Automation specialist KUKA closed the first quarter with significant growth in all business segments. Despite the ongoing dynamic situation of the coronavirus pandemic, many customers went ahead with projects that had been postponed.
At €890.5 million, the Group recorded a 29.2% greater volume of orders received in the first quarter than in the same period last year (Q1/20: €689.0 million).
The book-to-bill ratio rose to 1.23, indicating good capacity utilization and growth. Orders increased particularly strongly in the Systems business segment, rising by 141% to €278.6 million. The recovery from a low level was due in particular to considerable growth in the automotive business in the USA. Conditions remain difficult, however, in the European market. The business segment Systems is primarily active in automotive systems engineering.
At €721.6 million, sales revenues were 15.5% higher than in the prior-year quarter. Particularly in China, sales increased massively to €110.3 million between January and March 2021, up 122.9% year on year. The business segment was hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic and the associated restrictions in the first three months of last year.
Group earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) improved to €8.2 million (Q1/20:
-€34.2 million); the EBIT margin rose accordingly to 1.1% (Q1/20: -5.5%). At €18.1 million, free cash flow in the past quarter was at its highest since 2014 (Q1/20: -€12.8 million). The improved business situation is also having an impact on the job cuts at the Augsburg headquarters, which are now lower than originally planned.
“It will take time for the markets to recover fully and return to the levels they were at prior to COVID-19 and before cyclical downturns. Nevertheless, despite uncertainties due to COVID-19, we are expecting positive net income for the year,” said Peter Mohnen. “We responded early with the right measures and have also improved our cost structure. This is having a positive impact on our earnings. Furthermore, despite difficult economic conditions, we are also able to invest in new developments such as our new operating system.”
The operating system will form the basis of an entire ecosystem, which will be providing access to programs, apps, or services. It will be easy to install, operate and expand. This will facilitate automation in industries and applications in which, until now, there have been few robots.
You can download the complete report for the first quarter of 2021 here.