Bell Equipment is set to start assembling a range of Kamaz heavy duty trucks early next year. (File Photo)
JOHANNESBURG - Bell Equipment, the listed manufacturer of heavy equipment for the construction and mining sectors, is set to start assembling a range of Kamaz heavy duty trucks early next year, resulting in the creation of additional jobs in its Richards Bay manufacturing facility.

Gary Bell, the chief executive of the group confirmed on Friday that the company had launched the new Kamaz range in South Africa in Johannesburg last week, as a completely built-up unit.

But Bell said they would move to the semi-knocked down assembly of the Kamaz range from early next year and then ramp up local component manufacture for these trucks over the next two to three years.

He said the group would be investing over time in more production capacity in the plant for components.

Bell said the manufacture of Bell’s existing truck range was being transferred to its plant in Germany, which would be offset and replaced by the production of the Kamaz range.

The launch of the Kamaz range was a diversification that would allow the group to compete in the lower cost sector of the market, he said.

Bell said the group’s head count in South Africa would remain stable, but it was expecting increased demand for its products this year, which would mean higher levels of production, and the opportunity to increase employment levels as it changed to production of the Kamaz range.

Bell said the group had about 3200 employees worldwide, of which about 2500 were located in South Africa.

He said the group would be more than doubling the size of its manufacturing plant in Germany, because a lot of its core product was sold in the northern hemisphere, due to the poor mining environment in the past few years. “With a lot of our product going into Europe and the US today, and a lot of the input costs in euros, it makes economic sense to produce closer to those markets,” he said.

Bell said the expansion of its German factory to 15000m² was the first phase, involving an investment of about 15m and would be completed early next year, when they would look at localising more components.

Bell Equipment on Friday reported significantly better financial results for the year to December than in the previous year. Headline earnings a share grew 463percent to 270c from 48c.

Revenue rose by 13percent to R6.76bn from R6bn. Operating profit improved by 192percent to R433.3m from R148.3m.

The total dividend for the year was 45c a share, 200percent higher than the 15c for the previous year.

Shares in Bell Equipment rose 3.56percent on the JSE on Friday to close at R16.