Market environment and business development

The business segments of the Metal Forming Division, which was newly formed as of April 1, 2012 by merging the previous Profilform and Automotive Divisions in order to enhance global competitive advantage and presence, were operating in a generally favorable market environment in the first quarter of 2012/13, although it was no longer as dynamic as it had been.

Performance in the Tubes & Sections business segment, especially special sections, continued to be satisfactory. This applies particularly to agricultural machinery as well as the bus and commercial vehicle sectors, where the customer base, which had been developed over many years, provided stability in a market environment that was shaped by an overall weaker trend. Apart from a few delays with regard to some major orders, the aviation industry reported a solid level of orders. The solar industry, however, has significantly reduced its investment activity, especially in Europe.

The Automotive Body Parts business segment continued to experience full capacity utilization in the first quarter of 2012/13, however, in some areas, such as laser-welded blanks, there has been a slight decline in orders. In the past quarter, the European premium automobile manufacturers continued to enjoy a very good level of orders, sustained by consistently high demand from the BRIC countries, while the mass market segment, which is of lesser importance for the division, suffered from massive underutilization of capacity.

In the Precision Strip business segment, which until recently had experienced long delivery times of up to one year due to a shortage of capacity and pre-materials, the delivery times have now leveled out and are back to normal.

In the first quarter of 2012/13, the Material Handling business segment recorded very good performance in storage technology, with incoming orders already ensuring full capacity utilization at least until the end of this calendar year.

Viewed regionally, business development in North America is stable at a satisfactory level, while the momentum of the Brazilian market has mostly recently slowed down. The situation in Europe continued to be very inconsistent. While there has not been an uptick in demand from Southern Europe or–due to high financing costs for private investments–from Russia, the markets in Northern and Central Europe have been fulfilling expectations for a stable performance. The British market, which is especially important for the sections segment, has also recently shown a noticeable recovery.

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