Belfast Telegraph

'We're committed to UK,' says German tech giant Bosch chief

German tech giant Bosch has no intention of easing up on its UK investments despite uncertainties surrounding Britain's future trade arrangements with the EU.

Bosch UK president Steffen Hoffmann told the Press Association that the company's British operations, which employ over 5,300 people, would receive continued support regardless of Brexit.

"Look, with the footprint we have in the UK, we have a need for continuous investment," he said.

"This is in the range of 25 million euro (£21.6 million) every year.

"It's been like that the past few years and it has been like that in 2016 as well."

He added: "The UK is the second largest market for Bosch in Europe, and we've been here since 1898.

"We're committed to the UK, and there are no plans to change the investment levels."

Mr Hoffman made the comments after Bosch revealed a 13% rise in UK sales to £3.2 billion for 2016 at constant currencies, driven by strength in its energy and building technologies, mobility solutions and consumer goods divisions.

When accounting for foreign exchange fluctuations, which includes the fall in the pound, sales soared 19%.

The Bosch UK boss said the company had reviewed prices on a "continuous basis" following the pound's collapse, but said those decisions had not had a significant impact on revenues.

"Some of our consumer products and heating products are (invoiced) in pounds, and we had to look at prices," Mr Hoffmann said, though he did not elaborate on how much prices had been raised by the end of December.

"The exchange rate after a while will have an effect on pricing.

"That effect was not very strong in 2016, so the growth in 2016 was mainly volume and market share gains."

He said price hikes depended where exchange rates were by the time contracts with retail partners came up for review, and also considered how Bosch's competitors had reacted to currency fluctuations.

Earlier this year, tech giant Microsoft raised prices on a raft of products including laptops and tablets by as much as 15% in direct response to the weak pound, while audio firm Sonos revealed a 25% hike on some items for UK customers.

Bosch said in its earnings release that the first months of 2017 "continue to look promising", with sales growth at similar levels as 2016.

Mr Hoffman said the UK business was expected to clock a minimum 5% rise in sales for 2017, despite wider threats of a drop-off in consumer spending due to rising inflation, which hit 2.7% in April.

"A pick up in inflation around the corner, that is what most economists see," he said.

"Much of it, of course, is exchange rate driven.

"You would have to look particularly at what it does to the availability of consumer credit."

A bigger concern seemed to be a slowdown in car sales, with Bosch helping supply and develop sensors for the sector.

"Our outlook .... for the first quarter was very, very strong but this was also particularly driven by a very, very strong automotive market in the first quarter. We do not expect that to continue for the remainder of the year.

"We are conscious of a general uncertainty in the world, but we still expect a good year."

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