Refractories producers gathering
at the 57th International Colloquium on Refractories
in September were cautiously optimistic that the downturn
observed in key steel and cement markets since the economic
crisis of 2008 may be behind them.
Speaking to IM,
Robert van Aalst, a sales representative for
Norway-headquartered Elkem Silicon Materials said that its 2014
year-to-date sales were up 30% on 2013 and its orders were
strong until the end of the year.
Business is goodÊ -
and it seems to be getting better, van Aalst said.
Commenting on the 2014
colloquium, van Aalst said that the event was better attended
and the sentiment was more positive than it has been in recent
A few years ago, there was
nobody in the market and no money, he said.
Lets hope weve
seen the last of the bad years, he added.
Manan Shah, business executive
at India-based Ashapura Minechem Ltd, told IM
that business was not bad and predicted that the
growing trend in China towards the conservation of domestic raw
materials would favour vertically integrated refractories
producers in the coming years.
If you speak to purchasing
managers, they will tell you that [availability] of Chinese
material is going down, Shah said.
We [Ashapura] have our own
mines, so we are in a good position, he added.
One Europe-based producer, who
preferred not to be identified, said that raw material prices
had been largely flat in the last two years, but that the
European market in particular was not strong enough to
introduce product price increases that would help shore up
Business is not brilliant,
but its ok, the company said, adding the
refractories market in Europe is not growing.
Astrid Volkaert, president of
the Brussels-based European Refractories Association (PRE),
pointed out that refractory product output from its members
shrank in 2013 compared with 2012.
We produced 3.8m tonnes
[of refractories] in 2013, which was a slight decrease on the
previous year, Volkaert told delegates.
It is clear we are still facing a very difficult
economic situation, she added.