Cranes, mining help lift Liebherr back to pre-COVID sales

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(Left to right) Liebherr’s vice-president Isolde Liebherr and president Willi Liebherr (far right) with board members Philipp Liebherr and Stefanie Wohlfarth.
Manufacturer says supply-chain chaos could worsen

A strong performance by its mining business in 2021 helped German-Swiss conglomerate Liebherr post 12.6% higher turnover, year-on-year, of €11,639 million. Net profit for 2021 of €545m neared the previous best €552m mark achieved in 2012.

Mining was among 11 Liebherr business segments to grow sales in 2021, with only its dominant mobile and crawler cranes (up 14.9% yoy at €2877) and earthmoving (up 15.5% yoy at €2320m) eclipsing mining (plus-18.9% yoy to €1298m) turnover.

Last year’s group turnover was just short of the company record of €11,750m achieved in 2019, before COVID.

Mining segment sales in 2021 surged past the pre-COVID level of €1071m recorded in 2019.

Liebherr’s Asia/Oceania sales region accounted for 60.8% of mining business turnover, which was 38.6% of the group’s €1812m 2021 sales in the region.

“The mining market grew in 2021 supported by the need of higher volumes of raw materials and a backlog of expansion and replacement investments,” the company said in its latest annual report.

“The combination of these two factors result in a high demand for mining equipment. The current good market situation is mirrored overall in the mining product segment, even if the sales regions developed differently.

“Asia and Oceania continued to be the most important sales region and grew in the reporting year. Encouraging sales growth was achieved in Australia, India and Indonesia.

“Both sales in the EU and in non-EU countries, including Russia in particular, recorded growth. In Africa and the Near and Middle East, sales took a downturn. Strong growth was recorded in the Americas. While projects in Brazil and the US market were mainly decisive for the mining excavator product area, Panama was the main growth driver for mining trucks. The strong performance of the T264 mining truck was confirmed by repeating orders from existing machine owners, showing promising outlook for Liebherr’s mining truck business.”

Liebherr president Willi Liebherr said the company was “observing and evaluating the situation in Ukraine and Russia on a daily basis”.

“In recent weeks, our focus has been on making sure that our business activities in Russia are in line with the sanctions that have been imposed there. It’s hard to say how this will impact our business in the mid- to long-term, but we do expect significant economic consequences.”

Director Philipp Liebherr said the company had been operating in Russia since 1965 and currently had two production facilities in the Nizhny Novgorod region, and a sales and service company based in Moscow with branches throughout the country.

Vice-president Isolde Liebherr said conditions in 2021 were difficult for manufacturing companies.

“From the second quarter in 2021, to some extent, it was extremely difficult to procure various raw materials, components and electronic parts,” she said.

“This resulted in price increases and bottlenecks in the global supply chains.”

Willi Liebherr said global supply chain and material procurement bottlenecks had made it “impossible at times to procure all the parts we need to finish our products – especially electronic components”.

“On top of that, we’ve seen extreme price hikes in raw materials, electronics, steel, plastics, energy and elsewhere. It’s affected all our product segments to varying degrees and at different times. Especially when you consider the situation the world is currently facing, we think these issues are probably only going to get worse before they get better.”

Director Stefanie Wohlfarth said the company was assessing new procurement channels.

“We’re already in a good position to do that, thanks to our multi-sourcing strategy, and that’s definitely an advantage. And we’ll keep doing everything we can to maintain a secure supply chain going forward,” she said.

Liebherr invested €559m in research and development last year.

The company said alternative drive technologies continued to be a focal point.

“The Liebherr Group takes a technology neutral approach. In 2021, it worked, for example, on hydrogen-powered combustion engines and their injection technologies, as well as electric drives.”

Wohlfarth said: “In our mining segment, we developed new machine automation and assistance systems. Our trolley guidance system automates various processes, such as steering mining trucks under the trolley line, or lifting and lowering the current collector.”


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