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Future prospects for B&M

Pokemaniac

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This is another one of those topics that have come up as off-topic diversions in a few other recent threads and that probably warrants a discussion thread of its own.

So, Bolliger and Mabillard. It (they?) is (are? OK, I'll stick with the singular from now on, as it is the name of one company) a premium coaster manufacturer if there ever was one. B&M coasters are big, thrilling, and reliable. Ever since the company started, they've been delivering really solid coasters that are landmark attractions in any park they're found in. They are premium products, and priced accordingly.

The problem is, the amusement park market has shifted a bit in recent decades. The cost of building coasters appears to have increased quite a bit since the turn of the millennium. It has become less common for parks to build really big coasters. And B&M's coasters all come in really big boxes. Even their smallest coasters, like Krake or Dæmonen, still reach heights of around 30 meters and feature (usually multiple) big inversions. They have yet to sell any of the "compact thrill" models like the Gerstlauer swing launchers or the S&S Free Spins. The Happy Valley parks bought two Family Inverted Coasters, but those are effectively the same as those offered by Vekoma for, presumably, a much lower price.

In other words, B&M offers mostly the sort of coasters that are out of range for small parks, and that large parks may consider buying once a decade or so. To make matters worse, this is a crowded market for its size, with many manufacturers offering similar coasters. B&M face competition from Intamin, Mack, Vekoma, S&S, Premier, RMC, and probably a few others I'm forgetting (is Chance Morgan around anymore?). There are even cases of Gerstlauer and Zierer dipping their toes into B&M's watering hole, and that's before we even consider what ambitions the Chinese manufacturers may have in a few years. Anyway, the difference between B&M and the aforementioned manufacturers is that the latter offer many smaller coaster models they'll happily sell to the slim-walleted customer.

B&M make the bulk of their business in Western parks these days with their "unique selling point" coasters. They've got the market pretty much cornered on Hyper coasters, while Wing Coasters and Dive Machines also give some solid business. The 29 coasters they've built outside China since 2010 are as follows: 7 Hyper/Giga coasters, 8 Dive Machines, 8 Wing Coasters, 3 Inverted coasters, 1 Floorless coaster, and 2 Flying coasters. Effectively, in the categories they face competition (sitdown loopers, Inverts) they are barely selling any coasters at all.

However, those three most popular models are the biggest of the biggest-box coasters out there, and they are generally only sold to the biggest few parks on each continent. Those parks are starting to fill up their lineups already. Take Cedar Point, for instance. They have "one of everything" from the B&M catalog already, or something equivalent, except a Flyer. SFMM lacks a Dive Machine or something equivalent, but they probably can't afford one in any case. We're getting towards the point where the few parks that can afford to buy a B&M are lacking reasons to do so, and that's not a good market situation to be in.

Fortunately for B&M, there's China. They've sold 17 coasters to China over the past decade. Unfortunately, all but three of those have gone to startup parks. Only two Chinese parks have bought B&M coasters on two different occasions, as far as I can tell. The Chinese parks appear to be good customers, but they aren't repeat customers. They generally buy one or two B&Ms when the park is first built, and then stick with local manufacturers if the park is ever expanded. That makes B&M's business prospects in China risky at best.

So that leaves B&M in a quite precarious position. Their customer base outside China is shrinking, while in China they are dependent on new parks being built.

At the moment, RCDB only lists three B&M coasters under construction. They are the unknown Wing Coaster in Fantasy Valley, Emperor at Sea World San Diego, and Decepticoaster at Universal Studios Beijing. Only the former is actually under construction, as the other two have had their track completed and are awaiting opening. We know they are involved with the "Surf Coaster" at Sea World Orlando (but also that this park's finances are less than stellar at the moment), and they've been rumoured to be involved in Chessington's next project, but otherwise things are remarkably quiet for this prolific coaster manufacturer.

So what I'm wondering is, are things looking bleak for B&M at the moment? Or is it just a temporary dip in business? Will their business prospects improve or worsen in the coming years? I'm not too optimistic right now, frankly, but there could be some good news I haven't heard about yet.
 

bmac

Giga Poster
There's been a considerable dip in business across the board for manufacturers due to COVID. Even RMC has reduced their workforce from 150 to around 50 people. I'd be more inclined to play the "wait and see" game because there's plenty of parks that will happily fork up for a B&M ride around the world. If the global market recovers and B&M is still getting 2-3 projects a year, then yeah they got a problem.
 

