EMEA/Mature Europe

Bekaert in EMEA

Combined sales:                                                € 1 156 million
Capital expenditures
(PP&E):                                                                       € 89 million
Total assets:                                                           € 868 million
Employees:                                                                          6 972

Mature Europe: facing contrasts

Thriving on the wave of economic growth in 2010, conditions were still favorable in EMEA markets in the first half of 2011. However, the public debt crisis which started in Southern European countries quickly spread all over Europe. Increased pressure on public spending and on the future of the euro currency led to budgetary measures and a downward revision of economic stimulus programs in many countries. Several European countries slipped into a recession in the last quarter of the year.

Economic conditions in Western Europe were favorable in the first half of 2011 with increased sales mainly in automotive markets. Construction markets picked up slightly after a long period of weak economic activity and benefited from the mild winter.

Demand for armoring wires for overhead power cables, as well as flat and shaped wires for offshore pipes, was on the rise throughout the year.

Driven by solid demand in automotive, most Bekaert tire cord plants performed strongly. Notably, our site in Sardinia (Italy) further increased its output as a result of the high demand for tire cord within the long-term supply agreement with Bridgestone. Also the Zwevegem (Belgium) based wire activities serving the automotive sector with wiper components and spring wires performed strongly throughout the year.

On 25 May the UBISA team in Burgos (Spain) celebrated its 40th anniversary.

The wire activities recorded solid growth in high value-added products serving the energy and oil extraction sectors. On the other side, the profitability of the stainless steel wire plant in Zwevegem (Belgium) continued to be affected by the highly competitive environment as a result of overcapacity and Asian imports in particular.

Extreme price pressure and the limitation of economic stimulus packages for solar panel investments in key European markets, had a drastic impact on the activity level and profitability of the sawing wire manufacturing units of the respective steel cord plants from the second half of the year.

Bekaert’s activity platform targeting European construction markets withstood the continued difficult market circumstances well. The building products team focused on developing and launching product innovations that open up a world of new application possibilities and ease of use for architects and builders.

Innovation in traditional markets

Bekaert_Ann Lambrechts_EPO AwardOn 19 May, Ann Lambrechts, head R&D of building products, won the European Inventor Award 2011 (category Industry) issued by the European Patent Office for the development of Dramix® steel fibers for concrete reinforcement with flattened hook-shaped ends. 

Murfor ®+, a masonry reinforcement product, is yet another example of a successful innovation. It allows for perfect positioning, faster execution and maximum reinforcement.

Central & Eastern Europe

GDP growth for 2011 was in the range of 2 to 5 % in Central and Eastern European countries. Bekaert’s presence in the mature Western European markets on the one hand, and the growth markets of Eastern and Central Europe on the other, resulted in an overall good performance in the EMEA region in 2011.

Bekaert’s Slovak plants performed well in 2011. Bekaert continued to expand its extensive customer base in the region and further invested in its manufacturing platforms in Sládkovičovo and Hlohovec. During a Supplier Conference organized by Parker, a worldwide customer for hose and mooring wire and the global leader in motion and control technologies, our team from Hlohovec was explicitly mentioned for their efforts to improve the process-ability of the wire by pro-actively working together with Parker in Germany. Parker therefore rewarded Bekaert with the ‘Continuous Improvement Award’. On top of this, Bekaert received the ‘Innovation Performance Award’ for the introduction of flat hose wire. This new technology allowed Parker to increase the performance of the final product by 20%.

The inauguration of the plant extension in Sládkovičovo took place in the presence of Mrs Iveta Radičová, the then Prime Minister of Slovakia. The new half products manufacturing unit was built in response to the growing demand for tire cord in the region and in view of the expected efficiency and flexibility gains.
The wire manufacturing platform in Hlohovec continued to invest in modern equipment serving promising markets, but also faced demand hesitation for a number of products toward the end of the year.

The strategic importance of the Slovak operations was reflected in a number of high level events during 2011: in early March, Bekaert hosted an international group of financial analysts at its facilities in Slovakia. In September, the Board of Directors of Bekaert visited the sites in Slovakia and Russia.

The Board Members shared their positive feedback on the progress our Slovakian plants are making, both in terms of operational excellence and the high involvement of all employees.

The wire plants in Bohumín and Petrovice (Czech Republic) experienced price pressure in an increasingly competitive environment. Volumes of more basic products were added in the second half of the year to compensate for lower demand and to drive up capacity utilization.

Bekaert continued to expand in Russia. The tire cord facility in Lipetsk was extended with a half products department, and cooperation programs with Russian wire rod suppliers have been initiated to develop high quality wire rod serving Bekaert’s Russian operations.

On 15 September, Bekaert celebrated the opening of its plant extension in Lipetsk, Russia. The inauguration event took place in the presence of Mr Bozhko, the First Vice Governor of the Lipetsk region, Baron Buysse, Bert De Graeve, and the members of the Board of Directors of Bekaert. The new investment encompassed the construction of a new building covering 13 000 m2, the installation of infrastructure and state-of-the-art machinery, and the hiring and training of extra personnel.

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