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KBA sees upturn in printing press sector

Jun 18, 2010 12:00 AM

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KBA president and CEO Helge Hansen reported a perceptible upturn in the press engineering sector and reaffirmed the group’s targets for 2010 at the company’s latest shareholders’ meeting in Wurzburg, Germany. Hansen reported demand for both sheetfed and web presses had picked up strongly since March. According to preliminary figures, the order intake of €500m for the first five months of 2010 was almost 23% up on the prior-year figure. Since January 1, the order backlog has increased by “a good €160m.”

After five months, KBA’s sales of €332m fell short of group targets, but Hansen is confident that lost ground can be regained in the second half-year. So despite a big reduction in capacity over the past 12 months, KBA is aiming for a modest lift in sales from €1.05bn in 2009 to just over €1.1bn. By the end of May, the group payroll had been trimmed to 6,465, and measures being implemented in the web press division will reduce it to approximately 6,100 by the end of the year.

The Ipex international trade fair in Birmingham, in May, and a packaging fair in Beijing were instrumental in boosting KBA’s sheetfed business.

Shareholders acknowledge that in 2009, KBA succeeded in containing the damage exacted by the economic crisis, and that it did this through its own efforts, with neither state aid nor additional credit lines, by rapidly adjusting capacity to medium-term market expectations. However, Hansen emphasizes that while efforts have been made toward consolidation on the supply side, the fact that excess capacity continues to weigh on prices indicates a need for further action. This has nurtured rumours of mergers and takeovers, which in the German engineering sector, however, have proved to be unfounded.

Hansen says, “While we are always open to constructive approaches for resolving the industry’s problems, our primary focus is on pursuing an independent course. Mergers or acquisitions without consolidation do nothing to resolve capacity issues, but individual players can make a signal contribution by rigorously adjusting their resources. In this respect KBA has done more than many others.”

Hansen adds, “Having made some promising contacts in [print-related packaging technology and digital print] and shortlisted a number of projects, we are now screening potential acquisitions or alliances. I am confident that we shall soon be able to reveal further details.”