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The bottom line can’t be bought

October 1, 2020 | By admin | No Comments | Filed in: zuwcxmlkn.

first_imgINTRO: Reviewing industry developments in the rail market over the past decade, Andrew Saxe* finds that acquisitions have not boosted profits for the major suppliersBYLINE: * Andrew Saxe is an occasional commentator on the world railway supply industry for Railway Gazette International; he can be contacted in Boston, Massachusetts, at +1 617 454 4372. Mr Saxe wishes to emphasise that this article is based exclusively on publicly available materialI N THE LAST eight years, Adtranz (ABB/AEG), Siemens, GEC Alsthom and Bombardier have bought up a long list of independent manufacturers and grown immensely. Yet all of them continue to suffer disappointing financial results, while a selected group of independent suppliers has been doing surprisingly well. It may now be time for the major groups to stop the acquisition process, cut capacity, and look to boosting profits by whatever means they can. Additionally, industry observers may need to revise their judgment that the independents are doomed to the grey twilight of financial misery until they too are eventually swallowed up by the industry giants.To be fair to the strategists at the major suppliers, the wave of acquisitions since 1989-90 has succeeded in making these companies dominant players in the world industry. Table I shows the current world market share for mechanical manufacture. As GEC Alsthom builds South Korea’s first high-speed train, Adtranz equips new metros in China and Turkey, and Siemens delivers trams to Denver and St Louis, no-one can doubt that these suppliers have developed a uniquely world-wide presence, far outstripping their American and Japanese rivals in breadth and depth. Except for the two locomotive giants General Electric and General Motors and a few freight wagon manufacturers, the US boasts no major suppliers. And whilst the Japanese continue to develop impressive high speed trains, they simply have not been able to establish a major presence outside their own country.Poor profitabilityBut growing market share has not improved profitability. In 1996 the results for the major suppliers remained unimpressive (Table II). Adtranz reported operating profit rather than earnings before taxes, so its numbers are difficult to compare with other companies. But basically, sales grew a modest 3% from ABB’s and AEG’s combined 1995 total and profits were unremarkable.Operating profit was limited to 4% and Adtranz reported that its return on employed capital was only 8% against a target of 12%. Additionally, the company was embarrassed last year by problems with its VT611 tilting regional trainsets for German Railway.In 1996 Siemens eradicated its 1995 loss of DM128m (Ecu68m) by making a small profit of DM19m (Ecu10m). Yet Siemens Verkehrstechnik’s President Wolfram O Martinsen acknowledged in March that the division may post a loss of around DM80m (Ecu41m) for 1997.GEC Alsthom Transport, as a division, does not report its financial results, but some of its subsidiaries do, and they show a mixed picture. The French operations reported a 5% profit before tax, but sales actually decreased 13% from 1994-95 and were then bolstered by adding Fr539m (Ecu84m) for changes in inventory for work in progress. Under ’Other Information’ in the annual report for the French operations are numbers showing that the affiliated Spanish operations lost money in 1996, as they did in 1995 and 1994. In Germany, GEC Alsthom’s Linke-Hofmann-Busch reported low but improved profitability of 2% before tax.Bombardier reported a return of 4%, down from 6·4% in 1995-96 on flat sales. But there are two stories here. North American activities will be kept humming by Amtrak’s large order for American Flyer high-speed trains to serve the Washington – Boston corridor, and by the recently-awarded US$921m (Ecu743m) contract to supply metro cars for the New York City subway. By contrast, Bombardier Eurorail was forced to write off C$155m (Ecu87m) in 1995 for Eurotunnel shares received as compensation for shuttle trains built by BN. A recent press release also acknowledged that Eurorail’s Austrian and Belgian operations are losing money on tram contracts.Independents thrivingAnd the independents? We are used to tales about the