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Machinery market slowdown


Photo by VDMA

David Vink examines machinery growth figures in this feature for Plastics News Europe, highlighting that German companies expect 2% sales growth in 2016.

After the VDMA KuG association of German plastics and rubber machinery producers had forecast 4% turnover growth for 2015 in June 2015, and 5% in October 2015, the final 2015 turnover for German core plastic and rubber machinery was close to the October forecast. The year ended with 4.7% growth to reach a new record level of €7.023bn, against a 1.1% decline in 2014.

But while presenting the latest results at the VDMA annual members’ meeting in Frankfurt on 24 June, VDMA KuG chairman Ulrich Reifenh?user predicted more moderate 2% growth for 2016 and 2017, which would bring turnover up to respectively €7.2bn and €7.3bn. A study commissioned by VDMA KuG in Autumn 2015 had indicated 3.2% annual growth in 2016 and 2017 for worldwide plastics and rubber machinery production, along with zero growth for German production in 2016.

These rather moderate forecasts made in June 2016 are based on stable demand in Western Europe and the US and a low point in deliveries to Russia having been already reached. This will be offset however by “low impulses and less firm growth” from developing countries with many having “internal problems”, India will present new opportunities, as will ending of sanctions in Iran, Reifenh?user stated. The forecasts also take account of an overall 4% increase in incoming orders in January-April 2016, compared with the same period in 2015. Within this, incoming orders rose 7% in Germany, 4% in the export markets and as much as 39% in the Eurozone.

Exports in core machinery were up 1.6% to €4.683bn in 2015, while imports were unchanged at €1.077bn, accounted for mainly by Austrian and Swiss producers, both suffering slight declines after benefiting strongly from German domestic growth in 2014. In contrast, US and Chinese producers did sell more machines in Germany in 2015. The domestic market grew by 7.4% to ?3.416bn, after 3.4% growth in 2014 and 0.15% growth in 2013.

China maintained its lead in production value over Germany, accounting for 32.5% (down from 33.4%) of €33.896bn world production value, against Germany’s 20.7% (up from 20.5%). Both leading producing countries were well ahead of the others: Italy (7.8%), US (7.2%) and Japan (4.5%).

Germany retained its world lead at 22.2% of €21.145bn of world exports, down from 23.7% in 2014, as China increased its share from 12.8% to 15.0%, a lower share due to its large domestic market absorbing much of its production, but narrowing the gap with Germany over recent years (2011: 10.3%). Italy, US and Japan lagged also with little change in 2015, at respectively 9.1%, 6.0% and 9.0%.

Reifenh?user presented a chart showing German exports exceeding Chinese exports to Thailand by a comfortable margin, but with only a marginal lead in Vietnam. Chinese exports to India and Japan (“traditionally a difficult market for Germany”) are higher than German exports to those countries. In general, Reifenh?user said Chinese producers tend to do better in developing countries “where processors are not very interested in high technology”. And although he called India “a low cost country”, he added that VDMA KuG “sees large potential to get ahead of the Chinese again there in future”.

The US was the largest destination for German machinery exports, up 15.3% to €719m on the back of the country’s “re-industrialisation and shale gas exploitation benefits”. Although China as a destination was in second place, exports fell 19.3% to €653m and the country has lost its previous first place, held since 2008, to the US.

With Poland taking third place with €220m, (up 9.8%), there was strong growth in exports to Mexico (in fourth place, up 50.2% to €168m), followed by Italy in fifth place with 27.2% growth to €165m. Other major destinations of France (€165m), UK (€152m), Czech Republic (€138m), India (€138m) and Russia (€134m), made up the rest of the “top-ten destinations” list. The Czech Republic and Russia (down 28% in 2014) were notable for declines of respectively 14.3% and 14.7% in 2015, taking Russia down from sixth to tenth place.

After slight declines in injection moulding machinery production value in 2013, followed by 9% growth in 2014, 2015 was an even better year, growth accelerating by 14.6% to €1.039bn, while exports grew 6.9% to €839m.

Extruders and extrusion line production grew 9.4% to €1.099bn, with 2015 exports accounting for €768m (up 25.6%). Blow moulding machinery production was unchanged at €437m in 2015, but vacuum and other thermoforming machinery grew at 18.6% to reach €270m, with exports rising 23% to €197m.