Claas increased sales by 3.6% this year to €3.76 billion (2016: €3.63 billion), while profit before tax almost doubled to €184 million (2016: €93 million). The strong boost was largely down to the Eastern European market, where good harvests led to a noticeably higher demand for new tractors and farm machinery.
Positive developments were also noted in South America, but the picture was more mixed in the rest of the world. Machine sales in large markets, such as China and the US, registered a further decline. There were only slight sales improvements for the firm in Germany, and the French market fell significantly following the abolition of a special tax depreciation for farmers.
The company’s research and development spend continues at a high level of €217 million (similar to 2016), and more than 11% of the company’s 10,961 employees now work in R+D. Additional employees were hired in Eastern Europe, but staff levels fell in China, and the number of Claas employees around the world declined slightly this year from the previous year’s 11,300 – over half of which work in Germany. The firm says the drop reflects the differing trends in the global agricultural machinery markets, and cost-cutting initiatives implemented over the past few years.
Claas expects a moderate improvement in the global agricultural machinery markets in 2018. Drivers include the strengthening of milk prices and the anticipated market recovery in France. The profitability of farms is expected to increase slightly again in most parts of the world.