During the first eight months of the current year, the Conzzeta Group's businesses performed at the same level as in the previous year. Consolidated net revenues increased by 3.1% to CHF 985.3 (955.6) million. After adjustment for currency translation effects, revenue growth amounted to 7.7%. The operating profit (EBIT) was CHF 73.6 (74.7) million, slightly lower than for the corresponding period of 2007. Revenues and earnings were affected by the unfavorable currency situation. On the basis of the current order situation, it is possible that the present revenue trend will be maintained up to the end of 2008. The operating result in 2008 will be slightly lower than in 2007 owing to the negative impact of currency effects and the rise in procurement costs.
In the four months from May to August, Conzzeta's markets remained robust despite the financial crisis, high raw material prices and increasing economic uncertainties. However, developments in the various business units and their markets showed a mixed picture. Compared with the first eight months of last year, consolidated net revenues grew by 3.1% to CHF 985.3 (955.6) million. The weakness of key export currencies (USD, GBP, KRW) continued to exert a negative influence through the second four-month period. After adjustment for currency translation effects, Conzzeta's consolidated net revenues showed a 7.7% increase compared with the first eight months of last year. The operating margin (EBIT) of 7.2% (7.8%) was slightly lower than for the corresponding period of 2007. Operating profit was reduced by special costs of around CHF 10 million arising from the closure of the natural latex foam production facility. Group profit of CHF 59.8 (112.5) million was on a par with 2007, once last year's extraordinary profit of CHF 56.3 million is factored out.
In a generally positive capital goods market, the Sheet Metal Processing Systems business unit (Bystronic) increased its sales in the first two-thirds of the year to CHF 513.1 (502.0) million (+2,2%; currency-adjusted: +8%). Growth in the Chinese and southeast Asian markets was below expectations, while in the USA sales were higher than last year. The opening of a branch office in Canada extended Bystronic's marketing network. Capacity utilization in the current year was sustained at the high levels recorded last year. Incoming orders for the year so far increased in Europe, Russia and Brazil. Generally, however, the order intake is tending to flatten out.
Glass Processing Systems business unit (Bystronic glass) maintained an upward course in the reporting period, with sales rising 11.7% to CHF 173.3 (155.2) million. The growth momentum was particularly strong from some European markets, as well as China, Russia and the Middle East, while demand in the USA and Great Britain came to a virtual standstill because of the housing market crisis. Elsewhere in Europe, demand for architectural glass processing systems appears to be faltering. On a more promising note for the future development of the business unit, there was liverly interest in integrated glass processing systems and production plant for laminated safety glass and solar cells.
With sales of CHF 35.1 (47.1) million at the end of August 2008, Automation Systems business unit (ixmation) was unable to make good the sales deficit on the previous year. Comparisons with the previous period have only limited value, as the business unit subsequently received engineering orders from customers on existing projects delaying delivery. A further deferment of sales arose because ixmation's plant in the USA was damaged by a tornado at the beginning of August, resulting in a month-long delay in assembly and delivery. At all ixmation subsidiaries (USA, Switzerland, Malaysia and China), incoming orders and order backlogs are well above 2007 levels. Growth was particularly marked in sales of manufacturing equipment for solar cells and medical equipment in the USA and in Asia.
The Foam Materials business unit (FoamPartner) reported sales of CHF