The UK arm of tech giant Bosch saw revenue growth halve last year on the back of a consumer spending slowdown that is expected to add to a further slide in sales expansion in 2018.
Bosch UK has reported a 6.1% increase in sales to £3.5 billion for 2017, marking a significant fall in the pace of growth logged a year earlier at 13%.
But the division’s president Steffen Hoffmann told the Press Association that he was happy with the figures, which reflected double digit growth in its mobility solutions unit – accounting mainly for its automotive business – as well as the industrial and building technologies divisions.
“Areas where we grew a little bit less than last year were the ones that are related to consumer products,” Mr Hoffman said.
Retailers across the UK have suffered from a slowdown in consumer spending amid weak wage growth that has struggled to keep up with rising inflation sparked by the collapse of the pound.
“We also feel that the availability of consumer loans is not probably the same as it was a couple of years ago, or even last year,” Mr Hoffmann explained.
“In an economy that grows at just short of 2%, 6% (sales) growth is still quite okay and we’re happy with 6.1%.”
Mr Hoffmann confirmed that Bosch UK was forced to raise prices last year – including in the consumer division – but said he could not share further details.
“With a 15% depreciation of the currency and in those fields where we completely depend on imports, you can imagine that price adjustments were made here and there.”
The tech giant is now expecting the pace of sales growth to slide even further to just 2-3% in 2018, similar to forecasts for the wider group.
The Bosch UK president said it would still be seen as “an acceptable level of growth” but that the company would also be keeping a close eye on the auto market, which last year “was still in pretty good shape”.
He added: “We’re not 100% sure whether that is going to repeat itself again in 2018, so those are all thoughts that went into this somewhat more conservative forecast.”
When asked what the company would be doing to soften the blow of weak retail conditions, Mr Hoffmann said it would lean on the “benefits of being a conglomerate”.
“With industrial technology, we went through a couple of challenging years,including 2016 when that one division did not do so well. And in 2017 we are growing at double digits.
“So, if you’re active in different fields like we are you have – sometimes – the benefit that opportunities and risks balance each other out.”
He insisted that Bosch – which has been in the UK since 1898 – was in Britain for the “long term” and would not be shifting focus away from any of its divisions.
“For the good part of that history we’ve been here with all our activities so we would not look at getting out in one of those areas.”