Haitian International Holdings Ltd., China's biggest maker of injection molding machines, marked the first day of spring by reporting 2016 sales springing up 10.4 percent to a record 8.10 billion yuan ($1.18 billion).
Operating profit rose 17.2 percent to 1.81 billion yuan ($263 million).
While small and medium-tonnage hydraulic machines continue to be the Ningbo-based manufacturer's bread and butter, sales of its two-platen Jupiter machines increased 32.5 percent to 982 million yuan ($143 million), while sales of Zhafir electric machines climbed 17.7 percent to 795 million yuan ($115 million).
Haitian announced its annual results March 22 in Hong Kong, where the company is listed on the stock exchange.
The results reflect a second-half comeback for the company, which saw sales dip in 2015 and then grow a sluggish 0.3 percent in the first half of 2016, the company's 50th anniversary year.
Measured in dollar terms, the company's 2016 sales were down, even as they recorded an increase when measured in Chinese currency. The slipping Chinese yuan vs. the dollar meant that 2015 sales of 7.34 billion yuan were $1.3 billion, based on the exchange rates at the time.
China's official gross domestic product rose 6.7 percent in 2016, but Haitian's domestic sales easily beat that, rising 14 percent to 5.55 billion yuan ($806 million), reminiscent of earlier periods of fast growth.
Exports rose 3 percent to 2.37 billion yuan ($343 million). The company's comeback began in the first half of last year, as orders placed then are not officially placed on the books until product is delivered.
Haitian board member Helmar Franz credited steady policy out of Beijing and a growing reputation of Chinese brands among local consumers for the growth in sales.
"More and more of the machines used in the Chinese industry to process plastics are being made in China," he said. "The people here in China are buying more and more Chinese goods. This is driving the domestic economy."
Franz was especially bullish on the European market: the company sold a record 1,032 machines on the continent in 2016 and reports more than 1,250 on order. "Nobody in Europe expected us to sell so many machines," he said.
Russia remains Haitian's biggest market in Europe, but Germany, Italy and Spain also registered strong gains. Last June, a new production line for electric machines came on-line at Haitian's factory in Ebermannsdorf, Germany. The company also manufactures servo hydraulic machines at the factory.
Haitian is increasingly a multinational company, sourcing parts worldwide for plants in Brazil, Germany and Vietnam as well as seven facilities throughout China, he said.
"The processing industry culture in Brazil is different from the one in Vietnam," he said. "You need to accept and recognize and adapt to the local environments."
As a result, it hasn't benefitted as much as other companies from favorable exchange rates for the yuan.
"We have this natural hedge," Franz said. "We are buying a lot of controls and components in euros and dollars.
"In my opinion, if an engineering company starts to build machines based on exchange rates, it's already done," he said.
In another international expansion, Haitian is building a 39,990-square-meter (430,000-square-foot) plant in Ahmedabad, India, to manufacture small- and medium-tonnage hydraulic machines from locally sourced parts.
Franz anticipates production at the plant to begin later this year. The plant will serve two purposes, tapping into India's burgeoning plastics-processing market and getting around that country's strict antidumping duties on imported plastics machinery.
Since 2015, the company has assembled machines at a smaller, rented facility, also in Ahmedabad.
The company also discussed some technical upgrades. Customers riding the Industry 4.0 train now have an option of buying a standardized Euromap interface so that they can hook up any brand of robot to their Haitian injection-molding machines.
Haitian, which claims to sell more injection molding machines than any other manufacturer in the world, sold 29,538 machines in the year, up from 25,778 in 2015, while the average price machine edged down to 268,000 yuan ($38,900) from 278,000 yuan ($40,400).