According to "Polymers in Cables - the European Market", an industry study performed by Applied Market Information Ltd. (AMI Consulting), in 2013 the European market for cables was worth circa EUR 20 billion. Expressed in terms of plastic compound-on-the-cable, this market lost circa 15% of its 2007 peak volume. However, the performance has not been uniform - some regions performed considerably better than others.
Cables are used either to transport electrical power or to convey data. Most typically, they consist of metal conductors and plastic compounds, the latter providing electrical insulation, as well as mechanical, thermal and chemical protection. Some cables are complex in design, with multiple conductors, insulation, shielding and protection layers.
Cables are utilised in many sectors, especially in building and infrastructure, in transport (automotive, railway rolling stock, naval applications), as well as in electro-domestic appliances and industrial equipment.
A wide variety of plastic compounds are used in cable applications, where they help fulfil the exacting requirements of users and of modern regulation. Often, there are multiple competing solutions - indeed the study analyses in depth the various inter-solution and inter-material competition trends. Technological progress generates frequent improvements in materials and processes.
AMI Consulting's study found that circa 200 firms manufacture cables in Europe, operating more than 300 production sites. From a structural point of view, Europe's cable manufacturing industry may be described as comprising a "leading pack" of large groups, followed by a long tail of relatively small, specialised or local players.
European producers face significant challenges, including commoditisation of certain types of products, competition with non-European imports and regulatory changes. European manufacturers are adjusting their strategies in an effort to avoid the threats and exploit the opportunities arising from the market dynamics. As a result, some companies will emerge as winners, while others will find it increasingly difficult to compete. This is likely to result, in the following years, in deep structural changes in the industry.