As some western European countries grapple with a third wave of Covid-19 and new variants of the virus emerge, the global pandemic continues to dominate economic and business activity.
The European Commission’s Winter 2021 Economic Forecast, published in February, suggests the EU’s economy will recover more quickly than initially expected but now we will have to see what effect, if any, Europe’s latest wave of infections and lockdowns has on economic growth.
The EC forecasts that the eurozone economy will grow by 3.8% in both 2021 and 2022, after falling an unprecedented 6.8% in 2020. The EU economy as a whole will grow 3.7% in 2021 and 3.9% in 2022 after a 6.3% drop last year.
Some EU countries, including Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg
, are expected to recover fully this year, while others will recoup losses but not recover fully until 2022. However, Spain, Greece and Italy, whose economies fell by 11%, 10% and 8.8% respectively in 2020, will take longer to bounce back.
The Covid pandemic national lockdowns and restrictions of the past year have undoubtedly impacted on hoist manufacturers too, as their customers have delayed investments or are working at reduced production, and disruptions along the supply chain have posed challenges.
But it is not all bad news. Since December last year some markets have started to recover and the industry recognises that, Covid aside, the Western European market is fundamentally stable.
“All over Western Europe you see the same situation: large projects are on hold or decisions have been postponed,” says Knut Stewen, managing director, Kito Erikkila. He adds, however, that prospective activity is very good and in most countries smaller projects are going ahead as usual.
The Covid pandemic has dominated thoughts and actions for more than a year but Stewen says US/EU relations during Donald Trump’s presidency had also caused some disturbance and he is looking forward to “new stability” now Joe Biden is in the White House, in Washington DC.
At Kito Europe, executive officer and managing director Martin Rothe says during the pandemic there has been “restraint” in the automotive sector and in areas with tougher lockdown restrictions, such as France and Iberia, while in contrast, Germany and the Nordic countries are particularly strong.
There was a sharp downturn between April and June last year, but this was followed by a quick recovery so at the end of the financial year in March 2021, Kito Europe’s performance will be on a par with the previous fiscal year, says Rothe.
GH Cranes has also noted reduced demand and investment slowdown in its ‘domestic’ markets of Spain, France and Portugal but Javier Jimeno, in charge of Spain, France and Portugal, says it is clear that Covid is the cause, rather than any structural weakness in the market. He adds that although the company’s turnover in terms of new cranes and equipment renewal has declined during the pandemic, its strong penetration in Spain and Portugal has enabled it to maintain a good level of service activity.
As business slowed from March last year, crane manufacturer
Kuli Hebezeuge expected an increase in demand for service and spare parts to keep older production facilities running but that didn’t materialise.
“In fact, more production companies closed their doors partly, or completely, because of falling turnover and for some, this has continued,” says Oliver Riese, export manager, Kuli.
Since the end of last year, however, Kuli and other hoist companies have seen the first signs of recovery, bringing the prospect of a return to more normal business soon, but these comments were made before the possibility of Europe suffering a third wave of Covid.
In March, Kuli assembled and installed a double girder EOT crane
at Luxport SA in Luxembourg. It is located in a factory partly open to the outdoors, and covers the whole area from welding fabrication, truck way and railway to the River Moselle, where it is used to load and unload vessels. The new crane, which replaces an old 20t structure, has 2 x 16t to give a 32t total capacity on a rotating crab and a 24m span. The hook path is also 24m and it can hoist at up to 22.5m per minute.Impact of COVID-19 on crane market in Western Europe