Editorial August 2017

Dear Readers,

Metals industry continues to have challenging times in most parts on a global level. Eurozone continues to be stagnated, Middle East region showed a little forward movement when oil prices started moving up but now with oil prices steady at a lower level than expected, the industry and the economy in ME region seems to be halted. South East Asian countries are again witnessing a tough time. Their economies have great influence of their Chinese counterpart and now they are exposed to a dynamically changing policy situation. As we all know, now for last so many years, the key player in metals sector is China. In global steel industry, material availability, pricing and other parameters are being greatly influenced (if not decided) by Chinese industry. In this global fluid situation, India seems to be better poised to attract investor’s attention because of its steady economic growth.

Indian metals sector has also gone through a very challenging time for the last few years. They have seen shortage of vital inputs like ore, coal etc, closure of mining activity by the supreme court orders, continues demand stagnation etc. But now the situation is changing, though slowly but definitely. The demand seems to have started climbing up. This may be due to forward movement of mega infra projects in the country. This will boost construction activity and in turn help the products like aluminium extrusions, wires etc. Also, better road condition is facilitating auto industry growth which in turn helps castings demand to grow. Fortunately this year monsoon is quite satisfactory in most of the regions in the country. This will have a direct, positive and immediate impact on agro equipments sector, tractor sale etc. Further, good crops will increase the purchasing power of the common man whereby helping the economic wheel to move faster. This will obviously help the metals sector to grow. It is expected that the introduction of GST will bring many business transactions in the mainstream economy and will support the growth of GDP.

Overall, I feel the metals sector will make some lost ground in coming months and as such the fiscal 2018-19 will be a better one than 2017-18.

Editorial July 2017

Last few years were quite challenging for the metals industry. On one hand the demand did not rise up to the expectations and on the other hand, the cost of vital inputs was on the rise. Most of the developed world countries are going through an economic slow down and this suppressed the growth of the industry too. Many infrastructure projects were on hold due to liquidity crunch. As we all know, infrastructure and the construction together give the biggest trigger to the metals demand. Thus this situation results naturally in lower metal demand.

Indian story is slightly different. India too had its share of challenging days but fortunately the Indian economy showed up a comparatively good performance and this naturally helped various industry verticals including that of metals. Secondly, the Indian auto industry did fairly well in these testing years which helped foundry sector to survive. Actually, lot of foundries expanded their capacities in anticipation of good export opportunities to European countries but this thinking was proved wrong by the struggling economies of most of the countries in Eurozone. Today, most of the Indian foundries are aiming for domestic markets rather than exports.

Today, if an investor has to put his money, it is but natural that he will strongly consider Indian economy. Auto sector is progressing well, the speed of infrastructure development has also picked up to some extent, most of the raw material issues are sorted out and most importantly, majority of people believe that the Indian economy will continue to grow at a decent rate. Thus there is a strong reason to bait on India’s prospects. Further, introduction of GST will also have some added attraction about Indian economy. After initial teething problems, it is expected that the tax structure will be more simple, transparent and more industry friendly. In fact, from the last few months, the foreign direct investment (FDI) has already started scaling up in anticipation of GST regime.

I hope the positive sentiment in the industry continues and the metals industry in particular benefits from the economic progress and the infrastructure development.

