2017 was a good year of solid progress for Philips, as we continued our transformation to become a focused leader in health technology and delivered on our improvement targets for the year. In line with our commitments we delivered 4% comparable sales growth , resulting in a 10-basis-point gain in market share. We also improved operating profitability, with an Adjusted EBITA margin increase of 110 basis points, and generated a strong EUR 1.2 billion free cash flow . This underscores our ability to stay the course, in this case against a background of challenging economic circumstances in Europe and considerable uncertainty in the US around healthcare policy.
Our organic growth initiatives are delivering tangible results. Overall we recorded 6% order growth for the year. In Diagnostic Imaging, for instance, we ended the year with high-single-digit order growth and realized market share gains in China and India, driven by the renewal of 60% of our portfolio. We also noted a strong increase in order intake in our Digital Pathology Solutions business, double-digit growth of our Sleep & Respiratory Care devices, and the continued success of our OneBlade hybrid facial hair styler. And we introduced several important innovations, gained traction with our solutions approach – securing multiple long-term strategic partnerships – and continued to invest in quality and talent.
We further strengthened our portfolio through targeted acquisitions, the largest being Spectranetics, a global leader in vascular intervention and lead management solutions. The integration of these acquisitions is on track. Toward the end of the year we deconsolidated Philips Lighting as we reduced our shareholding to below 30%, in line with our stated aim to fully sell down our stake.
2017 saw the completion of the industry reclassification of our stock to Healthcare at all major indices. Our customers and the financial markets appreciate the way we have pivoted and executed on our strategic roadmap. And we increased our brand value to USD 11.5 billion in the 2017 Interbrand ranking.
Continuing to drive our five-year ‘Healthy people, sustainable planet’ program, with its focus on Circular Economy, Access to Care and Climate Action, we improved the lives of 2.2 billion people around the world in 2017, and we again received top rankings from leading indices such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and the Carbon Disclosure Project. At the United Nations in September we made an extended commitment to improve the lives of 300 million people in underserved healthcare communities by 2025.
Overall, I am pleased with the progress we made in 2017. Our purpose is very clear. We are here to improve health and healthcare through innovations! We have a vibrant, highly committed workforce, with employee engagement consistently above the high-performing norm and rising from 74% to 76% this year. We have good momentum on our way to position ourselves for a future with higher growth and earnings potential. Clearly, we can still improve operational excellence: making further progress on product performance and our commitment to quality is our highest priority for 2018. However, I am very confident in our ability to capture the opportunities and deal with the challenges ahead, as we work toward our goal of improving the lives of 3 billion people a year by 2025.
Innovating with purpose
In the face of growing and aging populations, the rise of chronic diseases, and global resource constraints, health systems the world over are under enormous strain. Digital technology is transforming the healthcare industry, increasingly shifting value towards software and services. It also has the potential to enable more and more people to actively take ownership of their health and well-being.
For Philips – with leadership positions in both personal health and professional healthcare – we see that innovation can transform the delivery of care across the health continuum, enabling new relationships between care providers and patients/consumers, and driving better patient outcomes, higher productivity and a better user experience for all concerned.
We are driving this transformation in different ways:
- By offering consumers connected solutions – like our Sonicare DiamondClean Smart oral care and DreamWear sleep therapy solutions – that support superior preventive care and those living with chronic disease respectively.
- By giving clinicians the solutions they need to perform care with better outcomes and higher productivity, such as our Healthcare Informatics solutions. These support first-time-right diagnosis and increase productivity by integrating radiology, pathology and genomics information at the point of care, with AI-driven clinical decision support.
- By empowering clinicians to deliver precision treatments supported by ground-breaking innovations for image-guided therapies, including our advanced live image-guidance solutions, hybrid operating rooms and smart devices such as our diagnostic and therapeutic catheters.
- By enabling the seamless flow of data needed to care for patients in real time wherever they are, by ‘joining up the dots’ from the ICU to the home with our HealthSuite digital platforms and patient monitoring solutions, again supported by powerful algorithms that can predict adverse patient incidents hours in advance.
All of this with the objective of supporting the shift to value-based healthcare, a model that aims to improve patient outcomes while at the same time increasing productivity – that is innovation with purpose. And there’s more to come from our pipeline, thanks to our consistently high levels of investment in R&D, where some 60% of our people are focused on software and data science.
