In the business year 2013/14, the Metal Forming Division performed solidly, impressively confirming its upswing particularly in the final quarter, which was only partly the result of the market recovery that was driven by demand. Its positive development is primarily the result of comprehensive process improvements in the production companies as well as broad-based product optimization.
In the Automotive Body Parts business segment, the development of demand in the premium automobile segment—with overseas exports providing a massive boost—clearly demonstrated at first the contrast between it and the compact car segment, which has been depressed for a long time. However, after years of falling sales numbers, the second half of 2013/14 saw a trend reversal in demand for compact and sub-compact cars. At the same time, expansion by the German premium manufacturers in China and the USA continued, providing the Automotive Body Parts business segment with the opportunity to ensure proximity to its longstanding customers worldwide by building new plants for the production of safety-related automobile components; the first deliveries will leave these new sites at the beginning of the business year 2014/15.
The Tubes & Sections business segment was stable at a solid level. The structural weaknesses of the European construction industry have, however, continued unchanged, with only a slight upswing being noted in Eastern Europe. The introduction of the Euro 6 standard as of January 1, 2014, which is binding for all newly registered trucks in the European Union, resulted in increased demand in the third quarter, which, however, was followed promptly by weaker demand in the following quarter. Demand in the construction and agricultural machinery industries was at a very satisfactory level throughout the entire business year 2013/14; record production figures in the aviation sector also resulted in an excellent level of demand. From a regional perspective, development in the USA was very satisfactory, with the exception of seasonal effects due to the extremely cold winter weather. In Brazil, the weak market in the bus and commercial vehicle industries was largely compensated by the good order situation for agricultural machinery. The market in Europe, however, was rather subdued throughout the entire year, not only in the construction sector, but in other sectors as well.
The globally positioned Precision Strip business segment was impacted by increased pressure from Japanese competitors due to changing currency parities in the business year 2013/14. In this segment, demand on the markets picked up, especially in the USA and Germany, while the situation in China remained tense throughout the year. Toward the end of the business year, incoming orders did ultimately increase slightly, so that the cold-rolled special steel product segment posted relatively satisfactory results.
Project activity for high-bay racking systems has continued to be brisk—not least due to the boom in online commerce—which benefited the Warehouse & Rack Solutions business segment. The excellent order situation already guarantees solid capacity utilization over the entire business year 2014/15.