Editorial June 2017

Dear Readers,
Metals industry is the backbone of any economy and their Mco-relation is quite direct and linear. This means that the fortune of metals sector depends on the general condition of the economy and is also a measure of health of any
economy.
When we say that western world economy has slowed down,
naturally its metals appetite has reduced resulting in lower metals
consumption as well as production. In Asian region, the
infrastructure building is the main agenda which requires huge
quantities of metals. This serves as a very big trigger for the regional
economy.
If we look at the famous economic curve, India is at the starting
point of the steep section of the curve whereas China is towards the
end of this section. This means that countries like China have
surpassed their best growth period and very soon their growth will be
plataued. On the other hand countries like India are about to enter
or just entered the fast growth period of the economy. The next one
or two decades are expected to witness a fast economic growth in
India and as mentioned earlier, it has a direct co-relation with the
iron & steel sector.
We all know that last 2/3 years were quite challenging for Indian
mills. Rise in input costs, stagnated demand, shrinking exports and
cheap imports had really destroyed the bottomline of many metal
companies. Now the raw material situation has gradually improved,
mega infra projects have started moving ahead and the metals
demand seems to have started increasing. All this has helped the
industry to stabilize and expect an upward transition in next few
months.
Of course, this does not mean that the Indian industry is free from
problems. Domestic demand stagnation, reducing export
opportunities and cheap imports are still shadowing the industry. A
lot of technological upgradation is required in many small and
medium scale units. If Indian products have to stand in the global
marketplace, they have to be of excellent quality. The concept of
quality also has to be upgraded. I know many metallurgical units
operating without a qualified metallurgist!

Posted in D.A.Chandekar’s Views | Leave a reply

Editorial May 2017

A lot of time has passed since 2008 financial meltdown but the developed world financial markets and even the industry is far from normal. Infact, now instead of calling today’s industry situation as ‘depressed’, a new term ‘new normal’ has emerged.

Of course industry fortunes differ from region to region and MENA (Middle East & North Africa) is one of the most prospective regions as far as the industrial growth is concerned. The oil price crash did affect this region for the last one or two years but nobody can deny the fact that the region offers tremendous potential on a long-term basis. Today, it is considered as one of the few growing economies in otherwise financially stressed world.
The industrial growth of MENA region is lead by the mega infrastructure and construction projects spread all over. Yes, the projects did get a jolt when oil price crashed and liquidity shrinked but now with somewhat better oil prices, these projects are expected to move forward.

Along with the huge quantity of steel required for such infrastructure projects, a good amount of non-ferrous metals too are consumed. Especially, the metal of 21st century, aluminium is used in many forms. Extrusions are used for panels, intricate shapes, wires are used as conductors, castings are used as auto and machinery parts, foils are extensively used in food and insulation industry etc. The technology and the processing of aluminium products have undergone a sea change in last decade or so. A lot of new trends in production and applications are emerging. The customer industries include power, aerospace etc. The use of technologies like simulation, 3D printing is expected to completely change the face of aluminium industry in coming years..The GCC region offers the best environment for the growth of aluminium industry. A huge primary metal producing capacity, numerous downstream industries and a promising marketplace.

India has vast reserves of bauxite. If the economic activity increases and infra projects & construction activity take a leap in coming years, the demand for steel and metals will increase manifold. This will surely give a big boost to non-ferrous metal production. Aluminium, the metal of 21st century, has tremendous growth potential and will certainly shine!

Editorial April 2017

Indian economy is seen as one of the few growing economies in the world. In spite of the general slowdown in the world, depressed oil prices, demand stagnation, India managed to put up a decent growth rate of around 7 % in the fiscal 2016-17.
The main drivers of the economy were steady performance by manufacturing as well as service sector, infrastructure development projects and a good performance on agriculture front. Of course, good monsoon in 2016 has been a boon and helped to strengthen the financials of the people associated with this sector. This has further helped to keep the demand curve climbing up.

As far as the metals industry is concerned, the major customer industries are automobile, construction, engineering and the metals requirement in mega infra projects. I do agree that all these sectors did not show a sparkling growth but have certainly given some push to the metals demand. Primary metals producers are planning and even implementing capacity expansion plans. The component and engineering industry was earlier looking aggressively for the export markets. Today, conventional export markets are either stagnated or dried up. Thus the component industry needs to look at the emerging markets and at the same time, consolidate their presence in domestic markets.

As I see the things, gradually positive sentiment is growing, the industry is regaining the confidence and have started planning for the future. A lot of infrastructure projects had been announced earlier. Now is the time to execute them. Industry too is banking on these government funded infra projects as these are the major triggers for metals demand to rise.

