Construction in Western Europe – Key Trends and Opportunities to 2017

Date: 10-Jun-2013
Western Europe experienced a severe financial crisis during 2008 – 2009, with economic activity in the region contracting sharply. Reflecting ongoing weakness in the region, real GDP has yet to rise above the pre-2008 level, with ongoing debt problems in most countries constraining growth, particularly in Greece, Ireland, Spain and Portugal. Budget deficits and government debt in several countries in the region are at alarming levels owing to the sluggish recovery from the economic crisis, which has led to record high unemployment levels. Public and private investment for new projects has declined significantly in the recent past. The construction industry in Western Europe recorded a CAGR of -5.94% between 2008 and 2012, mirroring the subdued economic environment in the region.



With high unemployment levels, households have cut down sharply on discretionary spending, resulting in a considerable fall in retail sales. To improve the situation, several governments issued debt and implemented stimulus packages in 2009 to boost the economy. However, amid the prolonged recovery, government debts have mounted, with the level rising to over 70% of GDP in several countries. Despite the generally subdued economic environment, prime retail space continues to exhibit high occupancy rates and stable rents. Similar to retail buildings, demand for high-quality office space is still strong in prime locations of major cities. Office space demand usually exceeds supply, as developers have been reluctant to invest in office space based on speculative demand. The commercial construction market is projected to contract by 0.2% in 2013 and recover thereafter to record a CAGR of 1.79% between 2013 to 2017.



The residential construction market across the region is among the worst affected, and has contributed substantially to the bleak financial situation facing countries Spain, Ireland and Greece. Property prices rose across the region in the pre-crisis years, leading to a construction boom in countries such as Spain and Ireland, while activity in other countries such as the UK, Belgium, Germany and France was more subdued. Governments across the region also invested heavily in infrastructure development before the economic crisis.



Construction activity over 2013 and 2014 is expected to move at a very sluggish pace. Austerity measures adopted by different countries to control the rising level of public debt are expected to hamper growth in all construction sectors. Of the few positive factors, inflation in the region has been fairly stable and nearer to central banks’ targets of 2%. High unemployment rates in the region have also kept labor costs under control. Relative stability in input costs has also provided some respite for the construction industry. It is expected that the Western European construction industry output value US$2.0 trillion in 2017 and record a CAGR of 1.79% between now and that time.



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