Ladies and Gentlemen,
After we completed the post-merger integration of TUI AG and TUI Travel plc last year, we again demonstrated in the financial year just completed that we – the Executive Board, the employees and the Supervisory Board – have together created the right strategic positioning for our organisation. We have established an internationally operating, integrated tourism company with a successful, sustainable business model.
Despite various challenges we faced at both national and international levels, we increased our underlying EBITA by more than 10 % year-on-year at constant currency. This has also enabled us to clearly stand out from our main competitors, some of whom had to lower their guidance in the completed financial year. We again successfully mastered a number of special challenges, such as the insolvencies of Air Berlin and its subsidiary Niki, the prolonged, exceptional good weather in Europe this summer which limited demand for travel, and also the weakening of the Turkish lira. This confirms that we took the right decision in transforming TUI into an integrated tourism company with a broad value-chain.
We will not rest on our laurels but consistently pursue our transformation roadmap. After leveraging synergies from the merger and the transformation of our business model, we will now focus on selective investments mainly in the Hotels and Cruises segments and efficiency enhancement. We will also make a priority of continued digitalisation, which opens up new opportunities for TUI at all levels. Especially with our broad customer portfolio, the potential of Artificial Intelligence offer high chances for optimisation.
At our meetings, we regularly discussed the strategic development of our business model with the Executive Board. To implement this, following comprehensive review and discussion, the Supervisory Board approved a number of key acquisition projects, in particular the repurchase of incoming agencies from Hotelbeds Group, enabling us to expand our offering in the Destination Experiences segment from 23 to 49 countries. This segment was further reshaped with the acquisition of Musement, transforming the segment from offline to a fully digitalised business. We also approved investments in a new generation of TUI Cruises ships and the construction of a further expedition liner for the fleet operated by Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.
Looking ahead to future challenges, another major priority of our deliberations in the Supervisory Board was Brexit. Throughout the year, we paid detailed attention to the various scenarios and the resulting potential impacts on our business model as well as measures to be derived.
As in this year, Corporate Governance will be another focus area next year. The UK Corporate Governance Code was recently fundamentally revised. Meanwhile, the commission in charge of the German Code is also planning to carry out a major review from the middle of next year.
Let me use this opportunity to thank Sir Michael Hodgkinson on behalf of the entire Supervisory Board for his outstanding efforts and commitment as a member of the TUI AG Supervisory Board. Sir Michael Hodgkinson has rendered lasting services above all to the merger of the two TUI companies and the subsequent integration management. The same applies to our former CFO Horst Baier, who stepped down from the Executive Board towards the end of the financial year. He was instrumental in shaping our organisation’s successful course over a long period of time. We would like to thank both of them and wish them all the best for their future.
After 14 years of active participation, Mrs Carmen Riu Güell will resign her mandate at the end of the Annual General Meeting on 12 February 2019. She has made a very intensive contribution to the strategy discussion, particularly in the restructuring of our hotel business, and has set important accents. It will then be proposed to the Annual General Meeting to elect Mr Joan Trian Riu to replace her as member of the Supervisory Board. Mr Joan Trian Riu has extensive knowledge and experience in the tourism business and finance.