Considering the fact that the market environment for the Tubes & Sections business segment, as well as the Automotive Body Parts business segment, which is the largest one in the Group, was challenging over long stretches of the year, the performance of the Metal Forming Division in the business year 2015/16 was very solid. From a purely operational perspective, i.e., ignoring any non-recurring effects, the previous year’s results were surpassed to a significant degree. The Automotive Body Parts business segment, in particular, experienced excellent demand, which came from German premium manufacturers but from elsewhere as well. As the leading European automobile manufacturers are increasingly establishing local production facilities in the ever more important markets of North America and China, the business segment benefits from this development because it has local plants as well. Generally, global launch phase of these facilities, especially the newest generation of hot forming facilities, is right on schedule. The implementation of this internationalization strategy also means an additional extension of the value chain as an established systems supplier primarily for the sophisticated automobile sector.
The demand situation in the Tubes & Sections business segment in the business year 2015/16 did not have much momentum, especially in its European core markets. The situation did not improve until the end of the business year. It was possible to largely compensate the decline of both revenue and operating result on the Brazilian market, which has completely collapsed, by undertaking market- and cost-related countermeasures. On the Russian market, which is also currently weak, even rigorous restructuring measures were ultimately not able to reestablish long-term prospects for the divisional company voestalpine Arkada Profil. Continuing to operate this company no longer made sense, either economically or strategically. The only option that remained was closing the company as of the end of the business year. In China, incoming orders from international customers for automotive tube components for safety-related parts in the construction machinery segment increased in the course of the year. Performance was also positive in the UK and North America. While customer-specific product solutions for the construction industry were very much in demand in the UK, in the USA, it was primarily storage logistics and the aerospace industry that drove demand. As the prices for basic foodstuff have remained low worldwide, deliveries of tube and section components for the agricultural machinery segment were generally very modest in the past business year.
In the Precision Strip business segment, 2015/16 saw solid performance in the consumer goods segment on one hand, but on the other, it was affected by more intense competition in the segment of bimetallic strip for the mill industry. This business segment benefited because in the consumer goods industry the trend toward mail order continues to be strong so that there is an increasing demand for cutting tools for the packaging industry. Viewed regionally, the market in Europe remained cautious, however, as the number of suppliers has decreased, new customers have been acquired in both Europe and China. The market environment in North America has continued to be healthy in 2015/16. By acquiring the US company Wickeder Steel Company, which is headquartered in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, the Group’s market presence in the segment of hardened special steel strip, for example, for the food sector, was expanded.
In the Warehouse & Rack Solutions business segment, the improved market environment in recent years is inseparably linked to the increasing importance of online retail sales as the main driver of demand for high-bay racking solutions. Against this backdrop, roof and wall-supported high-bay systems and fully automatic in-house storage racks have been more firmly established on the market. All in all, incoming orders were very strong in 2015/16. In the future, the focus in this business segment will be primarily on North America and Asia.