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Opportunities raise expo fever.

With hundreds of billions of dollars being invested across the hydrocarbons, petrochemicals, construction and infrastructure sectors currently and with the longer-term spending outlook looking increasingly prodigious, the Middle East steel fabrication industry has never had it so good.

With mega investments have come unprecedented opportunities for steel industry players to capture contracts in their spheres of expertise. An important platform where manufacturers and traders can zero in on these same opportunities is the well-known SteelFab exhibition which will stage its 2012 edition from January 9 to 12 at Expo Centre Sharjah.

Keeping in mind that the total value of new investments by Gulf countries and Iran in the oil and gas projects touched $740 billion by the third quarter of 2011, the sector has become the focus area for the regional steel fabrication and metal manufacturing industry.

The number of major petroleum projects planned over the next decade stands at 725, according to a study by the Kuwait Financial Centre, or Markaz, which provides a glimpse into the huge opportunities that are likely to emerge for regional steel fabricators and metal manufacturers.

Other estimates showed that energy capital investments in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) could total around $525 billion during 2012-2016.

Closer home, the UAE could pump a whopping $76 billion into projects to develop its hydrocarbon sector over the next five years to become the second largest Arab energy investor after Saudi Arabia by overtaking Iran.

Equipment from Retro Systems which makes CNC plasma, oxy-fuel and waterjet cutting tables

Such huge spending, part of the GCC's projected $3 trillion ambitious investment plan by 2020, is likely to put the energy and construction sectors back on track in 2012, and become major growth drivers for the steel fabrication industry.

"Demand from several segments of the economy is keeping the steel fabrication and metal manufacturing industry busy with the region being driven by population increases, economic growth, infrastructure projects, economic diversification and preparations for global sporting events," said Saif Mohammed Al Midfa, director-general of Expo Centre Sharjah, SteelFab's organiser.

"The prime drivers of demand in the region continue to be projects in the oil and gas, petrochemical and infrastructure sectors and SteelFab will remain an excellent barometer of the regional industry's buoyancy," said Al Midfa.

Steel fabricators continue to bank on the construction sector, which is surging ahead, though at a lesser pace, with the industry in the UAE valued at $20 billion last year.

Key focal points

Manufacturing is the second strongest economic growth driver among non-oil sectors in the UAE, and this sector is witnessing a gradual shift to automation in process, with material handling being at the forefront of this change. "For its latest edition, SteelFab will feature a section on material handling. It will be a significant addition to special sections at the show," said Al Midfa.

Major players in the steel fabrication industry are expected to attend SteelFab 2012

Globally, material-handling equipment orders grew 18 per cent in 2010 and are projected to grow 12 per cent in 2011-12, according to the latest Material Handling Equipment Manufacturing Forecast by the Material Handling Industry of America. In addition, material-handling equipment shipments grew 7 per cent in 2010 and are forecast to grow 12 per cent in 2011-12.

The material-handling section at SteelFab will feature a full range of equipment from overhead cranes and conveyor systems to rotators, positioners, columns and booms, robots, magnetic lifting and vacuum lifting.

Several global majors such as Motoman Robotics and Sarda Magnets have already booked space for the show. Among exhibitors in this field are ABB Robotics, Abus Crane, Blickle, Ace Crane, Belgium Welding, Corimpex, Demmeler, Fanuc Robotics, Fast Rotator, Finat-CB Lifting, Kyoto, Liftek, Promat Automation, Seigmund, Seklizi Crane, Stierli-Bierger, Tecno-Magnete, Thern, Toyo Lift, Umit Castings and Walker Magnetics.

Other special focus areas include machinery and tools used in pipe and tube fabrication and machine tools.

Expo Centre Sharjah has tied up with Machinery Trade International (MTI) as the exhibition agent for used machine tool dealers based in Europe and North America who may like to participate at SteelFab.

MTI, which is also an official media partner of the exhibition, will host its established MTI pavilion at SteelFab, and a number of leading used machine tool dealers have already signed up to participate. Among them are C Dugard (UK), Electromotion (UK), Perfection Machinery (USA) and Enterprise Machinery (UK).

More German participation

The 2011 edition of SteelFab attracted over 600 brands and recorded a 20 per cent increase in the number of visitors compared to 2010. It was held in a total exhibition area of 16,000 sq m and featured the Middle East's largest display of machinery, machine tools, welding equipment, supplies, consumables and ancillary equipment used in the pre- and post-treatment of steel. The event attracted 206 direct exhibitors, against 183 in 2010, registering an increase of nearly 13 per cent.

The event hosted one of Middle East's largest displays of steel working machinery and the world's most well established brands in the industry.

Ten German companies participated under one umbrella and recorded positive feedback from visitors to the trade fair.

Visitors and exhibitors were of the view that the upcoming market for steel in the immediate future is Saudi Arabia, with the UAE coming a close second. Qatar also holds huge potential due to its high spending on infrastructure projects ahead of the 2020 World Cup, but exhibitors and experts who visited the show opined that it would take a year or two for real purchasing to begin.

This year's show will host the German pavilion with 12 exhibitors and is expected to generate keen interest in the regional steel fabrication industry given that Germany is the fourth largest trading partner of the UAE and its products are known for their technological superiority.

German exports to the UAE surged 23 per cent to 7.5 billion euros ($9.7 billion) and imports from the Emirates grew to 519 million euros in 2010, a positive indicator that the show will open up new channels of trade with Europe.

"The inaugural German pavilion received good response from the regional industry and this has spurred a 25 per cent rise in German participation this time," said Al Midfa.

The 12 leading German firms taking part in the 2012 edition include Manfred Borries, Weicon, Flexicam, Nordmeyer Stahl Handel Und Service, Jepson Power GmbH, Messer Cutting & Welding, Kaltenbach Maschinenfabrik, Honsberg Metallsaagen, Kahrl & Wiemann, Knuth Werkzeugmaschinen, August RE-ggeberg Gmbh & Co, Vollmer Italia and Sciteex Rmw.

As in the past year, the German pavilion will be held under the aegis of VDMA, the German Engineering Federation.

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Publication:Gulf Industry
Geographic Code:70MID
Date:Jan 1, 2012
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