SteelFab 2011 participants note upward trend in regional market in past two months with Saudi Arabia playing key role.

Sharjah: SteelFab 2011, the region’s largest sourcing platform for the steel working industry, organised by Expo Centre Sharjah with the support from the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, concluded on a successful note yesterday (date). The four day event that exhibited more than 600 brands recorded an increase in the number of visitors by 16.85 percent compared to last year.

“The steel industry, which entered the recession in the best of health and took the worst of dips, has emerged as a leading indicator of what lies ahead. The seventh edition of SteelFab, featured 202 direct exhibitors this year, against 183 last year, registering an increase of nearly 10 per cent - a clear indication that the veil is lifting,” said Saif Al Midfa, director general , Expo Centre Sharjah.

“The trade registration figures for 2011 stand as 6,667 visitors against the 5,706 total trade registration in the 2010 edition – which is an overall increase of 16.85%,” added Al Midfa. With 2011 earmarked as the year of growth after the global slump, leading industry experts exhibiting at SteelFab voiced their optimism for the future of the industry. With the global steel market picking up in the last two months, industry giants look forward to a steady increase in demand for steel and steel related products. “We are optimistic that there will be an upward trend in the industry this year,” said Hani Arwani, sales manager, Arwani trading Company LLC, participating at SteelFab for the fifth consecutive year.

“The last two months have seen a sudden acceleration in construction around the world. Although I don’t see the industry exploding in the near future, I do see a very clear slow and steady pattern emerging with Saudi Arabia promising to become a strong buyer this year. “It is through such exhibitions as SteelFab that we gain vital exposure to this market. It serves as a fantastic platform to showcase the latest technology, create awareness and educate the trade visitors on the new developments and constant changes that’s inevitable in this industry,” he said.

While visitors to the exhibition comprised of a wide representation from the entire Gulf region this year, exhibitors predicted that the booming market for steel in the immediate future is Saudi Arabia, with the UAE coming in second. Although the demand for steel and steel related products in Qatar is expected to reach frantic levels thanks to the mammoth construction projects lined up for the 2020 World Cup to be hosted there, experts in the industry say it will take a year or two for the real purchasing to begin.

Not everyone in the industry has suffered by the slump claims Dr. Dirar Hafes, general manager of FICEP, Middle East.

“As a group we have not been affected by the global recession,” he said. “While sales in particular regions dropped drastically during the crisis year of 2009, we made it up in sales in other emerging markets like India in the same year.

“In the past two months however, sales have been monumental. The market is definitely reviving again, and participating at SteelFab has been a priority for us because it is a specialised exhibition, helping us concentrate on the right target audience.”

“The response from visitors this year, compared to the last two years has been very positive,” said Hans-Rolf Wiemann, managing director of Kahrl & Weimann, which has been associating with the past several editions of SteelFab. “We have had some serious inquiries and hope to generate some sales from SteelFab 2011.” Dr. Martin Riester, organizing member of the German Engineering Federation (VDMA), Germany’s official pavilion at SteelFab for the first time said their participation at Steelfab is a clear indication of the German steel industry bouncing back.

“Germany’s expectations for the steel industry this year is very optimistic. We feel the market will demand quality products again so it makes good sense to exhibit at trade fairs such as SteelFab which is the strongest steel sector exhibition in the region.”

The German companies participating under one umbrella for the first time have recorded positive feedback from visitors to the trade fair. “We use such exhibitions that provide excellent exposure to relevant market partners in the region to solidify sector related networking in the target market,” he said.

Not everyone sees the shiny side of the immediate future of the steel industry. Hilmi Abdullah, general manager of Mechanical Age, dealers in steel machinery, said this is a make it or break it time for most small and medium sized steel industries.

For Mostafa El Hageen, general manager of Comex International FZC, one of the largest exhibitors at SteelFab, the anticipated steel renaissance is a mixture of “hope and faith.”

“Although I wouldn’t say the industry is at a standstill, the recovery continues to be slow. This is the juncture at which exposure of your products at regional levels become important,” he said.

For some companies though, the exhibition is seen as platform for advertising rather than selling. “It is our presence here that is important,” said Nader Shahidiar, general manager of Prima Finn-Power. Participating for the third time, he claimed this year’s response has been below expectations. With the largest pavilion in the …… sector, he denotes their participation to “mainly advertising purposes, and for the visual presence of the company in an exhibition that plays a pivotal role in the steel industry in the region. “What makes this exhibition important is that it has gradually replaced the need of regional buyers to travel to world shows in Europe and the USA since SteelFab provides all their requirements,” he said.

Summing up the trade fair at large, “The quality of visitors at SteelFab is excellent. We have tried other exhibitions in the region and find SteelFab to be the only one for our business,” said Paul Von Doesburg, CEO of Gietart Middle East SteelFab is the region's only exclusive trade show that completely caters to the needs and demands of the Steel Working industry. The event is one of Middle East's largest displays of steel working machinery and hosts some of the world's most well established brands in the industry and their regional distributors and agents.

SteelFab 2011 was held at a total exhibition area of 16,000 square meters, featuring the Middle East's largest display of machinery, machine tools, welding equipment, supplies, consumables and ancillary equipment used in the pre and post-treatment of steel.

Apart from attracting leading manufacturers in the industry from all over the world, it boasts a visitor footprint covering the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia and the Indian Sub-continent.