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Spain / Infrastructures and Transport. July 2018

Publicado el 30/07/2018

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The Spanish economy continues growing, with construction dynamic performance in the spotlight, whose GVA climbed in Q118 at a pace not seen since 2001 –primarily fuelled by the strength of the residential segment–, though still far from its pre-crisis record highs.

 The tertiary industry experienced a modest growth, slowed down by the weaker commerce and hotel industry; while transport showed stronger signs, with international traffic as its highlight, driven by the positive performance of international trade.

The change of government might lead to changes on several sector-related matters. This is the case of the toll roads whose concessions are about to expire and will revert to the State, and thus become toll-free, or the tenders for the radial motorways managed by Seittsa, which have been brought to a standstill awaiting auditing of the initially-designed operations.

The European Court of Auditors has negatively assessed the European high-speed rail network. The main criticisms include cost overruns, poorly efficient routes derived from political decisions, and the scarce demand in some lines. Spain, as recipient of 47% of the funds granted by the EU for these projects, was the country left in the worst position, with the greatest budget variances and the lowest usage ratio (passenger/built km) of the four countries under analysis (Spain, France, Italy and Germany).


In 2018 first half, the Spanish economy continued growing, with GDP maintaining a steady upward trend of 0.7% quarterly for a year. Such dynamism is supported by a strong domestic demand, amid favourable financing conditions and employment positive performance.

As far as supply is concerned, the industry continued getting weaker so far this year, in contrast with its extraordinary 2017 closing. On this regard, IPI growth rate in April-May was the most moderate within a year and a half (+1.9% vs +2.7% in Q118). When it comes to services, revenue also experienced a significant halt: in April its growth plunged to its lowest point since mid-2016 (+4.1% vs +6% in January-March), as a consequence of the poor performance of commercial activities, especially wholesale and vehicle sale and repair, and of the hotel industry. On its part, construction has maintained an accelerated pace of growth for two years, with its GVA registering a 15.1% aggregate increase from its record lows, though still far from its 2008 levels (about 40% lower).

Generally speaking, latest indicators of the construction industry show positive signs: (i) construction remains the most dynamic sector in terms of Social Security registered members (YOY +6.6% in Q218); (ii) the industry confidence level remains at record highs since 2007 (-4.1 in the same period); and (iii) construction materials IPI slightly recovered in April-May, after its sudden halt early this year (+2.3% vs +1.2%).

Public tendering showed an aggregate increase of 50.7% from January to May 2018, better than the 39% growth in 2017. All Administrations experienced a strong growth, with the highest rates reported by the General Administration (+62%) and the Local Administration (+53.6%), while the Autonomous Community Administration grew by 41.1%. Despite the 34.1% drop in 2017, so far this year Public Works tendering has soared 105%, particularly concentrated, by entity, on ADIF's strong increase (+236.9%, related, in part, to its weak 2017 start) up to EUR 253 million, and the Directorate-General of Roads (EUR 232 million against zero tendering activity in the same period in 2017).

By type of project, house building dropped 44.5%, accounting for 2.1% of the tender amount. A large part of the public works derived from transport-related tenders, which accounted for 31.3% of the investment, after growing 81.3% throughout the year.

By autonomous community, at Q118, Madrid was the first recipient of tenders, totalling EUR 897.8 million, with 50.5% of them coming from the Autonomous Community, and 32% aimed at urban development projects. Catalonia took the second place with a total of EUR 618 million.

Transport indicators, though positive, experienced a slight retreat in growth rates. In the first four months of 2018, revenue rose 5.5% on a year-over-year basis, that is, one point less than last year as a whole. By segment, the increase in air transport was especially significant (+9.7%), vis-à-vis the slower growth of postal services and land transport (+4.3% and +4.5%, respectively), with the worst performance being registered in the rail freight traffic segment.

As for passenger traffic, AENA airport network reported a 7.3% increase in the number of passengers as at May 2018, slightly below the 8.2% in 2017. Except for Tenerife-Sur airport, which reported a 2.3% drop in passenger numbers, traffic in the remaining 14 airports -with over 1 million passengers- continued an upward trend, especially in the airports of Sevilla (+27.3%), Valencia (+22.6%) and Tenerife-Norte (+22.5%).

Renfe Operadora reported a 3.4% increase in the number of passengers at May, after ending 2017 with 487 million passengers, its ten-year record high, and a 3.5% growth rate. High-speed, medium-distance services remained the most dynamic segment (+4.4% at May), and the high-speed segment grew 3.2%. Suburban lines, carrying 87.3% of passengers, experienced a 3.4% increase, after rising 3.6% in 2017.

Regarding state-owned ports data (Puertos del Estado), the number of passengers carried by ship rose 9.9% at May, and 6.7% in the case of cruise ship tourists (+8.4% in the number of ships/cruises at berth). Tenerife, with 21.4% passengers carried by ship, climbed 8.8%, Baleares hit 14.8%, and Algeciras, in the third place, declined 0.6%. Other minor ports, such as Tarragona, Gijón, Vilagarcía or Ferrol, have shown a strong growth so far this year.

Road freight traffic slowed down its pace of growth and experienced a 2.7% increase in the first five months of the year (+9.7% in 2017). Domestic transport showed the poorest performance, with an aggregate increase of 1.7% over the year (9.8% in 2017), compared to the more dynamic performance of international transport, which grew 17.8% (6.7% in 2017), with exported freight rising 14.8% and imported freight 24.4%. By type of freight, poor performance was widespread, except for processed food and fodder, which rose 14.9%. Construction materials traffic grew only by 0.7%, after hitting a 15.3% increase in 2017. As for air transport, cargo traffic rose at a 14% rate, not far from the 15% rate reported in 2017.

Maritime cargo traffic climbed 6.6% as at May, slightly below the 7% rate registered in 2017. General cargo rose 7.8%, and container cargo rose 8.3%. By contrast, "Other cargo" traffic -including fish and supplies- continued their downward trend and retreated 0.5%, weighed down especially by lower fish traffic (-13.9%). In terms of overall traffic, the highest growth rates were registered for the ports of Motril, Almería, Barcelona, Santander and Avilés, against the declines of Melilla, Alicante, Gijón or Ferrol, among other ports. As for container traffic, Algeciras (+10.5%) and Barcelona (+21.8%), two of the major ports, experienced highly-dynamic increases.

Rail freight traffic started the year going down, after the encouraging results from 2017, when freight volumes rallied 7.3%, and accumulating a 10% drop from January to May. All segments dropped, but the change was particularly noticeable in international transport, which declined 16.4% over the year, while domestic transport (84% of total) fell 8.6%.

Toll road traffic eased in 2018, and between January and May, its average growth rate was merely 1.9%, after growing 4.6% in 2017. While a large part of the motorways continued showing increased traffic, there was a striking decrease in radial motorways R3 and R5 and AP6 and its sections Ávila-Villacastín (AP51) and Segovia-San Rafael (AP61), as well as AP36 (Ocaña-La Roda), AP9 (Ferrol-Portugal) and Alicante ring road

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