Aluminum sales hit snag

Greek aluminum producers expect to take a hit from the economic slowdown in the European Union, with overall exports this year expected to remain at the half year level. Exports of semi-finished aluminum increased by 8 percent in the first six months of the year. In the face of the economic uncertainties in Europe, the pace of growth over the rest of the year is not expected to pick up, Costas Katsaros, president of the Aluminum Association of Greece, told Kathimerini English Edition. «Exports will definitely be affected by the European economic slowdown, with an 8 to 10 percent rise expected for the whole year,» he said. He declined to put a figure on sales this year. The sector reported revenues close to 3 billion euros last year, 54 percent of which came from exports and the remainder from the domestic market. The EU market accounted for 57 percent of exports, while countries in the Balkans and the Black Sea region made for 14 percent of the total. Underscoring the ongoing construction boom and the spate of large infrastructure projects in progress, Greek construction companies constituted the primary clients of the aluminum industry last year, using 59 percent or 77,000 tons of the products targeted for the domestic market. Katsaros said the aluminum sector could take off next year as the Balkan reconstruction program kicks off and the economies in neighboring countries develop. Ilias Iliaskou, vice president of the association, said the aluminum industry has nothing to fear after 2004, when infrastructure projects related to the Olympic Games come to an end and just a year before community funds dry up. «The fact that exports constitute more than half of sales is encouraging. Also, areas of growth in the future are offices, home renovation and packaging,» he said.