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Citing a weaker market and persistent problems at their plant in Merida, Mexico, Leoni AG reported significant organizational changes that it deemed necessary to stabilize the business and prepare it for its future.

A March 18 press release said that the company will no longer maintain its prior stated financial projections for sales of 5.2 billion euros for 2019. It also plans a headcount reduction of up to 2,000 "indirect" employees worldwide, meaning those not working production, such as "white collar" staff. Those cuts include "500... in high-wage countries, particularly in indirect functions." Other cited personnel-related measures include a group-wide hiring freeze and a freeze on raises for non-tariff employees and managers.

The largest single problem was related to the company’s plant that opened two years ago in Merida. Part of the Wiring Systems Division (WSD), the site has experienced ramp-up problems that persisted "to an unexpected extent" the first two months of 2019, the release said. There were high personnel and freight costs that impacted division earnings by about 50 million euros. Two other WSD wiring plants in Hermosillo and Durango did not achieve "anticipated performance improvements," but the Merida plant was the source of the biggest loss.

In the Feb. 7 press release, Leoni AG CEO Aldo Kamper said that he and CFO Karl Gadesmann would actively engage in the operations of WSD. "We are immediately implementing a stricter cost discipline at the company," he said, with the focus being to stabilize the company, "with a particular focus on Mexico." A dedicated team of experts is on site to further this goal. The problems, it said, extend beyond Mexico, as the market, especially in China, remains challenging, as some OEMs have cut back on expected orders for the coming months.

In the March 18 release, Kamper said that the situation had worsened, and that "developments… have made it clear that we must act even faster and more decisively to bring Leoni back on track." Personnel changes included the resignation of Gadesmann. Kamper will assume those duties on an interim basis. Martin Stüttem will assume the responsibilities of WSD COO. The division’s current CFO will be leaving his function and the head of operations will leave soon. Staffing changes at Merida are also part of the changes.

Kamper said in the release that Leoni has "a clear roadmap" to address its problems. He observed that it is important to develop Leoni into a systems provider and for its products and services to be aligned with viable and profitable markets as well as technologies involving a high degree of integration. Leoni has used outside experts to help assess the viability of "the most important project ramp ups."

"Leoni will focus more on cash generation as well as profitability and intends to restrict organic growth in its Wiring System Division to the level of market growth," the release said. The corporate structure will be changed into "into a financial holding company that is lean and geared to functions relevant to the capital market with two divisions that operate entrepreneurially and are managed on a stand-alone basis. ... The divisions will take on full direct cost responsibility for their own businesses."

The release also said that a range of initiatives, part of the company’s VALUE 21 program, is expected to have an impact. "As of 2022, (it) is expected to deliver full-run rate structural savings of around EUR 500 million annually compared with 2018." Savings will be offset some by factors such as wage cost increases and price reductions. Restructuring costs are likely to amount to about EUR 120 million, half of it related to headcount, most of which will incur in the 2019 and 2020 financial years."

Wuhu Jiahong New Material Co., Ltd., (Wuhu Jiahong), a Chinese cable manufacturer, announced that it will be a supplier of self-regulating heat trace cable to Garinger, a major U.S. industrial supply company.

A press release said that Wuhu Jiahong will supply 20,000 meters of self-regulating heat trace cables and 10,000 meters of constant wattage heating cables to Grainger on a yearly basis. These cables will be used for residential and commercial buildings, mainly for pipe freeze protection, in-pipe heat tracing system, electric floor heating system, and roof and gutter de-icing system.

The self-regulating heat trace cables can also be used for other sites, such as offshore oil platforms, marine ship, and fire pipelines, the release said. It noted that Wuhu Jiahong is the lone Chinese company to offer self-regulating heating cables. It is building a 60,000 sq-m-factory in Wuhu, scheduled to open in 2020, that “will be equipped with fully automated testing equipment and is expected to multiply the existing production scale by five times.” Wuhu Jiahong CEO Steven Xu said that the company’s new factory will allow the business “to shift its production line to a new frontier, making it highly digitized and more connected ... (and) provide the company a serious competitive edge over its other competitors in the coming years.”

