4investors Interview with asknet: The buying process becomes democratic

The following interview with Tobias Kaulfuss, CEO asknet AG, has been released on the market and economic portal 4investors and of course we don't want to exclude you from this article.

A short portrait and additional background information concerning can be found at the end of our blog entry.

To view the interview at the website of 4investors please click here (only German). We hope you enjoy reading it!


asknet: The buying process becomes democratic

Author: Michael Barck, 4investors

asknet begins a new chapter after restructuring. "We put an emphasis on profitable growth and not growth for its own sake," says Tobias Kaulfuss, CEO of asknet, in a winter interview with the editors of www.4investors.de, commenting on business performance in 2015 and the forecasts for the current year. Also, on the question of whether asknet is considering a market capitalization of almost 8 million euros and is a takeover candidate, Kaulfuss responds in this interview.

www.4investors.de: The third quarter 2015 was a record quarter for asknet. Has this trend continued in the fourth quarter?

Kaulfuss: The fourth quarter has just ended so this information is not yet available for publication. Traditionally, the fourth quarter results will be published together with the 2015 Annual Report with a publication date of April 29, 2016. asknet is listed in the Entry Standard, with the voluntary transmission of three and nine month reports we meet the requirements of German stock exchange (Deutsche Börse) to provide maximum transparency to our shareholders.

www.4investors.de: Can you confirm the previous forecast for 2015, or, as expected by the Sphene analysts, could a smaller profit before taxes be possible instead of "just" break even?

Kaulfuss: Our forecast for the full 2015 remains unchanged with our third quarter 2015: We will achieve a nearly constant gross profit, balanced earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) and a moderately higher gross profit margin.

www.4investors.de: For asknet, among other things, the gross margin in 2015 has improved significantly, with the nine-month period from 12.7 percent to 14.2 percent. Is asknet after the restructuring at the upper end of what can be done, or is there still room for improvement?

Kaulfuss: Gross profit is the measure from which asknet begins the creation of its core business. So far, this is the logical conclusion for a continuous raising of margin potential. This therefore, does not represent a “one-off” effect on our three business units in early 2015. We will pursue this goal in the future.

www.4investors.de: What are your goals in 2016 and the medium term for the overall sales and margins? Are there any other specific plans for the New Year on which one can already speak?

Kaulfuss: Our long-term objective is of course the increase of profits. Growth, per se, cannot be a target without positive results. Only profitable business practices resulting in profitable growth will bring us further as a company. We are convinced that the strategic decisions of recent months provide a strong foundation for the coming years. In front of us is a contested and dynamically competitive environment with many opportunities that we will individually tackle with each of our three business units.

www.4investors.de: In September 2015, you have opened a new office in Switzerland. How is business going with the Confederates now?

Kaulfuss: As planned, we will increase the market share in Switzerland, and concentrate on this special distribution resource to increase visibility further. In addition, we will also expand along the value chain products and services.

www.4investors.de: What plans you have for the further development of international business by asknet?

Kaulfuss: asknet already operates in an international environment with currently four locations: Karlsruhe in Germany, Tokyo in Japan, San Francisco in the US and Uster (near Zurich) in Switzerland. Our e-commerce solutions sell products already in 190 countries and in more than 30 currencies, payment methods and languages. In this context, for us internationalization means focusing on the individual markets and their audiences. Check out, for example, our product asknet Verify. Here, Online Merchant websites for different stakeholder groups offering discounts and special conditions can be obtained with asknet Verify using a solution for the efficient and cost-effective verification of rebate claims that can be quickly and easily integrated into the Online Shop. This can be implemented nationally and internationally.

www.4investors.de: The e-commerce market is rapidly expanding and gaining many suppliers and consumers with more and more acceptance. What trends in e-commerce look at these suppliers and consumers for the coming years? What will happen technologically?

Kaulfuss: If you consider that shopping habits in Germany alone of about 80 million inhabitants, more than 50 million on the Internet, you have a sense of the importance of e-commerce market place. It is crucial that the customer experienced the highest level of comfort and transparency, without breaks in the digital or analog channels. What channels to use is entirely up to the customer and it is here that we are witnessing a democratization of the buying process. The technique and the entire process for the sale of goods will have to change accordingly. The proliferation of so-called wearables will also have an impact on product lines and buying behavior.

www.4investors.de: In your area you exposed to everything but low competition. Where do you see asknet in this environment? Any special opportunities or announced intensified sales campaign?

Kaulfuss: asknet is a pioneer with over 20 years of experience in electronic trading.

As e-Procurement specialist in research and teaching, our Business Unit Academics inter alia, will continue to expand and concentrate initially on the DACH region. In addition, there is opportunity here to expand support services in order to create added value for their customer groups. The penetration of our large customer base represents a huge potential here.

Our Business Unit Digital Goods in contrast, will pay greater attention to the wider range of products along our existing e-commerce expertise. Renowned customers already have signed contracts for the stand-alone product asknet Verify (connection of the verification process in the online shop), such as Kaspersky Lab or Verbi GmbH.

In September, our Business Unit Physical Goods was successfully represented as a consultant and expert in the framework of the newly established eCommerce Roundtable series that addressed challenges to manufacturers due to digital transformation while focusing on how to secure a better position in the market.

You see, we understand the market in all three business units and know the respective specific international requirements. This, and our focus on our long-standing expertise and core products, will be used to increase our success in sales. We put emphasis on profitable growth and not growth for its own sake.

www.4investors.de: According to the nine-month figures is asknet now free of bank debt and provided 4.53 million euros in cash. How will the money be invested?

Kaulfuss: Cash on hand is always assessed in terms of the reporting date, as this varies depending on the number of appointments to our customers, we are working for producers as a reseller.

Acquisitions make sense if the product or the business model could be easily integrated into the business of asknet. As part of the expansion, asknet’s course also deals with inorganic growth. Here, we may be a strong partner not only because of the liquidity situation, but also with our long-standing expertise in e-commerce. Currently, there is nothing concrete planned.

www.4investors.de: With a market capitalization of around EUR 8 million, liquid assets, working profits and equipped with plenty of losses carried forward, asknet could however also be a target takeover bid itself. The company's business in a larger group of companies might be even easier, for example in terms of new customer acquisition?

Kaulfuss: We believe that we have a stand-alone model with very exciting prospects that we want to raise over the next years. The increase in profitability here is a priority for the future. asknet’s value proposition also stems from new products which complement our product portfolio ideally and make it more attractive. asknet's business partners are from eight of the "Fortune 500 - companies", these include Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Intel, Oracle, Symantec, Ingram Micro and Tech Data. In addition, we cooperate among others with numerous international manufacturers such as Adobe, CyberLink, HBO, Norman, Steinberg and muvee and have partnered with 80 percent of German universities and research institutions. This puts us in a very good position, even without a larger group of companies, and shows the strength of our market position we have built up in 20 years.

Portrait 4investors
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Date: January 19, 2016 - Copyright www.4investors.de, Internet- and newsletter offering: Stoffels & Barck GbR, Binsfelder Str 77, 52351 Düren. Phone: 02421/277619, e-mail: info@4investors.de. Editors-in chief of www.4investors.de: Johannes Stoffels and Michael Barck (v.i.S.d.P.). Please note our imprint (only German) on www.4investors.de - disclosure, copying and commercial use of every description only permitted with explicit written approval!

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