At the K'98 show, Nextrom Holding SA turned heads with a radical extruder that used hollow, cone-shaped screws.
Now Nextrom wants to get out of the pipe and film equipment business to concentrate on the hot fiber-optics market.
The Swiss company said it plans to sell three businesses by the summer of 2002: machines to extrude polyethylene pipe, produce blown and cast film and make cable. Meanwhile, in North America, a Nextrom official said the company is operating "business as usual."
Three years ago, the machine maker changed its name to Nextrom, from Nokia-Maillefer, after buying several equipment companies to expand beyond its core business of cable machinery.
Now Nextrom, which announced the decision in November, says the fiber-optics market is its most profitable segment. After sales plunged for three straight years, from 1997-99, the publicly traded company shook up management, reduced its work force and cut costs. In 1999, Nextrom lost 47.6 million Swiss francs ($30 million) on sales of 311.1 million francs ($195 million).
The finances stabilized in 2000, Nextrom said. Through the first nine months of 2000, Nextrom's fiber-optics machinery business soared 77 percent, to 150 million francs ($87 million). Year-end numbers are not yet available.
By contrast, the plastics machinery markets are maturing.
"Being a public company, you've got to look out for the shareholders," said Jim Ley, sales manager of plastics machinery at Nextrom Ltd., the North American headquarters in Concord, Ontario.
"It's business as usual. We're going to be the same company. We're going to be in business. The company's been around for 100 years, and it's got a huge equipment base out there."
Nextrom runs four plants. The headquarters factory in Ecublens, Switzerland, builds machines to make plastic conduit to carry fiber-optic cable. A plant in Vantaa, Finland, supplies bundling equipment for fiber optics. The factory in Canada builds machines that make wire. Nextrom makes blown and cast film equipment in Milan, Italy.
In 1998, Nextrom drew attention at the massive K'98 trade show in Germany by introducing a unique, Conex extruder that uses a series of nested, cone-shaped screws instead of standard screws. One of the small machines can turn out products such as pipe and film with an almost unlimited number of layers, the company said.
In a Jan. 3 telephone interview, Ley said Nextrom has sold about a dozen Conex machines worldwide, although none so far in North America.