Press Release on EBI Construction Activity Report Q1 2022
The Hungarian construction industry started off this year with an exceptionally high Activity Start indicator: nearly HUF 1,300 billion worth construction works started in Q1 2022. The Activity Start of EBI Construction Activity Report in the first quarter is a new record (construction works have never started in such a high value in one quarter) and exceeded the level of Q2 2021 (the highest so far) by almost 37%. Yet, this spike is mainly thanks to the launch of two major projects: 1) the Soroksár-Kelebia section of the Budapest-Belgrade railway corridor and 2) the road section between Kecskemét and Szentkirály on M44.
EBI Construction Activity Report Hungary analyses the construction industry on a quarterly basis, including the volume of newly started construction works and the value of projects completed in each quarter in aggregate and by segment as well. It is prepared by Buildecon, Eltinga (creation of indicators and development of algorithms for aggregation) and iBuild (project research and project database). The EBI Construction Activity Report Q1 2022 has been released and can be purchased at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stagnant building construction
The value of started building construction projects was slightly more than HUF 430 billion in the first 3 months of 2022; a good start to the year. The Activity Start of EBI Construction Activity Report was a bit below the value of the same period of the previous year but compared to the last two quarters of 2021, there has been no major change in the Activity Start of building construction. And the first 3 months of 2022 were considerably better than the period between April and December 2020.
Within building construction, the Activity Start of residential construction was modest: the value of started construction works stayed below HUF 90 billion. The Activity Start indicator of non-residential buildings was almost HUF 350 billion in Q1 2022, lower than the very strong first 2 quarters of 2021, but almost the same as the values of Q3 and Q4 2021.
The biggest started building projects in Q1 2022 included Kovács Katalin National Kayak-Canoe Sports Academy in Sukoró, eMAG logistics centre in Dunaharaszti, and ActiCity Event Center in Veszprém. In Budapest, the construction of BEM Center office building and Kimpton Hotel (District 2), as well as Phase 2 of Corvin 7 office building (District 8) entered construction phase.
Big numbers in civil engineering
Construction start on the Budapest-Belgrade railway line between Kelebia and Soroksár, and the section of M44 between Kecskemét and Szentkirály brought an outstanding Activity Start indicator for civil engineering. The total value of launched projects went up to an unprecedented HUF 850 billion between January and March 2022; twice the previous record value of Q1 2018. The Activity Start of civil engineering in the first 3 months of 2022 exceeded the full annual value of both 2020 and 2021.
The total value of road and railway construction works within civil engineering was almost HUF 800 billion thanks to these two large-scale projects. It is indeed the highest value of the last decade. But non-road and non-railway civil engineering projects, similarly to the last two quarters of 2021, started in a low value again.
In addition to these two big-volume projects, key civil engineering projects include the Phase 2 of main road 33 (Debrecen).
Like elsewhere in the EECFA countries that are not directly impacted by the war in Ukraine, construction market in Bulgaria entered a period of an increasing unpredictability. What stands behind is an interplay between domestic and external factors.
The Bulgarian construction market entered 2022 with a mixed performance: booming residential construction, stagnating non-residential one and a rather heterogeneous civil engineering. Residential construction benefited from favourable financing conditions and fears for inflation that turned property investments into a safe haven. At the same time, non-residential construction was struggling to recover from the Covid-19 shock. Civil engineering was heavily impacted by the lack of clear future prospects and direction because of the political turmoil in 2021 with three rounds of parliamentary elections, and the absence of new EU funding (Bulgaria’s Recovery and Resilience Plan was approved by the European Commission in April 2022, while the EU’s Operational Programmes are still not finalized).
The war in Ukraine, however, increased the level of uncertainty throughout the entire construction market. Building material costs and shortage and/or equipment shortage were the fastest growing factors limiting the activity of construction enterprises in February-April 2022. Despite the slow pace, the number of clients with payment delays over the last months was also on the rise. As a result, the overall business climate in the construction sector started to deteriorate rapidly in April (Source: NSI, Business survey in construction).
Simultaneously, the headwind from the pre-war period in the residential segment continues. Compared to Q1 2021, permitted residential buildings increased by 20%, dwellings in them by 8%, and their total built-up area by 14%. However, signs of cooling are in sight: compared to the previous quarter, permitted residential buildings decreased by 3.1%, the number of dwellings in them by 23.4%, as well as their total built-up area by 17.1%. On quarterly basis, started residential buildings in Q1 2022 dropped by 4%, their total built-up area contracted by 10%, although dwellings in them went up by 5% (NSI, building permits issued for construction of new buildings).
Similar trends are to be seen elsewhere. In Q1 2022 permitted administrative buildings decreased both in number (by 45%), and in total built-up area (by 54%) compared to the previous quarter. Issued permits for construction of other types of buildings are less by 8%, and their total built-up area down by 28%. On an annual basis, there is a reduction of issued permits for construction of administrative buildings and their total area, respectively by 35% and 82%. Permits issued for construction of other buildings sank by 4%, as well as their total built-up area by 1.3%. Against the previous quarter, started administrative buildings and their total built-up area shrank by 21% and 51%, respectively. Started other types of buildings also decreased by 6%, as well as their total built-up area by 15%.
What becomes evident from the data above is that the construction market is most likely to keep a high level of volatility triggered by two opposing market forces:
the need for investors to search for shelter from inflation and
the necessity for developers to adjust to market conditions they are not used to (material shortages, constant upward changes in prices of materials and fuels, and labour costs).
