Europe's Pipe Industry Severely Diminished
The plastics pipe sector in Europe was severely affected by the Great Recession and the ensuing eurozone economic crisis. The extent to which the industry has changed and restructured because of the events of the past five years are documented in two new reports from industry consultants, Applied Market Information Ltd.
AMI's "Directory of Plastic Pipe Extruders" is a comprehensive listing of Europe's 480 plus pipe extrusion sites across Europe. The extent of the attrition that has occurred in Europe is illustrated by the fact that in 2008 the same report listed 559 sites and in 2001 there were 625 manufacturing sites in operation. The worst affected markets have been Spain, Italy, France and the UK which accounted for 60-70% of the site reduction in Europe. The most common reason for plant closures has been either group rationalisation within a country or the transfer of production abroad, although there have also been many bankruptcies and acquisitions resulting from liquidation.
The crisis accelerated the trend for the merger of production sites which had begun earlier as a result of a slowdown in construction in the period 2001-2005, largely caused by the depressed state of the German building market at that time. That said Germany is still the largest producer of plastic pipes accounting for 20% of production in 2014. Its share of production has in fact increased over recent years as it is the only West European country which has seen output recover to 2007 levels of demand. Overall European production of plastics pipes in 2014 is still 20% below that of 2007.
Profiles of Pipe Producers
The impact of the recession and eurozone crisis on the structure of Europe's leading pipe producing groups is further explored in AMI's "Corporate Performance and Ownership among Europe's Leading Plastic Pipe Extruders". This report profiles the 50 largest pipe producers in Greater Europe (including Russia and Turkey).
The largest producer, both in volume and turnover in Europe is Wavin. In 2012 it was acquired by Mexichem and is now part of a group which is the largest pipe producer in the world. Following the takeover eight facilities have been closed, including plants in Belgium and Norway with manufacturing moved to more competitive locations including Latin America. Pipelife is Europe’s second largest producer and like Wavin it too saw a change of ownership in 2012 when Solvay sold its share in the business to its joint venture partner Wienerberger. Despite the downturn Pipelife has continued to make acquisitions including the Swedish pipe maker Westpipe in 2010 and Alphacan’s PVC pipe plant in Gaillon, France during 2011.
Likely to be challenging Wavin and Pipelife for the position as Europe's largest pipes producer in the future is Russia's Polyplastic Group, currently the third largest producer in volume terms. Since it was founded in 1991 it has expanded rapidly through investing in new plants and acquiring other sites.
Pipe production in Europe is quite consolidated with the top 10 companies accounting for 40% of production by volume. An analysis of the financial performance of the 50 companies listed in this report reveals an industry worth approximately EUR7.5 billion. Interestingly despite the impact of the crisis in the eurozone, weak investment and low economic growth, profitability for the sector has been remarkably consistent over the past five years averaging around 5-6%.
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