The road forward
Looking ahead, we see significant opportunities to further increase the value we deliver – by boosting growth in our existing core business, growing in adjacencies, and driving customer and operational excellence. We know that our strategy has traction, so now it is execution that matters most.
Boosting growth in core business
One of the ways we will capture new growth in our core business is by continuing to leverage products and solutions that have worked well in mature markets and bringing them to growth geographies where we have a strong footprint and brand recognition – as we have done with our Sonicare power toothbrushes in China.
In addition, we are increasingly partnering with hospital customers in new business models, engaging in long-term strategic partnerships to innovate value-added, integrated solutions that deliver better outcomes and higher productivity.
We now have over 110 of these long-term partnerships, up from 60-plus in 2016, and the number continues to rise. The combination of compelling solutions and consultative partnership contracts drives above-average growth rates and a higher proportion of recurring revenues.
Growing in adjacencies
We have completed two substantial M&A transactions over the last few years, Volcano and Spectranetics. These were targeted to meet our strategic objectives, to complement our leadership in cardiovascular interventions with smart devices, so that we can support complete vascular procedures. Volcano has worked out very well, having risen to double-digit growth and much improved profitability since we integrated the business; and we have similar expectations of Spectranetics, as we leverage our post-merger integration capabilities to unlock maximum value.
Another route to growth in adjacencies is through organic growth and investments in R&D. To extend our strong portfolio in patient monitoring, for example, we have invested in medical-grade wearables so that patients don’t need to be wired up but can be continuously measured, wherever they are. We continue to invest in Digital Pathology, as we believe the digitization of tissue slides is going to completely transform the clinical practice of pathology. We are pleased we are now able to market our IntelliSite Pathology Solution for primary diagnostic use in the USA, and we have since seen a sharp increase in order growth.
At the same time, we do not need to do everything ourselves. In 2017, for example, we entered into a partnership with B. Braun to innovate and accelerate growth in ultrasound-guided regional anesthesia and vascular access. And we have a host of other value-adding alliances where we have decided we can better expand our capabilities through partnering, rather than going it alone.
Continuing the digital transformation of Philips is absolutely fundamental to our future. We continue to invest in our secure HealthSuite digital eco-system platform – to enable digital health propositions that connect consumers and doctors to Philips through the cloud, enabling new business models and unlocking new revenue streams. We currently have over 30 cloud-connected propositions in the market.
Today, we sell a large proportion of our Personal Health products through online channels, aided by digital marketing. And now we are transferring that marketing capability to our health systems channels, so that we become more effective at reaching healthcare professionals. We are also connecting our back-office systems to our customers to enable new recurring revenue streams and enhanced customer loyalty in Software as a Service and Product as a Service business models.
Driving customer and operational excellence
To ensure that our solutions are truly customer-centric, we use ‘design thinking’ and our proven ‘Co-create’ methodology, whereby we come together with healthcare professionals to explore how our combined knowledge, resources and shared vision could improve the delivery of care.
In our drive for operational excellence we continue with disciplined implementation of the Philips Business System and Lean principles. The adoption of Hoshin methodology to plan and drive execution has yielded significant gains across the group. Our productivity measures will add up to over EUR 1.2 billion over the three-year period 2017-2019, having delivered around EUR 480 million in 2017.
We continue to drive quality and regulatory performance improvement throughout the company. Nevertheless, we did not fully deliver to our 2017 plan as we continue to address two significant regulatory challenges that arose from years ago. We must continue our improvement journey forcefully.
Building on the strong 6% order growth for the full year 2017, consistent execution on these value drivers will enable us to deliver, in 2018, on our medium-term targets of 4-6% comparable sales growth and an average annual improvement in Adjusted EBITA margin of 100 basis points.
We have made strong progress in our transformation to become a focused leader in health technology. Going forward, we are committed to single-mindedly improve performance and attain higher levels of growth. To this end we are continuing to strengthen our culture – putting our customers first, acting with quality and integrity, teaming up to win, taking ownership to deliver fast, and learning, improving and inspiring each other, every step of the way.
I am confident that, by doing so, we will be able to expand our strong positions across the health continuum, extend our solutions capability to address our customers’ unmet needs, and deliver the full benefits of data-enabled connected care.
It only remains for me to thank our customers, shareholders and other stakeholders for the support they continue to give us. And to thank our Philips people around the world for their tremendous engagement and efforts over the past year.
Frans van Houten
Chief Executive Officer