FLAT GLASS: DEMAND IS UP, BUT COMPONENT PRICES ARE ALSO ON THE RISE

Angelo Lovati: “We’re working, but it will take a few years to recapture the earning levels of 2007”.

Overseas markets rally,but Italy’s domestic market continues to “languish”. It’s the kind of recovery that, though stated cautiously, “should continue, since demand is not tied to a few clients, but there’s a system that is showing signs of stirring”. This is how Angelo Lovati, head of “Lovati Fratelli” in Assago, Italy, past president of Gimav and now a director of Federmacchine, views the performance of the flat glass sector at this juncture and foresees possible dynamics, in light of the conditions that were established after the Düsseldorf fair in September of 2010. “Without question, that event marked a turning point – he explains – because it was there that the beginning of a change came about and has moved ahead”. So much so that, as far as Lovati is concerned, we’re booked with orders until April and, in talking with my colleagues, it seems they’re in the same boat.

“Of course – he clarifies – we’re not at pre-crisis levels, when orders spanned the next 6-7 months, but businesses have begun to invest again”. Lovati points out several indicators: recovery in the parts market, for example, as well as the waiting times imposed by one’s own component sup- pliers. “After restructuring, manufacturers have trouble responding quickly to the growing demand, which stretches out delivery times”. If, from one perspective, this is an element that reinforces the concept of a recovery, for the flat glass industry it also has a negative connotation.

“The prices of components are going up – continues Lovati – but they weigh heavily on a sector, ours, whose profit margin has already been cut to the bone”. So, recovery, yes; but one that is already tinged with some elements of uncertainty.

On the European scene, the driver is Germany (while the rest of the EU countries continue to “lag”); Poland is re- covering, and so is Romania, partially. From Russia, on the other hand, there are no major indicators, just as the USA remains a giant question mark. “The situation in the ‘States – confirms Lovati – is still very calm and I don’t know if and when it will start to pick up”.

Asia, instead, is back on track; and China continues to sprint; performance in the Middle East seems most promising from Abu Dhabi, Qatar, and Bahrain. Brazil, too, is looking good. In terms of product innovation, “the flat glass industries have been very innovative and are well-prepared for the recovery. Our hope now – concludes Lovati – is for the growth trend to continue, even though it will take at least a couple years to get back to the sales levels of 2007”.

600450 FLAT GLASS: DEMAND IS UP, BUT COMPONENT PRICES ARE ALSO ON THE RISE glassonweb.com

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