Bologna, Italy -- Confindustria Ceramica, the Italian Ceramics Association, reported 2017 sales reached €5.5 billion ($6.39 billion). Growth was driven primarily by the European Union market, which accounts for half of total Italian sales and saw 4% sales growth compared to the stagnation seen in the rest of the world.

“This marked a return to pre-crisis levels in terms of value,” said Emilio Mussini, Confindustria Ceramica’s vice chairman. “We reached sales of 422 million square meters after five years of slow expansion. These volumes are still 80 million sq.m short of pre-crisis levels, the volume lost in Italy.”

2018 results will depend heavily international politics.

“This year’s forecasts are strongly influenced by the debate on tariffs and the rise in interest rates in the U.S., both of which are factors that do not inspire optimism,” Mussini added.

The sector remains robust, largely due to the process of manufacturing internationalization which accounts for 14% of total turnover. Italy has 160 companies employing almost 23,000 people, with an output of 510 million square meters and total revenues of €6.4 billion, 73% of which are generated by exports. The country remains the world leader in international trade in terms of value with a share of 32%, ahead of China (25%) and Spain (16%).

The Italian tile industry is also stepping up its investments.

“Last year we invested €514 million, 29% up on the previous year,” Mussini said. “In the space of five years our industry has invested €1.8 billion in technology, including €1.3 billion in the last three years.”

The surge in 2017 was largely attributable to the government’s Industry 4.0 tax incentive program.

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