We continued to demonstrate the resilience of our business model, which is highly diversified in terms of customers, suppliers, products and end markets.
dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
For the financial year 2016, Brenntag once again reported convincing operating results above prior year. We continued to demonstrate the resilience of our business model, which is highly diversified in terms of customers, supplier and products as well as end-markets. Due to our global footprint, we are able to flexibly react to challenging and changing economic conditions. Brenntag achieved an operating EBITDA of EUR 810.0 million and hit the mid-point of the guidance. On a constant currency basis, operating EBITDA grew by 1.9%. The gross profit of the Group amounted to EUR 2,369.3 million, representing an increase of 6.0% on a constant currency basis.
Although 2016 showed a mixed macroeconomic picture in our regions and was characterized by a challenging economic environment around the globe, large parts of our business delivered encouraging results. In EMEA and Asia Pacific we achieved clear growth in the existing business. In North America industrial demand was subdued overall and we faced continued weak demand from customers in the oil & gas industry. The segment Latin America was heavily affected by the currency devaluation in Venezuela. Also we saw difficult conditions in some other Latin American countries, particularly in Brazil.
After we had executed some larger acquisitions in 2015 which contributed to our positive overall performance, we followed our proven acquisition strategy on a more normal level last year. In course of the year we implemented eight bolt-on acquisitions and made a significant step in China. Since 2011 we managed the business together with a local partner and are now the sole owner of our Chinese operations. In total we spent around EUR 200 million for our acquisitions. In the current year, Brenntag will continue its acquisition path, expanding its product and service portfolio and strengthening its international presence.
Our market leadership is not only evident in terms of economic indicators. When it comes to sustainability, we also hold a leading position which we strengthened also in 2016. We achieved great progress in our sustainability management and for that achieved the Gold Recognition Level of the international rating agency EcoVadis. The positive feedback we get from our stakeholders encourages us to continuously improve our sustainability activities in the coming years.
Brenntag is in constant dialogue with the capital markets and aims to constantly broaden its existing shareholder base while serving existing shareholders the best way possible. For 2016 we are pleased to announce that the positive development of the Group will again permit the payment of an attractive dividend. The Board of Management and the Supervisory Board will therefore propose to the General Shareholders’ Meeting a dividend of EUR 1.05 per share, representing an increase of 5% on the previous year.
For 2017 we expect slightly better conditions in parts of the global economy, however developments on the political level have to be watched carefully. We expect our regions EMEA and Asia Pacific to remain on their growth path as well some improvement in the oil & gas sector and the overall macro economy in North America. The situation in Latin America will continue to be volatile. Overall, we remain confident in our strategy and the Group is well-positioned to capture future growth opportunities.
On behalf of the entire Board of Management, I would like to thank all of our stakeholders for your continuous support and confidence which you have placed in our company.
Mülheim an der Ruhr, March 6, 2017
Chief Executive Officer