Annual Report 2020

tomorrow's world

why and who we are



















To invent the future by fully assuming our social responsibility and maximizing our positive impact. This is the commitment of the CFE Group which, through its three divisions - marine engineering, construction and real estate development - positions itself as a major player in the transformation of our living environment, our cities, our communities. A vision of the future supported by 140 years of experience and a sustainable philosophy in all areas.


marine engineering

With a worldwide fleet of over one hundred vessels, DEME is one of the international leaders in marine engineering. Its four activity segments - dredging, environment, offshore and infrastructure - meet the essential needs of our society and our planet. By offering ever more innovative solutions, DEME lays the foundations for a sustainable future. 


real estate

Developing the projects that will define the outlines of tomorrow’s cities, inventing new forms of living together, conceiving the co-living spaces of the future, etc. Through its real estate development activity, BPI positions itself as a major driver of change by defending basic values: sustainability, high architectural quality, respect for the environment, and community involvement.



In the heart of our cities,
CFE Contracting transforms our living environment and builds the essential infrastructures of our daily life. Construction, Multitechnics and Rail & Utilities are the three divisions of this pole, which is consistently dedicated to sustainability and innovation in order to address today’s challenges. Future projects for a world in constant development.

CEO’s message

(Y)our future begins with sustainable thinking

Buildings, infrastructures at sea and on land, marine engineering, environmental projects, mobility: the CFE Group can be found at the heart of society as a whole, with projects that very often transform and improve the daily lives of thousands of people. This essential role cannot be conceived without a keen awareness of social responsibility and sustainability. The different CEOs of the Group and its divisions give an outline of these aspects and look back on 2020, a year marked by the pandemic, but also by resilience, solidarity and innovation.

Piet Dejonghe & Luc Bertrand 
Managing director of the CFE group & Chairman of the Board of Directors

READ MOREDownload Annual report of the Board of Directors


key figures

YeaR at a glance

Resilience in the face of the crisis

“Despite the exceptional circumstances, the result of the CFE Group remains clearly positive in 2020. The net financial debt decreased significantly, and its cash and order book reached all time record levels.

To a large extent, the impact of the health crisis explains the decrease in revenue observed at DEME and CFE Contracting, while the activities of BPI increased significantly, especially in Poland.

At the level of the three divisions, DEME was affected by the pandemic very early on. The negative impact of this and the accident of the Orion ship weighed on his results. However, the company has also recorded great successes, such as the sale of a stake in an offshore wind farm, which generated a capital gain in excess of € 60 million. A transaction that proves the relevance of the development of the activities of DEME Concessions.

Several entities of CFE Contracting, such as VMA, CFE Polska or MOBIX, stood out particularly in 2020. Conversely,
construction activities in Belgium and Luxembourg were strongly affected by the effects of the pandemic.

The impact of the pandemic on BPI Real Estate remained very limited in 2020. The company reported impressive results.

The negative impact of the health crisis will still be significant in the first months of 2021, but DEME and CFE Contracting should realize an improved revenue and net result. In the absence of project deliveries in Poland, and because of delays in the granting of building permits in Brussels, BPI’s net result is expected to decrease in 2021, but should nevertheless remain high.”

Fabien De Jonge
CFO of the CFE Group


People always at the centre

“The coronavirus has forced us to rethink some of our objectives, but, thanks to the excellent and efficient collaboration between the human resources departments of the different entities, we have been able to overcome this crisis. The quick introduction of specific training programmes has been a major tool in the face of the crisis, and in particular the programmes dedicated to well-being and to the use of technologies for teleworking or remote management, and its adaptations to virtual conditions. The CFE Group has also launched a major campaign to attract qualified profiles in order to fill numerous specific positions, and to continue to strengthen itself in what has come to be known as the war for talent. We have also provided additional financial support to compensate for the periods of partial unemployment that some of our employees may have suffered.”  

