Iconic Camera Maker

Leica Captures Record Sales

Andreas Kaufmann and Oliver Kaltner - Bernd Roselieb for Handelsblatt
Andreas Kaufmann and Oliver Kaltner have their sights set on profitablity.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Leica has rebounded after flirting with financial disaster in 2004 and now intends to continue its upward climb by focusing on compact camera modules used in smartphones.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Leica is known for cameras used by noted 20th-century photographers including Alfred Eisenstaedt, whose 1945 photo of a U.S. sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on VJ Day was the basis of a 25-foot-tall statue displayed in New York in 2015.
    • Germany-based Leica, which faced bankruptcy in 2004, is on the rebound and has plans for expansion and a partnership with Chinese electronics giant Huawei.
    • Leica’s chief executive, Oliver Kaltner, previously worked at Microsoft, Sony and Nike, and its majority shareholder, Andreas Kaufmann, 62, is the brother-in-law of the founder of the Alnatura organic-food supermarket chain.
  • Audio

    Audio

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Leica, the German maker of the famous lightweight, rangefinder cameras that captured some of the 20th-century’s most iconic images, has ended its 2015-2016 fiscal year with record sales.

Sales climbed by 12 percent to €365 million ($416 million) year-on-year, and profits also rose, Chief Executive Oliver Kaltner said in an interview with Handelsblatt.

The company, based in the central German city of Wetzlar, nearly went bankrupt in 2004 but managed to turn around business and is now back on a growth path.

Leica, which has relied on extremely expensive technology and an unreserved belief in premium quality to bounce back, is now entering into a partnership with Chinese electronics giant Huawei, the world’s third-largest smartphone maker, to fuel growth.

“The cooperation is a new chapter in Leica’s history and of course is meant to be long-term,” said Andreas Kaufmann, 62, majority shareholder and head of the non-executive supervisory board.

“Camera modules in smartphones have to be compact,” Mr. Kaufmann said of the collaboration, adding: “Photographic sophistication can still be improved with our help.”

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