit could have a medium impact on the Schaeffler Group’s net assets, financial position, and results of operations. It is considered improbable that these situations will actually occur.