Risks regarding the Issuer’s business and field of activity:
The strategic objective of the company is to continuously develop the customer relationships. The possibility that Bittnet may not be able to expand its current customer base or the possibility that relationships with existing customers may deteriorate cannot be ruled out. There is also the risk that the company will not be able to meet other elements of the strategy it has defined, namely: expanding the sales force, establishing a local office in one of the main cities of the country, strengthening its leader position on the IT Training market in Romania, expanding the customer base in the country and abroad and providing trainings for a larger number of potential customers, as well as developing and creating strategic partnerships with companies with similar or complementary profiles will not prove successful.
The Company’s financial forecasts are based on the assumption of successfully implementing the growth strategy based on existing resources and business units. However, there is a risk associated with making the financial forecasts. The forecasts have been created with due diligence, but they are still forecasts. The current data reported in future periodic reports may differ from projected valuesas a result of certain factors that were not predicted in the Company’s environment.
This chapter deserves a more detailed discussion. The company submits every year to the shareholders’ approval a Revenue and Expenditure Budget. The management builds this BVC using a “bottom-up” approach – starting from evaluations of ongoing projects (sales pipeline available at the time of BVC production), sales statistics from previous years, marketing actions and sales already committed/planned and sales targets assumed by each member of the sales team. In other words, the BVC is built prudently.
On the other hand, what we pursue and measure in relation to the sales team and any partner is the GROSS commercial MARGIN and not the amount of sales. Therefore, every year, when the BVC is published, the management must answer the question “if we have a reasonable confidence that we will be able to generate 100 lei of gross margin, from how many lei of sales will we obtain this margin?”. It should be taken into consideration that sales achievements are measured and estimated EXCLUSIVELY depending on the volume of the generated gross margin. In other words, the 100 Euro margin generated from sales of courses in the amount of 200 Euro is just as valuable to the company and is therefore rewarded in the same way with the 100 Euro margin generated from sales of communications solutions in the amount of 500 Euro.
In order to be able to answer the question “how many lei of sales is needed to produce the committed margin of 100 lei”, we must, therefore, answer the question “what will the gross margin average percentage registered by the company be?”. According to the principle of prudence, the management applies small reductions to the gross margin percentages already recorded, in order to find the answer to this question.
The unexpected result of these precautionary estimates is that if we apply a lower margin percentage, then we actually assume that we will have to “work” more for the same amount of lei of gross margin, so the forecasts (the BVC) related to the company’s revenue are HIGHER.
Nevertheless, the company only monitors the gross margin and not the sales volume, so during the budget year it is much more likely that the revenue forecasts (the turnover) are erroneous and the company’s profitability forecasts are more accurate. In other words, the management does not target, monitor or reward the achievement of any revenue target and, consequently, investors should not monitor and evaluate the company’s achievement of revenue indicators (turnover), but the profitability index.
The Company’s success depends to some extent on its ability to continue to attract, keep and motivate the qualified personnel. The Bittnet business is based on highly qualified and well-paid engineers, whose number is limited and can receive offers from the competition. If the Company fails to optimally manage the personnel needs, this may have a significant material adverse effect on the business, financial conditions, results of operations or prospects. The company offers attractive compensation packages and dynamic career development paths to attract, keep and motivate experienced staff with potential.
Bittnet has historically faced smaller staff fluctuations than the companies with which we do business with. However, two decisions we made in 2015 allowed us to resolve this issue in a “winning” way:
- adding to the organizational chart the role of internal HR and its employment by a new colleague with experience in recruitment and relationship with IT professionals. The HR role has two objectives:
- continuous recruitment – identifying new talents to include in our technical team;
- creating and maintaining a pleasant, engaging and healthy work environment, focused on constantly promoting the company values on which the company culture is based: competence, performance, integrity, flexibility and fun.
- listing on the Bucharest Stock Exchange, which allowed us to obtain an appreciated employer profile and helped us differentiate ourselves as an open and transparent company – an image highly appreciated by all new and old employees.
This risk continues to be one of the most important risks that ‘threaten’ our company and, consequently, the management will continue to give particular importance to this issue. In 2016, 2017, 2018 si 2019, 2020 si 2021, the General Assembly approved a plan to incentivise key persons based on actions, in order to better align their interests with the long-term interests of the Company.
Considering the overheating of the labour market and the inclusion of the “Millenials” generation in a greater proportion within the workforce, we consider that this risk – related to the ability to deliver the promises to customers – is a significant one for the company, accompanied by the continuous increase of the financial claims of the team members and collaborators (a continuous increase of fixed costs).
Perhaps the greatest risk in this respect is given by the shareholders of the company, whose continued vote is needed to continue the existence of the Stock Option Plans. Although the stock-option plan is built in such a way as to reward employees only and only if the shareholders have earned money in the analysed period, at the time when the debt is settled with the key persons, messages of dissatisfaction appear from some shareholders, claiming that “employees receive cheaper shares”, or that “this gives them the chance to sell in the market and make profit”.
