In the development of the global economic trends, the beginning of 2015 does not bring much that is new: continuing strong economic data from the USA and a stable development in China are contrasted by a stagnating economy in Brazil and Japan. Under the current political and economic circumstances, Russia will continue to face a significant recession for some time to come. The noticeable atmosphere of renewal resulting from the change in the political landscape in India should provide opportunities for increased growth in 2015.
And Europe? After the economically disappointing second half of 2014, the EU Commission and the European Central Bank have recently proposed ambitious packages of measures, on one hand at the investment end (investment package amounting to EUR 315 billion) and, on the other, in the area of quantitative easing (government bond-buying program amounting to EUR 1,140 billion), thus taking clear aim at a revitalization of the economy. However, it is still up in the air to what extent it, together with more investments in infrastructure in a number of countries, as well as the first signs of progress in Spain and Portugal will enable a return to at least modest growth during the course of the year. What will be crucial is less the future development in Greece, which is of secondary importance economically measured against Europe as a whole, but rather the development in France and Italy and the course that the Russia-Ukraine conflict will take.
Supporting factors for a recovery in Europe could be the continued strong economic activity in the automobile industry, a certain uptrend in the mechanical engineering sector, and the expected revival in the construction and construction supply industries resulting from accelerated implementation of infrastructure projects—the latter being already visible in the railway infrastructure sector. The decline of the oil price and the associated postponement of exploration and pipeline projects brings pressure on the corresponding industry segments; however, on the other side of the coin, it results in significant benefits for the consumers with corresponding positive effects on their buying habits.
A positive effect for an economic recovery in Europe is also the significantly lower rate of exchange of the euro, especially vis-à-vis the US dollar, as this improves the export possibilities for European companies.
Despite this proliferation of positive economic signals, it would be premature to assume that this equals a beginning recovery in Europe; the political and economic uncertainties are still too great. But there is a chance that in the course of the second half of 2015 Europe will see at least a slight economic recovery.
Against this backdrop and assuming stable capacity utilization in all of the most important business segments, the outlook for the voestalpine Group is unchanged. For the business year 2014/15, the Group can expect an operating result (EBITDA) and profit from operations (EBIT) that are slightly above the level of the past business year (even without taking positive non-recurring effects into consideration).