In the first quarter of 2014 press manufacturer Koenig & Bauer (KBA) delivered a double-digit increase in sales and order intake as well as significant improvements to its operating and pre-tax results year-over-year. At €241.5m group order intake rose by 20.8%. New orders of sheetfed offset presses were up 10.3% to €146.5m (2013: €132.8m), while order intake of web and special presses increased by 41.4% to €95m (previous year: €67.2m). Nevertheless, demand for web offset presses remained subdued and along with order backlog it strained sales and earnings. Group sales of €213.4m after three months was 11.9% higher than the prior-year figure of €190.7m. Postponed special press deliveries on the customers’ side led to only a slight climb in web and special press sales from €92.5m in 2013 to €94.7m, whereas the sheetfed division generated a 20.9% rise in revenue to €118.7m.
The group’s book-to-bill ratio was positive after the first three months of 2014 and order backlog stood at €588.6m at the end of the quarter.
A slide of nearly 20% in domestic sales primarily a result of fewer web press deliveries raised the export level from 71.2% to 79.3% year-over-year. Shipments to the rest of Europe contributed 31% to group sales (2013: 29.8%). Indications that demand is gradually picking up can be seen predominantly in the south of Europe. The proportion of the group total attributable to Asia and the Pacific jumped from 23.2% to 30.4% and North America’s contribution grew from 10.9% to 11.4%. However, weak currencies in countries like Brazil and South Africa helped push the regional total in Latin America and Africa down from 7.3% the year before to 6.5%.
According to KBA president and CEO Claus Bolza-Schünemann the implementation of Fit@All for the restructuring of the KBA group “made good progress” in the first quarter of 2014. The programme was approved in 2013 and will be in force until 2016. Cancellation and phased retirement agreements, social wage agreements and social compensation plans were agreed for around 700 employees at various locations as part of the planned group-wide reduction of 1,000 to 1,500 jobs by the end of 2015. Further talks with union and workforce representatives about other capacity-orientated staff adjustments are progressing well. Training measures for preparing the relocation of internal production activities between the individual plants have also begun. Given the periods of notice which must be observed, upcoming relocations and pending outsourcing options, the gradual implementation of personnel adjustments will not finish until the end of 2015.Along with adapting capacities to shrunken market segments, the realignment of KBA focuses more strongly on growth markets, such as packaging printing. In this context Bolza-Schünemann refers to KBA-Kammann for the direct decoration of glass and KBA-Flexotecnica active in the prosperous flexible packaging segment. The integration of these two subsidiaries which joined the group in 2013 “is well underway”.
As a result there were 6,237 employees on group payroll at the end of March 2014, compared to 6,187 twelve months earlier. Excluding staff from the newly consolidated subsidiaries, apprentices, trainees, temporary employees and staff on phased retirement schemes, the group workforce sank by 166 to 5,307. The total will soon fall to below 5,000 as it includes many employees who have already left the company or those who will leave in the course of the year.
Outlook for 2014
In its outlook for 2014 KBA refers to increased risks for the global economy resulting from the crisis in the Ukraine, reduced growth in China and the negative currency effects in key threshold countries. The company anticipates that advanced economies, such as the USA and euro zone, will take on a greater role in terms of growth. Nevertheless, the strong euro is a competitive disadvantage for German press manufacturers compared to Japanese and other competitors from outside the EU in Asian markets and countries with a weak currency.
According to Bolza-Schünemann this year “will also be characterised by the implementation of Fit@All. This programme will realign our traditional offset business to a significantly smaller and structurally fundamentally changed press market environment”. Despite a rise in order intake and sales in the first quarter “we continue to target stable group revenue of €1bn to €1.1bn for 2014”.