The British bus journal Bus & Coach Buyer recently announced that Van Hool plans Macedonian expansion after a good year. The Belgian bus and coach manufacturer stresses that despite these developments, the Van Hool headquarters along with its decision making and innovation functions will remain in Koningshooikt, as will the production of specialised industrial vehicles and buses and coaches with high levels of added value such as the Astromega, Altano and the Exqui.City. It anticipates remaining the fourth largest industrial employer in Belgium.
After a successful 2015 financial year that saw turnover increase to €596.8m (£503.27m), a 7% increase over the previous best in 2014, the Van Hool group has returned a €10.6m (£8.94m) profit, the highest it has achieved in the last 15 years. The results also show positive cashflow of €28.4m (£23.95m) and a reduction in the working capital employed of €4m (£3.37m) despite an increase in turnover of €39.2m (£33.06m). Bus and coach production rose from 1,097 units to 1,268 of which 772 (737 in 2014) were built at Koningshooikt in Belgium, 428 (291) in Macedonia and 68 (69) at Bree. As previously announced, the Bree plant is ceasing production and will close with effect from 15 July 2016 with provision for this included within the 2015 figures taking the overall result of Van Hool NV to a loss of €4.8m (£4.05m). Industrial vehicle production (trailers) totalled 2,903, up from 2,594 in 2014.
For 2016, it believes turnover will be somewhat lower for the bus and coach unit it nevertheless expects improving results. Continued efforts are to be made on optimising the use of working capital and cost saving.
Further growth will be based upon continued internationalisation which will require additional production facilities. The plant at Skopje in Macedonia, where the CX45 and CX35 for the US market and the EX-range for Europe are produced, is to be doubled in size over the next three years at a cost of €15m (£12.65m). This will take annual production capacity to 900 units.
Having grown its share of the US private coach market to 35%, Van Hool is looking at the 5,000-7,000 vehicle US public transport market which, through the Buy American Act, demands local construction. If the result of the study supports it, the company will start a new plant in the US to build a yet-to-be-developed bus for the US public transport market.