Founded in 1993, Wuhu Jiahong’s R&D staff includes 20 industry experts, and its cables are made to strict European and North American safety standards, the releasse said. It competes with companies such as Raychem, Emerson, Technitrace, Thermon and Eltherm.

The MAREA transatlantic subsea cable, the result of a joint effort between Facebook and Microsoft, achieved a record data transfer speed of 26.2 Tbps on a pair of its fiber optic cables during an experiment.

A press release said that the experiment yielded a 20% increase in the theoretical maximum as it was previously thought that the maximum transfer rate per fiber pair was 20 Tbps. In 2016, Facebook and Microsoft joined forces to build and deploy the highest-capacity undersea cable in history, dubbed the MAREA cable. The cable spans from Virginia Beach to Bilbao, Spain, and had a design capacity of 160 Tbps, with each of the line’s eight fiber optic pairs capable of 20 Tbps.

A recent experiment using 16 QAM modulation saw the transatlantic cable achieve a data transfer rate of 26.2 Tbps on one of the fiber pairs, the release said. The MAREA cable, which was designed to help meet increasing demand for high-speed connections to the cloud, was able to reach these transfer rates with no physical modifications to the line. "This is significant because it suggests that other undersea lines may be able to achieve speed upgrades without having to spend hundreds of millions on laying new cable," it said.

The release noted that average MAREA cable transfer rates are now "only" 9.5 Tbps, so the record speeds are still in the experimental stage.

International Wire Group Holdings, Inc. (IWG)—which per its website is the largest bare copper wire and copper wire products manufacturer in the U.S., with operations in Europe—announced that it has agreed to be acquired by affiliates of Atlas Holdings LLC (Atlas) for $10.70 a share.

A press release said that IWG’s board of directors unanimously approved the transaction, and recommended that stock holders approve the deal. Atlas owns and operates 18 manufacturing and distribution businesses, with more than 17,000 employees and 150 facilities worldwide. Those sectors include automotive products and services, building materials, capital equipment, chemicals, construction, energy, equipment fabrication, industrial distribution, metals and metal fabrication, packaging and paper products.

The transaction, the release said, is also subject to approvals. If the deal goes forward, it would be expected to close early in the second quarter of 2019..

IWG, based in Camden, New York, with its subsidiaries, manufacture and market wire products that include bare and tin-plated copper wire, engineered wire products and high performance conductors for other insulated wire manufacturers and OEMs. It also has facilities in France, Italy and Poland.

Per its webpage, IWG—formed in 1995 through the combination of Wirekraft Industries and Omega Wire, joined that year by Ristance Corporation and Electro Components De Mexico—saw considerable growth in the following years. It expanded in 1996 with the addition of Dekko Wire Technologies amd Camden Wire in 1997, Spargo Wire and Italtrecce in 1998, Forissier in 1999, PD High Performance Conductors in 2006, Hamilton Products in 2008, Global Wire (Wyre Wynd, Negev, Montgomery Wire) in 2008 and Ffhoenix Cuivre in 2011.

NEC has won a contract from Okinawa Cellular Telephone Company to supply an optical submarine cable system connecting Okinawa Prefecture and Kagoshima Prefecture in Japan to be in operation in April 2020. 

A press release said that NEC will provide the optical submarine cable system as a turnkey solution. The cable will be manufactured by NEC’s subsidiary OCC Corporation, which it noted is the only company in Japan that can make optical submarine cables capable of withstanding the water pressure from 8,000 m deep seas.

The cable system will be connected to Nago City, Okinawa Prefecture, and Hioki City, Kagoshima Prefecture, with a total length of approximately 760 km and at a maximum depth of approximately 1,200 m. The system will employ the latest optical wavelength multiplex transmission method, with maximum design transmission capacity of 80 Tbps.