Matt N

Strata Poster
Prior to the pandemic, B&M were still getting a fair amount of business. Remember, they had a fair number of 2020 projects planned both in China and outside of China; rides like Candymonium at Hersheypark, Orion at Kings Island and Emperor at SeaWorld San Diego were originally planned for 2020 outside of China, and as you say in your opening post, B&M is doing a roaring trade in China!

Also, it’s worth noting that B&M aren’t necessarily a manufacturer that thrives off of quantity; they want to ensure that each of their creations is good quality, and they have been known to reject rides in the past due to not wanting to build too many rides in one year. Their rides are premium products that cost a lot, so they can make money by producing fewer rides. That’s why they’re not churning out umpteen rides a year like some of the cheaper manufacturers are.
 

CrashCoaster

Strata Poster
I don't think anyone can deny that B&M is the best coaster manufacturer when it comes to the quality of the hardware. What I know for sure though, is that they absolutely MUST start to innovate again. I believe they have started that process with the Surf Coaster, but they definitely need to do some things differently if they still want to have good business in the future, in my opinion. Only so many new parks can be built in China before they become saturated, but I don't think that's an issue quite yet. Also, I would've thought that B&M make quite a bit of money from part sales on all their coasters? I have faith and a strong feeling that we will see some major changes to B&M's portfolio in the next 5-10 years or so.
 

Hyde

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All roller coaster manufacturers are cyclical to a certain extent - create a new type/design of coaster, sell it to the masses, rinse, repeat. B&M feels even more pronounced in that way, especially as they have literal coasters-built-overtop-coasters in many parks.

... So in the interest of seeing "what has B&M's growth looked like over time? I quickly nabbed B&M's RCDB counts (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1TSBXc6Bv9s08-exazTvGY7WbmG1e2T_rKGYjYzXZPwg/edit?usp=sharing). Was especially interested to break down roller coasters by year built and type, to see what B&M's business has looked like:

YearDive MachineFamily InvertedFloorlessFlyingHyperInvertedSit DownStand UpWingGrand Total
199011
199111
1992112
1993213
199444
1995213
1996213
199744
19981113
1999123118
20001416
200111114
200222127
20031225
2004123
2005112
20062226
20071113
2008111115
20091113
2010112
2011111115
201221137
2013112
20141124
201522228
20161113
2017112
20183137
20191113
2020213
20211113

Yes, this is a lot, so to visual a few ways, first this is a rendering of year-over-year coaster type. Where you see bigger color takeovers (like Inverts in the 90s) indicate popular uptake.

graph.png

To break down the "coaster popularity" a different way, also threw this into a radar view, to see overall popularity of each coaster type:

B&M Radar.png

Overall this really shows how B&M has kept their portfolio diverse through the years, especially versus the Inverted years of the 90s. I'd wholly expect B&M to have 1-2 "new" coaster types out in the next few years, just as they have time and again. This resonates with an interview we did with Cedar Point back when Gatekeeper opened - B&M essentially spitballing a "riding on the wing" type ride, and essentially pitched Gatekeeper over 15-20 minutes of backstage IAAPA convo:


If I can throw a personal wish list of what I'd like to see B&M build out:
  • Integrate launch designs into more of their coaster options, across the board.
  • 4D coaster design (FreeSpin is the rage, but would love to see someone genuinely improve on the original Arrow design)
  • Smaller hyper coaster design
  • Consider a floorless-ish option on Gigas; B&M clamshells are quasi floorless as it is!
 

bmac

Giga Poster
The launch idea they definitely should expand on, and I know it's been apart of the discussions about wing coasters since Swarm was announced that B&M wanted to integrate 4D capabilities into those trains.

Just a question of when they figure that out, they don't really introduce a new product without making sure it's going to work properly first.

And we still have that supposed "Surf" coaster to keep an eye and ear on.
 

Gazza

Giga Poster
They should offer a stand up dive machine IMO, using the improved restraint designed they patented... The idea of standing on the edge of a drop, and then being in a full outstretched freefall position would be excellent.
 

