Chasing growth around the world

15 May 2012

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By Will North

Over the past month, listed crane builders around the world have released their results for the spring and summer of 2011. They reinforce the view that companies that want to grow their business need to keep an eye on emerging markets.

Three of the big listed crane builders (Konecranes, Columbus McKinnon and Demag, now part of Terex) reported strong overall growth.

Finland-based Konecranes saw order intake up 22.8% in the third quarter, and sales up 14.6%. Columbus McKinnon, based in the US, had similar good news: net sales for its second quarter were up 13.3%, to $149.9m.

The situation at Terex, which now owns 82% of Demag Cranes AG and expects to complete the acquisiton in 2012, is more complicated. The US-based multinational says that the acquisition added more than twenty percentage points to group net sales growth in the quarter, up 67.7% with the contribution from Demag, compared to 44% without. Direct comparisons to the old business weren't declared, but the group said that increasing demand for industrial and mobile harbour cranes had positively impacted net sales.

However, both Columbus McKinnon and Konecranes warned of uncertainty over continued growth.

Konecranes said: "Sustained concern about the budget deficits and the level of public debt in Europe and the US started to impede the private sector's optimism towards the end of the second quarter, and this rising pessimism started to take over in the third quarter."

Columbus McKinnon CEO Timothy Tevens said: "Since we do not expect robust expansion, we will have more challenging comparatives given the timing of the recovery. Yet, we are optimistic that as we gain market share globally and expand our presence in developing economies, we can continue to demonstrate positive sales and earnings growth." Tevens's mention of developing markets may be key to future growth. His company says it sees 'excellent expansion' in Latin America and Asia, particularly China. Konecranes gives more details, reporting sales growth in the Asia Pacific region that, at 41.8%, far outstripped growth in other markets.

However, this region makes up less than a fifth of Konecranes' current sales. The same is likely true for other multinationals. As the world's goods are increasingly manufactured in these markets, the challenge for manufacturers will be to ensure that their cranes are the preferred choice for local factory owners.