A COMPETITIVE world-wide market for agricultural equipment has seen German machinery giant, Claas sell more product, but for a reduced profit.

It recorded a slight year-on-year rise in sales at €3.898bn (prior year: €3.889bn), while its income before tax fell to €136m, or down €90m, to the end of its financial year at the end of September.

“Claas recorded stable development in an increasingly negative market environment. Despite the anticipated drop in income, we kept the company on course and systematically invested in the further digitalization and the expansion of our market positions,” said Thomas Böck, CEO of the Claas Group.

There was a significant rise in sales in France and the rest of western Europe. In eastern Europe, core business continued to develop well, while sales in Germany fell as a result of weather conditions. Outside Europe, the situation was mixed, with overall sales down year on year.

Investment in research and development reached a new record high at €244m, €11m more than in 2017. In 2019, the often complex projects resulted in a series of important new product launches.

The new Lexio combine harvester introduced in the summer has the aim of maintaining Claas’ position as the world’s leading combine harvester manufacturer, with pre-launch machines that have been used by farmers around the world showing that the new Lexion is able to considerably increase harvest productivity.

At Agritechnica, Claas revealed its unique Axion Terra Trac half-track tractor with full suspension. A spin-off from that used in its combine harvesters and forage harvesters, this will help protect the soil from damage due to its larger footprint. Also introduced was DataConnect – the first manufacturer-independent cloud-to-cloud solution. In the future, farmers will be able to view their entire fleet of machinery via one interface, regardless of whether the equipment was made by Claas, John Deere, or CNH Industrial.

Investment in property, plant and equipment increased again to €125m (prior year: €113m) and this past spring, Claas opened a new testing and validation centre at its Harsewinkel headquarters. The ongoing modernisation of tractor production in France, will also soon be matched by similar modernisation of the combine harvester assembly plant in Germany.

In its outlook for the next financial year, Claas expected stable development in global agricultural equipment markets, despite regional uncertainties. In light of simmering international trade conflicts and the risk of a further economic slowdown, negative effects on sales and income cannot be ruled out, it added.