Steely Dan

Roller Poster
Take Cedar Point, for instance. They have "one of everything" from the B&M catalog already, or something equivalent, except a Flyer.
A minor quibble, but of B&M's 6 "major" coaster types*, CP lacks both a flyer and a hyper. Though, with Millennium Force and Magnum already there, I don't think the lack of a B&M hyper at CP is a glaring omission just waiting to be filled, or anything like that.


That said, there are 13 parks in the world that have at least 3 B&M coasters.

SFGAdv - 5 (hyper, invert, flying, floorless, stand-up)

Carowinds - 4 (giga, hyper, invert, stand-up)
Cedar Point - 4 (dive, wing, invert, floorless)
SFGAm - 4 (hyper, wing, invert, flying)
SFMM - 4 (flying, stand-up, floorless, invert)
SFOG - 4 (hyper, invert, flying, stand-up)

Alton Towers - 3 (dive, invert, flying)
BG Tampa - 3 (dive, invert, sit-down)
BG Williamsburg - 3 (dive, hyper, invert)
Canada's Wonderland - 3 (giga, hyper, dive)
Happy Valley Chaoyang - 3 (hyper, flying, family invert)
Kings Island - 3 (giga, hyper, invert)
Sea World Orlando - 3 (hyper, flying, floorless)


11 of those are in north America, which I agree does seem somewhat close to getting played out on the B&M front (unless they come along with some new trick up their sleeve), but it seems to me that there should be plenty of parks in Europe and Asia that haven't come anywhere close to maxing out the B&M catalogue yet.




(*) The 6 "major" types being: hyper, inverted, floorless, wing, dive, and flyer. Their stand ups (7, with only 4 remaining as operational stand-ups), sit-down multi-loopers (5), and family inverteds (2) haven't been built in nearly the same numbers.
 
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bmac

Giga Poster
Due to the costs and the operational risks you're not gonna see many parks build a B&M Flyer these days. The last one opened 5 years ago and only 11 have been built in total, 6 of which are some sort of cloned layout.
 

Pokemaniac

Mountain monkey
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A minor quibble, but of B&M's 6 "major" coaster types*, CP lacks both a flyer and a hyper. Though, with Millennium Force and Magnum already there, I don't think the lack of a B&M hyper at CP is a glaring omission just waiting to be filled, or anything like that.
Yes, hence why I said "or something equivalent". It stands to reason that a park that already has an Intamin hyper won't buy a B&M one too. Then again, that exact thing happened at Hersheypark, but it seems like an oddity. Anyway, that same thing could be said about Inverts or multiloopers, and possibly Dive Machines. A park that has a Eurofighter may not be first in line to install a Dive Machine too.
11 of those are in north America, which I agree does seem somewhat close to getting played out on the B&M front (unless they come along with some new trick up their sleeve), but it seems to me that there should be plenty of parks in Europe and Asia that haven't come anywhere close to maxing out the B&M catalogue yet.
"Plenty" would be stretching it, I think. European parks seem more limited by budget, space, or building regulations when it comes to building big coasters. It effectively limits the B&M opportunities to small Dive Machines and Wing Coasters, plus Inverts and sit-down loopers, for which B&M face stiff competition. A park with a Vekoma SLC probably won't shell out for a B&M Invert as well. The same could be said for the Japanese parks, and as mentioned the Chinese parks don't seem to be good repeat customers. As far as I can tell, only two Chinese parks have built a B&M on two different occasions.

@Hyde posted some interesting statistics above, showing that the number of B&Ms built every year has hovered steadily around 3-5 for most of the company's existence. They seem to be making consistent business. But it's consistent despite having moved into a huge new market that comprised more than a third of their total sales last decade. Their sales to China merely balance out their lost sales elsewhere. What will happen when China stops building new parks?
 

Hixee

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All roller coaster manufacturers are cyclical to a certain extent - create a new type/design of coaster, sell it to the masses, rinse, repeat.
This first line of Hyde's post stuck out to me. This seems to happen a lot, actually.

You look at where Vekoma are now compared to five (maybe ten) years ago? There would have been a thread "are we seeing the end of the high thrill Vekomas?", and I would wager a lot us might have said yes. Yet here we are. Vekoma innovated, and are now truly one of the top players. I might say to an extent Mack are the same - look at the selection of Mack rides at Europa Park, and the discussion always come back to "when are they going to build one of their new models". Mack have innovated well in the last five years or so, and are at a position where they've reinvented themselves enough to now be a big player.

