9th Readers' Survey: Majority of European plastics companies believe business situation will not worsen / Few plans to downsize investment projects / Current and evolving market trends
To gauge how business is developing in the European plastics industry, conducted its 9th Readers’ Survey in December 2022 and January 2023. The questionnaire was made available to subscribers and other industry players. Over 290 participants from across Europe took part in the poll and gave us an insight into what the industry is currently experiencing. Let’s take a look at the latest challenges in the plastics sector, business-performance related forecasts, and market trends.
Forecasts for H2 2022 were spot on
Results from PIE’s 8th Readers’ Survey could not have been more accurate! Respondents from Italy, Benelux, and German-speaking Europe had the gloomiest expectations for the next six months during our previous survey in June-July 2022. In the latest survey, a little under half of all companies surveyed in Europe believed their business performance was worse in H2 2022 than in H1 2022. In Italy, 81% of the respondents reported a downturn, compared to 73% in Benelux, and 55% in German-speaking Europe.

Bright expectations shared by companies from Southeastern Europe during the previous survey were also on point. Just over a quarter of the companies in Europe appeared to be happy with their business performance. In Southeastern Europe in particular, slightly below half of the respondents reported an improvement in H2 2022 – the highest share among all regions.

However, a majority of European plastics companies believe it is not going to get any worse. Nearly a third of the respondents expect their business performance to improve. The maximum amount of optimism seems to be coming from Spain and Portugal, where the share of those expecting performance to bounce back in H1 2023 stands at 54%. Market players are also largely upbeat about their businesses’ immediate future in Benelux and France, where the share of respondents looking forward to improvements is 42% each.

Capital investment plans on track
Although some factors that hampered business performance in 2022 are yet to wind down, a growing number of companies shared plans to shape up their investment programmes. Nearly a third of the companies surveyed plan to increase spending, compared to only a quarter in H2 2022. However, nearly a quarter of the respondents reported plans to downsize investment projects, against only 15% in the previous survey.

Around half of the respondents in both Spain and Portugal and Central and Eastern Europe, along with 42% in France, are willing to spend more on tangible assets than last year. Just over half of the plastics recyclers intend to expand investment spending, which is still lower than the plastics machinery and tools sector (75%).

Unsurprisingly, slightly more than half of the companies focused on streamlining their operations by minimising costs.
Employee retention likely to remain key trend
Two-thirds of the participants reported no willingness to change their staff strength. Less than a quarter plan to hire new workers, while 13% expect its employee strength to reduce.

France is the only country standing out here. In H2 2022, 37% of the French companies hired new workers and only 5% cut jobs. The job market in the French plastics industry is likely to keep growing in H1 2023 as well. A shift towards a more positive picture is expected in Spain and Portugal, and in Benelux.
Rising energy costs top list of concerns
A majority of companies named costs of materials (80%) and energy costs (76%) as the key challenges they faced in H2 2022. These figures are consistent with the results from H1 2022, clearly indicating that the energy crunch has not yet eased its grip on operations.

On the positive side, slightly above half of the respondents considered raw material availability as a troubling factor – down from 67% in H1 2022. The impacts of Russia’s war in Ukraine were among the main woes for 41% of plastics companies, while nearly a third was bothered by sales prices and volumes.

A noticeably higher (61%) share of respondents, compared to the past few surveys, expressed concerns over rising inflation. The cost of materials is not expected to be such a pressing issue in H1 2023, as only 55% of the surveyed companies picked it up as one of their main points of concern going forward.
Bouncing back to pre-crisis levels not expected before 2024
The good news is that the percentage of companies that believe they would never be able to return to pre-crisis levels of business is as low as 2.4%. The bad news is that a majority of those surveyed said they do not expect to recuperate before 2024. Most of these respondents belong to German-speaking Europe and are brand owners.

Almost a quarter of those surveyed are expecting to start rebounding by the second half of this year. This strong resolve is being reflected the most by players in the plastics recycling industry and those involved in raw material distribution.

Exclusive for survey participants: Access to interactive database of evaluation!
All participants of the 9th Readers’ Survey have exclusive access to the executive summary. will also provide a link to the online survey database, where respondents can view the poll’s details and carry out individual cross-analyses – for example by country/region, plastics industry sectors, target markets, or company size. The database also provides a time series covering all previous surveys, with which you can now visualise trends. If you wish to access this treasure trove of data, you can take part in our summer 2023 Readers’ Survey. We look forward to seeing you there!
03.02.2023 1116 [251932-0]
Published on 03.02.2023
Europäische Kunststoffindustrie: Rückkehr zum Vorkrisenniveau erst 2024German version of this article...

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