The consolidation of the state finances has maximum political priority – but it must not be achieved at the cost of Germany’s quality as a location. “Irrespective of drastically reduced financial room for maneuvering in future, public investment in infrastructure and construction must not be made to carry the burden”, commented Andreas Kern, President of the Association of the German Cement Industry (BDZ) at the organization‘s annual press conference in 2010 (Fig.). He continued by affirming that restriction of state expenditure on the expansion, maintenance and refurbishing of the infrastructure would have a harmful effect on the important preconditions for a return to sustained growth. It is therefore even more important, he added, to stabilize investments at a higher level, after the expiry of the economic recovery programs. The cement industry perceives here an important perspective for nurturing confidence in the prospect of joining the general upward trend in the foreseeable future.
Despite the gradual recovery of the economy as a whole, the cement industry, like the overall construction and building materials industries – a sector which tends to lag slightly behind economic cycles – is still not “out of the woods”, despite the slight improvement in the situation of the construction industry toward the end of 2009. Cement consumption in Germany fell in 2009 by around 8 percent compared to the previous year, to 25.4 million t. The industry also exported a total of 7 million t, 21.4 % less than in 2008. Cement imports remained more or less stable, at 1.3 million t. Total sales of the industry‘s individual companies dropped by 5.4 %, to some 2.2 billion €. Despite the regressive trend in cement sales, however, these companies nonetheless largely managed to keep employment in the industry stable, at 7373 employees.
For 2010, the BDZ is preparing for a further fall in domestic cement consumption, probably by around 3 %, to 24.6 million t. In the field of residential construction, the latest trends in approvals justify expectations of a slight increase in 2010. In the industrial and commercial buildings sector, however, the association anticipates a continued downward trend, with the possibility of a slight recovery only as from 2011 onward. In the estimation of the association, underground engineering is the only construction sector which is set to experience a slight growth thanks to the recovery package.
Growth impulses for the industry from energy-policy boundary conditions are also conceivable. “In addition to moderni-zation of existing power generation plants, the renewable energy sources will certainly, in future, also offer prospects for markets with interesting sales levels for cement as a building material”, continued Kern. In the field of geothermics alone, residential and commercial construction projects amounting to 25 billion € can be anticipated up to 2030. Good opportunities are also perceivable in the expansion of offshore wind-power installations in the North Sea and the Baltic. The cement industry is expecting important boundary conditions for the planning reliability of its companies, for security of
supply and for affordable energy prices, from the energy concept announced by the federal government. The central element here must be a mix of energy sources which is appropriate to the needs of competition and cost-efficiency, and which will not impair the competitiveness of our companies, concluded Kern.