ICm20 2007: The world's largest crane manufacturers

By Alex Dahm26 February 2008

Double-digit growth, by more than 40% in at least one case, characterises this year's ICm20 listing of the world's largest crane manufacturers.

Movement at the top of the ICm20 for the first time in years sees Tadano move down a place. Edging the Japanese mobile and loader crane manufacturer into fifth place is Konecranes, which has jumped up one position from the 2006 listing. Tadano's achievements, however, should not be downplayed. The company enjoyed considerable sales growth during the 2006 financial year, along with many of its counterparts, which have benefited from the booming global construction and heavy lifting market.

Maintaining their long-standing positions in the top three are Liebherr, Manitowoc Crane Group and Terex Cranes, respectively, all of which have seen outstanding growth in the region of 40%.

Record sales have seen many manufacturers, particularly the top four, expanding their global production facilities in an attempt to keep up with demand.

Despite this, order backlogs have been building to unprecedented levels. In its third quarter financial report, just out as IC went to press, Terex Cranes put its backlog value at US$1.74 billion at the end of September 2007, 23% higher than at end June and equating to 10 months of manufacturing work. Similarly Manitowoc Crane Group showed a backlog of $2.1 billion in its second quarter results, released in July. This was up nearly $1 billion, or 85%, from June 2006.

“As we have noted in the past, we are reluctant to book orders with extended delivery dates without the ability to accurately price the product due to fluctuating supply chain costs,” explained Glen Tellock, Manitowoc Company president.

In all terrains

The world market for all terrain mobile cranes grew further in 2006 with manufacturers taking full advantage. Liebherr sold more than 1,300 units during the period, which, it says, amounts to 45% of the total market, standing at some 3,000 units.

Crawler cranes sales are also curving steeply upwards and there is no immediate sign of a slow down. The explosive growth in demand for energy means crawlers are perfectly placed to take advantage. An example is the increase in popularity of wind power and the number of new turbines around the world, both on land and sea. Worldwide demand for heavy crawlers in 2007 could be as high as 150 units, up more than 20% from the 2006 forecast. Terex Demag continues to dominate the heavy crawler segment but Liebherr is developing the heavy end of its range and Kobelco is also heading in that direction.

Kobelco sold about 730 cranes in the fiscal year ending March 2007, up 38% or 200 units on the 530 units sold in the previous fiscal year.

Other crawler manufacturers are also doing well. Link-Belt, based in the US, enjoyed a 35% increase in sales.

Japanese manufacturers have seen similar success, for example, Hitachi Sumitomo Heavy Industries Crane Company posted sales of $261 million, compared to $208 million in the 2005 financial year.

Part of the reason for the unprecedented demand for cranes is still that end users have been hanging on to their cranes for longer, waiting for the right time to renew them. The industry is at a stage where used cranes have actually sold, for example, at US auctions, for more than the equivalent new machines.

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