Middle East: Not-To-Be-Missed Occasions for Italian Companies

Lebanon, Syria, Arab Emirates and Egypt are the most interesting countries. Major interest in Italian Technology also seen at Marmomacc
The positive signals seen in the natural stone sector in the first six months of this year, especially as regards exports of processing machines and equipment (+28.9%) but also unhewn and processed marbles and granites (+6% compared to the first half of last year) suggest that the field is on the way – albeit still steep – towards recovery. The search for new markets and the knowledge that only by focusing on quality and creativity will it be possible to compete on an international scale were among the discussed themes during the 45th edition of Marmomacc, the International natural stone, design and technologies exhibition held at VeronaFiere last 29 September-2 October.
The exhibition is the most important in the sector all over the world and this year attracted more than 56 thousand operators (+6% compared to 2009), with an increase of 13% in international attendance from more than 130 countries. 1500 exhibitors (about 50% international from 56 countries and up by 9% compared to the previous edition) occupied an impressive overall area of 172,000 sq.m. Over and above natural stone and marble, Marmomacc is also the reference exhibition for machinery and technologies in the sector, from quarrying through to processing and final finishing of the material.
As regards the opportunities offered by emerging markets, Marmomacc has also organised – among other initiatives – two specialist seminars in collaboration with ICE (Foreign Trade Institute) focusing on Lebanon, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. The first was titled “Lebanon and Syria: opportunities on the construction market for Italian companies” and was conducted by Sebastiano Del Monte, ICE director in Beirut and also expert of the neighbouring Syrian market. Italy is still among the main trading partners of the Lebanon, ranking in 5th place behind the USA, France, China and Germany. The balance of trade is firmly in the black for Italy thanks to overall exports in 2009 worth 1.2 billion dollars.
Lebanon is effectively a “hub-country” for the Middle East area and an optimal showcase for the Arab world. The economy is enjoying significant growth with GDP in 2010 at least 8% higher than in 2009. Machinery overall are the second item in terms of economic value for Italian exports to Lebanon: in detail, for earth moving, bulldozers and related machinery the Lebanon market was worth 3.1 million dollars in 2008 and 3.6 in 2009 with growth of 16.1%. In the first seven months of 2010, the result is already 2.2 million dollars.
The quarry machinery sector, on the other hand, posted 0.8 million euro in 2008 and then exploded to 2.1 millions in 2009  (+162.5%) and in the first seven months of 2010 has already recorded three million euro. More specifically for the stone processing machinery sector, exports were worth 2.5 million dollars in 2008 and 4.3 millions in 2009, while the first seven months of 2010 have already totalled 2.8 millions. Several factors are encouraging investments. The most important include the absence of taxation on capital gains, the effective need for homes in the wake of war-time destruction, the overall economic growth of the country, capable of sustaining the construction sector and the possibility of bank mortgages at low interest rates. As many as 350 major building sites are active involving an area of 10 millions sq.m. authorised as of July 2010, +48% compared to 2009.
Syria in recent years has also seen constant growth of GDP of about 5% per annum and offers interesting opportunities. The balance of trade for Italy in the first half-year 2010 is negative by about 82 million euro but saw growth of 11% in exports of machines and engineering equipment (252 million euro, with a percentage on total exports of 35.3%). Exports of building site and quarry machinery saw a significant drop between 2008 and 2009 (13.9 million euro against 7.2) but have achieved a net recovery this year: the first six months posted a value of 6.6 million euro, +69% compared to last year.
The second seminar dedicated to the United Arab Emirates, on the other hand, was conducted by Dr. Francesco Alfonsi, ICE director in Dubai. Macro-economic data indicate resumed growth of GDP in the United Arab Emirates (+2.6% in 2010), with a balance of trade (obviously excluding petroleum) of 104 billion dollars (imports 121/exports 17).
The Italian share of UAE imports comes to 3.7 billion euros, while stone materials are worth 50 million euro – a figure substantially unchanged over the years, even in the worst times of crisis. Italian stone materials, in short, are mostly highly-prized materials such as finished marble, granite and travertine intended for luxury constructions. The United Arab Emirates in fact rank sixth among the main Italian clients in this sector.
Significant attention was also paid to the Egyptian market: Egypt, in short, has become one of the main buyers of Italian technologies – in 2009 worth 23 million euro on a total value of exports of 2.6 billion euros, whereby Egypt now ranks in second place behind the USA as trading partner.
Source:  Samoter Press Room