Hungarian construction industry couldn’t pull itself together in Q3

In previous quarters the analysts of EBI Construction Activity Report broadly discussed the negative effects of the pandemic on the domestic construction industry. The latest figures also suggest that there is still no improvement in the sector after a weak first half of the year.

EBI Construction Activity Report Q3 2020

In the first three quarters of 2020, construction works started at a 20% lower value than in the same period of 2019, even though the beginning of the year got off to a good start in construction. The value of Activity Start indicator stood only at HUF 1,484 billion, the lowest amount in the last 4 years. Between July and September, less than HUF 390 billion worth of construction projects started, which is also a negative record because since Q4 2016 we haven’t seen such a low Activity Start in Hungary. Compared to Q2, there was an 18% slump between July and September, according to EBI Construction Activity Report.

EBI Construction Activity Report examines the situation of domestic 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 sector as well. It is prepared by Buildecon, Eltinga (creation of indicators and development of algorithms for aggregation) and iBuild (project research and project database). Full publications can be purchased at ebi@ibuild.info.

In the first 9 months of 2020, 42% of construction works started in Central Hungary and 30% in Western Hungary, so works started in both areas at a higher rate than the average of previous years. Looking at Q3 alone, Western Hungary’s share is outstanding (45%) due to the launch of several major projects such as the one for Main Road 83 (Győr-Pápa).

Although Q2 saw higher numbers in civil engineering than Q1, Q3 registered another drop in Activity Start. Thus, overall, construction projects in the subsector started in a significantly smaller value in the first 9 months of 2020 than in the same period of 2019. Against the first three quarters of 2019, the value of started construction works was 36% lower. The Activity Start indicator accounted for HUF 470 billion (out of which only HUF 145 billion between July and September). Considering the past 3 to 4 years, figures for the first three quarters are rather weak. It was only in 2015-2016 when the value of projects entering construction phase was lower. In the first 9 months, road and railway as well as non-road and non-railway civil engineering segments were characterized by the same drop as in the previous year. Among civil engineering works, for example, construction phases 1 and 2 of Main Road 83 started in Q3.

Building construction did not improve in Q3 either. Between July and August projects started at a lower value than in Q2, totalling HUF 244 billion – the lowest level since Q4 2016. According to EBI Construction Activity Report, the value of Activity Start indicator amounted to HUF 1 billion for the first 9 months of the year (a 10% shrinkage like-for-like).

The rate of decline was bigger in case of multi-unit housing construction: January and September 2020 saw a 35% lower value of started such projects like-for-like. In case of non-residential buildings, the difference was only 3%, which was mainly due to the high numbers in Q1. The Activity Start indicator in Q2 (which was low compared to the last three years) was followed by an even weaker Q3. Yet, larger projects did start in this period. For instance, among non-residential projects Q3 2020 saw the start of Phase II of the University of Physical Education in Budapest (sports hall and underground garage: Csörsz block), renovation works of Csokonai National Theatre and Latinovits Theatre (Debrecen), Phase III of BalaLand FamilyPark (Szántód) and the revamp of Allee shopping centre (Budapest).

Even compared to the previous weak quarters, Q3 2020 brought a deteriorating Activity Start for multi-unit housing construction. Projects entered construction on a value of only HUF 21 billion, a level not seen since 2014, and the low number of projects already evoked the low levels of 2013 during the crisis. No wonder that figures for the first 9 months have been a multi-year negative record since 2015, with Activity Start amounting to only HUF 154 billion.

Q3 2020 also saw a record broken for completions of multi-unit housing projects, with homes never being completed in such a high value as in July-September. The value of Activity Completion indicator was HUF 122 billion. This peak is estimated to be broken in Q4 with the value of Activity Completion being HUF 193 billion, according to EBI Construction Activity Report.

But the announcements in recent weeks that affect the housing market may bring major changes in the segment. Although resetting the VAT rate on new homes from 5% to 27% this January largely contributed to this year’s dramatic drop in Activity Start, the VAT rate is set to fall back to 5% from next January in case of constructions that start until the end of 2022. Moreover, families can even be exempted from paying the 5% VAT. The new regulations are set to kick-start projects again, so the analysts of EBI Construction Activity Report expect a considerable improvement in the Activity Start indicator.

Figures on the pandemic impact on Hungarian construction

Press Release on EBI Construction Activity Report Q2 2020 – Hungary

When assessing the first quarter of 2020, analysts of EBI Construction Activity Report Q1 2020 already highlighted the impact of the pandemic on the Hungarian construction industry. Back then, they did it with the help of a forecast based on limited available data, but since then actual data have been released and the impact of the pandemic on the sector can be assessed in detail.

