Market conditions and price developments
In line with our expectations, market demand and price developments in 2019 for most key product categories were less favorable than the previous year. In our industry segments, the total tonnage from stock was significantly below the total stock tonnage sold in 2018. The total level of demand in the construction and building segments in Europe was excellent throughout the year, but specifically the demand from customers in the equipment manufacturing segment slowed down towards the end of the year.
At the beginning of the year, business activity in the energy segments was slow, however this improved significantly in the second half of the year. Our worldwide project teams successfully executed large projects in North America, Asia and Europe. At year-end 2019, our project order book was at an equally high level in comparison to year-end 2018.
Due to gradually lower demand and overcapacity at manufacturers, material prices for carbon steel welded and seamless materials decreased throughout the year. The import quotas imposed by the European Union had only limited effect on price levels due to the decrease in overall demand. On the other hand, stainless steel material prices increased throughout the year due to the import restrictions imposed on Asian seamless pipe manufacturers, and long delivery times.
A further consolidation is likely to take place on the European steel market. Some pipe manufacturers are restructuring their operations, reducing capacity, or are trying to combine forces. A number of reputable pipe manufacturers have been put up for sale or are likely to close down in the near future.