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Leica Geosystems sizes up Madame Liberty

3D scans model Liberty with impressive precision (Texas Tech University)

In the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks, the United States has been making 3D models of the country's monuments using instruments made by a Swiss company.

Leica Geosystems has provided laser scanners and sophisticated software to provide historic documentation of the Statue of Liberty.

The finished result will be complete architectural drawings of the New York statue's exterior, accurate to ¼ inch.

The scaled drawings will be used to monitor and maintain the statue and could be used to reconstruct an exact, full-scale duplicate, in the event that it was damaged or destroyed.

"As a consequence of the tragic events of September 11, the US government and many state governments wanted to have accurate 3D models of their national heritage and the Statue of Liberty was one of them," Leica Geosystems chief executive Hans Hess told swissinfo.

The state-of-the-art laser-scanning technology is being provided by the Cyra company of California, which became a subsidiary of Leica Geosystems in 2001.

Cash drain

Although Cyra has won 13 awards for technology innovation and is the market leader, it has so far been something of a cash drain.

When Leica Geosystems financial figures were presented earlier this week in Zurich, it was revealed that annual sales at Cyra had fallen by almost 50 per cent to SFr13.5 million.

Goodwill of SFr58 million was written off in the fiscal year 2001/2002.

Chief executive Hess agrees that Cyra is a financial burden at present but he believes that it will add value to the Heerbrugg-based group in the future.

Potential

"We are convinced that this technology of laser scanning and three-dimensional visualisation has enormous potential and we are willing to continue our investments for another year," he said.

"We hope that after that we will be in the profit and cash positive zone," he added.

Leica Geosystems, which is active in advanced surveying, mapping and special positioning systems, recorded a net profit in 2002/2003 of SFr21.9 million. That compares with a net loss of SFr55.3 million a year earlier.

Cost cuts and the sale of two units helped the group return to the black, although sales fell by 6.9 per cent to SFr735.8 million as a result of the strong Swiss franc.

Business drivers

"Our business is driven by governments' need for infrastructure development. And also by our customers' need to constantly get higher productive instruments to do their job faster and more accurately," Hess told swissinfo.

The slowdown of the global economy has hit the company's business, apart from the Cyra subsidiary, it has not suffered to any great extent.

"Customers are somewhat reluctant to make investments but generally infrastructure projects continue. They're not slowed down just because the economy is somewhat weaker," Hess explained.

Leica Geosystems, which went public in 2000, expects improved results for the current year, provided that economic and geo-political conditions remain unchanged and that the exchange rate of the Swiss franc remains stable.

"We had an excellent performance until about the autumn of 2001 when we had to adjust the company to more difficult economic conditions," Hess told swissinfo.

"Reducing costs and indebtedness were priorities. I think we have done our homework now. We have kept our capacity and capability to bring new, innovative products to market and we will benefit from this in the years to come," he added.

swissinfo, Robert Brookes in Zurich

Key facts

Leica Geosystems has been involved in surveying for 80 years.
Renowned Swiss companies Kern Aarau and Wild Heerbrugg are now part of the Leica Geosystems group.
The group has been listed on the Swiss stock exchange (SWX) in Zurich since July 2000.
At the end of March, the group employed 2,388 people.

end of infobox

In brief

Leica Geosystems' subsidiary Cyra has been helping United States authorities to make accurate 3D models of important landmarks.

Cyra has provided state-of-the-art laser-scanning technology to model the Statue of Liberty.

Leica Geosystems believes high density surveying is key to the group's long-term success.

The group made a net profit in the fiscal year 2002/2003 of SFr21.9 million.

end of infobox


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