Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1998/11/29

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Subject: Re: [Leica] Re: Leica as a business
From: Mike Dembinski <>
Date: Sun, 29 Nov 1998 23:54:52 +0200

Tom Shea wrote:
>of course, breaking even is not going to be satisfactory with the owners
>(shareholders) of the company.  They have not invested their money in Leica
>out of the goodness of their hearts.  Over the last three years,  investors in
>the western stock markets have been making very fine returns on their
>investments.  Essentially, breaking even means that the shareholders have
>missed out on making a lot of money in other potential investments.  No wonder
>they put in a new Chairman who is financially oriented.

Disagree. I think you are judging Germany by US standards. Germany is a bit
different. Turnover is as  important than profit, commitment to the
'stakeholders' (labor, local community etc) as well to as the shareholders
is part of the post-war German consensus. German banks tend to see things
more long-term than their Anglo-Saxon counterparts. All of this was fine,
until Germany (and France for that matter) became more exposed to the
rigors of globalisation.

To quote conventional business wisdom: 'Get big, get a niche, or get out'.
Rollei and Zeiss have, in essense, got out. As have scores of other German
camera manufacturers like Voigtlander. Leica is a niche player - an a
reasonable little niche it is too. Its investors (mainly institutionals
like the Bundespost pension fund) might be rueing the day they decided not
to stick their money in Microsoft shares, but like Germans, they also are
concerned about their nation's long-term economic future. Optics are a
strategic industry. Try winning wars without them. There's a little voice
in the head of even the most profit-driven German fund manager or personal
investor that says 'we must keep this center of optical excellence German -
even if it means a slightly lower ROI than we might have got elsewhere.
>Of course, some whiners will complaint that Leica should have a commitment to
>the true photographers of the world instead of to their shareholders.  Not

Hmmm. I think if Leica's fate were determined by investors in the States or
UK, it would have gone down the plug-hole years ago and ended up just
another brand name used to shift second-rate products.