Orders from mining, transportation, power and harbour developments contributed to a strong rise in business at KCI Konecranes in 2004, with order intake up 20% to Euro 736.9m. By the year-end, the order backlog stood at Euro 298.8m, which was 41.5% higher than at the same time 12 months earlier.

There was strong growth in Asia, especially China, and eastern Europe, the company said. There was also ‘a turn to improving market sentiments in North America as the industry capacity utilisation ratios improved’.

Revenue for 2004 was Euro 728.0m, up 9.5% on 2003 sales, and EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation) was up 37% to Euro 52m.

Sales in KCI’s Maintenance Service division were Euro 344.6m, up 1.7% on 2003. Operating profit was Euro 23.3m, slightly up on the 2003 figure of Euro 22.4m.

The Standard Lifting Equipment Division generated sales of Euro 231.2m, 9% up on 2003, and operating profit was up 19% to Euro 21.0m.

The biggest growth was in the Special Cranes division, where sales rose 20% to Euro 214.1m. Some Euro 12m of this was contributed by SMV Lifttrucks, a Swedish company taken over by KCI, and consolidated into group numbers for the last two months of the year. Operating profit from Special Cranes was 22% up at Euro 16m.

Key events of the year include the acquisition of Morris Material Handling Ltd of the UK on 31 December 2004, as well as the SMV acquisition.

KCI Konecranes remains embroiled in litigation with Prim SpA of Italy and Morris Material Handling Inc of the USA. KCI terminated its partnership with Prim in 2004 and established a direct subsidiary company in Italy instead. Morris in the USA has filed suit against KCI alleging violation of intellectual property rights and acts of unfair competition. KCI has issued counterclaims. KCI said that it does not expect either case to have a material impact on its financial position.

The company also confirmed that group president and chief executive officer Stig Gustavson, who led the management buyout of KCI from the Kone elevator company in 1994, will retire on 17 June, his 60th birthday. He will be succeeded by 41-year-old Pekka Lundmark, who joined the company last August as group executive vice president. Gustavson will become chairman of the board.