NEC, as a system integrator, will provides all aspects of submarine cable operations, including the optical transmission terminal stations, optical submarine repeaters, optical submarine cables, ocean surveys and route designs, installation of equipment and cable, and training and delivery testing.

Furukawa Electric LatAm has been chosen to be a supplier for a significant project with izzi telecom, a telecommunications company of the Mexican Grupo Televisa, that will require the delivery of approximately 8,000 km of optical cable.

A press release said that the project is needed because of the migration from cable TV HFC (Hybrid Fiber Coax) network to FTTH (Fiber to the Home) in its Monterrey plant. The project is expected to last two years and will include optical cables and connectivity accessories, as well as training, design and installation.

“Furukawa was chosen for its cascade, pre-terminated, fusion-free solution,” said Foad Shaikhzadeh, president of Furukawa Electric LatAm and corporate senior vice president of the Furukawa Electric Group. “The greatest advantage of this system is the possibility of gradual investment in the pay-as-you-grow concept, in addition to the faster implementation compared to other technologies,” he said.
The project, which will start in Monterrey, will be the basis for izzi Telecom to define its commercial offer strategy, as well as its network topology the release said. The resulting new network has the potential to reach 1.6 million homes passed. izzi Telecom provides services in more than 60 cities in 29 states of Mexico through a network of more than 30,000 km of fiber optic cables and 77,000 km of coaxial cables.

In other news, Furukawa Electric Corp. has been considering expanding the 6,000-sq-m plant it established in Mexicali. The site, which manufactures fiber optic cables and other components for the telecom sector, opened in December 2017 with 150 employees.

Per a report in El Economista, the Mexicali plant was intended to export most of its production to the U.S., but it sees strong domestic demand. “The Mexican telecommunications market has grown in an interesting way, which is why we are interested in growing both the number of network operators and corporate clients we serve,” said Renato Ohno, manager of Furukawa Electric for Mexico and Central America. “If the expectation is fulfilled, we would not only be producing cables, but we would have a much wider portfolio than what we already have here with another warehouse next to the current one of the same size. It could double what is in Mexicali today regarding of space.”

Per a report in mexico-now.com, Foad Shaikhzadeh, president of Furukawa Electric LatAm and senior corporate vice-president of Furukawa Electric Group, said that “The new Mexicali plant offers both geographic and logistical advantages that support our goal of supplying the American market. In addition, with its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, the location offers excellent exportation capabilities to other continents. The facility also offers ready access to technical laboratories and a qualified workforce.”

Chroma Color Corporation (CCC) announced that it has acquired Polymer Concentrates Inc. (PCI), a privately held company that develops and manufactures color concentrates for the international plastics industry.

A press release said that acquiring PCI, based in Clinton, Massachusetts, further bolsters the manufacturing footprint of Chroma Color. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. “Over the past five decades, Polymer Concentrates Inc. has forged deep relationships with a wide range of customers in the automotive, communication technology, wire-cable, housewares, netting, packaging, and other specialty industries,” it said.

“We were very excited when we saw the opportunity to add Polymer Concentrates Inc. to the Chroma family,” said Chroma Color Corporation CEO Tom Bolger. “The company has a solid reputation in the marketplace and its facility is very close to our plant in Leominster, Massachusetts.” He added that the two companies complementary product lines, but distinctly different customer bases. “That makes this acquisition very attractive allowing us to offer a broader suite of products to the customers of both the legacy Chroma and PCI.”

Chroma Color Corporation serves multiple markets, including wire and cable. It was formed in 2018 when four well-established color concentrate companies (Breen, Hudson, Carolina, and Chroma Colors) combined their resources to form the single business entity.

The BSRM Group reports that it is establishing a wire manufacturing operation—called BSRM Wires—in Bangledesh that will focus on making wire products that are currently imported.

