Message From Chairman of the Board of Directors
The Navigator Company again achieved excellent results in 2017, despite an economic environment with persistent weaknesses and uncertainties at home and abroad. Our industry has not been immune to this difficult climate, which has been reflected mainly in falling pulp and paper prices. The decrease in pulp prices was especially sharp, due in part to capacity expansion projects completed during the year.
The Company’s ability to maintain excellent returns is testament to the strength of its business model, and also to the skills, dedication and motivation of its management team, as well as the entire workforce across the organisation, responsible for the high standards of efficiency and performance achieved throughout the complex value chain.
So I would like first of all to record my appreciation of their efforts, and also to urge them to continue to pull together, so that we can successfully overcome the challenges facing us every day.
It gives me immense satisfaction to report that The Navigator Company has expanded its production capacity and moved into new geographical regions and business segments; the Group has been able to do this smoothly, as a logical extension of capabilities developed in the past. Examples of this have been the start of pellets production in the United States and growth in Tissue business.
At a time when many of the developed countries are waking up to the pernicious effects of de-industrialisation and when, in Portugal, measures are being adopted with the blatant intention of undermining our industry, The Navigator Company has continued to invest, and has been widely praised for its determination. The Navigator Company Group has earned admiration not just for achieving growth and establishing itself as a leader in a number of market sectors, but also for the resilient, balanced and sustainable way in which it has persisted with its investment policy.
We are a socially responsible company, happy to be accountable to society, as clearly and systematically shown by our biannual Sustainability Report. In the same spirit, we also have a policy of openness to the community, and our plantations, nurseries and mills receive thousands of visitors each year. We take special pride in welcoming groups from schools and universities for a learning experience that is often the students’ first taste of the real economy.
A substantial part of our investment is channelled to scrupulous compliance with environmental parameters, consistently applying the highest standards. Particular attention is paid to safety and security, to efficient use of water and chemicals, reductions in carbon emissions and to making our operations less energy-intensive.
In its research and development activities, the Company cooperates closely with formal seats of learning, such as universities, polytechnics and technology centres, in a mutually beneficial relationship.
The close ties we seek to develop with our suppliers, most of which are small and medium-sized companies, has made it possible to improve their technical and management capabilities and also to provide a stable basis which allows them to plan their operations efficiently.
Crucially, these suppliers include tens of thousands of forestry producers and providers of forestry and timber transport services. The Navigator Company has a long history of cooperation with these producers and many of the industry associations, and considerable effort has been put into overcoming the most serious problems faced by Portuguese forestry: deficient forestry pratices, pests and diseases, plants ill-suited to soil and climate conditions, fires and the lack of certification.
This direct involvement with producers and cooperation with other organisations has helped to make for a flourishing eucalyptus sector in Portugal, with a vitality that other sectors would benefit from copying, introducing a competitive dynamic which would modernise the entire forestry sector.
This is what I would expect to happen, and what would be best for our country. But instead of positive measures, new obstacles and barriers have been introduced to planting and replanting eucalyptus, which receives discriminatory treatment in relation to other forestry sectors, without any economic or environmental justification, and with the immediate and long -term consequence that even more rural properties in Portugal will simply fall into disuse.
This of course will add to the already heavy burden of paying for expensive imports of raw material for the eucalyptus pulp industry. The losers are the pulp manufacturers, who are less able to compete internationally, and the country as a whole, which loses foreign revenues and sees jobs disappear.
I must confess I find this discouraging, as I can only conclude that, instead of improving the internal factors that enable us to compete, life is made increasingly difficulty for companies which are productive and take greater risks in their capital projects. At a time when protectionist barriers are starting to go up again around the world, some better disguised that others, our country could do without artificially creating internal obstacles to economic success. This is definitively not the path to avoiding de-industrialisation.
I am confident that, despite all the difficulties, our Navigator Company Group will continue to steer a steady course that allows for balanced development, and that, thanks to our transparent dealings with clients, suppliers, the authorities, shareholders and other stakeholders, it will continue to strengthen its reputation in the sector, which is one of its most precious assets.