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PCB | November 13, 2008

Negative trends in the European PCB industry

Downturn in the automotive sector, demand for longer payment terms and lack of finding the right staff is some of the negative factors that is impacting the European printed circuit board industry at the moment.
EIPC (European Institute of Printed Circuits) has taken the pulse of the European PCB industry during the ongoing electronica show in Munich. Here are some of the reactions from the show floor.

France based CIRE Group has no more than 20% reliance upon any one market sector. They are experiencing a steady market in the military, space and aircraft industry sectors, mainly due to French Government spending on equipment for the next few years, the influence of the Galileo project, plus equipment for military intelligence. About 15% of their market is automotive, but this has been affected by the postponement of various projects, and there is not much going on in the telecom sector either right now. However, the industrial sector is steady, although the lack of funding for SME’s could have an impact. Dominique Pellizzari, boss over the CIRE Group is worry about finding the right people to see the PCB industry in Europe survive in any meaningful way. There are too many small/average size companies whose owners are shortly to retire, who have no heirs, no successors, and those that might survive drown under an ever-increasing cost of compliance with ill-considered environmental legislation.

UK based Graphic PLC have got off to a good start of their financial year, which starts in October, but the market is already showing signs of being depressed, and in 2009 it will drop even further, thought David Pike, MD. Contracts are being deferred, orders for aircraft are being cancelled, and there is some erratic pricing around, reflecting a degree of panic by companies anxious to cover fixed costs at least. Even Far East companies are now offering smaller batch sizes, and there is a lot of space capacity in Germany due to the dip in the automotive sector. All of this is further aggravated by demands for 90 days payment terms, mainly by American owned companies. Whilst the next 2 months look good for Graphic, what happens after that is in the lap of the gods.

Dr. Laurent Bodin, Industrial Director of Cimulec in Ennery France, said the market will drop by 20% next year. The group includes CST in Toulouse who serve the military and aerospace sector in which there is great uncertainty payment is getting worse, although the French Government are reported to be considering legislation which will make it illegal to pay later than 30 days. Now that might take a mountain of cash to trigger, but the idea would be popular.

In Italy payment remains a challenge. 120 days is the norm, and an average is 130. It is considered impolite to chase debt before 90 days have passed. Marta Puggioni of Picasse Elettronica srl said that business had been good until August but now there had been a diminishing of demand, and whilst her company has a good sector spread, the decline in the automotive industry was the biggest.

Another automotive industry supplier is EuroCir from Barcelona, who are heavily reliant upon a burgeoning car industry, and have concerns for 2009 for their Spanish operations, although their China factory is reported to be busy right now.

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