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Materials Sector Analysis

Materials are wholly or partially unprocessed substances used in manufacturing finished products or components or in construction.

Commodities such as metals, plastic, wood, cement and fiber are widely used in most large industries, including oil and gas, construction, automobile, aerospace, pharmaceuticals, mining and packaging.

Rapid industrialization and urbanization, increasing consumption of all kinds of consumer goods, and the resulting rising demand for the manufacture and transportation of various goods are key factors which are raising global demand for all kinds of materials.

Materials Industry Key Segments

Key segments of the materials industry include:

Construction materials– the raw materials used for erecting buildings and making roads. They include rubber & resin, bricks, sand (and therefore glass), gravel, rock, clay, granite, limestone, marble, gypsum, lime, fiber, cement, concrete and other minerals. Stone-processing operations such as quarrying, filtering, bleaching, crushing, cutting and sizing are used to produce construction materials. The global market value of construction materials is nearing $1 trillion.

Metals – Hard and ductile materials with good electrical and thermal conductivity. Metals are of two broad types – ferrous metals and non-ferrous metals. Ferrous metals, such as mild steel, carbon steel, stainless steel, cast iron and wrought iron contain large concentrations of iron. Non-ferrous metals include aluminum, brass, copper, nickel, tin, lead, and zinc, as well as precious metals like gold and silver. Industries such as manufacturing, construction, mining, oil and gas depend on one or more metals. The global market value of metals is about $850 billion. ArcelorMittal, ThyssenKrupp, Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal and Rio Tinto Alcan are among the key metal processors.

Paper, Plastic and Wood – Are a key segment of the materials industry.

Materials Business Regional Market Shares

Asia, North America and Europe are the largest markets for materials.

Asia’s is still one of the largest markets for materials despite a recent slowdown in China, which accounts for the largest share of the commodities market in this region. China’s many large-scale manufacturing companies and its construction boom are the primary reason for the high demand for various kinds of materials in China. China manufactures about one-fourth of all goods globally. Japan, South Korea and India are other countries with high levels of demand for raw materials for manufacturing.

North America, particularly the USA, is another key market for materials. Large-scale investment for improving infrastructure and new construction, its high defense budgets for aircraft manufacturing and the presence of a large number of manufacturing companies help explain the USA’s large share of the materials market.

Europe too is a significant market for materials. Construction and manufacturing activities especially support high levels of demand for materials in this region. For instance, the European Union imported more than 30 million tonnes of steel in a recent year.

Materials Market Outlook

Production of bioplastics. Bioplastics (and other advanced materials) are derived from biological substances such as vegetable fats and oils, corn starch or microbiota and are suitable for packaging, construction and transportation. Polylactic acid (PLA), poly-3-hydroxybutyrate (PHB), poly hydroxyl alkanoates (PHA), polyesters starch and cellulose blends are among the widely-used bioplastics. Leading bioplastic producers include Novamont SPA, Metabolix Inc., BASF SE, Natureworks LLC and Corbion Purac. The market for bioplastics is likely to reach $30 billion in a few years.

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