During the business year 2015/2016 Züblin launched a strategic refocus consisting of three stages: the return to core competences, the stabilization of the financial and operational business and at last the expansion phase. Over the past twelve months the Company successfully accomplished the first two stages. The return to core competencies – value creation in office properties in Switzerland and Germany - was achieved by the economical withdrawal from France and the completion of the sale of retail properties in Germany. Thereby the company streamlined its portfolio which consists of 99% office buildings as of the closing date. The financial restructuring based on the outcome of the capital increase in December 2015 - strongly supported by Züblin's shareholders - lead to an overall stabilization and a decrease in the financial expenses. Operational improvements resulted in a substantial lowering of the vacancy rate to 9%.
In the near term the company will aim to grow the size of the real estate portfolio through acquisitions in Europe's stable German-speaking real estate markets in keeping with Züblin's regional expertise. In parallel with this our existing competences will be broadened and new competences built up in segments and jurisdictions expected to be relevant in future. The goal of these steps is to fully exploit the company's value creation strengths by sharpening the company's profile and achieving optimum penetration of its core markets.
After successfully growing the company and achieving a strong market position the established business model can be transferred to new geographical markets in the medium term. The initial focus will again be on stable European regions. In particular, office properties with optimisation potential in premium locations in B cities and in secondary locations in A cities offer the opportunity to leverage Züblin's value creation competences and generate competitive returns for investors.
Based on its growing international expertise, the company's long-term aim is to diversify into geographical markets, real estate classes and investment forms grouped around and complementing the core business. The company intends to use its flexibility in the form of strategic alliances and co-investments to open up new markets and participate in attractive investment opportunities.