The positive trend throughout the first half of 2012/13 in the Metal Forming Division, which was newly formed as of April 1, 2012 by merging the previous Profilform and Automotive Divisions, lost some momentum in the course of this period, with the Automotive Body Parts business unit being affected in the second quarter by the customary shutdowns by the European automobile manufacturers during the summer months. Overall, however, the trend after the summer months was not quite able to attain the exceptional momentum in demand experienced in the early part of the business year. Nevertheless, the level of incoming orders is enabling full capacity utilization at all the major facilities. The highly successful market development in the new production area of “phs-ultraform” (press-hardened steel based on a new technology) has been helpful in ensuring full capacity utilization. Therefore, despite the forecasts for declining automobile sales, the globalization of this product-process combination is being vigorously pursued. Fluctuations in the economy, no matter how long they last, will not change the powerful trend to increasingly high demands with respect to safety and environmental friendliness in modern automobile engineering, even in the long term.
In the Tubes & Sections business unit, the momentum varied according to the individual markets, however, overall, demand has slowed down considerably. While satisfactory demand continued in the aerospace industry and the agricultural machinery sector, the construction industry is still suffering from too few growth opportunities, primarily caused by the rollback in public sector investment spending throughout Europe. Orders from the commercial vehicle industry have also been adjusted downward. The energy segment, which in the Metal Forming Division is primarily the alternative energy segment, was also marked by a downward trend, not least because of declining government subsidies in a number of European countries.
The Precision Strip business unit received fewer incoming orders, especially in the important area of bimetal strip for the sawmill industry, and experienced a subdued business performance overall. The market environment in the Material Handling unit continues to be positive. The source of the stable level of demand in the high-bay warehouse systems segment is primarily the consumer goods sector (food and beverage industries, clothing, and mail-order businesses).
Viewed regionally, the European markets have demonstrated the most significant economic downturn, while the growth regions, especially China and Brazil, have shown stable trends in all of the business segments of the Metal Forming Division. All of the important market segments in North America report continuing satisfactory demand.