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International News From the Field: Europe

Europe sees continuous growth but with reduced momentum given the challenges on the economic and political fronts. Recent trade show turnout was positive, but how far is Europe from a sharper recovery? For more industry intel and other tidbits, read on.
Nov 22, 2023

These are busy times in Europe – and maybe even a return to the good old times. Important shows like Formnext, SPS, and EuroBLECH have just completed, and most shows recorded growth in the number of exhibitors and visitors compared to previous editions.

However, machine tool orders don’t look so optimistic. According to the German association VDW, orders in the third quarter of 2023 were down 9% in nominal terms compared to the same period last year. Domestic and international orders have fallen too, with domestic orders down 12%, and foreign orders down 5% compared to the same period last year. This represents a 12% drop in orders in real terms. The reasons for this downward trend seem to be high interest rates and costs. According to VDW news, the Chinese economy is particularly weak and negatively impacted orders. The country has low consumer demand and a struggling real estate sector. The U.S. economy, by contrast, is seen by VDW as more resilient, with the country ordering more than China.

Similarly, the German producer price index has experienced an 11% decline for the fourth consecutive month, influenced by the diminishing prices of energy and metals. The index mainly considers mining, energy, manufacturing, and water industry products.

Also, the Economic Studies Department & Business Culture Centre of UCIMU-SISTEMI PER PRODURRE highlighted a 19.9% drop in machine tool orders in the third quarter of 2023, compared to July-September 2022. In Italy and Germany, manufacturers reported a reduction in foreign and domestic markets. In particular, the orders collected from abroad recorded a 1.7% decrease compared to last year.

A few recently announced projects and investment news items are listed below.

  • Airbus is set to open a center in Wunstorf next to the Air Transport Wing 62 base, for A400M aircraft maintenance. The facility will be finalized by the end of 2026 and will be running by 2027, employing more than 300 people. Airbus says this facility will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, although there are no official numbers. A400M aircrafts are indispensable to the German air force for transporting heavy artillery.  

  • Orlen, a Polish oil company, and Canadian Northland Power are set to build a 1.2 GW offshore wind farm, which will have 76 Vestas turbines (V236) generating more than 15 MW each. Total investment is expected to exceed 6.5 billion Canadian dollars ($5.17 billion). The farm will be located 22 kilometers off the Polish coast next to Plaza Wydmy Lubiatowskie and will generate enough power to support 1.5 million Polish homes by 2026.

  • Hidroelectrica, Romania’s largest electricity producer, plans to build a $1.3 billion photovoltaic park in Dabuleni-Sadova to generate 1,500 MW. The park will occupy 2,200 hectares and boast a solar radiation level of 1,400 kWh/m2/year, and at its final stage, it will produce an estimated 1.75 TWh annually.  

  • Pon, a Dutch-based bike company, is set to build a new factory in Lithuania in 2024. The facility will host bike assembly, painting, a warehouse, and offices, producing 450,000 bikes and e-bikes annually. This is Pon’s eighth factory, and it will be modeled after a successful project in Germany. The factory will be powered primarily by solar panels placed on the rooftop. 

  • Hisense, a Chinese multinational major appliance and electronic manufacturer, is set to open a new plant in Serbia. This would be their third in the country, all located in Valjevo, with a total investment of $50 million; factories in Valjevo will produce 1.7 million devices by 2025. Together with brands Asko and Gorenje, they will make refrigerators to sell in Europe with an annual output of 750,000 units.

  • German battery manufacturer BMZ will open a new $70-million factory in North Macedonia. The new facility is set to employ 600 people by 2028. It will be the first of many new BMZ facilities in the region since the company is set to move several production lines from Germany and Poland to North Macedonia due to the shortage of skilled workers. 

  • Omerin is building a new plant in the Clermont-Ferrand area in France to manufacture cables for the e-mobility market. The company has been boosted by the success of its special cables designed and developed for the e-mobility sector and the promising development opportunities in this market. The plant will be fully operational by the second quarter of 2025. An initial investment of $22 million will be made in the first construction stage of the project, which includes the commissioning of the plant.

  • Materi'Act, a Forvia Group company, the world's seventh-largest automotive parts supplier, inaugurated its headquarters and R&D center in Villeurbanne, France. The building houses Materi'Act's offices and its materials prototyping and characterization laboratory. The company aims to reach $2.2 billion in sales by 2030.

For more information, please contact Conchi Aranguren at caranguren@AMTonline.org.

Conchi Aranguren
AMT's Representative for Europe
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