North America

North America

North America: anticipating new trends

Bekaert in North America
Combined sales: € 469 million
Capital expenditures:
(Property, plant and equipment)
€ 10 million
Total assets: € 266 million
Employees: 1 700
Number of manufacturing sites: 13

The economy in North America was severely affected by the global downturn. This was felt mostly in the automotive and the residential markets. Sales improved slightly towards the end of the year though, as customers in North America started to replenish their inventories and governmental stimulus programs were getting off the ground.

The proactive measures Bekaert took in previous years to realign its production platform to changed market demand limited the adverse effects on our business experienced throughout the first year-half. Faced with a further decline in industrial demand due to the increasingly difficult marketing conditions Bekaert stepped up this process and responded rapidly by initiating cost-cutting programs. In August we announced the plan to discontinue operations at the plant in Clarksdale (Mississippi) and to consolidate activities there into the Rome (Georgia) plant. By making maximum use of economies of scale and by further optimizing the standardization of production and operational excellence, Bekaert aims to further safeguard its competitive position in the region.

We responded to the downturn in automotive by applying several measures in our North American plants, all in order to enhance added value with our customers.

Bekaert also responded to the downturn in automotive by expanding its product portfolio (for example in the Rogers (Arkansas) plant) and by increasing its tailormade production in order to enhance added value with its customers. We also succeeded in breaking through the supply chain of the U.S.-based Japanese car-makers by replacing traditionally imported wire and wire products by products manufactured in the U.S.

Several U.S. government stimulus programs also boosted our business in the region. The ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program and the recent tax measures had a positive impact on our automotive business in the second year-half. Another U.S. governmental initiative, notably the increased number of states banning lead wheel weights for wheel balancing, has also opened new doors to our operations in the sector. In anticipation of the important movement in the U.S. that strives to have a ban in effect as of 2011, Bekaert invested in a new production line to supply the markets with our eco-friendlier, steel-made wheel weights. In 2010, this production line will be expanded with state-of-the-art technology to increase capacity still further.

In line with the governmental plans to modernize and upgrade the U.S. power grid Bekaert invested heavily in new wire drawing and stranding equipment at the Van Buren (Arkansas) plant to serve the Aluminum Conductor Steel Reinforced (ACSR) market. High-voltage lines are increasingly being refurbished with new conductors to cope with transportation needs over longer distances. Bekaert wires and coatings ensure higher strength as well as better temperature and corrosion resistance to meet this new requirement.

With the globalization of the electricity market, high-voltage lines are being refurbished with new conductors to cope with increasing transportation needs over longer distances. Bekaert developed both higher performance wires and coatings to enable the necessary upgrades in the electricity network.

Our Bekaert window films business in San Diego (California), with production mostly aimed at automotive and construction, was in the eye of the financial storm at the beginning of the year. Cost-control measures were implemented accordingly while our focus of the business was redirected to the Chinese market and to the production of business-to-business applications. As part of its renewable energy focus, Bekaert Specialty Films further diversified its portfolio by successfully introducing the new Solar Gard® PV backsheet. Bekaert used its expertise in flexible films to manufacture laminate backsheets for photovoltaic modules – a critical component in solar panels.

Our Canadian operations in Surrey struggled with a low sales demand and an ongoing reorganization, combined with adverse effects from currency movements. As a result the profitability of the plant was put under pressure. Bekaert Wire Rope Industries, our rope joint venture company in Pointe Claire (Canada), performed well in a difficult environment where demand for ropes was depressed. They pursued product innovation and close cooperation with several mining companies. This led to the successful introduction of a new, improved rope for the oil & gas and mining markets – the Cushion Pac UltraTM or CPU.

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