Prepared by Buildecon, Eltinga (creation of indicators and development of algorithms for aggregation) and iBuild (project research and project database), EBI Construction Activity Report examines the domestic construction industry on a quarterly basis, including the volume of newly started construction works, and the value of projects completed in a given quarter by aggregate and by subsector as well. Owing to the pandemic, the analysts of EBI decided to follow the changes affecting the construction industry even more closely and run a monthly update of the EBI visualizations for Start, Completion and the resulting Output for each segment. Full publications can be purchased at ebi@ibuild.info.

In Hungary, the pandemic imposed major restrictions from mid-March on, which only slightly affected construction works starting or getting completed in Q1 2020. However, April and May were marked by severe measures. Figures for the second quarter of the year show that even though the pandemic had had an impact on the sector, there was no drastic fall. It is certain that construction projects did not start at such a low value in Hungary since the last quarter of 2016, and there was a big slump against the beginning of 2020, but compared to the figures of the last and first quarters of 2019, the difference is not so much. It is therefore worth taking a closer look at exactly which segments saw a downturn, as some of the drop may have been caused by other market processes in addition to the pandemic.

While in Q2 2020 construction works started in the construction industry on a total value of HUF 418 billion, in Q1 2020 this figure was HUF 606 billion. Thus, a strong start to the year (an increase over the end of last year) was followed by a 30% decrease. Yet, the renovation works of M3 metro line and the next phase of the Samsung project in Göd started in Q1, contributing with a significant amount to the high Activity Start Indicator of EBI Construction Activity Report Q1 2020. Overall, the first half of the year has not yet seen a major decline in the value of construction works that started in the construction industry, although it is true that it has now hit its lowest level since 2016.

In H1 2020 a major share (45%) of started construction works were concentrated in the Central Hungary region. This was mainly thanks to the higher investment numbers in Q1, so in Q2 the region had a similar share to the previous years. The rest of the country also had a very similar share of started new construction works to previous years.

Q1 2020 sees rush to complete ongoing projects in Romania

Written by Dr. Sebastian Sipos-Gug – Ebuild, EECFA Romania

The first quarter of the year 2020, mostly starting with mid-February, was marked by ominous economic forecasts. Thus, some decline in construction activity was to be expected, and indeed newly started construction projects dropped to just over EUR 1.3bln in Q1 2020. This amounts to a 14% decrease compared to the equivalent period of 2019, according to the latest edition of the EBI Construction Activity Report for Romania.

At the same time, the amount spent on construction increased by 25%. Coupled with the record amount of completed construction works (nearly double that of the first quarters in each of the previous 5 years), lends us to the conclusion that investment was increased in order to rush and complete the (at the time) ongoing projects, before the anticipated negative economic impact of Covid-19 took place.

Covid-19 changes in reporting frequency

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the accompanying economic impact, the data visualization for EBI Construction Activity Report is currently updated on a monthly basis, rather than quarterly.

Renovation activity increases in building construction

Building constructions started for the first quarter of 2020 dropped by 3% over the same period of 2019. However, the amount of new building construction for Q1 2020 is actually higher than in the first quarters of 2014-2018, and thus this small drop is more due to the good performance in 2019 than a clear sign of decline for 2020.

Looking at renovation figures, however, we can notice a somewhat new trend: that of increased renovation activity. While new building construction can, and in some cases was, pushed back due to uncertainty regarding the economic conditions, renovation works are less prone to this effect since they are more urgent in nature. Furthermore, as government measures started to be implemented in March, individuals and businesses alike needed to make adjustments to their living and working conditions: spaces were converted to quarantine centres, offices and industry alike had to adapt to new conditions and started to ensure layouts that allow more social distancing, hospital wings were relocated and so on.

Civil engineering output exceeds expectations, but low activity starts caution about future

The first quarter of 2020 saw an estimated expenditure of EUR 804mln on civil engineering projects, exceeding any single quarter since data aggregation started in 2014. The high level of output achieved came with the completion of many ongoing works and comes with a significant caveat: the quarter was also markedly worse than the previous year in terms of Activity Starts, with a 38% drop over Q1 2019. The most notable drops in new projects were in the segments of road and public utilities. Both reportedly had quite an increase in output over the same period, and thus the focus here seemed to be completion, rather than starting new projects.

Regional disparities in new construction activity

Despite the national-level decline in new activity, a large level of regional disparity can be noticed. The Center, South and West regions are showing an actual increase in construction starts compared to Q1 2019 in several segments, moving against the overall trend of the country. This could be an indicator of the higher level of resilience of local construction markets and a higher investor confidence in local economies. These regions might also be tardier in their response to the anticipated crisis, but it’s something to keep an eye on in the future and more data will show how resilient they are.  

EBI Construction Activity Report

The EBI Construction Activity Report is a quarterly publication that relies on the project information database of iBuild and is prepared by Buildecon and Eltinga. It comprises an analysis of projects based upon several object types: multi-unit residential construction, non-residential (further split into 9 segments) and civil engineering (split into 8 segments). The report offers information about the number and value of projects started or completed, and an estimate of the total amount spent on each segment in that quarter. If you would like to receive a data visualization for the EBI Construction Activity Report free of charge, please write to us at the ebi@ibuild.info e-mail address.

