The Italian ceramic machinery industry closed fiscal 2003 with a downturn, according to the Italian Ceramic Plant and Machinery Manufacturers' Association (ACIMAC). Preliminary estimates point to a fall in total turnover in the region of 3-5%, down to 1380-1400 million euro compared to the 1452 million euro of 2002. Nonetheless, the decline is less severe than suggested by forecasts a few months ago, which predicted a likely fall in the region of 8-10%. "Things have gone better than expected," said Franco Stefani, chairman. Commenting on the negative figure (2003 is the third negative year running for the sector), he confirmed that the most substantial fall in demand for ceramic machinery is in the European market. "Italy and Spain, the largest European tile producers and second only to China, already have a production capacity that is higher than the real potential of the end market, and in Spain in particular effective production is already being reduced," said Stefani. "These markets are now saturated in terms of quantities and we will have to make product or process innovations if we are to boost sales in the future." The fall in Europe was partly offset by a strong sales performance in the Middle East (particularly Iran), Eastern Europe and Asia (including China). And on the strength of the positive signs emerging from these areas, Stefani believes that a recovery in the sector is very probable, even as early as the first half of 2004.
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