Manitou revealed a drive to beef up in North America and
northern Europe as the maker of farm and construction machinery underlined the threat
of an "already pronounced" downturn in the farm sector.
The French-based maker of machinery such as telehandlers,
particularly popular with livestock farmers for shifting feed and bales, and
forklifts used in shifting produce such as potatoes unveiled a a jump to
E14.2bn in earnings for the first half of 2014, from E1.06m a year before.
Revenues rose 8.6% to E641.9m, with operating profits
tripling to E23.06m, ahead of market expectations for a figure of E20.0m.
The results reflected in part one-time factors, such as a
weaker euro, which has fallen 4% so far in 2014 against the dollar, improving
in euro terms the impact of foreign sales.
The group also highlighted a "decrease in overheads", with
cost cutting efforts reducing administration expenses by 14.3% to E20.84m.
The improvement comes despite difficult markets for agricultural
machinery overall, a weakness which Manitou highlighted, along with weakness in
broader equipment rental takings.
"We remain very attentive to market developments for the
rental and agriculture markets, for the first because of its high volatility and
for the second because of its already pronounced slowdown," said Michel Denis,
the Manitou chief executive.
The dynamics are spurring Manitou to expand "development
efforts in growth regions, especially in North America and Northern Europe", Mr
The UK, for instance, has been quicker than that of the
eurozone to recover from the world economic downturn, while the North American
construction market has performed far better than that for farm machinery, data
from the likes of Deere & Co show.
Currently, while Manitou's Northern European sales are
booming, rising 24% to E239.0m in the first half of 2014, those in the Americas
were up only 1.0% at E131.9m.
Livestock vs arable
The US agriculture market may also play to Manitou's
strengths in showing some strength in the smaller equipment used by livestock
farmers, even as sales drop of the larger machinery used by growers.
While US sales of four-wheel drive tractors fell 11.0% by
volume in the first seven months of 2014, and combine sales by 15.2%, those of
smaller tractors were 3.3% higher, according to the Association of Equipment
Data on Thursday showed that US livestock farmers will earn
more this year, in terms of cash receipts, than crop producers for the first
time in nine years.
Manitou released its
data after the close of trading on the Paris share market, where its stock
ended down 0.7% at E12.81.