Koenig & Bauer Management Board (from left): Ralf Sammeck (CDO), Dr Stephen M. Kimmich (CFO / Deputy CEO),
Dr Andreas Pleßke (CEO), Christoph Müller (CEO Digital & Webfed), Michael Ulverich (COO)

Dear shareholders,

As so often in the course of history, we are currently experiencing a phase of great upheaval that is changing the world around us at an ever increasing pace. Like virtually all manufacturing companies, Koenig & Bauer also faces geopolitical and macroeconomic tensions, which are being additionally amplified by a variety of challenges such as the shortage of skilled workers, higher energy costs and disrupted supply chains. Although we are able to influence these developments to only a limited extent, we can make an important contribution to shaping the future by acting as a reliable partner in our role as an innovation leader in the printing industry, underpinned by our technical expertise and our broad product portfolio.

Sustainability seen in “uni:versal” terms

Sustainability is no longer just a issue solely for individual companies seeking to reduce their environmental footprint. Rather, a changed sense of responsibility has made sustainability an all-encompassing phenomenon. Companies that are aware of this social transformation process and align their own actions to the new needs of consumers stand to benefit from this change. The ability to metamorphose, i.e. to constantly change, is of elementary importance for companies when it comes to remaining competitive. Koenig & Bauer has proven this time and again in its history spanning more than 200 years. Thus, rather than resting on its laurels and remaining with newspaper printing presses, it has completed a successful metamorphosis, which has now made Koenig & Bauer a packaging printing company with printing expertise covering almost all substrates and all printing technologies. Today, Koenig & Bauer prioritises agility, speed and flexibility, as well as proximity to its customers. It is with this in mind that this Annual Report, whose flexible packaging is 100% compostable, has also been prepared under the motto “uni:versal”. 

Koenig & Bauer’s forward-looking orientation has led to its transformation into a packaging printing company whose solutions for the packaging industry already account for the largest share of its total revenue and is set to generate further impetus for growth in the near future. This is indicated by a legislative initiative of the European Commission, which was launched at the end of 2022 under the name “Proposal for a regulation on packaging and packaging waste”. As an element of the European Green Deal, the law aims to help reduce packaging waste in the EU member states, stipulating that packaging is to be fully recyclable by 2030. 

Sector focus on digitisation and services

The fact that our customers have increasingly opened up to digital printing and that digitisation is becoming increasingly important is also an encouraging sign. This is a trend that we have been observing for some time and which we believe will continue to grow in importance. Here as well, Koenig & Bauer recognised the signs early on, taking a number of measures to provide our customers with a wide range of products today. However, as with the focus on sustainability, digitisation is not an end in itself for the industry and is not driven solely by regulatory factors. Rather, it is obvious that incorporating these and future developments in production processes must not – and will not – be to the detriment of our customers’ profitability.

Global economic growth is currently as diverse and disparate as the needs of our customers from all over the world. Impetus for dynamic growth can be seen in some of our target markets in Europe and the United States. Yet, the true drivers of the global economy are located in Asia, especially in India and individual countries in Southeast Asia. As well as this, there are growth markets in Latin America holding great promise for the future. This is due to a growing middle class, which is expanding at disproportionately strong rates in these regions of the world. However, increasingly national political agendas are also set to generate further impetus for growth. At the same time, it should not be forgotten that this year around 4.2bn people – corresponding to more than half of the world’s population – will be electing new governments in their countries. 

People at the core

In spite of all the geopolitical and global economic adversities, we must not lose sight of the human factor. After all, employees are the company’s most valuable asset. Indeed, they have made Koenig & Bauer what it is today: an internationally leading technology company that meets the zeitgeist with its broad and innovative product range and at the same time influences the everyday lives of a large part of the world’s population. In order to maintain this leadership role as we move forward, it is crucial for us to find qualified employees and to retain them in our business operations by offering attractive benefits. This also includes conducting further education for existing staff and giving young people an opportunity to participate in the transformation process. The fact that we have almost doubled the number of apprentices in our business operations and that the proportion of young women opting for a career at Koenig & Bauer has widened testifies to our appeal as an employer. 

Short distances to the customer are invaluable. This is why local service is a core distinguishing feature, setting Koenig & Bauer apart from many of its competitors. It is not without reason that, out of a total of around 5,000 employees at Koenig & Bauer, roughly 1,000 are now employed in service business. This not only positions the company as a market leader, but also enables it to respond quickly to the needs of its customers. The emergence of a political trend in favour of “near shoring”, i.e. production that is as regional and self-sufficient as possible, is also playing into the hands of a globally positioned company such as Koenig & Bauer. 