Somehow Intamin have always been at the top. I think it's in part because they're willing enough to indulge in the lunacy and (for the most part) can pull it off (looking at you S&S). It's possibly also that their portfolio is ridiculously big - there's enough stuff being sold constantly across all their models that they can afford to only build the massive stuff every few years and no-one thinks "Intamin is dying".

Heck, even RMC have now opened the first "custom" single-rail, and they're still an infant in the scheme of things (for the record: this just goes to show how well screwed on their leadership's heads are).

Not sure quite how to factor the woodie manufacturers into this - I'm not really clued up enough to be able to comment really.

So what about B&M...? I don't believe for a second they've been complacent in this. If B&M don't overlook a single aspect of their coaster design, I'm sure they run their company the same way. They'll know that there will be some upper limit on the number of B&M Hypers that will ever exist in the world, they will have crunched the numbers and they will have an R&D department looking at all sorts of things. A new coaster type by B&M is a big deal - possibly more so than any other manufacturer - mostly due to their reputation and quality standards. You can bet that whatever the "surf coaster" is, it'll be a very high quality piece of hardware. I mean, the fact they're still selling Hyper coasters (with basically the same design concept) 20+ years after the debut model says a lot about them, doesn't it? Is there any other manufacturer that has a model of that scale in their collection that sells like that? And heck, is there any other manufacturer that has a model of that scale that still rides as well as the B&M Hypers do?

B&M will be fine. They'll continue to be the Rolls Royce of coasters, available only to parks that have the money, land and demand. They'll slowly but surely innovate (either completely new models or further variants of existing ones), and we'll see them steadily continue to sell.
 

Matt N

Strata Poster
Another thing worth noting about B&M is that as much as they don’t innovate as quickly as some other manufacturers, you know that any innovation B&M makes will be the best and most reliable it possibly can be. It will have spent years being tried and tested, and B&M’s new innovations usually sell pretty well; look at the Wing Coaster, for instance. That was B&M’s last new innovation, and we’re now 10 years on from Raptor at Gardaland being built. Wing Coasters still seem to be flying off the shelves at a fairly promising rate. Dive Coasters are similar; yes, I know they didn’t necessarily fly off the shelves initially, but they seem to have grown more popular as of late, especially with the invention of the D6 mini Dive Coaster, which seems to be selling fairly well 10 years on from the first one, Krake at Heide Park.

My point is; as much as it might seem as though B&M innovate far more slowly than other manufacturers, the innovations they do make usually sell very well. If you look at B&M’s RCDB page (https://rcdb.com/6831.htm) in comparison to someone like Intamin’s, for instance, you’ll notice a relative absence of models with a low number of sales on B&M’s page; the closest things to a dud that B&M have created are the Sitting Coaster and the Family Inverted Coaster, and I think they’re simply not selling as well because the market was already somewhat saturated by the time these models came along.

By comparison, someone like Intamin might innovate more quickly, but they have had many models that have only spawned a very small number of rides simply because they were considered huge failures or because they weren’t viable or well received. Admittedly, it might not help that Intamin have a more diverse product range than B&M, but if you look at their RCDB page (https://rcdb.com/6837.htm), a fair proportion of Intamin’s product lines have only sold a very small number of rides. I could say the same about Vekoma (https://rcdb.com/6836.htm); for all their successes, they have had a fair number of product lines that have only sold very few rides, even in cases where the product line is fairly unique.
 

Howie

Giga Poster
This might sound like a weird concept, but some companies just don't need to expand. Maybe, just maybe, their current output and accompanying profit margins are enough to maintain Claude, Walter, their families and all the employees in the lifestyle that they want. Just like Rolls Royce - maybe they are content with simply 'being the best', being 'exclusive'. Being exclusive means you can charge a premium. Charging a premium means you can remain exclusive.
In other words, not everyone is obsessed with growth, growth, growth! Work-life balance and all that. They're good at that stuff, the Swiss. Proper chilled out they are.

No projects on? Fine, take a holiday.

Bank account looking low? No drama, get Merlin on the phone and flog 'em one of those concept designs from the nerds in R&D as a vague world-first. Get's 'em every time! And take a holiday.

Order book too full? Oh well, best hire a few more bods, then. And then take a holiday.

