Liebherr cranes ride out turbulent 2010

By Euan Youdale22 March 2011

Liebherr Group increased turnover by about 9% or US$823 million in the 2010 financial year to $10.1 billion, but the crane divisions fared less well.

The figures were presented at the manufacturer's ConExpo press conference today (22 March). Christoph Kleiner, Liebherr-Werk Ehingen managing director, said the mobile crane division saw relatively weak growth at 2% or US$48 million to $2.4 billion.

In the construction cranes and mixing technology division, turnover reached about $687 million, slightly above the previous year's figure, said the manufacturer. The maritime cranes division saw $961 million turnover, an increase of 8.4% or $74 million.

In 2010 turnover at Liebherr-Werk Ehingen GmbH was a little over US$ 2.1 billion. The plant where wheeled mobile cranes and crawlers above 300 tonnes capacity are built shipped 1,033 new units.

"In our largest market region, in Europe, our sales experience is at present unfortunately predominantly negative. Business on the markets in Spain, Hungary, Romania, and Great Britain continues to be weak. In Austria and France, sales figures at present are still down. In the German market where, in 2009, we were able to benefit from extremely good demand, in 2010 things also have definitely cooled off," said Kleiner.

Business in China and Brazil, however, continued its upward trend in 2010, and this is forecast to continue in 2011. "Demand in Australia is likewise very good. Following a sharp decline at the start of the economic crisis, Russia has, in the meantime, again shown substantially positive development," Kleiner added.

The US mobile crane market experienced a dramatic downturn over the last two years. The market for all terrain cranes in the USA is at the lowest level in the past 15 years with a volume of about 100 units in 2010, Kleiner said. "An added difficulty in this is the fact that the particularly significant market in the United States for truck and rough terrain cranes has at the same time reached a historic low."

The company also claimed to have increased its market share of all terrain cranes from 43% to 48% during the year. "In general we see a pick up in demand for mobile cranes currently - incoming orders are increasing."

At Liebherr's construction cranes division 2010 turnover was about $690 million, marking a particularly depressed year in the USA, said Matthias Donner, managing director Liebherr-Werk Biberach.

Despite the global market conditions Liebherr delivered about 750 construction cranes worldwide last year. "To highlight some major indicators of the last 36 months: the tower crane industry faced a worldwide downturn of more than 60% from the peak in 2007. In some markets the demand for tower cranes came basically to a standstill," said Donner.

The Chinese tower crane market was the only exception with robust demand throughout 2010, making it equal to the rest of the world put together.

Nevertheless, global demand for tower cranes is in recovery, said Donner. The manufacturer also believes it can increase its global market share to 35%. However, the financial crises has changed the tower crane industry in three major ways, according to Donner.

First, the global industry is far more rental-based, a situation that is growing. Second, the need for tower cranes is shifting into new regions. "We have production facilities around the world to respond quickly to the demand of the emerging markets. The German and Spanish production facilities will be very strong suppliers of the whole range of tower cranes and will support our new tower crane production facilities in Brazil and in India." Third, growth in emerging markets has led to shortfall in trained operators, Donner added.

Gerhard Frainer, managing director Liebherr-Werk Nenzing GmbH in Nenzing, Austria, explained that there was a decrease of 40% in worldwide deliveries of crawler cranes compared to the peak in 2008. "In 2010 the markets have stabilised, however, there has been no substantial market growth in terms of deliveries. The market for duty cycle crawler cranes that are used for exploration and material handling, demolition, recycling or for foundation tasks has still been calm. In the lift crane range there have been signs of recovery, especially from the crane rental companies. However, there is a stronger trend for the medium sized or the big cranes, up to 300 tonnes, rather than smaller sized lift cranes," said Frainer.

The market dropped further in 2010, said Frainer, but forecasts for 2011 are hopeful. "With the order incomes until March 2011 we have already reached the total turnover of 2010 for the Nenzing range of duty cycle crawler cranes (HS), lift cranes (LR) and foundation equipment. We have constantly improved the series in the past years. The LR 1300 is one of the best selling machines in the market for crawler cranes and has a market share of about 50% in its size class."

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