vulnerability of independents, and there is no doubt that many of them are plagued by problems. But several are surviving, or even thriving. Between 1992 and 1995 CAF’s sales grew by 12% a year, and its income before tax by 7·7%. In 1995 exports comprised a whopping 66% of CAF’s order book. Talgo’s sales in 1995 slumped by nearly 32% compared to the year before, and their profitability before tax slid from 7·9% to 4·8% – yet this still leaves them more profitable than all of the major suppliers. Deutsche Waggonbau has revived after a near-death experience. In the early 1990s, the company was clobbered by the collapse of its business with the Russian railways. Sales dived from DM2bn to half that figure when the German Finance Ministry refused to continue export credits for Russia to purchase rolling stock. In 1994 and 1995 DWA had operating losses totalling DM735m (Ecu386m) before federal subsidies shored them up again. Now privately owned by Advent International, the company apparently reduced its operating losses in 1996, although final results were not available when this article went to press. CEO Peter Witt has told the press that he expects to be profitable for 1997.Tenets in questionThe results of these rail suppliers over several years begin to bring into question two widely held tenets: you can buy your way to profit, and you cannot be profitable without being a systems integrator. Neither of these assertions now seems to be totally correct.Whilst many of the acquisitions by major groups have brought skills, market share, and expanded presence, they have also brought financial headaches. GEC Alsthom Transport’s acquisition of Ateinsa, Maquinista and Meinfesa in 1989-91 positioned it to win the AVE contract, but three years of losses by the Spanish operation can have brought no joy to the division’s bottom line. Linke-Hofmann-Busch too has given GEC Alsthom access to new markets, new skills and exciting train designs like the København S-bane EMU, but it remains slightly less profitable than the core French operations.At Adtranz, the limited availability of published figures makes it difficult to determine which operations are profitable and which are not. However, comparison of the 1996 and 1995 results suggests that ABB’s 7·2% operating profit in 1995 was diluted by its merger with AEG Bahnsysteme. Ironically, Kaare Vagner made more money with just ABB Transportation in 1995 (Ecu160m) than he could with the combined Adtranz operations in 1996 (Ecu129m). Fortunately for ABB shareholders, it was Daimler-Benz who paid to merge AEG with ABB and not the other way around.For their part, Bombardier shareholders might wonder what financial benefit they have received from the transportation division’s rapid expansion into Europe. The expansion has undoubtedly made Bombardier a major player in the industry. Nevertheless, over the last five years Bombardier Transportation earned C$134m (Ecu72·4m) on sales totalling C$7bn (Ecu 4·3bn), or just 2% before tax. Add in the C$155m write-down of Eurotunnel shares, and the results dip below break even – compared to a five-year accumulated return of 5% for Bombardier’s Aerospace business and 8% for its Motorised Consumer Products.Siemens’ Duewag subsidiary provides a more transparent example of the problems that can occur with acquisitions, because Duewag continues to report its own results. In 1990 Siemens bought 87% of the Duewag shares, increasing this to 96% in 1991. Since the end of 1991 Siemens has poured a hefty DM163m (Ecu85m) into capital investments at Duewag, DM68m (Ecu35m) more than the depreciation over the same period.In 1992 Siemens Verkehrstechnik pumped an additional DM42·75m (Ecu21m) in equity to shore up Duewag’s balance sheet. In return for all this effort, Duewag has lost an accumulated DM30·8m (Ecu19m) since October 1991.Bad management? Before criticising, it is necessary to consider that in the course of the Duewag restructuring, Siemens has boosted this subsidiary’s revenue per employee from Ecu91000 in 1991 to Ecu161000 just five years later, an impressive annual gain of 15%! In the same period GEC Alsthom’s Transport division increased its revenue per employee from Ecu79000 to Ecu111000, and ABB/Adtranz Ecu125 000 to Ecu146 000.Overcapacity cuts pricesProductivity increases of that magnitude should produce fat profits, but as industry insiders will tell you