Lego to cut 1,400 staff as decade-long sales boom ends

An employee sorts Legos in the the new LEGO flagship store unveiled as part of the new Les Halles shopping mall during the press visit in Paris. (AP)
Updated 05 September 2017
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Lego to cut 1,400 staff as decade-long sales boom ends

COPENHAGEN : Lego said it would lay off 8 percent of its staff and revamp its business after reporting its first fall in sales in more than a decade on Tuesday.
The Danish toymaker announced a 5-percent decline in mid-year revenue a month after abruptly removing its chief executive, suggesting it is facing its biggest test since flirting with bankruptcy in the early 2000s.
Lego said it could not promise a return to growth in the next two years, a jolting acknowledgement for a group widely admired for embracing the digital era and tying up lucrative franchises from Harry Potter to Minecraft.
“We have now pressed the reset-button for the entire group,” executive chairman Jorgen Vig Knudstorp said, acknowledging the business had grown too complicated.
He would seek a return to a leaner and more efficient organization to respond to “losing momentum ... which we think could ultimately lead to stagnation or even decline.”
Lego said revenues had disappointed in its core markets of the United States and Europe, after a decade of double-digit growth and launches spanning Lego sets, video games, movie franchises, robotics and smartphone applications.
Sales related to its Star Wars line declined slightly in the first half of the year, the company said.

SHARP REVERSAL
It marked a sharp reversal for a company that managed to expand and respond to rising demand in Asia when Knudstorp was CEO, even as the global toy market shrank after the 2008 financial crisis.
Knudstorp, took the top job aged 35 in 2004, a year after Lego flirted with bankruptcy, and set about reviving Lego’s core business. That included firing consultants and hiring new designers to come up with higher-margin products that were up to date but still looked like Lego, an abbreviation of the Danish “leg godt,” meaning “play well.”
Bali Padda took over as chief executive in January, but the Briton was removed just eight months later and replaced by Danish industrialist Niels B. Christiansen.
“I am very much accountable for the situation and for the results we’re sharing today,” Knudstorp said.
Sales between January and June stood at 14.9 billion Danish crowns ($2.38 billion), still topping My Little Pony producer Hasbro Inc’s sales of $1.82 billion and Barbie doll maker Mattel Inc’s $1.71 billion.
Last year, revenue growth slowed from 25 percent in 2015 to just six percent.
Lego said it would cut approximately 1,400 positions — including up to 600 at its headquarter in Billund, Denmark — the majority of them before the end of 2017. The company currently employs 18,200 people.
“We’ve been through a decade of very high growth and during those years we have invested a great deal,” Knudstorp said, noting that the company added more than 7,000 new positions between 2012 and 2016.
“We have now realized that we have built an increasingly complex organization to a degree that makes it difficult for us to realize our growth potential,” he added.
“What we have unfortunately recently seen is that despite the continued high level of investment, these have not materialized into a good harvest.”
The unlisted company said in March that mid-single-digit growth rates were more realistic for the years to come, but revised those expectations downward on Tuesday.
“We are not saying specifically whether we will grow the next two years or not,” Knudstorp said.


‘Get prices down’ Trump tells OPEC

Updated 20 September 2018
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‘Get prices down’ Trump tells OPEC

  • Trump highlights US security role in region
  • Comments come ahead of oil producers meeting in Algeria

LONDON: US president Donald Trump urged OPEC to lower crude prices on Thursday while reminding Mideast oil exporters of US security support.
He made his remarks on Twitter ahead of a keenly awaited meeting of OPEC countries and its allies in Algiers this weekend as pressure mounts on them to prevent a spike in prices caused by the reimposition of oil sanctions on Iran.
“We protect the countries of the Middle East, they would not be safe for very long without us, and yet they continue to push for higher and higher oil prices!” he tweeted.
“We will remember. The OPEC monopoly must get prices down now!”
Despite the threat, the group and its allies are unlikely to agree to an official increase in output, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing OPEC sources.
In June they agreed to increase production by about one million barrels per day (bpd). That decision was was spurred by a recovery in oil prices, in part caused by OPEC and its partners agreeing to lower production since 2017.
Known as OPEC+, the group of oil producers which includes Russia are due to meet on Sunday in Algiers to look at how to allocate the additional one million bpd within its quote a framework.
OPEC sources told Reuters that there was no immediate plan for any official action as such a move would require OPEC to hold what it calls an extraordinary meeting, which is not on the table.
Oil prices slipped after Trumps remarks, with Brent crude shedding 40 cents to $79 a barrel in early afternoon trade in London while US light crude was unchanged at about $71.12.
Brent had been trading at around $80 on expectations that global supplies would come under pressure from the introduction of US sanctions on Iranian crude exports on Nov. 4.
Some countries has already started to halt imports from Tehran ahead of that deadline, leading analysts to speculate about how much spare capacity there is in the Middle East to compensate for the loss of Iranian exports as well as how much of that spare capacity can be easily brought online after years of under-investment in the industry.
Analysts expect oil to trend higher and through the $80 barrier as the deadline for US sanctions approaches.
“Brent is definitely fighting the $80 line, wanting to break above,” said SEB Markets chief commodities analyst Bjarne Schieldrop, Reuters reported. “But this is likely going to break very soon.”