Terex Lifiting president Fil Filipov said last month that his top priority for the year is to “make meaningful improvements in our product support”, perhaps suggesting a period of consolidation for the acquisitive manufacturer.

The addition of tower crane manufacturers Peiner and Comedil in late 1998 and a badging agreement with Japanese crawler crane manufacturer IHI helped Terex push its sales up 22% to $941.3m for 1999, narrowly missing the $1bn target for which it had earlier seemed on course.

Terex Lifting’s fourth quarter sales actually fell from $210m in 1998 to $194.4m, in spite of acquisitions. This is mainly attributed to the closure of the Milwaukee facility.

Over the course of the year, growth was led by a strong performance from the utility aerial devices, the material handling, and the lattice boom and tower cranes businesses. The European aerial business grew by more than 25%; the Telelect utility aerial products posted a 38% increase in revenues; and sales revenue from the Square Shooter material handlers manufactured at the Baraga, Michigan rose 51%. Terex also claims to have grown American Crane’s share of the lattice boom crawler crane market from 2% to more than 10% by offering Terex/American-branded IHI crawlers in North America.

The hydraulic mobile crane business, which had a strong first half of 1999, weakened during the second half, resulting in a 5% fall from a strong 1998. The strong performance of the lattice boom cranes, tower cranes and material handlers businesses were offset by the slowdown in the hydraulic crane business and a 30-day strike at the Waverly crane facility.

Operating profit in 1999, excluding the impact of closure of the Milwaukee facility, increased 22% to $100.1m. Despite a 5% fall in revenues, Terex still managed to make a 10% operating margin on its hydraulic cranes.

Terex’s new emphasis on product support marginally increased the cost of its sales in 1999. Operating expenses as a percentage of revenues increased from 6.0% in 1998 to 6.2% in 1999. During the fourth quarter, Terex developed a new aftermarket program to improve customer service. Measures include the creation of 30 mobile service centres in North America and Europe, all connected to a central location with global positioning systems capability.

“We had a record year despite some challenges with two of our product lines,” said Terex Lifting president Fil Filipov. “The substantial diversification we have implemented over the past several years is helping us to better navigate through different phases of the business cycle. We entered new markets in Central and South America and Australia and were very successful in obtaining new business in those areas with hydraulic and articulated cranes and utility aerial devices. We expanded our presence in the North American market for tower cranes and helped grow the market and our share.

“In our crane segment, we continued to provide our customers with a superior value for their investment and we managed to increase our market share in the USA for the sixth consecutive year. Our main priority in the Lifting segment in 2000 is to make meaningful improvements in our product support.”

Reporting on 25 February, parent company Terex Corporation announced group sales up 50% to nearly $1.9bn and a net income of $172.9m, up from $34.5m in 1998. Shares in Terex Corp. fell to below $12, having begun the year on more than $26 and fallen from a 52 week high of $35.