Market Monitor - Chemicals performance - Italy

Market Monitor

  • Italy
  • Chemicals/Pharma

01 juin 2015

In 2015 Italian chemicals production is forecast to grow 1.4 %, due to increasing exports (up 3.2 %) and the first signs of improving domestic demand (up 1.3 %) after four years of contraction.

Market performance snapshots


  • Further growth expected in 2015
  • Payments take 85 days on average
  • Business dependant on construction still face higher risks

The Italian chemicals sector is the third largest in Europe (after Germany and France) and accounts for 1.3% of Italian GDP. Production value amounted to more than EUR 52 billion in 2014 (EUR 81 billion including pharmaceuticals). The industry consists of more than 2,800 businesses, of which 36% have foreign shareholders, 25% are Italian medium-large companies (with sales above EUR 100 million) and 39% are small and medium- sized businesses.

Italian chemicals production increased 1% in 2014, more than Italian manufacturing as a whole. In terms of subsectors, these showed different trends, with satisfying growth for fine and specialty chemicals (up 2.3%), compensating for a moderate decrease in basic chemicals (down 0.9%). Exports grew 1.4% and amounted to EUR 26.2 billion in 2014. This growth was mainly driven by demand from the European market (up 2.8%) while exports outside Europe decreased 0.9%.

In 2015 Italian chemicals production is forecast to grow 1.4%, due to increasing exports (up 3.2% in volume) and the first signs of improving domestic demand (up 1.3%) after four years of contraction. Profit margins are expected to improve in 2015.

Payments in the Italian chemicals sector take 85 days on average. The level of payment delays and insolvencies has been low in 2014, and this is expected to remain the case in 2015. The volume of notified non-payments is by far better than the Italian business average. The sector´s businesses generally show low levels of indebtedness, and banks are willing to provide loans.

Generally, our underwriting approach to the Italian chemicals / pharmaceuticals sector remains relaxed: especially for pharmaceutical manufacturers, because of better payment history. We continue to monitor the chemicals sector closely, anticipating possible defaults and identifying the better performing subsectors. However, subsectors and businesses dependent on construction, construction materials, consumer durables, and furniture require particular attention, as the expected rebound of the Italian economy is still modest. Subdued demand and the risk of overcapacity could lead to higher insolvency risks.

To assess a company’s creditworthiness accurately we look for: the most updated financial accounts, including interim accounts, the age of the company, its capacity for absorbing decreasing sales and margins through self-funding and/or a healthy financial structure, its ability to absorb or pass on raw material increases, and its pattern of payments. On those occasions when we have to be restrictive in our underwriting decisions, we will explain our stance fully to our customers to help them plan their sales strategy.

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