We pursue a conservative financial policy characterized by the following:
Financial flexibility and a conservative funding strategy
We ensure that we meet our obligations at all times and adhere to a conservative and proactive funding strategy that involves the use of various financial instruments. Our diversified and profitable businesses form the basis for our strong and sustainable cash flow generation capacity. Moreover, we have several funding resources in place. A formerly EUR 2.0 billion syndicated loan facility has been increased to an amount of EUR 2.5 billion in Q4 2022 and now in place until 2027 to cover unexpected cash needs. This credit line is a backup facility that should only be used in exceptional situations.
The Group also agreed upon several bilateral loan facilities. In addition, we have a commercial paper program with a volume of € 2 billion at our disposal. Within the scope of this program, we can issue short-term commercial paper with a maturity of up to one year.
Additionally, as a general rule, the bond market represents a key element. The most recent bond issuance took place in June 2022 (€ 1.0 billion euro bonds) and September 2020 (€ 1.0 billion hybrid bond). The use of various instruments provides a broad financing basis and addresses different investor groups.
Maintaining long-term and reliable business relations with a core group of banks
We mainly work with a well-diversified, financially stable, and reliable group of banks. Due to our long-term business approach, bank relationships typically last for many years and are characterized by professionalism and trust. The banking group consists of banks with strong capabilities and expertise in various products and geographical regions. We regard these banks as strategic partners and involve them in important financing transactions accordingly.
Strong investment-grade rating
The rating of our creditworthiness by external rating agencies is an important indicator of financial stability. A strong investment-grade rating is an important cornerstone of our financial policy, as it safeguards access to capital markets at attractive financial conditions.
On October 17, 2022, we received a rating upgrade by Scope Ratings from A- (positive outlook) to A (stable outlook). Also in October 2022, we received rating confirmations from Moody’s (A3, stable outlook) as well as from Standard & Poor’s (A, stable outlook).
Sustainable dividend policy
We are pursuing a sustainable dividend policy. Provided the economic environment develops in a stable manner, the current dividend represents the minimum level for future dividend proposals. Our dividend policy will follow business development and earnings increases over the coming years. However, dividend growth could deviate, for example, within the scope of restructuring or in the event of significant global economic developments. We aim for a target corridor of 20% to 25% of earnings per share pre.
* The contents of this chapter or section are voluntary and therefore not audited. However, our auditor has read the text critically.