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January 2008 – Steel winning new friends worldwide

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Newspaper headlines worldwide were being dominated at the end of 2007 with alarming phrases like ‘credit crunch’ and ‘credit meltdown’, giving rise to all sorts of gloomy prognostications about the prospects for the future. Should we be worried?

Global economic events are at the best of times out of the control of even the strongest governments, so individual countries let alone industries and the companies within them can hope to do little to influence events. Companies can at least set their own houses in order and this is what steelwork contractors have focussed on in the years since the last major downturn in industry workloads in the early 1990’s. Steelwork contractors are on generally far sounder commercial footings than some were in the early 1990’s. As bad as today’s outlook might be when City views are tapped, nobody is forecasting anything on the scale of that downturn.

Clients can be assured that in 2008 they will continue to have access to competitive quotes from a wide range of well founded contractors when they opt for steel. There has been a notable amount of consolidation in the industry recently. Industry leader Severfield-Rowen has bought a key player in Northern Ireland and Dublin based SIAC has been on the acquisitions trail on the UK mainland. None of this has been fire sales of failing companies; on the contrary, all those acquired have been attractive to their purchasers because of their solid performance and prospects.

BCSA members are starting the year with strong order books and a degree of confidence that the outlook remains strong, if not as promising in one or two areas as it was. Some City or West End developments might be pushed to the backburner but order books are healthy and the economic underpinnings look favourable for most clients.

Steel can be expected to continue to gain ground over competing alternative materials in 2008 as clients increasingly appreciate the full Case for Steel, which we start a new series on in this month’s NSC. On that topic, delegates to the recent Australian Steel Convention were delighted to hear from a regional director of no less a player than Multiplex that the company is turning its back on concrete as a framing material after having been convinced of the cost and other benefits of steel. You can read more about that on Page 12. Happy New Year.

Nick Barrett

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