Steel industry slowing down, mechanics doing well

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2023 was not an easy year for Brescia’s metallurgy companies, whose exports reached a value of 3.6 billion euros in the first nine months of 2023 (Confindustria Brescia data), down 21.2% compared to same period of 2022, significantly contributing to the 6.6% drop that affected the exports of the entire Brescia manufacturing industry. «The slowdown in Germany, our main outlet market, has had a particular impact», explains Giovanni Marinoni Martin, president of the Metallurgy, Steel and Mining sector of Confindustria Brescia. In addition, he was affected by the reduction in investments due to the high cost of money.

«We are experiencing a complicated phase – adds Marinoni Martin –: after two years of a growing market, driven by the prices of raw materials and the revaluation of warehouses, in 2023 we experienced an opposite phase, of reduction in volumes, following the decline in apparent demand, and falling prices, with reduced margins”. The sector is also affected by the cost of the energy bill which, although reduced compared to 2022 (-57%), remains well higher than that of 2019 (+147%) and slows down the competitiveness of our companies compared to European and, above all, Asian competitors. . «Today the real risk is non-European imports, in particular from China and India – says the entrepreneur -. We find ourselves on the edge of an abyss, in which Europe is imposing stringent rules and high sanctions on CO2 emissions from internal EU production, without however stopping the imports of goods, materials and components from countries that do not respect the same, very fair ones. , rules. And I fear that Cbam, right in intention, will be difficult to apply and therefore ineffective.”

The situation is better for the metalworking district of Bergamo, which according to the Intesa Sanpaolo Monitor recorded an increase in exports of 15.1% in the second quarter of 2023. «Our companies are probably still benefiting from the long queue of previous orders and the confirmation of the 4.0 incentives on machinery being delivered until the end of 2025 – observes Agostino Piccinali, president of the Mechatronics Group of Confindustria Bergamo -. But also of a greater diversification of production, compared to our Brescia colleagues, which allows us to better cushion the critical phases”. As a whole, Bergamo manufacturing recorded a 2.8% drop in production in the third quarter of the year, compared to the same period in 2022, with a -2% in exports marking the first drop on foreign markets since the end of 2020 The average utilization rate of the plants fell in the first nine months of the year to 72-74%, compared to 76-78% the previous year. However, adds Piccinali, this is still a slowdown that is “manageable” by local businesses. «For 2024 we do not expect an immediate recovery – he says –: it will be a year of resistance, because orders are not yet giving comforting signals, but some sectors are more lively, such as mechanics and transport. Furthermore, we are confident in the stability of some markets, which have also produced good results in 2023, such as North America and the Middle East.”

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