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German machinery sales set record, up 6 percent in 2012

February 12, 2013

FRANKFURT, GERMANY -- Sales from German plastics and rubber machinery manufacturers rose 6 percent in 2012, reaching a new record.

Sales peaked at 6.5 billion euros ($8.07 billion), beating the record of 6 billion euros ($7.94 billion) set in 2011. The previous record had been in pre-recession 2008.

"This welcome year-end result exceeds our expectations," said Ulrich Reifenhäuser, chairman of the VDMA Plastics and Rubber Machinery Association, in a Feb. 11 news release.

"At the midpoint of the year we were still anticipating a slight decline in sales for 2012 (down 2 percent), while predicting a fairly strong recovery in 2013," he said. "Developments in the second half of the year resulted in a change in momentum."

The results were helped by record-breaking exports — as of November, deliveries to other countries were up 3.1 percent from 2011.

"We are witnessing a revival of traditional markets — with German manufacturers experiencing above-average growth in the [United States] and even in the [European Union], where Poland has become the largest market. In Southeast Asia, Thailand and Indonesia in particular are conspicuous for their high levels of growth, whereas sales to China and India are on the decline," Reifenhäuser said.

Frankfurt-based VDMA estimates German machinery exports will reach 4.4 billion euros ($5.9 billion).

Thorsten Kühmann, managing director of the association, said incoming orders are showing signs of recovery.

"For the year as a whole, incoming orders lagged 12 percent behind the previous year. But the decline slowed over the last few months, and in the final quarter of 2012 they matched the previous year's level," he said. "In an end-of-year survey only one fifth of respondents from the association complained of production problems owing to a lack of or insufficient orders."

More than half of the machinery manufacturers reported that they had added jobs in Germany in the second half of 2012.

The outlook for 2013 is positive, but not as strong as the 2012 results.

"For 2013, the year of the next K trade fair, the association predicts sales growth of 3 percent," Reifenhäuser said.

According to VDMA's most recent survey of its members, 38 percent expect to add staff in the first half of 2013, while 40 percent expect no change. Respondents are optimistic about prospects for growth in orders in the first half of 2013, but there are lingering concerns about the markets in Western Europe.