Germany's Vaillant sees growing sales of energy-efficient boilers
* Vaillant's efficient heaters popular in German home market
* Russia, China growth helps overcome south Europe crisis
* Argues energy transition can happen in people's homes
* Wants tax incentives for swap to efficient heaters
By Vera Eckert
FRANKFURT, May 27 (Reuters) - Germany's Vaillant sees sales rising two to three percent this year as it wins market share in crisis-hit Europe, while demand for energy-efficient heating systems that cut fuel bills also grows in emerging economies.
The 140-year old company is a household name in Europe for products such as condensing boilers, which extract heat from otherwise wasted flue gases; for heat pumps, which draw heat from external air and the ground; and for solar collectors that combine heating and hot water supply.
Half of Vaillant's research and development funds are spent on new technologies like combined heat and power micro-plants, which make homes independent of centralised supply, chief executive Carsten Voigtlaender told Reuters.
Although it works with E.ON and RWE to sell combined heat and power systems to households, new devices made by Vaillant, rival Bosch and others also pose a threat to utilities, as they cut gas consumption and bills.
They also complement Germany's ambitious plan to transform energy policy, which includes cutting overall energy use and not simply switching to power from greener sources.
While demand in southern European countries like Italy and Spain has been hit by the crisis, Vaillant's German sales rose 4 percent last year as the shift highlighted its products.
In 2012, the group's operating profit before exceptional items rose 10 percent to 225 million euros ($290.93 million).
EMERGING MARKET GROWTH
Vaillant is also enjoying strong growth - starting from a low base - in emerging countries, for boilers, heating and cooling systems, ventilation and related services, as consumers look to cut their energy bills.
"The European market for heating equipment declined by 2 percent last year but we were able to gain market share and to expand our presence in fast growing regions such as China and Russia," Voigtlaender said.
As well as the increase in overall sales, he sees a one point rise in return on sales to nine percent this year.
Privately held Vaillant, the number two in the European market after the thermotechnology unit of Bosch and ahead of Viessmann, posted turnover of 2.33 billion euros last year, a 2 percent rise compared with 2011.
Bosch's thermotechnology unit, with its Buderus and Junkers brands, had 2012 sales of 3.1 billion euros and Viessmann, whose products are similar to Vaillant's, 1.9 billion euros.
EFFICIENCY VS RENEWABLES
Voigtlaender said his company would use forthcoming energy policy discussions in Germany to argue for curbing energy use.
Vaillant wants more tax offsets for investment in building efficiency, which would complement existing incentive payments and tie in with Germany's plan to curb CO2 emissions while exiting CO2-free nuclear power faster over the next decade.
State-bank KfW and the office of economics and export control (BAFA) pay grants or extend partial loans towards new boilers, insulation material and solar system investments. There is a raft of programmes available for households.
With voters increasingly sceptical about the 550 billion euro energy shift, because of tariff hikes needed to support alternative power generation and new grids, Vaillant hopes consumers will be keener to try new technology in their own basement.
The firm estimates that 75 percent of German heating units are outdated and even more - 87 percent - in Europe. With nearly 40 percent of German primary energy use going into heating and hot water, the potential savings are huge, Voigtlaender said.
"We estimate that swapping out all heating systems in one go for the latest technologies could reduce heating costs by up to 35 percent and save 14 billion euros per year in Germany." ($1 = 0.7734 euros) (Editing by Geert de Clercq and Helen Massy-Beresford)
- White House reverses, says Obama met uncle and lived with him during law school
- South Africans, some fearful, wake to life without Mandela |
- U.S. television, Twitter, alive with new version of 'Sound of Music'
- RPT-UPDATE 1-Ford leans on global Mustang to burnish overseas image
- Ford leans on global Mustang to burnish overseas image