The downstream industries like casting, rolling, extrusion too depend heavily on auto, transport, construction, power and if Indian economy can achieve higher growth rate than the previous fiscal, everything will start falling in line.
After many years of fight, debate, deliberations, finally the present government has managed to pass the long awaited GST bill which is expected to be implemented by July 2017. This is surely going to start a new era in the India economy and is expected to simplify the tax structure. Further, the manufacturing sector (which includes our metals sector) is expected to gain from this change and to certain extent, will help to reduce the stress within the industry.

This seems to be the right time to do a bit of futuristic planning and to take a little bit more risk!

Editorial March 2017

Dear Readers,

Last few years have been really testing ones for the entire minerals & metals vertical. In most parts of the world, the metals demand seemed to be growing slowly or stagnated, especially in the western world.

This millennium saw the emergence of Asia as the growth engine of the world for manufacturing and infrastructure industry. It consists of the regions like Indian sub-continent, China, SE Asia and the Middle East. All these regions are extremely promising in terms of manufacturing sector and infrastructure development projects. With China producing and consuming around half the quantity of metals produced in the entire world, naturally the focus of minerals & metals industry slowly shifted to Asia. In other parts of Asia, numerous infrastructure projects were successfully implemented which consumed a huge quantity of metals.

Today, world’s growth engine seems to have slowed down. China is trying to close down the outdated capacity, Middle East region’s infra projects getting on hold due to depressed oil prices followed by liquidity crunch and SE Asia not showing the expected growth rate of the industry. Overall the situation is far from satisfactory. India has its own set of problems. The present government till now could not pass the land acquisition bill which would have facilitated Greenfield expansion programs of metals sector. This situation has in a way restricted the free growth of metals sector in the country. Two years back it was non availability of ore and coal which was the main hurdle in the industry’s growth. The Supreme Court had imposed ban on the mines in the states of Karnataka and Goa which drastically affected the availability of this vital input. Now, even if the availability of ore has improved, it is the demand stagnation which has emerged as a new problem. The capacity utilization of Indian mills has improved from last year but still in my opinion the average may not exceed 75 %. Needless to mention that such low average would also affect the bottomline and put severe pressure on finances.

Overall its testing time for metals sector, globally, in Asian region and in India too !

Editorial February 2017

As we all know, non-ferrous metals sector and foundry are very vital in the growth of various industries and the same is true for India too. Also, it is a fact that aluminium has emerged as the single most important metal due to its non-corrossive nature, weight to strength ratio and aesthetic look.

Automobile, construction, transport and engineering are the prominent user sectors worldwide and as far as India is concerned, automobile and construction are very important ones. Conventionally, most of the automobile parts and components were made of steel (rather special steels) but in last few years, the auto industry is going through a big transition. Huge importance is being attached to fuel efficiency, aerodynamic shape and aesthetic looks. Also, there is ever growing price pressure from the buyer. In line with this thought process, many steel components are being replaced by aluminium and off late by composites also. Further, in aerospace industry, the properties mentioned above become far more important and a lot of aluminum alloys are being consumed there. Now a day, even magnesium alloys are being employed for weight consideration.

In other sectors like construction, transport and engineering, a lot of new applications are being developed to suit the requirements and expectations of the consumer.
I do agree that in intial stages, society needs steel to build the infrastructure but it is seen that as the society gets developed, it consumes more and more of non-ferrous metals. While enhancing the purchasing power of the consumer is the function of overall economic growth, our industry should concentrate on developing new materials and applications for today and tomorrow. For this to happen, a very strong linkage has to be developed between the industry and academic / research institutes. In developed world we see that a lot of such institutes and projects are being funded by the industry. In fact, most of the research projects are guided by the industry needs and the expectations. Also, there is a definite timeline for every research project.

Such timebound and application directed research can surely help the non-ferrous metals industry to aquire more space into its user sectors and help them to meet the ever growing demands of the end customer !