sharp declines in prices have wiped out hard-won gains from restructuring. The reason for the collapse in prices is twofold. National railways and urban public transport operators are under extreme pressure to cut spending, and overcapacity in the industry has allowed purchasers to demand – and get – price cuts of as much as 30% to 40%.This goes right to the heart of the matter. Suppliers will not be able to stabilise prices, let alone increase them, while the industry maintains a high level of overcapacity. There have been some attempts to cut capacity. ABB closed its York plant when British orders fell away, Siemens shut its Essen plant, AEG its works at Berlin-Nonnendamm, and DWA the famed Dessau wagon plant. However, still more needs to be done. Acquisitions and restructuring have maintained capacity within the industry. For instance, might Waggonfabrik Talbot or Matra Transport eventually have gone out of business, if they had not been bought by Bombardier and Siemens respectively? It is impossible to know. Will Adtranz’s recently-acquired Pafawag subsidiary with its 1600 employees build just for the Polish market after Adtranz finishes its planned Ecu23m investment in the plant? Finally, some groups are actually continuing to add capacity, through new plants such as the Adtranz operation at Berlin-Pankow, and through efforts by all companies to boost productivity, which enables each plant to build more trains with the same resources.Which way now?Is there a way out of this maze, apart from the global quest for new markets and innovative service packages, like lifetime maintenance contracts or BOT turnkey projects? A company like CAF shows that it is possible to be a profitable international player without numerous factories and systems capability. And Vagner’s record at ABB in the first half of the decade shows that losses can be turned into respectable profits even in the largest and most international of companies. Money can be made in this industry. But how? Clearly, acquisition is not the simple answer. No supplier can buy its way out of the red. Healthy returns come from focusing on making every discrete activity profitable, and eliminating excess capacity wherever it exists in the organisation. Intelligent rationalisation on everyone’s part, and in complete self-interest, should bring the overall industry capacity back in line with demand, and put a floor under falling prices that will allow future increases in productivity to pay off on the bottom line. oTABLE: Table I. Market share of mechanical work for orders placed since 1990 (%) Adtranz Siemens GEC Alsthom Bombardier Italians Japanese Americans OthersHigh-speed trains 11 15 43 3 13 12 – 3EMU/DMU cars 18 12 12 12 2 10 – 34Light rail/trams 19 28 12 11 6 4 – 201Metro vehicles 15 6 21 12 4 18 2 22Commuter rail 8 6 5 34 1 8 16 222Locomotives 14 8 12 – 4 n/a 46 161. 11% share for Tatra for LRVs 2. 15% share for DWA for commuterTABLE: Table II. Profitability of selected railway suppliers Year Revenue Earnings Revenue per (Ecu m) before tax* employee % of sales (Ecu 000)Adtranz 1996 3196 4·0 146ABB 1995 2228 7·2 141AEG 1995 869 -6·0 117Siemens 1996 2282 0·4 176Duewag 1996 417 0·4 161GEC Alsthom Trans 1996 1901 111GEC AT France 1996 1062 5·0 127GEC AT Spain 1996 316 -2·8 -LHB 1996 180 1·9 96Bombardier 1997 937 4·0 122DWA 1996 485 n/a 108CAF 1995 268 4·5 101Talgo 1995 65 4·8 83* Except Adtranz and ABB which reported Operating Profit Italics indicate independent estimate.CAPTION: Head to head. President of Adtranz Kaare Vagner (left) has overseen the merger of the railway businesses of ABB and AEG, creating a strong international presence. Similarly, Wolfram Martinsen of Siemens has secured a world position for his company through numerous acquisitions. Yet neither group has been able to drive up profitabilityLa rentabilité ne s’achète pasAu cours de ces dix dernières années, un petit groupe de grands fournisseurs de matériel roulant a racheté de nombreux plus petits fabricants indépendants. Il s’ensuit que le marché a été dominé par une poignée de groupes ’d’intégrateurs de systèmes’ ayant une vaste gamme de produits innovateurs mais les résultats financiers ont été décevants. Par contre plusieurs constructeurs de moindre envergure ont fait des affaires plus rentables dans une époque olast_img read more

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