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Mesnac overtakes HF Group in machinery survey

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Chinese manufacturer Mesnac Co. Ltd. finally has emerged as the largest rubber machinery producer, having trailed narrowly behind long-time leader HF Group for the previous two years, according to this year's European Rubber Journal Machinery Survey.

The survey, based on sales figures for 2014 provided by machine makers, shows that Mesnac achieved year-on-year growth of 19 percent, taking its rubber machinery sales to $483.6 million. This left it with a clear lead over Hamburg, Germany-based HF, which reported sales of $449.5 million, 10 percent higher than in 2013.

Dutch-based VMI Holland B.V. kept pace with the top two players, with a 20 percent increase in sales, to $336.7 million.

Fourth-placed Kobe Steel Ltd. also reported strong growth, with its estimated sales for rubber machinery sales 15 percent higher than in 2013 at $285 million.

Another notable feature of this year's survey is the decline in sales for some of China's machine manufacturers—based on figures supplied by the China Rubber Industry Association. These included Dalian R&P Machinery Co. Ltd., where sales fell 22 percent to $150.8 million.

However, the continued absence from the survey of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Larsen & Toubro, and Conti Machinery has some bearing on the rankings. The three companies last provided sales figures in 2011—of $247 million, $108 million and $87.8 million respectively.

Overall, the rubber machinery market has grown by around 10 percent—based on data only from machinery companies that supplied figures for the ERJ Machinery Survey both in 2015 and 2014.

Comparing the results for companies who replied both years, the total sales recorded by the survey reached $3.59 billion, up 10.4 percent from the equivalent total of the previous year.

The robust year-on-year sales growth recorded by the survey suggests that there was strong momentum for growth in many areas of the market, both from a regional and end-product perspective.

Negative market factors, such as the Ukraine crisis and its impact on sales on Russia, and the U.S. imposition of tariffs on tire imports from China had, it seems, yet to bite. The declines in sales among several Chinese machinery companies could, however, be a sign of things to come.

On the other hand, China was identified as the most buoyant market—being listed, along with North America, by 48 percent of respondents as strongest growth regions for business in 2014.

Not far behind was Central and Eastern Europe, which was selected by 44 percent, though the continuing economic woes in the European Union were reflected in a marked decline in those that identified Western Europe as a strong sales region.

Rubber machinery makers benefited from the strength of the tire and automotive industries, with more than half of replies identifying these as sectors that were performing well. The increased positivity from these sectors also extended to suppliers of general rubber goods.

Some uncertainty, though, is feeding through to companies' investment plans: only 44 percent of respondents planned to expand their operations compared to 61 percent a year ago. This is likely to stem the increased flow of new projects coming through the pipeline as reported by respondents.