This approach is, in our opinion, the greatest risk for the company in the field of human resources. If we can no longer continue to use methods of attraction and retention based on what makes us special – stock exchange listing and the value sharing mechanisms thus generated, the only alternative will be to also enter a global fight for human resources, with nothing to offer but money. We believe that this scenario is a very unfortunate one, which will strongly affect the profitability of the company, but unfortunately we estimate that it has a much higher probability of materializing, taking into account the recent discussions but also the fact that, as the number of shareholders increases (now we have over 1400 shareholders), it is much harder to obtain the 85% legal quorum necessary for the implementation of SOPs in the current legislation.
Changes in the legal and fiscal regime in Romania may affect the economic activity of the Company. Changes related to the adjustments of the Romanian legislation with the regulations of the European Union may affect the legal environment of the Company’s business and its financial results. The lack of stable rules, legislation and cumbersome procedures for obtaining administrative decisions may also restrict the future development of the Company.
Considering that the legislation increasingly leaves to the discretion of the fiscal body the interpretation of the application of the tax rules, in conjunction with the lack of funds to the state budget and the attempt by any means to bring these funds, we consider this risk a major one for the company, because it cannot be addressed in any way in a real and constructive preventive manner.
Currently, the company has 3 capital increase operations registered with the Trade Register, according to the approval of the shareholders and the decisions of the Board of Directors, operations that are not yet registered with ASF, despite the efforts made by the company. The lack of clarity regarding the company’s capital, as well as the difficulty of registering operations to reduce the share capital, are risks that may affect the percentages of allocation of free shares, dilution of some investors to the benefit of others, etc.
A special case related to the rapid evolution of the IT industry is the tendency of each technology to become “commodity” (very widespread, very widely adopted) and to be very well understood by customers. In such a business environment, the added value of the “resellers” companies is very low, so such a scenario leads to the decrease of the commercial margins for the business lines that are affected by commoditization. All technologies face this risk as their adoption increases. The most eloquent example is Microsoft’s licensing business, where most projects are invoiced to customers with very low commercial margins: 0-2%. As other technologies acquire the same dissemination and adoption, their resale also becomes unprofitable.
The company aims to position itself as a value consultant, not as a “commodity” type “boxes” reseller. Tracking technological trends and positioning as a “first mover” helps the company to provide added value through the services provided (consultancy, building technical solutions, installation and simplification, optimization, maintenance).
Commoditized businesses with small margins are prone to unfair competition, in particular through dumping prices. In particular, in Dendrio’s business this risk materialises when competitors often offer customers sales prices substantially below the purchase price of those licences. This type of business approach is very difficult and expensive to demonstrate, but it can cause damage to the Issuer by losing some contracts or reducing profitability. The issuer has not identified any solution to prevent this risk. The issuer aims to address new customer types, as well as customers for whom the added value of the solutions is not represented by price reductions, but by the functionality of the solutions offered. The more widespread and adopted the business line is, the added value that can be offered by an integration partner decreases.
The issuer is in constant competition with other participants on the IT market, competition that is expected to intensify. High competition can encourage current as well as potential customers to use the services and products of the Issuer’s competitors and thus negatively affect the Issuer’s revenues and profitability. Strong competition may result in increased pressure on the Issuer in relation to the prices of products and services offered to customers, which may have a significant impact on the ability of the Issuer to increase or maintain its profitability. The Issuer’s competitiveness in the current competitive environment depends to a large extent on its ability to adapt rapidly to new market developments and trends. To the extent that the Issuer will not be able to effectively compete with its competitors, regardless of whether it is a local or international group, this may have a negative effect on the business, financial situation, results of operations and prospects of the Issuer.
The reputation risk is inherent in the economic activity of the Issuer. The ability to retain and attract new customers depends in part on the brand recognition of the Issuer and its reputation for the quality of its services. Negative public opinion about the Issuer could result from actual or perceived practices in the IT market in general, such as negligence during the provision of products or services or even from the way the Issuer carries out or is perceived to carry out its activity.
Although the Issuer makes every effort to comply with the regulations in force and to increase the positive perception of customers and potential customers regarding its services, the negative publicity and negative public opinion could affect the Issuer’s ability to maintain and attract customers.
Over the years, the companies of the Bittnet Group have fulfilled their contractual obligations and have therefore not been sued by their contractual partners. As the group expands, and more companies join the group, it is possible that their partners may consider that the new financial position of these group members has become more relevant to be sued.
