In the first quarter of the business year 2015/16, the slight uptrend in Europe visible in recent quarters continued, driven primarily by Germany, Great Britain, and to some degree by the Southern and Eastern EU member states, with the exception of Greece.
This development is being bolstered primarily by private consumption, while investment activity continues to be rather cautious. Accordingly, practically all the divisions of the voestalpine Group have been profiting from outstanding demand from the automobile industry and a stable order situation at a solid level from the white goods and consumer goods industries.
In contrast, the mechanical engineering sector lost some of its momentum in comparison to its performance in the early part of the year, while the construction industry continued to be weak. The deterioration of the oil price has had a somewhat less dramatic effect on business in the oil and natural gas sectors in Europe than in other economic regions, however, the effects are being felt here as well. Counter to this development, the railway infrastructure sector again performed outstandingly; investments in this sector had been delayed for a lengthy period of time so that now there is considerable pent-up demand that must be gradually satisfied over the next several years. The situation in the aviation sector remains stable at a high level.
The economic upwards trend in North America, which is now in its third year, experienced a consolidation phase in early 2015 due primarily to the unusually severe winter weather and declining investments in the oil and natural gas industries. The low oil price had positive effects for private households so that it increasingly stimulated broad-based consumer behavior in recent months. Against this backdrop, demand in the automobile and consumer goods industries was commensurately positive, and momentum in incoming orders from the aviation and railway infrastructure industries has continued to be strong. The traditional energy sector, on the other hand, is still suffering from the deterioration of the oil price.
South America / Brazil
Already at an extremely weak level, the economy in Brazil in the first quarter of the business year 2015/16 grew even weaker. Practically all market segments are impacted by this situation so that the activities of the voestalpine Group in the largest economic region of South America faced and will continue to face falling demand and rising prices due to the high rate of inflation. In order to stabilize earnings at a level that is still positive, all the Brazilian sites are working on implementing far-reaching cost and efficiency improvement measures. Besides Brazil, almost all other South American markets are also currently suffering from dramatic economic deficits.
Asia / China
After a slight decrease in growth in China in the beginning of the calendar year, its economic landscape was marked by considerable uncertainty, triggered primarily by growing doubts regarding the stability of the Chinese financial and capital markets. The voestalpine Group remained largely unaffected by these developments, as demand in the automobile, tool steel, and railway infrastructure sectors, which are particularly important for voestalpine, remained solid and stable. By and large, developments in most other countries in Asia are not very dramatic; however, it can be expected that in the short to medium term risks will predominate in Japan, while in India, opportunities will prevail.