Johannesburg - The civil construction industry picked up
slightly in the first quarter of 2012 but demand is still weak, according to
the latest FNB/BER civil construction confidence index released on Thursday.
"Activity is up, but the slow rate at which new work
seems to be coming on stream could hamper the pace of the recovery in this
sector," said Cees Bruggemans, chief economist at First National Bank.
The index rose to 34 in the first quarter of the year, up
from 26 in the last quarter of last year. It was 21 in the third quarter of
An index reading of 100 shows that all respondents are
satisfied with prevailing business conditions, while zero shows all respondents
"The current reading of 34, therefore, indicates that
the majority of respondents (indeed two out of three) remained dissatisfied
with prevailing business conditions," Bruggemans said.
This was the fifth consecutive quarter that construction
activity had increased, indicating a more sustained but slow recovery, he
"However, the rate of increase moderated slightly
compared to the second half of last year."
Most construction activity flowed from existing or ongoing
In the public sector this included Transnet's expansion of
port facilities and the new multi-product pipeline between Durban and Gauteng,
and some work on Eskom's Medupi, Kusile and Ingula power station projects.
Government spending on roads, water and waste water
management projects dominated, especially at the municipal level, Bruggemans
In the private sector, construction work came mainly from
the mining industry.
"This was on the back of still relatively high
commodity prices and in preparation for an expected increase in coal demand
once Eskom's new power stations come on line."
Competition in tender prices eased in the first quarter.
"This suggests that firms have taken the opportunity
created by increased activity levels to relieve some margin pressure,"
This led to a slight rise in profitability in the first
However, increased activity levels had not led to more jobs.
The demand for new construction work remained relatively
weak, and was still a constraint on the industry.