During 2021, according to the mandate given by the GMS in November 2020, Bittnet requested Anchor Grup – the owner of the building at 26 Bd Timisoara to extend the office space, under the same contractual conditions, to accommodate with the new workspace regulations (distance between people), and with the team to be expanded as a result of the M&A transactions. Taking into account that the offer received from Anchor Group was considered as non-compliant, we notified them of the application of the “break-up” clause in the contract, and according to the mandate given by the GMS to the CEO during the meeting of 26.11.2020, Bittnet Group negotiated with the present suppliers in the market an optimal solution for the current development plans.
Following negotiations with various representatives, a new lease agreement was signed with ONE United Properties for a space in the ONE Cotroceni Park (OCP), building, for a period of 5 years with the start date of 01.02.2022. The previous lease contract with Bucuresti Mall Development and Management SRL was unilaterally terminated by Bittnet Systems as of 31.05.2021.
At the date of publication of this report, the Company is aware of the existence in the Courts Portal of a lawsuit filed by Anchor Group having as object “claims”. As the content of the case has not yet been communicated to us, we do not know the amount of the claims or its justification, so we could not assess the need for a provision. As the court file advances, there is a risk that BNET’s profitability may be affected by the establishment of a provision for this dispute.
The credit risk is the risk that the debtors of the company will not be able to honour their obligations at maturity due to the deterioration of their financial situation. The company is less exposed to this risk due to the specificity of the products and services sold, which are addressed to companies of certain sizes with a special financial situation.
The company analyses new customers using specialized tools (sites with specific customer creditworthiness analysis) and has a strict procedure for documenting orders and provision of services or delivery of goods.
However, the company has not identified a solution that can completely eliminate credit risk, which is one of the most important risks for a company of our size.
The company also closely monitors the “soft-collection” processes and decides relatively quickly to switch to hard-collection procedures, which has brought us historic success in recovering receivables.
The automated IT systems alert both the sales team and managers to outstanding customers, which are “tracked” by the sales team for 1 month, so that we prioritize maintaining a good business relationship. Instead, after 1 month of unsuccessful efforts, it resorts to involving an experienced lawyer (and a positive “track record”) in the recovery of claims.
Most studies and articles dedicated to the topic of M&A show a statistic that holds no promise for acquiring companies: overwhelmingly, M&A processes destroy value for both companies (especially for the purchasers). This element takes on an even more negative dimension when in acquisitions, companies pay with shares of the acquiring company, as it is the case with our group. There is a significant risk that the processes we run will have the same negative long-term consequences. Management seeks to build each investment with a high degree of safety (“margin of safety”) and to align the interests of the participants through payment formulas and mechanisms. However, there is no guarantee that we will be able to continue to identify such solutions, and that future M&A processes will be profitable for our group.
Failure by third parties to perform their obligations towards the Issuer, including in connection with the implementation of certain investment projects envisaged by the Issuer or the risk of insolvency in relation thereto may affect the fulfilment of the Issuer’s business objectives or its activity or financial situation and, implicitly, its ability to perform its obligations in relation to the Bonds.
A specific example is the situation in which companies from the Issuer’s group participate in public procurement procedures, and suppliers do not fulfil their assumed obligations. This scenario may result in the issuance of a “negative certificate” on behalf of the company that participated in the public tender procedure, which would mean exclusion from other procedures in the future, thus eliminating a potential to generate revenues. Considering the global semiconductor crisis, which is affecting lead times from our suppliers to us, while we have contracts with fixed delivery dates (especially in public procurement) these delays significantly increase the risk that our group will be unable to meet the lead times agreed with our customers. In the case of public entity customers, the issuance of a “negative certificate” in the name of one of our group companies would affect that company’s ability to generate sales.
The company is exposed to the risk of increasing the interest rate, having contracted loans and loans. Any increase in the interest rate will be reflected in the increase in financial costs. The company regularly monitors the market situation to predict the risk associated with the interest rate and liaises with as many credit institutions as possible in order to ensure an “arbitrage” between their offers.
The company conducted in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 offers of bonds with maturities in 2019, 2022 and 2023 through which it obtained from the capital market a “committed” financing of over 30 million lei. All bond issues are listed on BVB.
In December 2020, the company informed the shareholders about the signing of a bank loan agreement by Dendrio Solutions (a company belonging to the Bittnet group) with ProCredit Bank. The total value of the facility is RON 5,000,000 and the destination of the loan is to finance the working capital and the current activity of Dendrio Solutions. The maturity of the product is 36 months and the interest rate is ROBOR3M+3% per year. The guarantee established for this credit product: cash collateral deposit 10% of the value.
Also, in February 2020, Bittnet Systems transformed the loan product worth 2,790,000 contracted also with ProCredit Bank from revolving overdraft into a loan with monthly principal and interest reimbursements. The new maturity of the loan was set for a period of 36 months, and the interest rate remained unchanged, ROBOR3M+2.5%.