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Two out of three sectors are in crisis, pharmaceuticals are resisting

Construction, metallurgy and distribution are the sectors most penalized by the slowdown in the global economy. Closely followed, in the risk ranking, by agri-food, cars and electronics. While the pharmaceutical, and to a lesser extent energy and transport, are still showing resilience. This is the ranking drawn up by Coface, the French trade credit insurance giant, which has just published its first "Overview of sectors".

There are 14 sectors taken into consideration, in three macro-regions: emerging Asia, North America and the European Union. The study is based on the revenues, financial strength and payment habits of 6,000 companies. Two-thirds of industries have risk factors.

Construction is considered by Coface to be particularly at risk in southern Europe, where, for example, the real estate bubble that brought Spain to its knees has not yet resolved. Investments and projects continue to decline and a recovery in the short term is not conceivable. Companies in the sector are heavily indebted and missed payments are not "so unusual, especially in Italy". In the United States, the first signs of a turnaround are arriving, after prices lost 30% compared to the peak reached in July 2006. In short, the bottom may have been hit here.

Another sector in serious crisis in Europe is the metallurgical sector: the sector suffers from production overcapacity at a time of profound difficulty for its main customers, the automotive and construction industries. Falling demand is adding to downward price pressures in a business that has very high fixed costs and tight margins and which has plunged more than 40 percent this year. The situation is just a little better in the United States, while in China the slowdown in economic growth and the initiatives taken by the Government to deflate the real estate bubble forced many companies in the sector to end the year with a loss, with profit indexes down by 38 percent.

Budgets in the red also for agri-food companies: the difficulties in honoring payments are increasing especially in Spain and Italy. Turning to the sectors that "defend themselves", the pharmaceutical sector stands out above all. The increase in health care costs is filling the sails of manufacturers in Europe and the United States. However, efforts by governments to lower drug spending could negatively impact reimbursements and increase competition for generic drugs. Great potential can be opened up in China, where the process of building a universal healthcare system has begun, in line with the Government's objective of shifting the development model towards domestic demand. India is also doing well, where the pharmaceutical industry is healthy and can count on highly qualified personnel.

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Fedaiisf Federazione delle Associazioni Italiane degli Informatori Scientifici del Farmaco e del Parafarmaco