The Manitowoc Crane Group has reported a 29% increase in net sales for the full year 2004. Total net sales for the year were $ 1.2 billion compared to $ 968 million in 2003. Operating earnings jumped 133% to $ 57 million from $ 24.4 million in 2003.

The company said that the rise in sales was due to increased volume of tower and mobile hydraulic cranes worldwide, increased crawler crane sales in Asia, increases in aftermarket sales and service business, and the impact of the Euro exchange rate from year to year.

On 31 December 2004, total crane segment backlog was $ 327.3 million compared to $ 213.2 million on the same day in 2003.

Looking back on the year, Manitowoc said that all international crane markets, with the exception of North American crawler cranes, had grown during 2004. Market share was captured in “most” product segments in North America, Europe and Asia.

The rising cost of steel and other raw materials led to an increase in crane prices, which is expected to hold during 2005. There was no sign, the company said, of the costs of raw materials falling, although it predicted that prices should stabilize during 2005.

Looking at 2005, Manitowoc told shareholders that sales volume in North America will increase slightly but remain flat or decline slightly. The North American crawler crane market is expected to remain flat, with no real signs of a recovery.

The company said 11 new cranes will be launched in 2005 and that it will continue its policy of attacking markets geographically, rather than by product line. The recently announced crane manufacturing facility in China is an example of this policy.

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