Mixed results from Liebherr

By Euan Youdale22 June 2009

Liebherr's crane divisions faired better than others in the group's 2008 financial review. However, they did not escape the downward trend towards the end of the year or the general concerns for 2009.

"Although the year began strongly, the worldwide increase in production in real terms amounted to only 1.7% for the year as a whole. We were nevertheless able to record an increase in turnover for the 2008 business year," said Winfred Boehm, member of the directorate, Liebherr-International AG.

Group sales revenues rose 11% or €834million (US$1.2 billion) to €8.4 billion ($11.7 billion). Turnover from mobile and crawler cranes rose by 14.2% or €236.0 million ($327 million) to €1.9 billion ($2.6 billion). The division made an above average contribution in the construction machinery area, said Boehm.

Construction cranes and mixing technology products also yielded improved results. Turnover went up by 8.8% or €81.1 million ($112.5 million) to €1 billion ($1.4 billion). Turnover from mobile and crawler cranes rose 14.2 % or €236 million ($327 million), to €1.9 million ($2.6 billion).

"After a previous period of reduced business activity, turnover in the Far East and Australia region rose again in 2008, and recorded the steepest relative increase of 30.2%. At €956.3 million ($1.3 billion), total sales revenues were €221.6 million ($307.3 million) higher than the previous year's figure, with especially strong growth in Australia, Indonesia, India, South Korea and Singapore. Turnover rose in China too, one of our largest Asiatic markets," added Boehm.

Projects

At the end of the year, Liebherr employed 32,600 people worldwide, 9.9% or 2,940 employees more than a year previously. The group also pressed ahead with important projects in 2008, it said, despite less favourable economic conditions. Its investment of €915million ($1.3 billion) exceeded the previous year's value by 27.9% or €199 million ($276 million), said Boehm.

In the construction cranes and mixing technology division, investments totalled €121 million ($168 million). At its facility in Biberach, Germany, the company erected a 7,500 square metre tower slewing crane repair building.

The value of orders received in the first three months of 2009 was 40% below the equivalent figure a year previously. During the review year, divisions outside the construction machinery area invested €472 million ($654 million), 37.1% or €128 million ($177 million) more than 2007. This was largely in the maritime crane division, with strong emphasis on repurchasing agreements.

Construction cranes were more seriously affected than the mobile crane area, which will only drop slightly in volume this year, said Boehm. Construction crane orders would drop noticeably, he added. "The current situation does not permit any such drop to be quantified. In view of their limited room to manoeuvre in the finance area and uncertain future prospects, many customers are still postponing investments or cancelling orders they had already issued."

As a result production programmes have been adjusted and measures taken to secure employees' jobs, said Boehm. "Liebherr is making use of all the tools at its disposal in this respect, including outsourcing restrictions, a reduction in the number of hired workers and non-renewal of short-term contracts," added Boehm.

Among the facilities at which short-time work rulings have been negotiated is Liebherr-Mischtechnik GmbH, Germany. Liebherr-Werk Biberach GmbH, Germany, has also applied for short-time working for six months from July 2009.

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