Satisfactory business performance in 2023

Despite the ongoing challenging global economic environment, Koenig & Bauer achieved consolidated earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) of €29.9m. This places EBIT within the forecast range of €25m to €35m that had been adjusted on 8 November 2023. At around €1.3bn, the forecast revenue target was achieved. The heightened profitability despite the start-up and trailing costs in the Digital & Webfed segment is mainly due to the more efficient handling of inflation-induced additional costs as well as improved cost management in the third quarter as a result of the absence of any recovery in demand. In this regard, the final quarter returned to its usual strength. 

Future dividend policy adopted with a payout ratio of 15–35%

In view of the earnings performance in 2023 and the persistently challenging global economic market environment, the Management Board and the Supervisory Board will be proposing at the Annual General Meeting that the net profit generated by the holding company Koenig & Bauer AG be retained and that a dividend be omitted for the 2023 financial year. However, as Koenig & Bauer attaches great importance to ensuring appropriate participation of its shareholders in its success, a future dividend policy has been adopted which, subject to profitable business performance during the year, aims to distribute a dividend of 15–35% of consolidated earnings, with a minimum dividend of €0.30 per share.

Nevertheless, we are aware that Koenig & Bauer needs to be more profitable looking forward. Just like our successful customers, we must focus on the value drivers that are spurring our transformation from a printing press manufacturer into a technology company. 

“Spotlight” on growth drivers and innovations
With the “2023 Growth Offensive” adopted in 2018, which aimed to proactively exploit the market opportunities arising in digital printing, corrugated board, cardboard packaging and flexible packaging printing in particular, as well as in the postpress sector in the interests of sustainable profitable growth, Koenig & Bauer has significantly driven forward its transformation from a printing press manufacturer to a technology company. The company is thus headed in the right direction, although external and internal factors are resulting in heightened complexity and rising costs. For this reason, the Management Board initiated the “Spotlight” focus programme at the end of 2023.

To summarise, the old adage that you reap what you sow still applies. We launched the growth initiatives in 2018 with foresight. With this mindset, we have been the market and technology leader in many areas for more than 200 years. And that’s how we want things to stay. We have now almost completed the sowing phase and want to reap the harvest. This will also be aided by the “Spotlight” programme, in which we are prioritising initiatives and business models that boost earnings and financial strength, deprioritising initiatives that do not directly impact earnings and optimising the Group and segment organisation as well as the indirect cost structure to make processes even leaner and more customer-friendly. For the most part, the measures will be identified, implemented and finalised in 2024, although the full-year effect will not be felt until 2025.

Outlook for 2024

Provided that the global economic situation does not deteriorate again and no special effects disrupt global consumer spending, Koenig & Bauer’s growth path is likely to remain intact, as the world’s affluent middle class is growing particularly rapidly, indeed at a disproportionately sharp rate especially in Asia. This is indicated by the expected compound average growth ratio, or CAGR for short, of roughly 4% for the packaging market. New partnerships, such as the one with automotive OEM Volkswagen for joint development activities in sustainable battery cell production, mark a further step on our growth trajectory. In addition, drupa, the world’s largest trade fair for the printing and graphics industry will be taking place in Düsseldorf from the end of May until the beginning of June, generating important impetus in the second quarter of this year. 

Despite this challenging macroeconomic environment, Koenig & Bauer assumes that revenue and the EBIT margin will remain stable in 2024 at the previous year’s level. Specifically, we are looking for operating earnings of between €25m and €40m and revenue of around €1.3bn. However, Group EBIT for 2024 will be burdened by up to €10m from spending on drupa, resulting in Group EBIT of between €15m and €30m after this one-off effect. Given the persistently muted economic situation, the company projects an EBIT margin of 6 – 7% in 2026 at the latest, accompanied by Group revenue of €1.5bn. In the medium term, it is looking for revenue of around €1.8bn and an EBIT margin of 8 – 9%.

In addition to his existing duties as Chief Financial Officer and Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Dr Stephen Kimmich will also be assuming responsibility from 1 April for the Special segment, which I previously held. This will allow me to devote greater attention to the “Spotlight” focus project.

Looking forward into the long term, the best is still ahead of the company, because Koenig & Bauer has always been a technological leader in its markets and will continue to expand this leading position over the next few years – not least of all through selective, carefully considered M&A transactions, by rolling out the basic technologies in adjacent areas as well as through cross-selling. Take a look at our trend radar in the summary of the Annual Report, to find out more about what you can expect from us as we move forward. In addition, you will also find many exciting insights into what the packaging of the future could look like.


As in the past years of its history spanning more than 200 years, Koenig & Bauer will be keeping a close eye on the developments in the market and, above all, the individual needs of its investors, customers, employees and service providers. Bold and forward-looking strategic decisions made in the year under review have laid solid foundations for this. The Management Board thanks all the parties involved for this and their many years of loyalty.

Würzburg, 20 March 2024
The Management Board of Koenig & Bauer AG

Dr Andreas Pleßke
Chief Executive Officer