Monday, 13 December 2004 02:00

Building industry confidence at 96%

Stellenbosch Bureau for Economic Research (BER) says building industry confidence is at levels last seen in the economic upswing of 1978 to 1981

Tuesday, 13 July 2004 02:00

Confidence up in building industry

Demand driving residential sector

Monday, 26 January 2004 02:00

Building and construction 2004

Outlook for 2004

Monday, 14 July 2003 02:00

Business slows in the building sector.

BUSINESS conditions in the building sector have deteriorated in the second quarter as high interest rates take a bite out of residential property demand, a survey from the University of Stellenbosch's Bureau of Economic Research shows. 

Construction IndustryThe bureau's business confidence index for the building industry slipped to 54 last quarter from 58 in the first quarter as economic growth slowed. The delayed effect of last year's four interest rate hikes "have now left a mark on the industry", the bureau said.

Residential property was worst hit by the high interest rates and a slowdown in gross domestic product growth, with building contractors' profit margins coming under pressure in the second quarter, resulting in job losses. 

Domestic demand has been fairly resilient in the first quarter, with the construction sector benefiting from capital expenditure projects in both the public and private sector, according to last month's Reserve Bank quarterly bulletin.

However, the survey results signal much weaker conditions in the second quarter.

"Growth is slowing down in the building sector, which has hurt business confidence. Retrenchments have increased, especially in the residential sector, as business conditions have deteriorated," said the bureau's senior economist Charles Martin.

Civil engineers, typically involved in large government infrastructural projects, experienced far better business activity in the second quarter compared to other sectors of the construction sector.

Civil engineering firms said competition for tenders was intense and profit margins were under pressure, according to the bureau.

"The majority of contractors polled expect the market to weaken somewhat in the third quarter," said Martin. A lower interest rate this year was likely to boost the industry's prospects, but this would materialise only next year.

"Conditions are weaker, but this is not a recession. We will see a gradual pick-up in business confidence by the fourth quarter, but a full turnaround is only likely next year," said Martin.

The confidence index has a tendency to lead the official building figures released by Statistics SA by at least two quarters.

Stats SA's April release of building figures shows an 8,4% year on year drop in actual building plans passed, with less building plans passed in Gauteng, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Northern Cape this year compared to last year.

The real value of buildings completed in April increased by 2,7% year on year, mainly due to a sharp rise in non residential buildings, according to Stats SA's figures.

The survey shows building costs have remained high, despite the strong rand reducing the price of imported inputs.

However, costs are likely to moderate during the year, with the bureau forecasting building costs to grow 8% this year.      

Friday, 01 November 2002 02:00

Cement price hikes 'hurt building sector'.

Members of the building industry are reeling from the shock of a proposed 20% hike in the price of cement. This follows a double digit price rise in the past year.

Construction IndustryThe proposed price rise is likely to lead to a substantial increase in building costs. Stellenbosch University's Bureau for Economic Research (BER) warned yesterday that, together with higher interest rates, a weighty rise in the price of cement would contribute to building work being less affordable and would lead to a slowdown in demand.

Ultimately, this will have a negative effect on the economy.

Cement producers PPC, Alpha and Lafarge would not comment on what their price hikes would be yesterday. However, a number of concrete product manufacturers have said that PPC, for one, had indicated a 20% price rise in January.

The rise would not be applicable to all clients, because prices vary between clients and cement product types, but double-digit rises were expected all round.

The BER's Charles Martin said cement sales were on the rise for the first time in years, and that now would be considered an ideal time for cement producers to introduce substantial price hikes.

PPC and Alpha said their price hikes were based mainly on increases in their input costs, which were affected by the depreciation of the rand. Capital equipment and spares, for instance, were sourced mostly from the US and Europe.

PPC also fingered Spoornet's prices and inefficiency as contributing factors to rising cement prices. Colin Jones of PPC said problems with rail availability had forced the cement producer to switch to more expensive road transport in some instances.

PPC and Alpha said price shifts were not based on attempts to come in line with international pricing or to move towards import parity pricing.

Lafarge declined to comment on price strategy issues.

The cement buyers said the reasons given for the increases were reasonable, but 20% was beyond what could be justified.

Several cement buyers have also accused producers of continuing to operate in a cartellike fashion. PPC, Alpha and Blue Circle operated as a cartel until 1996, when it was officially disbanded. A price war ensued in an attempt by the producers to secure market share.

 

Friday, 11 October 2002 02:00

House building sector buoyant.

Building activity in the residential sector had remained buoyant, but the nonresidential sector was struggling.

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