Fresenius cancels 2023 dividend, bonuses to retain state aid

By Ludwig Burger

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – German healthcare group Fresenius said on Tuesday it would not be allowed to make dividend and management bonus payments for 2023 because it decided to keep state aid it received to reduce high energy costs at its hospitals business.

Fresenius said in September it was examining whether the state aid would bar it from making management bonus and dividend payments, saying at the time the law was not entirely clear.

On Tuesday, the company said the decision would contribute to its “sustainable development and value enhancement” by reducing debt as a multiple of operating income by 20 to 25 basis points. The company this year paid an unchanged annual dividend of 0.92 euros a share for 2022, or 518 million euros in total. It normally has a policy of increasing the payout per share in line with currency-adjusted growth in earnings per share, at least maintaining the previous year’s level.

During the first nine months of 2023, German hospitals of the group’s Helios division received 158 million euros ($170.6 million) in government aid to compensate for a rise in energy costs, according to its financial report.

The Helios unit posted earnings before interest and tax of 861 million euros in the first nine months, up 4%.

Fresenius CEO Michael Sen took over the helm a year ago and has been restructuring the group, which was hit by a decline in earnings at its kidney dialysis division Fresenius Medical Care .

He has taken measures to cut costs and debt, and is looking into selling smaller non-core businesses to focus on generic drugs unit Kabi and hospitals operator Helios.

($1 = 0.9264 euros)

(Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Richard Chang)