ECONOMY

Domestic express delivery market is expanding fast

The domestic express delivery market has developed into one of the most rapidly expanding sectors, with an annual sales volume of 260 million euros last year, according to a survey by Hellastat. The survey, based on the courier companies’ published figures for 2005, found a turnover rise of 7.4 percent year on year. Hellastat noted that the domain’s main characteristic is the increasing competition owing to the ever-growing requirements by clients regarding the value-for-money relation, putting pressure on charges rates and the companies’ offers. The competitive conditions, combined with the rise of operating costs due to the rise in the price of fuel, are forming a tough business environment, reflected on the shrinking of the gross profit margin. In 2005 this fell to 21.6 percent from 24.4 percent in 2004 and 26.3 percent in 2003. The same survey adds that the bulk of the sector, that is the eight companies with revenues above 3 million euros, operated at an average gross margin of 17.7 percent last year (18.1 percent in 2004 and 26.9 percent in 2003), that is considerably lower than that for the market’s smaller players. Despite the pressure by small margins, enterprises in the sector managed to improve their efficiency last year, as administrative expenses came to 25.2 percent last year, from 28.6 percent in 2004. This took the earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) margin to 4.2 percent, slightly higher than in 2004 (4 percent). The net profit margin remained unchanged at 1.8 percent, as did capital structure, with the ratio of borrowed to equity capital at 81.8 percent. Yet the major fluctuations among companies in the sector regarding the returns of equities allows for an average return of just 7.7 percent, compared to 28 percent in 2004. A significant advantage for the sector is the extended operating funding, as suppliers are paid every 164 days. On the other hand, working capital surplus is calculated at 50 days, considerably below the 92 days in 2004, due to bringing forward payments to suppliers by a month and a half. Short-term bank borrowing came to 25 percent of overall short-term obligations, which rises higher for six out of the 10 biggest companies in the sector, while compared to sales it only covers 7 percent, with bigger companies rising to an average of 14.3 percent.