Lowest figures in started construction projects in Hungary in the past 3 years

The last quarter of 2019 saw another significant decline in launched construction projects in Hungary, amounting to only HUF 424bln worth started total construction works – as per the latest edition of EBI Construction Activity Report. Works started in the sector in a much lower value for the 2019 year as a whole as well. The drop in 2019 was 21% over 2018; and even compared to 2017, the difference was -11%. In 2019 the Activity Start Indicator of the Report totalled less than HUF 2200bln, compared to the almost HUF 2790bln a year earlier.

Building construction activity fell in Q4 2019

The Report has also found that in Q4 2019 building construction registered a lower value of started works than in the previous quarter, amounting to HUF 311bln. Overall, in 2019, Activity Start for building construction accounted for HUF 1364bln – significantly less than in 2018 and marking a decrease of 15%. However, calculated based on the ibuild.info project database, even the value in 2017 surpassed the 2019 one.

Weakening non-residential and multi-unit housing construction figures both were to blame for the slump in building construction. Multi-unit housing projects had also been seeing a decline in the value of Activity Start indicator over the past quarters, and the trend continued in Q4 2019 as well. Non-residential construction projects posted a much more modest drop.

Launched building construction projects in Q4 2019 comprise several hotels and office buildings, the construction of the Szeged Handball Arena, Phase I of Nagykanizsa multifunctional sports and event hall, upgrades of M3 Business Center buildings A and B, and renovation works of Hungexpo.

Published quarterly, the EBI Construction Activity Report creates aggregates from project data for 18 segments by object type (multi-unit residential, 9 non-residential segments and 8 civil engineering segments). It is prepared by Buildecon, Eltinga (creation of indicators and development of algorithms for aggregation) and ibuild.info (project research and project database). Full publications can be purchased at ebi@ibuild.info.

The fourth quarter of 2019 was very poor in civil engineering

Even though the period between April and September 2019 saw the start of civil engineering works in a massive value, Q4 2019 recorded a huge drop in numbers. Activity Start amounted to only HUF 113bln, the lowest value since Q4 2016 and only one-third of the value in Q3 2019. As a result, civil engineering closed the year with a massive decline, posting 30% fewer started construction projects in 2019 than in 2018 (a 22% drop against 2017). However, the 2019 Activity Start (HUF 835bln) is not considered to be extremely low in the segment. Rather, the years of 2017 and 2018 are considered to be extremely high.

In 2019, within civil engineering, mainly road and railway construction projects started in a much lower number than in 2017 and 2018, accounting for HUF 432bln. This was mainly due to the major decline in the Activity Start of railway construction projects, with only HUF 48bln of projects entering construction phase. The HUF 384bln worth Activity Start in road construction showed a much smaller difference compared to 2017-2018, and it surpassed the values in preceding years.

Started civil engineering projects in Q4 2019 are scarce, but include the construction start of the South Railway Bridge on the Danube in November 2019, for example.

Central Hungary was in the lead again in Q4 2019

Like Q3 2019, Q4 2019 also saw the start of fewer projects than in previous years in Eastern Hungary, offsetting the region’s high share in H1 2019. Thus, in 2019, 36% of the value of started construction works concentrated in Eastern Hungary.

Central Hungary was the other way around: while in H1 2019 its relative share in Activity Start was lower than in previous years, in H2 2019 it significantly exceeded it. The Report has found that between October and December 2019 more than half of the value of new construction works concentrated in Central Hungary.

There is a clear downturn in multi-unit housing construction

From January 1 this year, resetting the VAT rate from the previous 5% back to 27% brought a major change in the Hungarian multi-unit housing market. As of this year, units in projects having obtained a building permit after November 1, 2018 can only be sold at the higher VAT (above net prices). Last year, the approaching end-of-December deadline increasingly had a knock-on effect on the value of started construction works. The value of the EBI Activity Start Indicator for multi-unit housing construction amounted to only HUF 49bln in Q4 2019. For comparison, in all quarters of 2018 the value of projects started for three months exceeded HUF 100bln. In 2019, as a result of the downturn, construction works started in a total of HUF 263bln against the more than HUF 400bln in the previous two years. Last year, the EBI Activity Start Indicator for multi-unit housing construction fell 39% nationwide.

Despite the rosy figures of Q3 2019, only 44% of the investment value was concentrated in Budapest, so the capital city’s share in multi-unit housing construction dipped compared to previous years. It is not surprising, though, as in 2019 the shrinkage in construction starts was 51% y-o-y, according to the EBI Construction Activity Report. Central Hungary had a share of 52% of the total value of newly built multi-unit buildings, indicating a huge drop against previous years.

In 2019, the EBI Activity Completion Indicator Continue reading Lowest figures in started construction projects in Hungary in the past 3 years