Europe – The European thermoplastics market currently amounts to a ‘static’ 36.5 million tonnes – still roughly 4 million tonnes short of the peak of 2007, according to a new report by research firm Applied Market Information (AMI).
The decline in government spending, manufacturing and consumer confidence resulted in an overall contraction of polymer demand of just over 1% in 2012. The demand drop over 2012 and 2013 has been ‘far less severe’ than in 2008-2009, AMI contends.
Furthermore, polymer producers and processors have been ‘more savvy’ about managing their inventories and have not got caught out as they did in 2008. While the market has ‘undoubtedly been tough over the past five years’, most companies have come through the downturn and continue to grow through the use of innovative technologies, material developments and new applications, the report notes.
Owing to ‘judicious investments’ and discipline throughout the sector, AMI believes it is now ‘at the bottom of the cycle – with demand expected to pick up again from 2014’. The report adds: ‘Germany, the engine of the European chemicals and plastic industry, has been the strongest of the West European markets. ‘Although the nation’s polymer consumption was marginally lower in 2012, current market demand of around 8.2 million tonnes is ‘only fractionally off the demand levels of 2007’.
Central Europe also continues to show positive growth, with automotive production helping to boost demand in, for example, Slovakia and Hungary.
AMI acknowledges demand growth will remain ‘patchy’ next year, with winners and losers across the European plastics industry. Southern Europe is expected to see continuing demand shrinkage as economies structurally readjust, while Germany and northern European markets are forecast to witness ‘sound’ growth at least in line with GDP.