Rising sales in the North and South American and Asian markets helped injection press builder Arburg GmbH & Co KG. lift its 2004 sales 8 percent, but executives said the pace of growth was disappointing.
The Lossburg-based company, owned and managed by the Hehl family, expects its final 2004 sales figure to rise from 255 million euros ($329 million) in 2003 to around 305 million euros ($393 million).
But its profit was squeezed in the face of tough global competition, especially in North America and Asia because of U.S. dollar and Japanese yen weakness against the euro.
Arburg announced the results at its Technology Days 2005 event, held April 7-9 in Lossburg.
Arburg reported a slower annual growth rate for sales in Germany and Western Europe as a whole because of the large volume of business it already has in this region. Even so, it received more orders from Italy and central Europe, especially Poland and the Czech Republic, while growth in France and Spain was slow.
Overall, Arburg had forecast greater growth in orders.
``Unfortunately, the optimism in conjunction with the K 2004 [trade show] has not been fully borne out. Things are indeed looking up but, unfortunately, not at the predicted, or at least hoped-for, pace,'' said Chairman Michael Hehl.
In the United States - today Arburg's biggest export market - the company reported strong demand for larger-tonnage presses, along with more orders for electric and multicomponent molding machines.
Arburg, which seeks to grow internationally, aims to expand its presence in China.
In June, it firmed up its foothold there, setting up a new sales and service subsidiary in Shanghai in addition to a similar offshoot in Hong Kong. It now plans further Chinese expansion.
``We need to be in other industrial centers of China,'' said Helmut Heinson, managing director for sales. He pinpointed Beijing, Jinjiang and southern China near the North Korean border as targets for future development. Outside China, Arburg has also set its sights on Eastern Europe and further east into Russia and the former Commonwealth of Independent States.
However, Arburg made clear that it will continue to build machinery at its main plant in Lossburg. Arburg stressed it has no plans to shift production to a low-cost base outside Europe such as China.
Arburg continued to invest heavily last year in technology. Matching the level of 2003, it invested around 16 million euros ($20 million) on projects including expanding automation to its bigger presses and a new production line for clamping and injection unit tie bars.
The latter replaced a 20-year-old line, according to technical director Herbert Kraibuhler.
This year, Technology Days attracted around 3,500 visitors, including about 2,000 from Germany, 110 from the United States and a large number from Asia.
The event featured the premier of Arburg's latest Universal series, the Allrounder 370 U, which allows the company to offer three U-series presses with 13-77 tons of clamping force.
Also on display were all of Arburg's previously introduced electric Alldrive machine models, ranging from 55-220 tons, and its 15-inch touchscreen Selogica Direct control system.
Other displays showed the supplier's capability for microinjection and multipart molding and powder material processing.