It's a slightly romanticized business model to be sure... but it's pretty much how I run my gardening business sooooo.... 🤷‍♂️
 
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Hyde

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Due to the costs and the operational risks you're not gonna see many parks build a B&M Flyer these days. The last one opened 5 years ago and only 11 have been built in total, 6 of which are some sort of cloned layout.
Double check that roster rundown I crunched through - there have been 7 Flyers built in the last 5 years actually!

Somehow Intamin have always been at the top. I think it's in part because they're willing enough to indulge in the lunacy and (for the most part) can pull it off (looking at you S&S). It's possibly also that their portfolio is ridiculously big - there's enough stuff being sold constantly across all their models that they can afford to only build the massive stuff every few years and no-one thinks "Intamin is dying".
I mean to be fair, I think a lot of Intamin's legacy has been patience of parks to let Intamin get it right. Tweaking restraints, reprofiling track, etc. 😅

So what about B&M...? I don't believe for a second they've been complacent in this. If B&M don't overlook a single aspect of their coaster design, I'm sure they run their company the same way. They'll know that there will be some upper limit on the number of B&M Hypers that will ever exist in the world, they will have crunched the numbers and they will have an R&D department looking at all sorts of things. A new coaster type by B&M is a big deal - possibly more so than any other manufacturer - mostly due to their reputation and quality standards. You can bet that whatever the "surf coaster" is, it'll be a very high quality piece of hardware. I mean, the fact they're still selling Hyper coasters (with basically the same design concept) 20+ years after the debut model says a lot about them, doesn't it? Is there any other manufacturer that has a model of that scale in their collection that sells like that? And heck, is there any other manufacturer that has a model of that scale that still rides as well as the B&M Hypers do?
Agreed up and down - looking at the year-over-year coaster type, Hyper seems to be the biggest constant in B&M's repertoire (though I expect some "what's old is new" as they continue to develop in China, a country catching up on coaster offerings)

I think another big undercurrent to B&M's business plan is methodic iteration. How many "world's tallest, fastest [invert, floorless, flying, stand-up, etc.]" have there been under B&M? It's a practice again that many coaster companies do, as a way to have the marketing strategy inherently baked into the sale/design of the coaster project. But B&M just seems to do it A LOT more, if only just tweaking a previous layout a few degrees to get it that added 10-20 feet and an additional inversion. It's a smart play, so you don't have to deviate from a popular design too much.
 

Pokemaniac

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I decided to try to compare a few of the biggest manufacturers to gauge how much they've been hit by Covid, by counting the number of under-construction coasters they currently have per RCDB. To account for their relative activity, I'm also listing how many coasters they've built in the past five years (2016-2020).

  • B&M has 3 coasters under construction: all for 2021 (but 2 have trackwork completed and were originally due to open last year). Since 2016, they've built 18 coasters.
  • Intamin has 13 coasters under construction: 8 for 2021, 4 for 2022, and 1 for 2023. Since 2016, they've built 33 coasters.
  • Mack has 12 coasters under construction: 8 for 2021 and 4 for 2022. Since 2016, they've built 31 coasters.
  • Vekoma has 38 coasters under construction: 16 for 2021, 14 for 2022, and 8 for 2023. Since 2016, they've built 69 coasters.
  • S&S has 4 coasters under construction: 3 for 2021 and 1 for 2022. Since 2016, they've built 13 coasters.
  • RMC has 2 coasters under construction: 1 for 2021 and 1 for 2022 (although the 2021 one was meant to open last year). Since 2016, they've built 14 coasters.
  • Premier Rides has 2 coasters under construction: both for 2021 (and both have had their trackwork completed for a while). Since 2016, they've built 6 coasters.
  • Gerstlauer has 3 coasters under construction: all for 2021. Since 2016, they've built 32 coasters.
  • GCI has 2 coasters under construction: both for 2021. Since 2016, they've built 9 coasters.
  • Zierer has 4 coasters under construction: 2 for 2021 and 2 for 2022. Since 2016, they've built 27 coasters.
  • SBF Visa Group has 9 coasters under construction: 5 for 2021 and 4 for 2022. Since 2016, they've built (at least) 154 coasters.
So among the comparably active manufacturers, B&M doesn't seem to be doing too badly. They're doing more business than RMC, for instance, even relative to their usual level. But they have very few known projects in the pipeline. They're in a comparable position to Premier, whose coasters under construction are mostly finished and awaiting opening, but Premier only saw a third of the activity B&M did over this time period.

