After a physiological decline due to the pandemic The turnover of the district manufacturing companies registered a rise of + 25.2%: 4.3% more than in 2019. An important contribution came from exports, which in 2021 they reached 133 billion euros, reaching a new historical record. . Only the fashion system has not yet fully recovered what was lost in 2020. These are the data that emerges from the fourteenth edition of the Economic and Financial Report of the Industrial Districts of Intesa Sanpaolo.
The Chairman of the Board Gian Maria Gros-Pietro, the chief economist Gregorio De Happy and the head of Banking Industry and Research Fabrizio Guelpa presented the report that shows the difficulty of companies to operate with volatile and high commodity prices that can jeopardize their economic and financial balance.
The unfortunate Russian invasion of Ukraine changed the plans of many companies because the Russian and Ukrainian markets of the Districts were worth 3.2 billion euros in 2021, 2.4% of the total. The most exposed regions are Veneto (805 million euros), Lombardy (771 million) and Emilia-Romagna (531 million). In terms of incidence, Umbria (10.8%) and Marche (5.7%) stand out, followed at a distance by Abruzzo (3.1%).
If supply problems caused by the pandemic and then amplified by the Russian invasion lead to a continental regionalization of global value chains, opportunities could open up for Italian districts thanks to the presence of structured supply chains and a good core of resilience. companies .. «The geopolitical risk triggered by the conflicts in Eastern Europe represents a problem for trade relations. However, at the same time, it could lead us to think about a different system of globalization “, explained De Felice.
Not only does the war change the macroeconomic scenario: inflation is permanent. As an excess of demand, there is an interruption in the expansionary phase of monetary policy. This is already a necessary premise, which forces us to produce new considerations regarding the future that awaits us.
We are facing an economic slowdown, but historically the Districts have always been able to preside over foreign markets. The data in the report confirm the high competitiveness of the Districts at the international level. In the first quarter of 2022, exports increased by 19.3%, with peaks exceeding 20% in many regions: among these Lombardy (+ 25.5%), Umbria (+ 25.2%), Friuli -Venice Julia (+ 24.5%), Puglia (+ 24.1%), Tuscany (+ 23.3%). Comparison with pre-pandemic levels shows 16% progress.
Then, the districts can count on a core of leading companies that have proven resilient during the pandemic. 845 companies in the district, equivalent to 4.7% of the total, grew in 2020, recorded good levels of EBITDA margin (over 8%) and a degree of capitalization over 20%, in addition to showing an increase of employees between 2018 and 2020. These Especially resilient companies are more widespread among medium-large entities and in some sectors (means of transport, agri-food, mechanical and intermediate). Lombardy (262) and Veneto (208) stand out for the number of champion companies, while Trentino-Alto Adige (9.2%), Campania (6.4%) and Puglia (6%) stand out in terms of incidence .
A key point to react to the situation is a strong return on investment: focus on the environment. And more can be done. Reading the report, it is observed that in a sector such as the wood furniture of intensive district, in the last three years just under 4 one in three companies has acquired efficient machinery that reduces energy consumption. It even falls below 6% if we consider the share of companies that have made investments in plants for the production of electricity from renewable sources or for the production of thermal energy from renewable sources or of cogeneration and / or valorisation of heat.
Another area for improvement is governance. The ability of companies to renew and enhance their skills and open more easily to the technological and green transition can also be facilitated by generational change. In the biennium 2020-21 the process of generational renewal seems to have slowed down: the proportion of companies in the district that have made changes to its board has fallen, in fact, to 13.2% in 2020 and 12.2% in 2021, then, between 2016 and 2019, it had always been well above 14%, remaining, however, above non-county areas.
“The Italy it produces is made up of well-equipped and competent production units,” explains Gros-Pietro. “They are an engine, and we have to trust them. The data show that we are facing deep and very wide changes, geopolitical conditions have changed, there is climate change, “he added.” This is an opportunity. We need investments. Liquidity is there. It is time to activate the capital. You just have to choose the guidelines.
The presence of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan is essential, of which most Italians are still unaware. Of the 400 billion, Intesa has allocated 270 billion to companies. “Digitization is one of the guidelines mentioned to intervene in the ecological, energy and global transition. That is where we have to move our investments “, concludes the Chairman of the Board of Directors.