The Swiss industrial group Georg Fischer has seen net attributable profit slump by a worse than expected 57 per cent in 2001 to SFr65 million ($38.2 million).This content was published on February 19, 2002 - 10:44
The profit figure, pressured by overcapacity as global economic growth slowed down, fell clearly short of analysts' forecasts averaging SFr91 million.
Fourth-quarter sales fell over 22 per cent amid lower demand although full-year sales were roughly steady at SFr3.85 billion, in line with forecasts.
The company itself described 2001 as a year of two halves.
"We didn't expect the downturn in November and December to be so heavy especially in Germany," company CEO, Martin Huber told swissinfo, "There, many of our customers closed their plants in the middle of December and only reopened on January 7th."
Georg Fischer, which supplies the cyclically sensitive car, semi-conductor and engineering industries, said the rapid recession led to plants being under-used.
It also cited operational problems at its Munich car products unit, additions to pension reserves in Germany and Austria and value adjustments.
The recession was felt more in the United States, where sales fell to $295 million from $356 million, than in Europe where sales rose to €1.94 billion ($1.69 billion) from €1.86 billion.
The company is clearly expecting better times ahead, although just when remains unclear.
"There are a lot of questions about the current year," Huber told swissinfo, "I think the first half will be relatively low but the question is will there be an upturn in the second half of the year."
"We will be happy if the recovery happens but we have to be prepared if it stays flat. We are sure that 2003 will be an excellent year again."
Georg Fischer already had to cut more than a thousand jobs last year -- around 10 per cent of its workforce around the world.
The warning that management will not hesitate to wield the axe again will send shivers through the company's workforce.
Shares in Georg Fischer were down 8.1 per cent in early trading on the Swiss Stock Exchange.
swissinfo with agencies
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