Ceramic machinery making strong recovery

The Italian ceramic and brick machinery industry reported a 54% increase in turnover in the first half of 2021 compared to the first half of 2020 and a 12.8% increase over the same period in 2019.

Following a three-year contraction (-3.5% in 2018; -19.8% in 2019; -14.5% in 2020), 2021 may mark the turning point for the Italian ceramic and brick machinery and equipment industry.

The industry recorded 33.3% growth in turnover in the first quarter of the year (+38% for exports and +27.3% for domestic sales), followed by an even sharper recovery in the second quarter with revenues up 76.2% on the same period in 2020 (domestic sales up 90.3% and exports up 70.1%). The figures were published by the MECS/Acimac Research Centre.

Overall, the sector’s sales between January and June 2021 were 53.9% higher than in the first half of 2020 (when companies were hit by the nationwide lockdown between March and April on top of a slowdown that was already underway in capital goods investments); the recovery in domestic sales was 55.6% and exports 53.5%.

But the most encouraging figure emerges from a comparison with the pre-pandemic period: at the end of June 2021, the industry’s turnover was 12.8% higher than in the first half of 2019.

Acimac’s Chairman Paolo Mongardi commented: We can’t yet describe the economic situation as returning to normal, but these figures suggest that we are heading in the right direction after the pandemic. Despite the continuing global crisis, our industry worked hard last year to react positively to the difficult situation and managed to keep employment high and slow down the pace of decline with respect to 2019. The figures for the first half of 2021 show the first strong signs of recovery, clear evidence that our companies have weathered the storm. We are cautiously optimistic that domestic and international customers are beginning to resume their investments in technology so as to capitalise on the recovery already underway in the construction sector.

The 2020 results

As reported in last December’s preliminary results, the Italian ceramic machinery and equipment industry suffered a further contraction in 2020, and this has now been confirmed by the 29th National Statistical Survey published by the MECS/Acimac Research Centre.

As Chairman Paolo Mongardi pointed out, despite the negative trend there was virtually no change in the number of active companies (139 compared to 141 in 2019) and in the number of employees (6,951, 20 fewer than in 2019).

Turnover fell to 1.48 billion euros (down 14.5% on 2019) due to the global economic impact of the pandemic coupled with the ending of the Industry 4.0 tax incentives in Italy and the decline in investments in new technologies that began in the second half of 2018.

Domestic sales fell to 392 million euros (down 16.2% from 468 million euros in 2019), while exports dropped 13.9% to 1,086 million euros, or 73.4% of total turnover.

As for international markets, the Italian ceramic machinery industry made 27.9% of its sales (299 million euros) in the European Union, its top target market, despite a 17.8% drop with respect to 2019. In second place was Asia (excluding China) with sales of 161 million euros (-13.8%). Third was South America, which saw a much smaller decline in sales to 139 million euros (-3% on 2019). One country where the industry performed particularly well was China, the only area of growth compared to 2019, where Italian technology recorded a 57.6% increase in sales, up from 63 million euros in 2019 to over 100 million euros in 2020 due to strong demand for plants for the production of large ceramic slabs.

Client sectors and the best-selling machines

The breakdown of turnover among client sectors shows that the ceramic tile industry maintained its dominant position in 2020 and accounted for 82.5% of total turnover (1.2 billion euros, down 17% on 2019).

Sales of machinery for the brick and roof tile industry bucked the trend with an increase to 90 million euros (+11.8% on 2019), while sales of machinery for the tableware industry rose by 60.5%.

As for the best-selling types of plant, shaping equipment saw exceptional growth (up 12.8% to 263 million euros and a 17.8% share of total turnover), largely driven by demand for plants for the production of large ceramic slabs.

Next in terms of turnover volume came raw material preparation machines (239 million euros) and finishing equipment and diamond tools (217 million euros).

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