The reason for my absence from September 23rd was that I had a displaced disc in my spine which required surgery.

Two weeks after this surgery, my condition had not improved and it was discovered that another part of the disc had become displaced. I thus had to have the surgery repeated and that inevitably delayed my recovery substantially, re-starting the clock so to speak.

As I write this column, nine weeks have elapsed since the first operation and I still have to spend a large part of the day lying down (I am writing this while lying in bed, which is harder than it may sound!), as I am not allowed by my doctor to sit for any length of time.

In my prolonged absence my colleagues Derek Steel and Stephen Powney have done a brilliant job in putting this issue together, at short notice, and I am confident that you will find that it meets our usual high standards of editorial presentation and content. I would particularly like to thank our loyal friends in Germany who assisted Stephen in the preparation of his excellent Focus on Germany. I hope to be back in full-time work when our offices re-open, after the Christmas and New Year break, in early January.

Looking back through our issues in 2014, consolidation has been a regular feature in our news coverage, online and in the printed magazine, mainly concerning takeovers among panel manufacturers; Arauco has been busy on that front in North America of course.

However, in this issue, there is big news from the machinery manufacturing sector. One of the largest and most diverse woodworking machinery manufacturers in the industry, Homag of Germany, which manufactures on a global scale, has become part of the Dürr Group of companies, which is also German headquartered. Dürr AG, which describes itself as one of the world’s leading mechanical and plant engineering firms, has increased its stakeholding in Homag to 55.9%.

As we close the doors on 2014, markets in the once-buoyant economies of South America and China are, unfortunately, continuing to slow down, while Russia remains a source of concern over the situation with Ukraine.

However, you will still find reports of a good number of planned new lines – for MDF, particleboard and OSB – around the world, including in Russia. The latter product, OSB, features strongly, with Kronospan launching its Egorievsk mill in Russia; Dieffenbacher also announcing a large new mill in Russia; and Smartply in Eire having ordered its new continuous line from Siempelkamp. Meanwhile, in the UK, Norbord is making preparations to build a new OSB line at its existing site in Scotland. So, there is new capacity to come in 2015 and beyond.

It just remains for me to wish all our readers and advertisers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New (Ligna) year!