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KBA Records Jump in New Orders for Sheetfed Presses

June 16, 2011
WÜRZBURG, GERMANY—June 16, 2011—At the 86th Koenig & Bauer AG (KBA) annual general meeting, president and CEO Helge Hansen reported a substantial increase in new orders for sheetfed and special presses in the first five months of the year compared to the same period last year. However, big web presses for printing newspapers, magazines, catalogs and other print media that compete with online services for both readers and ad revenues are a major cause of concern, with global demand well below pre-crisis levels.

Even so, preliminary figures to June 1, 2011, for the press manufacturer reveal a leap of 21 percent in new orders to around €600 million and 27 percent in sales to €420+ million. Its order backlog on May 31, 2011, totalled €617 million, 40 percent above the prior-year level. Hansen anticipates a similar improvement in the group’s half-year performance.

KBA on course despite strike in Frankenthal
Typically for the engineering sector, sales in the first five months fell short of annual targets. But despite delays in web press shipments caused by a six-week strike at KBA’s Frankenthal plant, management stands by its objective for 2011 of a single-digit percentage increase in group sales over the previous year (€1.18 billion), and a moderate improvement in earnings. More detailed information will not be available until the half-year report is issued in August. A skeleton agreement on ending the strike was signed the day before the AGM and a ballot will be held on whether work should resume on Monday, 20 June.

Given the sober market prospects for web presses, Hansen sees no alternative but to trim the payroll at KBA’s Frankenthal, Würzburg and Trennfeld plants by a further 700 in order to restore competitiveness and profitability in a much-diminished market. Following protracted negotiations with employee representatives and IG Metall in Frankenthal, talks have now started at the other two locations. The measures proposed will reduce the group workforce from 6,377 at the end of May this year (90 fewer than 12 months earlier) to well below 6,000 at the end of 2013.

Mergers would have destroyed more jobs
In his speech, Hansen discussed global shifts in media markets, technological advances and structural transitions within the printing industry. He made it clear that the post-slump capacity adjustments initiated by the top three press manufacturers in 2009, in the course of which over 9,000 jobs were lost, were not prompted by a lack of vision or co-operation at board level.
 

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