Global PCB industry

Many big names in the PCB industry had to file for bankruptcy in recent weeks. How much is AT&S affected by the crisis?
Dr. Strasser: We see the current situation rather as a chance than a threat, because the market adjustment opens additional opportunities for us. The market consolidation, which has been visible in this highly fragmented market in the past as well, is accelerated by the current economic crisis. Some of our competitors, which already struggled in a relatively good market environment, have to face considerable pressure in the current market situation. Healthy and well-established companies - like AT&S - will master these difficult times. For those companies, the consolidation will have lasting and positive effects, such as market share gains.

Reports of failures within the PCB industry result in considerable uncertainty from many customers. The solvency of suppliers is gaining considerable importance. Individual customers now rethink their strategies and projects and approach other PCB manufacturers - such as AT&S. The cutthroat competition, which has always been strong in Europe, has intensified even more. AT&S presents itself as a solid partner to its customers. The company has a strong financial base; is stable and well-established. Something that is visible also through our quarterly reports.

It must be said that the whole PCB industry - and in particular also the European pcb manufacturer industry - in 4Q/2008 had to endure one of the largest decreases since 2000. Particularly hard hit are - of course - the market segments Automotive and Industrial, two segments that the European PCB industry is traditionally very strong in.

We assume that the sales declines for the global PCB industry in 2009 will be around 16%. For the European PCB industry, we expect a decline of even 18% to 19%. Reasons for this decline are: Firstly, as said already, the two main segments - Automotive and Industrial - are particulary hard hit. Secondly, a further shift of standard technologies from Europe to Asia will occur under this market conditions. This impacts the European pcb china industry currently strongly. What will remain in Europe, are the technologically more sophisticated products, as well as small series, prototypes and fast production.

When will this difficult market situation subside and the European PCB industry can return to some growth?
Dr. Strasser: This is of course the crucial question. We assume that we can expect a positive growth for the global PCB industry again in 2010; here we are talking about a low, single digit number growth - around 4%. The real recovery in the market, we can probably expect in 2011 - with higher growth rates.

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