Trump chief Nicola Leibinger-Kammüller on relations with China

Dthe head of the laser specialist Trumpf, Nicola Leibinger-Kammüller, introduced himself to the China debate with his usual pithy words. “Let’s say the Chinese invade Taiwan: then we have to decide which side we want to be on. The decision is easy for me,” said the CEO of the family business from Ditzingen, a suburb of Stuttgart. You know “as a righteous, German , democratic citizen”, that you are on the side of the United States. “For us as the West, attacking Taiwan must be the red line.”

Leibinger-Kammüller is a member of the CDU, is considered to be well connected politically and had a close relationship with Angela Merkel. The company, with just over 16,000 employees, manufactures machine tools and laser technology and is a supplier of machines for the chip industry. China is the fourth most important market for Trumpf.

German companies usually speak very carefully about China, not least in order not to alienate those in power in Beijing. Leibinger-Kammüller has also previously been relatively open. “We’ve put ourselves too much in the hands of China,” she said at the company’s annual press conference on Thursday. You need to reduce the dependencies.

At the same time, she warned of the effects if the Chinese market were to disappear: “It would have a big impact on the expensive welfare state we can afford.” “High wages” could also be paid in this country thanks to China. “I don’t know how good it is for our production workers if we were to do without China and send 200 of them away.” Only a few countries in the world, she mentioned the value of 6 percent, are “perfect democracies”. You can’t just trade with them. “The standard of living cannot be maintained with this.”

Praise for the Chancellor’s trip to China

The contractor praised the agreement on the terminal at the port of Hamburg and the planned trip to China by Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD): “I think it’s right.” You have to keep talking, Merkel handled it that way too. However, she does not want to fly along. You have “enough to do here”, such trips are less important for medium-sized companies than for large companies. “There are no contracts for us. It doesn’t do us much good,” she said.

She did not want to say how Trump would react in the event of an attack on Taiwan. It’s too early to tell, she said when asked if Trump would go bankrupt or spin off. If China disappears, you just have to find replacement markets.

The company has increasingly become the focal point of world politics. It supplies special lasers for a machine from the Dutch group ASML, whose sales to China have been blocked by the US for years. The machine is needed to make the world’s most advanced computer chips.

China’s share of Trumpf’s total sales fell in the fiscal year from July 2021 to June 2022. But that was a coincidence, Leibinger-Kammüller said. The dependence on Trumpf is more in the supply chain than in the business in China. Sales in the People’s Republic increased by almost 10 percent to EUR 575 million. Overall, the laser specialist recorded growth of more than a fifth to EUR 4.2 billion, surpassing EUR 4 billion for the first time. Some percentage points are inflationary effects, said CFO Lars Grünert. The main driving force behind this growth is the collaboration with ASML. Revenue in this division increased by more than four fifths to 795 million euros. The other two main business areas grew by 12 and 22 percent.

The company’s earnings before interest and tax increased by almost 100 million to 468 million euros. The dividend was 11.1 per cent after 10.5 per cent the previous year. The number of employees increased by almost 2,000 to 16,554, in Germany by 815 to 8,417.

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