In that puzzle, the situation in Ukraine will further affect the sector, surely not in a predictable way and most probably neither in a positive one. However, the government is yet to finally start investments within the Recovery and Resilience Facility in 2022, which, accompanied by unleashing the EU funding from other sources in the years to come, might secure a soft landing for the sector before its potential new take-off when the market regains momentum again.
EECFA (Eastern European Construction Forecasting Association) conducts research on the construction markets of 8 Eastern-European countries, including Bulgaria. The current reports were issued in December 2021 and the next reports will be issued on 27 June 2022. For orders and sample report: eecfa.com
Written by Sergii Zapototskyi – UVECON, EECFA Ukraine
On 24 February, 2022, Russia, with the support of Belarus, started an open military attack on Ukraine. Since the first days of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, civilians, ambulances, orphanages, hospitals and residential areas have come under shelling and airstrikes; a deliberate massive violation of international humanitarian law. As per the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR), between the outbreak of hostilities and 2 May, 6469 civilian casualties were recorded (3153 killed and 3316 injured) in Ukraine and the territories controlled by the partially recognized republics of Donbass. Deceased civilians included 226 children, while the wounded comprised 319 children. In Donetsk and Luhansk regions there were 3241 casualties (1,638 killed and 1,603 injured), including 484 casualties (99 killed and 385 injured) on the territory controlled by the self-proclaimed republics. OHCHR believes that civilian casualties are likely to be ‘considerably higher’, though, especially in Mariupol, Popasnaya, Izium and Borodianka where intense fighting has taken place and is continuing.
The invasion has caused a major migration crisis: according to the UN, as of 26 April, 5.32 million refugees left Ukraine, mostly to Poland (2.848 million), Romania (0.764 million), Russia 0.563 million), Hungary (0.476 million), Moldova (0.429 million), Slovakia (0.346 million), and Belarus (0.024 million). As of 21 March, roughly 6.5 million people became internally displaced, mostly women with children and elderly people. According to UNICEF, more than half of the children in Ukraine have become refugees. At present, according to opinion polls, 73% of refugees seek to return home, but if the war drags on, and the scale of destruction caused by the shelling of peaceful cities by Russian troops increases, the vast majority of migrants will simply have nowhere to return.
The 9 most affected regions account for 30% of Ukraine’s GDP. GDP contraction in 2022 is forecasted to range from 10% to 35%-40% (provided that the occupied territories do not increase, and the active phase will last for several months). These figures correspond to a reduction in electricity consumption of around 35% (published by DTEK, the largest private investor in the energy industry in Ukraine). The sources of at least 70% of Ukrainian GDP remain more or less intact. Total losses of the Ukrainian economy (direct and indirect) due to the war range from USD 564 billion to USD 600 billion. Direct documented damage to infrastructure is estimated at USD 88 billion. In the last week of April, direct losses to the Ukrainian economy due to destruction and damage to civilian and military infrastructure grew by USD 3.1 billion.
In total, 535 kindergartens, 866 institutions of secondary and higher education, 231 medical institutions, 173 factories and enterprises, at least 75 administrative buildings, 277 bridges and bridge crossings, 11 military airfields, 11 airports and 2 ports are damaged or destroyed in Ukraine. There is not a single hospital in Luhansk region with no damage and in places of active hostilities there are military doctors and the wounded and seriously ill are evacuated to safe places. Also, as of the end of April, at least 95 religious and 130 other cultural buildings were damaged, destroyed or seized: 47 religious buildings, 9 museums, 28 historical buildings, 3 theaters, 12 monuments, 3 libraries and more.
Damage to export and agriculture
Export of goods from Ukraine is limited as Russian troops blocked Ukrainian ports in the Azov and Black Seas. Road and rail infrastructure can also transport limited volumes of goods due to the mass evacuation of Ukrainians by railway and roadblocks. By sea, Ukraine transported 62% of the total dollar value of goods, while by rail 12% and by road 23%.
Agriculture is a direct victim of the Russian aggression with the fighting often taking place on Ukrainian fields/farms. About 13% of the territory of Ukraine is covered with landmines plotted by Russians. There is a risk of a protracted war in Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions whose share of wheat production is 23%, corn is 3%, barley is 21% and sunflower seeds is 20%.
The main prerequisite for the post-war economic recovery is for Ukraine to receive reliable security guarantees that hostilities will not resume on her territory. In the absence of this, private investment will be reduced to zero, economic activity will be stifled, and security costs will have to be relied on business, raising the cost of economic activity and undermining competitiveness.
Key goals of the post-war economic recovery should be: i) real estates and infrastructure destroyed or damaged in the war should be restored; ii) economic activity should resume swiftly; iii) refugees and internally displaced persons should return and be involved in economic processes; and iv) foundations for a sustainable economic growth should be established.
In the long run, rebuilding and restoring Ukraine will cost at least USD 600 billion, including not only the restoration of infrastructure, but also the development of a new economy and new European institutions. Options for funding might comprise the frozen assets of the Russian Federation and the European and American funds for the restoration of Ukrainian infrastructure. The EU plans to create a solidarity trust fund to finance the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine (similarly to the Covid-19 recovery fund) and finance investments and reforms in agreement with the government of Ukraine. It is not yet clear how much will be provided through grants or loans as the war in Ukraine still rages on, but the EU told ambassadors that the figure would reach hundreds of billions of euros within decades. The Ukrainian diplomacy should focus on obtaining the EU candidate status and then obtaining full membership; so the program of post-war reconstruction should be harmonized with the tasks of EU membership and ensure the inclusion of Ukraine in the European pre-accession training programs.