Boston, MA -- (SBWIRE) -- 04/15/2014 -- The outlook for Italy's metals sector is far from encouraging, as a combination of cheap Chinese imports, low domestic demand and few project expansions mean that growth in consumption and production will be sluggish over the period to 2018. However, we expect Italy to retain its position as the EU's second largest steelmaking country, with a 16% share of production and the status of a new producer.
2013 was not a good year for the industry in terms of output. According to the Italian steel producers association, Federacciai, the country's steel exports to non-EU countries declined by 6.4% to reach 5.35mn metric tons (mt) in 2013. The country's imports increased by 16.5% year-on-year (y-o-y) to 6.86mn mt in 2013. Flat steel product imports from non-EU countries and long steel product exports to non-EU countries is reportedly increased by 35.3% and 4.6% y-o-y, while flat steel product exports decreased by 12.1% y-o-y The industry will face increased competitiveness in core markets as it feels growing pressure from non-EU rivals and this could prompt consolidation and a move towards greater specialisation rather than a focus on volumes. One potential growth area we highlight for Italy's steel sector is in high-quality steel, which China is increasingly demanding. As yet, Chinese producers have focused on low-quality mass production of steel and thus Italian producers, which have experience in the high-end steel sector, could benefit.
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The EU is not taking the threat of increased competition lying down. In February 2014 the European Parliament passed a resolution backing a plan to revive the bloc's steel industry, calling on the European Commission and member states to adopt "economically feasible" climate and energy targets. The resolution came just two weeks after the Commission scaled down its 2030 climate and energy targets and underlines a new sense of pragmatism in Brussels at a when European growth is slow. In a move unlikely to be popular with the green lobby, the resolution said the most energy efficient steel plants in Europe should not have to bear any additional costs resulting from EU climate policies. It was not immediately clear how the resolution will tally with attempts by the Commission to prop up the EU carbon prices by delaying the sale of, or backloading, carbon permits - a major additional cost for industries like steel.
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