Valérie Van Brabant
Chief Human Resources Officer


Safety: a global approach

The HSEQ board (Health, Safety, Environment, Quality) has many objectives. Above all, the board aims to translate the strategic objectives of the CFE Group into concrete actions and clear priority plans. The ‘think global, act local’ principle governs these decisions, with the focus on safety for everyone and at all times. In order to achieve the zero accidents/zero incidents objective, it relies on constant process improvement and on the sharing of good practices through constructive consultation, with sustainability as the common thread. The HSEQ board defines a common vision and policy for all entities in 2020, and has established a unified reporting system for the HSEQ statistics. This will allow to develop a multi-level strategy in 2021, and in particular the long-term awareness training project, which will strengthen the skills of managers in the field of safety, but also the awareness of the lifesaving rules, as well as a prevention campaign with regard to the use of alcohol and drugs.

Digitalization: a paradigm shift

“The strategy of the CFE Group with regard to digitalization and innovation has been completely reconsidered in 2020. The switch to digital in all fields is naturally at the centre of this strategy, and the COVID-19 pandemic has played an accelerating role from this perspective. Although negative from the point of view of society, this period has brought about a mind shift that could otherwise never have been achieved in this time frame. From the first lockdown, the number of active users of our videoconferencing tool has increased fivefold. All aspects of online work have seen an increase, from sharing documents to using electronic signatures. We were able to implement all these solutions quickly because we were ready technically. Our proactive approach is now being extended with the development of our ‘digital awareness’ and e-learning.” 

Hans Van Dromme 
Chief Digital Officer 

Priority sustainability goals

In 2019, the CFE Group started the clarification process of its own sustainable development objectives based on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations. The Group has the clear desire to focus on sustainable aspects, in both the construction process and the projects themselves. This has enabled the definition of a policy based on the ESG criteria, which has already led to initial outcomes with, in particular, the creation of a dashboard of non-financial indicators, and, for CFE Contracting, reporting that is much more regular (4x a year instead of once a year). Several pilot projects allow the monitoring of the most complex issues, such as the transport of materials and equipment, circularity or the protection of the environment. Each indicator ensures the regular monitoring of the defined priority objectives. The coronavirus crisis has confirmed the relevance of such objectives, in particular the acceleration of the digitalization, as well as the focus on operational excellence, which proved to be essential for the continuation of the activities on-site, in the offices or in homeworking.”

Isabelle De Bruyne 
Sustainability Officer 

how we shape the world

The strength of our assets and our constant reflection on the Sustainable Development Goals allow the CFE Group to have a positive long-term impact on the world.

* these SDG’s are DEME & CFE Contracting and BPI related; more info in the statement of non-financial information

** these SDG’s are DEME or CFE Contracting and BPI related; more info in the statement of non-financial information

Build for the future

Being aware of the human and ecological issues that will define our lifestyles in the years to come, the CFE Group has chosen to develop a prolonged long-term vision in all its projects, and to affirm its aim to contribute to the building of a sustainable future for our planet and for the generations to come. Sound water management, reduction of waste and packaging, reuse or recycling of construction site residues, the use of ecological construction materials, shortening of the supply lines: all these are elements on which the CFE Group is currently already taking very concrete actions.

Be a great place to work

The strength of the CFE Group is directly linked to the talents of its teams. Those human ‘resources’ are far more than an anonymous reservoir of employees. In all sectors, our activity rests on highly specific know-how and skills. Attracting new and qualified employees, and enabling them to thrive, develop and give the best of themselves in a stimulating and benevolent environment is therefore one of the primary objectives of CFE. The various entities therefore reserve a prominent place for a series of fundamental human values.

concrete achievements

offer innovative solutions

Innovation is a fundamental component of the sustainable strategy of the CFE Group. It is both a driving force and an application method. The operational excellence of all entities is based on a continuous search for innovative solutions, not only in the management of daily tasks and in terms of administrative procedures or the relationships with different partners, but also in seeking to develop technologies that are capable of bringing about a thoroughgoing transformation of our way of life.

towards climate neutrality

In December 2019, the European Council, which is composed of the heads of state and governments of the European Union Member States, officially adopted the Union’s goal to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. This political breakthrough testifies to the growing importance of the environmental challenges at all levels of society. The CFE Group shares this commitment and is already implementing several sets of measures to achieve climate neutrality in the long term. 

a partner for change

In a world in constant change, the needs and requirements of society combine with climatic, demographic and health challenges to give rise to ever faster changes in our way of life. Conceiving, inventing and building a better future for all: the CFE Group is ready to meet those challenges and makes its commitment to be an actor of change into the common thread of its sustainable strategy.