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Manufacturer confidence levels remained low amid challenging outlook

Home Business Management Facilities Management Manufacturer confidence levels remained low amid challenging outlook

ACCORDING to Absa’s manufacturer confidence index, overall business confidence during the fourth quarter remained unchanged at 26 points, after two consecutive quarterly declines. This was in part due to pressure from loadshedding, water restrictions and transport constraints which continue to weigh on local manufacturers, the bank said in a media statement.

“Despite Q4 being a peak sales period for manufacturers, increased production costs and insufficient demand as consumers struggle with the rising cost of living hampered potential improvements in confidence this quarter,” said Justin Schmidt, head of the manufacturing sector at Absa Relationship Banking.  “Additionally, insufficient demand will remain a concern as many manufacturers expect export volumes and sales orders to decline in the next quarter.”

The quarterly survey, which covers approximately 700 businesspeople in the manufacturing sector, was conducted by the Bureau for Economic Research (BER) at Stellenbosch University between October 26 and November 14, 2022. The confidence index ranges between zero and 100, with zero reflecting an extreme lack of confidence and 100 extreme confidence where all participants are satisfied with current business conditions.

According to the survey, whilst confidence in the fourth quarter may be unchanged, most manufacturers remained pessimistic about the expected business conditions in the next 12 months. Likely driven by rising operating costs as manufacturers implement methods to remain productive during bouts of loadshedding.

“With the increased production cost and unchanged selling prices, margins might continue to be under pressure this quarter making management of working capital paramount going forward,” Schmidt noted.

Positively, some manufacturers indicated an increase in their fixed investment realised in Q4. “This may be indicative that manufacturers are investing in renewable energy projects and energy efficient machinery and equipment to curb the impact of loadshedding and hedge against rising electricity costs,” Schmidt said.

Although the manufacturing sector is struggling to gain growth momentum, there are positive factors that may improve the sector’s final fourth quarter production numbers. The rise in manufacturing’s contribution to Q3 GDP shows the ability of the sector to remain resilient and continue making a positive impact on the South African economy. “Absa remains committed to supporting investment into green energy projects as both a risk mitigation strategy for manufacturers and a way to reduce carbon emissions. Fixed investment will be key to the growth and recovery of the sector and the overall economy going forward,” added Schmidt.

“With many manufacturers currently investing in their own energy generation and exploring ways to consume less energy, Absa remains committed to support the manufacturing industry along their journey,” he added.

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