Industry heavyweights

25 April 2008

The 'big four' companies are entrenched at the top of the IC m20 table this year in their now established positions. Liebherr, Manitowoc, Terex and Tadano have all cemented their places at the summit of the table with strong sales rises.

Almost unprecedented demand for cranes from all markets is the clear reason behind the increases in sales for 2005 compared to the year before. The more cautious observer may note that the latest financial results include the large order backlog figures that the manufacturers have on their books. As crane makers struggle to source enough components and maximise their production capacity, it could be that the backlog situation will continue for a year or more.

The all terrain crane market, estimated at around 2,700 new units worldwide last year, has contributed largely to sales figures of the top four manufacturers. Liebherr estimates that it has 40% of this market and has forecast that its mobile crane division will have a turnover of €1.2 billion ($1.5 billion) in 2006. Around 1,100 new mobile cranes left the Ehingen factory in Germany during 2005 and the company expects a figure closer to 1,400 units in 2006.

For Liebherr, Spain and the US have been the top performing regions for mobile cranes, a sentiment echoed by Manitowoc and Terex with their Grove and Demag lines.

Many in the industry have cited Spain as the world's healthiest tower crane market, although sources in China or the Middle East would challenge that claim. Figures for 2005 suggest that Spanish manufacturers sold at least 3,500 new tower cranes last year and both Liebherr and Potain recorded high sales in the country. Tower cranes have also received special mentions from Terex as one of the company's best-performing product sectors.

The crawler crane majors all hinted at a rise in North America helping to boost 2005 figures. Strong growth in demand from the wind power generation industry was a primary contributor to increasing sales of large crawler cranes.

In fourth place in the table, leading Japanese manufacturer Tadano, recorded a sales increase of more than $100 million (12.8%) for fiscal 2005 over 2004, which, the company says, reflected the strength of its domestic market. Another healthy rise at a Japanese manufacturer was at Hitachi Sumitomo where sales were up 15% ($28 million) for the same period. Also in Japan, at Kobelco Cranes, in its second year as an independent entity separate from Kobe Steel, the increase in sales was $15 million (4.7%).

Finishing in sixth place is loader crane manufacturer Hiab, the highest placed of the articulating boom manufacturers, although it should be noted that Hiab figures include the other Cargotec lifting equipment product lines.

Last year's IC m20 listing saw the emergence of Chinese crane manufacturers on the world stage and their presence is further confirmed this year. Zoomlion's jump of seven places from 16th to 9th is the biggest change in this year's table, and Xuzhou Heavy Machinery (XCMG) has also recorded a notably strong year-on-year increase.

The impact of a proliferation of new products launched in 2006 will be seen in next year's table, and do not be surprised to see more Chinese manufacturers, perhaps Fushun Excavator, make the final listing.•

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