The German chemical industry is recovering surprisingly fast from the impacts of the crisis year 2009. In Germany’s fourth-largest industry, almost all production plants are once more in operation. Capacity utilization is nearly back to normal.
According to the German chemical industry association VCI, the 1st half 2010 saw a production increase by 13 % against the relevant period 2009. The VCI’s President Professor Dr Ulrich Lehner said at a press conference in Frankfurt: „As compared with the lowest point of the recession, we have been further gaining ground. We are confident that matters will continue to improve in the months to come.“
For the 2nd half 2010, the VCI is expecting a somewhat less dynamic demand from industrial customers for chemical products. For this reason, the VCI is forecasting for 2010 as a whole an increase in chemical production by 8.5 % and a rise in sales by 10 %. The VCI bases these assumptions on less dynamic developments due to the end of economic stimulus programmes and the start of budget consolidation measures in several EU Member States – with dampening impacts on economic growth in Europe. Moreover, the VCI thinks that industry is planning cautiously because of the debt crisis. Professor Dr Lehner: „Comprehensive restocking at our industrial customers seems hardly plausible in the foreseeable future.“ Therefore, chemical production is likely to adapt to significantly lower growth rates of customer industries in the 2nd half of the present year.
Sales and prices
In the 1st half 2010 total sales of the German chemical industry rose by 16 % – as compared with 2009 – to 77.7 billion euros. Business with customers abroad increased by 18 % to 45.9 billion euros. Domestic sales of German chemical companies improved by 13 % to 31.8 billion euros.
From January to June 2010 prices of chemicals and pharmaceuticals were, on average, 1.5 % higher than one year ago. The VCI states that the stronger demand for chemicals made it easier for most chemical companies to pass on rising raw materials costs to their customers. Price increases were particularly marked in sectors closely connected with raw materials.
In the 1st half 2010, capacity utilization in the German chemical industry was just under 83&% and thus almost back to normal. Professor Lehner emphasized: „Capacity utilization of 84 to 86 % is typical for production plants in our industry, so that there is still room for improvement. Against this backdrop, we are not expecting the investment volume to rise in the overall year 2010.“ The VCI believes that chemical companies will invest 6.4 billion euros in plants and buildings in Germany in the present year.