Japanese mobile crane manufacturers Tadano and Kato have both issued forecasts for the current financial year to 31 March 1998 which seem to confirm troubles in the Japanese economy.

Tadano has downgraded its forecast sales revenue from ¥140bn to ¥137bn ($1.09bn), compared with actual sales of ¥145bn last year. Forecasted net profits are downgraded from ¥3.9bn to ¥3.35bn ($26.6m), compared with actual profits of ¥4.15bn last year.

Kato is forecasting sales down marginally from last year’s ¥71.55bn to ¥71.50bn ($568m) and net profits repeating last year’s ¥680m ($5.5m). This is in spite of an improved start to the year.

The forecasts were made on the back of midterm results which showed Tadano making net profits of ¥1.56bn on sales of ¥52.79bn (¥1.67bn on ¥51.28bn last year), and Kato making an improved ¥336m after tax on sales of ¥35.43bn (¥305m on ¥33.30bn sales for last year’s first half).

Though they depend predominantly on their domestic market for the bulk of their earnings, both Kato and Tadano are pushing harder for growth in Europe now that the exchange rates are more favourable. Tadano has reportedly been using aggressive pricing to raise market share, while Kato has recently launched into the European market its CR250, a success story at home (see Streetfighter Two p30).

But in spite of the currency turmoil, which has seen some Asian companies rein back or postpone major capital investment, Kobelco announced in November that it was investing ¥650m ($5.3m) on refurbishing its Okubo construction machiney plant in Akashi.

The work is due for completion in the spring and productivity is anticipated to rise 30% as a result, the company reckons.

Improvements include welding robots for boom manufacturing, a fourth machining centre for crawler crane body manufacturing, and a system of light indicators designed to help find a required part on a packed warehouse shelf, replacing the current automated warehouse system.