According to figures announced by Confindustria Ceramica during its customary end-of-year press conference, the Italian ceramic tile industry has closed 2014 with a slight recovery, marking up 0.8% year-on-year growth in total sales to reach 392 million sq.m.
Exports totalled more than 310 million sq.m (+3.0%) and continue to be the driving force behind the sector, offsetting a further contraction in domestic demand (-6.9%) to just above 80 million sq.m.
The geographical areas where Italian exports have performed most strongly include Western Europe (+4.5%), driven by Germany, and the Far East (+6.3%). The North American market has remained stable (-0.3%) following two years of strong growth, while positive results (+3.8%) have been achieved in Central and Eastern Europe with the exception of Russia, where sales have been hit by the difficult domestic situation.
Production has returned to positive territory, up by 4.5% to 380 million square metres, as a result of export growth and completion of the process of selling off excess warehouse stock.
Forecasts for 2015
While the percentage growth in sales was smaller in 2014 than in 2013, the Italian tile industry is expected to see stronger growth in 2015 (2.2%) with the further fall in domestic sales (-3.5%) more than offset by a fresh increase in exports (+3.7%). Production will also continue to rise, with 2.3% growth forecast for 2015.
Looking in greater detail, Italian ceramic tile exports are expected to increase in all areas and continents, although at different rates. This includes 2% growth in Western Europe and the Balkans, a slightly better performance (+3.4%) in Eastern Europe, and growth in all continents at rates of between 5% and 7%. The NAFTA region is expected to show a particularly strong performance, driven by the United States with forecast growth of 7.6%, underscoring a robust recovery in demand fuelled in part by the favourable exchange rate.
The economic and financial profiles of companies
The analysis of the 2013 financial statements of ceramic companies points to a positive overall situation. The sample analysed by Banca Popolare dell’Emilia Romagna reveals a 2013 sector EBITDA of 8.6%, as a combined result of a value of 9.7% for groups with turnovers above 120 million euros, 6.9% for companies with turnovers between 40 and 120 million euros and 7.7% for smaller companies. After reaching a record level of 49.6% in 2009, working capital has dropped to 41.6% of turnover at a sector-wide level due to a general decline in stocks and greater selection of trade receivables in all world markets, including Italy.