The revenue in Germany increased with 98 percent in fourth quarter 2003 relative to fourth quarter 2002. This growth was mainly driven by high demand for technology for refillable containers. Many retailers, who are not yet participating in established deposit systems for non- refillable containers, have de-listed non-refillable packaging from the stores and replaced them with refillable packaging. This shift in packaging has created an increased need for automated handling solutions for refillable containers. Under the previously announced frame agreements which TOMRA has entered into with two German retailers for delivery of reverse vending systems for non-refillable containers, TOMRA installed machines worth approximately 21 MNOK during fourth quarter. TOMRA also continues to test reverse vending systems for non-refillable packaging at various retail chains in Germany.
The growth in revenues during the fourth quarter was driven by installations at Coop Sweden, Danske Netto and other new stores. The deliveries to Coop Sweden will be completed during first quarter, and the activity level will be lower during the first quarter than in fourth quarter.
Finland had a strong performance during the fourth quarter with revenues of 33 MNOK - a 22 percent increase. Several new store openings have been the main driver of the positive development in Finland.
In order to improve the productivity within TOMRA`s manufacturing activitites, while simultaneously maintaining capacity for the German market opportunity, TOMRA decided to close its R&D and production company in Finland. All R&D and production activities will be discontinued in Finland during the first quarter, and certain actitivies will be moved to Norway. The restructuring is expected to generate annual operating cost savings of 25-30 MNOK, and TOMRA has accrued 35 MNOK in the fourth quarter 2003 to cover the restructuring costs.
TOMRA had 405 recycling centers in operation at year-end 2003, which is an increase of twelve percent versus the prior year-end. Collection volumes at recycling centers increased by five percent during the period, which was in part due to the new centers at Albertson`s stores. Approximately 250 of TOMRA`s recycling centers have been negatively impacted by a strike since mid-October at three major retail chains (Vons, Ralph`s and Albertson`s). As a consequence recycling center volumes decreased by approximately 9 percent in the fourth quarter 2003 versus 2002. The strike may continue through the first quarter of 2004.
TOMRA placed 273 machines in Canada in 2003, which is an increase of 24 percent versus 2002. TOMRA expects industry to continue to replace and upgrade machines and related equipment in order to generate further operating efficiencies in the value chain, and hereby a continued growth in the Canadian market in 2004.
In Brazil, revenues measured in USD were down by two percent relative to 2002, but declined by 14 percent when measured in Norwegian currency to NOK 368 million in 2003. Consumption of beverages sold in aluminum cans dropped by approximately 13 percent in 2003 due to the depressed overall macro-economic situation. As a consequence, used beverage container collection volumes have also dropped at a similar rate, which negatively impacted TOMRA`s operations in Brazil