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MECCANOTECNICA UMBRA IS THE EUROPEAN LEADER FOR MECHANICAL FACE SEALS
Today it is an extremely specialised company, and one of the world leaders in its sector. Meccanotecnica Umbra’s face seals have a 70% share of the European white goods market and 20% of the global automotive sector. Yet in the mid-Seventies, when the company was born, nobody could have imagined such a success. Founded with the aim of producing mechanical face seals for hydraulic pumps, initially for household appliances and various industrial usages, after a few years Meccanotecnica Umbra entered the automotive sector producing seals to be used for cooling liquid pumps in combustion engines. Currently this Italian company supplies 100% of the mechanical seals used by Fiat and Ferrari cars, and can also boast among its list of client Ducati motorbikes, winner in 2007 of the most prestigious title in motorbike racing, the Grand Prix World Championship.
“We made our qualitative jump when we decided to produce ‘in house’ the raw materials, embarking in a search for high technological content”, explains Carlo Pacifici, son of the company’s founder and Chief financial officer. “This is precisely the area where still today you can see our competitive advantage”, he adds. The firms, created in 1966, has acquired and international dimension in the last 15 years, though the domestic market is still predominant. In 2007 Meccanotecnica Umbra’s turnover reached 30 million euros in Italy, 5.5 million in Brazil and 3.5 million in China. But the outlook suggests that foreign turnover is set to increase sharply: this year the company expects to hit the 6 million mark in China as well as Brazil, where the market is close to saturation point.
The internationalising process has increased after 2000, following Fiat Group’s ventures outside Italy, since Meccanotecnica is its supplier. Besides, the domestic market had reached saturation point, especially in the automotive sector. Today General Motors, Volkswagen and Peugeot are among the most prestigious clients for Meccanotecnica Umbra. In 2005 the company decided to break into the Chinese market: “un unavoidable development – says Mr Pacifici – that was forced on us by the fact that our clients moved their production lines there and we had to follow them. It was a whole new environment for us so we relied on the Intesa banking group, which is present locally to support foreign investments with Simest and the Bank of China. Our initial investment required a 1.5 million dollar financial commitment: we created a firm where Meccanotecnica Umbra has a controlling share (52%) but with a strong presence of Simest (48%)”.
The next project involves India, but the company is running into some difficulties. “In my recent missions I noted a lack of infrastructure as well as of local organisational skill, which certainly do not bode well for an easy and quick establishment of foreign firms, at least medium-sized ones such as ours”. Meccanotecnica Umbra hopes to complete all the paperwork with the Indian authorities in 2008 in order to start production before the end of 2009”. How about the US? “It is a difficult market that is more sensitive to price rather than quality. Furthermore, in the last few years we have been held back by the high exchange rate”, answers the company’s CFO.
In the meantime, at the beginning of 2008 Meccanotecnica Umbra has announced the acquisition of the Swedish company Huhnseal AB. With this operation the Italian company is aiming for the mechanical face seals market in the “medium-hi duty” industrial sector, a niche (that is primarily relevant for the chemicals, paper mill and steel industries) where it had not been present until now and which will allow it to enter the Northern European and Canadian markets. “Huhnseal’s bespoke seal – concludes Mr Pacifici – will allow us not only to increase the group’s margins, but also to gain access to the Swedish company’s know-how and connections in order to increase sales of our traditional products in the areas where Huhnseal is historically more present”.