Per a story at www.thedailystar.net, the company plans to spend approximately $54 million to build a plant in Chattogram. It cited a "booming" steel industry that is supported by "mega projects that the government has set in motion," and that BSRM Wires hopes to "capitalise on the impending construction boom in Bangladesh."

In the story, BSRM Group Chairman Alihussain Akberali said that the plant will make four types of wire that are currently imported. He observed that while prices for raw materials of wire are very low in the international market but the prices of the finished goods end up being high for Bangladesh due to imports. "Local manufacturing will reduce their prices," he said.

A project proposal cited a combination of galvanized wire, LRPC wire, welding electrode and carbon wire. The plant will have the capacity to annually manufacture 77,000 metric tons of wires when it opens in 2020. The plant will create some 400 jobs, bringing the BSRM’s total employment to 4,700.

The main product focus of BSRM is rebar, but it also has a plant at Nasirabad in Chattogram that manufactures wire rod. That plant, described as "the first and only company to manufacture high-strength reinforcement wires in Bangladesh," has annual capacity of 24,000 metric tons of wire rod.

The new project has seen strong support from the banking sector, led by Dhaka Bank and six other banks —Bank Asia, City, NCC, Modhumoti and Mercantile—and one financial institution, the Saudi-Bangladesh Industrial and Agricultural Investment Company. The banks have invested in the project as it would have a direct impact on the economy, said Syed Mahbubur Rahman, managing director of Dhaka Bank. "The project has good prospects," he said.

The Prysmian Group announced that it has been awarded a power cable contract worth €17 million from utility company New Brunswick Power Corporation (NB Power) for a project in the Canadian Province of New Brunswick.

A press release said that the Fundy Isles Project will see a new power cable link connect Deer Island, Campobello Island and Grand Manan Island to the mainland power grid in the Canadian province. Set for completion this October, it will upgrade the capacity of the existing submarine transmission system in the Passamaquoddy Region of the Bay of Fundy.

Prysmian will design and install a total of 20 km of 300 mm² 69 kV three-core submarine cable with XLPE insulation. The submarine core cables—one about 16.5 km long and a second about 3.5 km— will be made at Prysmian’s plant in Montereau, France, while the cable armoring will be manufactured at its factory in Nordenham, Germany. That plant became part of the Prysmian Group after the merger with General Cable.

“This project is particularly challenging for Prysmian as the section where the installation activities will be performed presents the highest tides in the world, with very strong currents,” Raul Gil, Prysmian Group Submarine Business Director said. “Moreover, the submarine route crosses an extensive fishing area and this limits the time window that can be used for installation operations.”

NB Power is the largest electric utility in the Atlantic Canada.

Germany’s Leoni, best known for automotive cables, reports that it was won a contract from Volkswagen to equip 1,300 robots with its LSH 3 dresspack solution for production of electric vehicles.

A press release said that Leoni has already fitted a hundred of the robots at the VW Group’s production site in Zwickau. The LSH 3 provides the power for various bonding methods such as welding, handling, laser bonding, clinching and also adhesive bonding. The project also involves the installation of floor cable harnesses, i.e. installing the cabling for the robots or from the stationary tool to the robot control unit. Leoni notes that it has taken a holistic system approach, supporting customers with preventive maintenance, repairs and the adaptation of existing energy supply systems.

In the course of the next two years, several Volkswagen models are to be produced in Zwickau based on the new MEB platform, the release said. The Zwickau site will be dedicated solely to electromobility as of the end of 2020.

The robotics field has very high requirements to ensure mechanical, chemical and thermal product properties as there are challenges posed by powerful acceleration, compression and torsion, for example, as well as millions of flexing cycles. Further, resilience is a must for high temperatures, welding beads, oil and various chemicals.

Leoni’s LSH 3, which is highly reliable, compact and flexible in use, reduces the likelihood of a collision with interference contours. This advantage, combined with extremely resilient materials and tried-and-tested components, provides great freedom while at the same time allowing the dresspack to be ducted closely to the robot arm.

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