The year 2020 was to a large degree shaped by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a major impact on people, society and the economy. Apart from a major decrease in sales and margin, the pandemic also had a major impact on the welfare of our employees. Nevertheless, we managed to end the year with a positive result and to safeguard the continuity of the company. In addition, 2020 was the first year after the transformational acquisition in 2019, as a result of which the company doubled in size. In 2020, we took major steps in integrating both companies and we built the foundation for the future.
Where necessary, we proved to be capable of quickly and effectively adjusting ourselves to new circumstances in 2020. We implemented measures where necessary, including a number of cost reductions. Based on current cost levels, this offers the possibility of a profitable growth in sales, once the pandemic is under control and market activities once again increase. In 2021, we will continue to invest in our network, our systems, our storage technology, logistics solutions and treatment machines.
COVID-19 will continue to be a disrupting factor in society in 2021. It is not clear when the world will return to normal and furthermore it is not clear what that normal will be. Nonetheless, and despite the fact that the markets in all of our segments are still disrupted, our outlook for 2021 is positive. Given our scale, our global presence, our strong European distribution network and our broad product portfolio, we are able to continue to operate in a large number of market segments. The first quarter of 2021 displays a sharply increasing trend in price levels and activities are increasing, particularly in a number of sectors in the Industry segment in Europe. We do not expect immediate market recovery in the Energy segment. The level of investment in downstream projects in particular is low. However, we are positive about a number of pipeline projects in 2021.
Van Leeuwen is a family business that is proud of its almost one-hundred-year history. From that perspective we are looking forward to the future with a great deal of confidence. Our history is one of the strongest building blocks of our company. Knowledge and specialisms were accrued over many years and a network was developed and expanded. Over 2,400 committed and motivated people work for our company and our customers in all of the countries and regions in which we are active throughout the world. We are inspired by our profession, pipes and tubes and everything surrounding this: pipe and tube components, pipe and tube applications and pipe treatments; pipes and tubes that are incorporated into many customer applications. Inspired by our unremitting motivation to find the best pipes and tubes and the best solutions for our customers. This inspiration gives the company its strength and ensures that Van Leeuwen is top of mind for many customers.
Our employees are the most important key to our success. We continue to provide them with opportunities to further develop their skills and expertise, and to apply their talents at a local and global scale. From a strong base, together with our management and our employees, we continue to build our company and our future, and continue to be challenged to constantly offer our customers something new and to continue to captivate our people.
Zwijndrecht, the Netherlands, 31 March 2021
P.L. Rietberg (Chairman)