Update: German machinery makers expect 2% growth

Thorsten Kühmann of the VDMA (second from right), speaking during a panel discussion at Messe Düsseldorf's pre-K 2016 press event.

After the VDMA KuG association of German plastics & 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 & 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/Main 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 & rubber machinery production, along with zero growth for German production in 2016.

These rather moderate forecasts made now in June 2016 are based on stable demand in Western Europe & the US and a low point in deliveries to Russia having been already reached, Although 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. They 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 here 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 with ban extremely high market share, “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”.

And although not included in the chart, but well known, is that China has moved into a large part of the market in Iran to German producer’s cost during sanctions against the country. But he also showed how Chinese producers have fared far less well than German ones within Germany’s top five destination countries: USA, Poland, Mexico, Italy.

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”, but although China as a destination was in second place, exports fell 19.3% to €653m and the country had lost its previous first place, held since 2008, to the US. Reifenh?user showed in explanation of a trend here a chart of German exports to China and turnover of VDMA member companies producing in China, the exports clearly dropping in 2014 and 2015, while member company turnover in China continued to rise reaching close to €500m in 2015 compared with around €80m in 2006, when German exports to China were around €140m.

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 of 14.3% and 14.7% in 2015, taking Russia down from sixth to tenth place, while India grew strongly (up 69.1%).

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

Extruders and extrusion lines 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. There was also strong growth in presses, up 19.1% to €180m, with exports doing less well with a 14.7% decline to €56m.

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