WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY SEE THE MOST EXCITING MARKETS FOR YOUR COMPANY AND YOUR BRANCH OF INDUSTRY?
WOLF — For us, the focus is clearly on Asia. The vehicle markets in Europe and the United States are already saturated. The Chinese market is already well developed too and is currently in the process of regrouping. But other Asian markets like Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand offer considerable growth potential in some areas, to some extent also due to the increasing emergence of a middle class there. In those countries, the car is a status symbol of newly acquired prosperity.
LEIBINGER-KAMMÜLLER — And wherever people are buying cars, you can expect mi-crowave ovens and cash machines to be bought and sold too. Manufacturers of such appliances and machinery will have to process sheet metal – making them potential customers for us. So we also have the Asian markets in our sights. But Germany remains important to us too; it is still our biggest single market.
WE ARE EXPERIENCING AN INCREASING TREND TOWARDS POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC ISOLATION. HOW MUCH DOES THIS AFFECT YOU?
LEIBINGER-KAMMÜLLER — So far, our American business is going well, even though steel prices have risen slightly. We are more concerned at the moment about the United Kingdom, where we manufacture fiber lasers that are primarily exported to China. Some of the components required for our laser production come from abroad – and have been hoarded for months now.
WOLF — We, on the other hand, are significantly affected by US protectionism. As an example, we source steel produced in the United States for our cylinder-head gaskets, which we then process in Georgia. But because the kind of raw materials needed to produce high-quality stainless steel are not available in the US and have to be imported from China, the associated customs duties have now led to a 25 percent increase in the price of steel. That is absurd! Protectionism simply has no place in today’s global economy.