It also surprised me that Gerstlauer has so few projects, with none registered for 2022. Although there is the TusenFryd invert we know they're involved in, and Gerstlauer sells a bunch of coasters that aren't announced very far in advance. Announced one day and opened the next, no big deal. B&M, by contrast, is a "big deal manufacturer", so it's a little more worrying to see their calendar so empty for the 2022 season. Vekoma, Mack, and Intamin all seem to be doing great despite the pandemic, so it can't solely be blamed.
 

Hyde

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I decided to try to compare a few of the biggest manufacturers to gauge how much they've been hit by Covid, by counting the number of under-construction coasters they currently have per RCDB. To account for their relative activity, I'm also listing how many coasters they've built in the past five years (2016-2020).

  • B&M has 3 coasters under construction: all for 2021 (but 2 have trackwork completed and were originally due to open last year). Since 2016, they've built 18 coasters.
  • Intamin has 13 coasters under construction: 8 for 2021, 4 for 2022, and 1 for 2023. Since 2016, they've built 33 coasters.
  • Mack has 12 coasters under construction: 8 for 2021 and 4 for 2022. Since 2016, they've built 31 coasters.
  • Vekoma has 38 coasters under construction: 16 for 2021, 14 for 2022, and 8 for 2023. Since 2016, they've built 69 coasters.
  • S&S has 4 coasters under construction: 3 for 2021 and 1 for 2022. Since 2016, they've built 13 coasters.
  • RMC has 2 coasters under construction: 1 for 2021 and 1 for 2022 (although the 2021 one was meant to open last year). Since 2016, they've built 14 coasters.
  • Premier Rides has 2 coasters under construction: both for 2021 (and both have had their trackwork completed for a while). Since 2016, they've built 6 coasters.
  • Gerstlauer has 3 coasters under construction: all for 2021. Since 2016, they've built 32 coasters.
  • GCI has 2 coasters under construction: both for 2021. Since 2016, they've built 9 coasters.
  • Zierer has 4 coasters under construction: 2 for 2021 and 2 for 2022. Since 2016, they've built 27 coasters.
  • SBF Visa Group has 9 coasters under construction: 5 for 2021 and 4 for 2022. Since 2016, they've built (at least) 154 coasters.
So among the comparably active manufacturers, B&M doesn't seem to be doing too badly. They're doing more business than RMC, for instance, even relative to their usual level. But they have very few known projects in the pipeline. They're in a comparable position to Premier, whose coasters under construction are mostly finished and awaiting opening, but Premier only saw a third of the activity B&M did over this time period.
Good thought to look at it as a cross-wise comparison of all manufacturers. To actually reuse data I was nabbing, rather than projecting out "market share" of different B&M coaster types, here's the same data as total # of coaster projects each year. As you're alluding to @Pokemaniac, there is definitely some cyclicalness, as parks go with different manufacturers/popularity through the years, but B&M still has a relatively steady flow.
B&M Through the Years.png
 

Pokemaniac

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As you're alluding to @Pokemaniac, there is definitely some cyclicalness, as parks go with different manufacturers/popularity through the years, but B&M still has a relatively steady flow.
That being said, if you break it down by region, they have slowed down a bit in their "traditional" markets:

1623957056001.png

Their business is steady overall, but it has slowed down in North America and Europe. China has taken over a large share of B&M's project share since 2017 or so. More than a third of the coasters they've built since 2010 have been in China (17/46), and more than half since 2017 (10/18). Their numbers are steady despite entry into this huge new market.

And as I've said above: at the moment, they only have one coaster under construction, with no announced new coasters in the pipeline. They've delivered one coaster so far this year, and are awaiting the opening of two more, but after that, there's only the Wing coaster at Fantasy Valley in Xiangzhou. That's not a situation they share with any other manufacturers of their scale (Premier delivers much fewer coasters, RMC is confirmed to be involved with Fun Spot Atlanta next year). 2022 could possibly be the first year without a new B&M since the company was founded.

Of course, there's an exciting alternative to this grim prospect: The announcement of a new B&M could be right around the corner. I just have a hard time imagining where.
 
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