Belgium

In-depth country-focused analysis on Belgium's economic, political and operational risk environment, complemented by detailed sector insight

Belgium

Our comprehensive assessment of Belgium's operating environment and the outlook for its leading sectors are formed by bringing together a wealth of data on global markets that affect Belgium, as well as the latest industry developments that could impact Belgium's industries. This unique integrated approach has given us an impeccable track-record for predicting important shifts in the markets, ensuring you’re aware of the latest market opportunities and risks in Belgium before your competitors.

Country Risk

Belgium Country Risk

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Core Views

  • Economic growth will be constrained by the introduction of austerity measures by the incumbent government. Significant fiscal cutbacks will dampen disposable income and consumer spending during 2015-2016.

  • A weaker euro will provide a moderate boost to Belgium's exporters over the forecast period.

  • Belgium's extremely high national debt continues to leave it exposed to a potential deterioration in economic growth exasperating debt servicing pressure and also the possibility of yields increasing due to eurozone instability.

Key Risks To Outlook

  • Downside Risks To Medium-Term Growth: There...

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Belgium Industry Coverage (9)

Autos

Belgium Autos

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The Belgian new vehicle sales market contracted slightly in 2014, down by 0.5% year-on-year (y-o-y). This was a slightly better performance than the 1.9% fall predicted by BMI, but still bore out our pessimistic view on the market.

In 2014, there were a total of 545,255 passenger cars, commercial vehicles (CVs) and buses sold in Belgium, according to figures from Febiac (the Belgian motor car and motorcycle association). This marked a 0.5% fall on the 547,904 passenger cars, CVs and buses sold in the country during 2012.

Breaking down the headline figure, passenger car sales stood at 482,939 units (-0.6%) for 2014. LCV sales were effectively flat on the year, down by 0.1%, at 53,373 units. Medium HCV sales (3.5 - 16 tonnes) were up by 1.3%, at 1,494, with HCV sales (over 16 tonnes) up by 2%, at 6,307 units. The strongest growth was seen by the bus sub-segment, which rose by 49.3%, to 1,142 units...

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Freight Transport

Belgium Freight Transport

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BMI View: Following a year in which BMI believes saw increasing volumes across the whole of Belgium's freight transport sector, with the port of Antwerp posting its highest ever throughput figures, 2015 will signal further growth in all freight modes in line with the country's macroeconomic outlook.

Total trade is projected to pick up with our Country Risk desk forecasting a y-o-y increase of 3% in 2015 following an estimated growth of 2% in 2014.

Road freight is to continue to dominate the sector and is projected to grow by 1.6% in 2015. The mode did not manage to defy the downturn and so far appears to be struggling to recover to its pre-2008 volumes.

BMI notes that inland waterway freight, having fully recovered its 2006 levels, continues increasing its share...

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Insurance

Belgium Insurance

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BMI View : We have a negative short-term outlook for Belgium's life and non-life insurance segments, but expect recovery in both from 2017 onwards. As such, economic pressures will initially weigh on insurers' ability to increase their written premiums; however, improvements in households' disposable incomes will translate into greater demand for both life and non-life insurance. We forecast particularly rapid growth in health insurance, due Belgium's ageing population paired with consequently rising private healthcare expenses. Overall, we underscore long-term investment opportunities in Belgium's insurance sector.

Belgium's life and non-life insurance segments are highly developed. Insurance providers in both segments are expected to experience downwards pressure on their...

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Medical Devices

Belgium Medical Devices

Metals

Belgium Metals

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BMI View: Belgium's steel sector is starting to enter a period of relative stability. Having witnessed significant decline over recent years, we are now beginning to see production levels stabilising due to gradually improving consumption levels and the diminished output capacity of producers. 

As we move into 2015, there are increasing signs that the depression in Belgian steel production has bottomed out. Total output grew by 4.5% year-on-year (y-o-y) during the first eight months of 2014 to September, with full year growth estimated at 3.6%. With production forecast to average just over 1% a year over 2015-2018, we expect output to have found a stable footing following periods of sharp contraction, intermingled with sharp rebounds over the past few years.

...

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Oil & Gas

Belgium Oil & Gas

Petrochemicals

Belgium Petrochemicals

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The Belgian petrochemicals industry is attracting investment due to its strong infrastructural advantages, but could still feel the effects of a downturn in the eurozone that would threaten profit margins, according to BMI's latest Belgium Petrochemicals Report.

Belgium hosts leading petrochemicals companies with a strong and well integrated value chain. Antwerp's status in terms of both high-quality and cost-effective production, as well as extensive access to markets and its infrastructure are appealing to petrochemicals players as is its open economy with foreign trade representing more than 80% of GDP.

However, a lack of domestic markets for Belgian petrochemicals output exposes it to strong external risk. Belgium is specialised in only a few segments and risks being outflanked by high volume producers in the Middle East, which have indigenous hydrocarbons resources. There is also limited...

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Pharmaceuticals & Healthcare

Belgium Pharmaceuticals & Healthcare

Telecommunications

Belgium Telecommunications

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BMI View : Better than expected growth in the mobile market and higher usage of operator-billed services were seen in the third quarter of 2014. In part, this was due to an intensification of price competition and the withdrawal of a number of MVNOs, allowing key players to deepen their influence over the market. The rollout of 4G services also played a key part in this more buoyant growth story. Nevertheless, the cold truth is that the market is now highly saturated and there are few organic growth opportunities left for the remaining players to tap. Convergence-led strategies provide one lifeline, but only Proximus can directly benefit as Mobistar has yet to relaunch its TV-led wireline business and BASE has withdrawn its TV offer and scales back its...

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