Big industry fair overshadowed by recession

HANOVER, Germany - The annual Hanover Fair, a major showcase for industrial equipment, opens its doors in Germany on Monday amid gloom at the steep decline in investment spending worldwide.

By (DPA)

Published: Fri 17 Apr 2009, 12:04 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 2:47 AM

While carpenters are putting the finishing touch to displays, the event is to be officially inaugurated on Sunday evening by South Korean Prime Minister Han Seung-Soo and German President Horst Koehler.

South Korea is the ‘partner nation’ at the fair this year and hopes to expand its manufacturers’ sales on the European market.

The fair bills itself as 13 specialist fairs rolled into one, with sections devoted to fields such as industrial automation, pumps, power-generation machinery and paints. The organizing company, Deutsche Messe, said it has booked 6,150 exhibitors from 61 nations.

The increase from the 5,100 exhibitors who attended the 2008 event is mainly because several specialized sections at the Hanover Fair, such as a show of compressor and vacuum-pump technology, are only held in odd-numbered years.

About half the exhibitors at the five-day show will be German firms, with the second-largest contingent, 500 companies, from Italy.

Other nations with a strong presence include China (480 exhibitors), South Korea (210) and Turkey (180).

Officially, a key fair theme this year will be technologies to save energy in factories, for example by using digital controls to shut down pumps and ventilators when they are not needed.

Vendors are likely to stress how computer-controlled machinery not only works faster and is cheaper to run, but is also gentler to the machinery itself, increasing the lifetime of production lines, fair organizers in Hanover said.

But in the aisles, the recession and the difficulty of closing sales are bound to be the key topic of conversation. The world’s factories are struggling, and many industrialists are putting off investment in new plant till world trade picks up again.

Engineers viewing the products at the fair will often have the sheer survival of their employers foremost in their minds, not the green credentials of the factories and power plants of tomorrow.

Deutsche Messe chief executive Wolfram von Fritsch prefers to see the recession issue in a positive light.

‘Businesses are coming to the fair to give the world economy a boost,’ he said recently.

The fair, which for years has focussed on conventional electricity generating machinery, is also trying to position itself as a showcase for newer technologies such as wind turbines, which are normally displayed at special ‘green’ trade fairs.

The organizers argue that power companies will be able to come to Hanover and meet all their suppliers in one place.

While the South Koreans expect the engineering and information-technology prowess of groups such as Samsung, Hyundai and Doosan to be the key driver of their sales, they also hope to attract some attention with a dollop of high culture.

Seoul is flying the National Dance Company of Korea, the Yepoong drummer band and the Kaya-Go traditional Korean music ensemble to Hanover to perform for VIP invitees and interested German audiences.

A festival of Korean movies is to be held in city cinemas and Seoul has lent replicas of 1,200-year-old books to the Hanover public library. While trade-fair buyers are scarcely likely to stop off at the library, the culture show helps to underscore Korean pride.

Other South Korean companies at the fair include wind turbine maker Hyosung Corp, Autonics, Iljin Electric, KDT Systems, LS Industrial Systems, LS Cable and Korea Electric Power Corp.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Han have both been booked as speakers at a Korean-German business summit scheduled for Monday. Industrialists will be encouraged at the event to exploit the benefits offered by a German-South Korean trade treaty.

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