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Why The Capex Recovery Will Prove Resilient

Why the capex recovery will prove resilient

Why the capex recovery will prove resilient

Capital expenditure (capex) by corporates is proving surprisingly resilient. We think we’re on the verge of a strong capex cycle lasting several years. This view is borne out, in the near term at least, by our proprietary capex tracker. We updated this in March following the annual results season, and it points to 4% growth in capex in 2023. This comes in the wake of two years of very solid capex growth in a historical context. The capex tracker consolidates bottom-up capex estimates for thousands of listed companies globally, across a variety of different sectors. chart of capex estimates On the face of it, the resilience of companies’ capex plans is a puzzle. And it may seem counterintuitive for us to talk about a period of structurally higher capex just as interest rates have risen sharply and recession remains a strong possibility for major developed markets. Capex, after all, means spending on physical assets such as plants, machinery and technology. Why would companies invest in such things if there’s a downturn coming? The answer lies in a whole host of different factors which are leading to a regime shift. After the disruption to supply chains caused by the pandemic, companies are keen to bring production back closer to their home markets. Given increased geopolitical tension between the West and China, governments are willing to support them in this. The growth of automation and need for energy efficiency are other factors. Above all, co-ordinated fiscal stimulus will drive increased capex. Both the US and EU are seeking to grasp the huge opportunity in clean energy and other sustainable technologies. They see this as a way to create jobs and “future-proof” the competitiveness of their economies. The list below gives a flavour of the policies: US Inflation Reduction Act – mobilisation of up to $1.5 trillion of capital into clean energy including advanced manufacturing production credits Chips Act – $52.7 billion for semiconductor R&D and manufacturing / 25% investment tax credit for capital expenses for manufacturing of semiconductors and related equipment Infrastructure investment and jobs act – $110 billion incentives to improve energy efficiency in homes, buildings and manufacturing facilities EU Green Deal Industrial Plan – €390 billion funding to enhance the EU’s manufacturing strength in strategic technologies like solar and wind energy, heat pumps, and batteries Innovation Fund – €3 billion funding for innovative clean tech REPowerEU – €110 billion aimed at ending EU reliance on Russian fossil fuels by investing in renewable energy projects Reshoring manufacturing and supply chains will undoubtedly be costly for the companies who need to do so. But smart manufacturers will be the beneficiaries of this spending. Who are the smart manufacturers? Smart manufacturing innovators are the facilitators of this desired manufacturing independence, by being the suppliers of sustainable new innovations in hardware, software, and new materials. We can broadly group smart manufacturers into five sub- segments: Data analytics and software – an example would be a provider of software that can monitor machinery and predict the need for maintenance, thus reducing any downtime. Advanced manufacturing – using cutting edge agile production systems, more advanced semiconductors, or advanced tools such as lasers. Advanced materials – examples would be lightweight materials that are engineered to be just as durable but more energy-efficient than traditional alternatives. Automation – using robotics can bring down the cost of switching from a low labour cost destination to a higher cost one. This may be especially important in regions where there are already labour shortages. Domain experts – these companies are leaders in their respective fields and have a large existing installed base of assets, making them well-placed to monetise innovations in their specific industry. We think John Deere is a great example of a domain expert in the agriculture industry. The company is uniquely positioned to offer geo-spatial, automation and smart technologies like its sprayers that can identify weeds among the crop, to boost farmer yields. These innovations generate very fast economic returns for farmers right now due to elevated crop prices. Semiconductor sector leading the charge We’ve already seen the twin drivers of new regulation plus the need for resilient supply chains play out in the semiconductor sector. Shortages of semiconductors during the Covid-19 pandemic affected virtually every industry, underlining the importance of having enough capacity. Meanwhile, growing geopolitical tensions are resulting in the US trying to hobble China’s access to chip-making technology, hence the focus on domestic production in the Chips Act. This semiconductor reshoring is already appearing […]

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Daisie Hobson

Daisie Hobson is a Director at the Reshoring Institute and an engineer with many years of experience in manufacturing and project management.

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