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Analysis - Emerging countries will not match China metals appetite
LONDON (Reuters) - The next group of emerging countries to urbanise will probably not sustain the voracious demand for metals demonstrated by China over the last decade, but could match its thirst for oil, commodities experts say.
China's huge appetite for metals over the last decade to build skyscrapers and infrastructure has sent metals prices surging, including copper over 600 percent, and sparked a wave of fund investment in the sector.
As China's growth slows and it shifts towards a consumer-led economy, some investors are hoping for a wave of urbanisation in countries like India, Indonesia and Pakistan to keep fuelling demand for iron ore, copper and oil.
The massive numbers of people in emerging countries moving to cities will extend demand for metals, but probably over a long period and not in the sharp burst seen from China. Oil demand may do better at keeping pace since it is not as linked to construction and industrialisation.
"It's going to be challenging to replicate what happened in China. Emerging markets will contribute to growth, but the same type of explosion that we've had in China is unlikely," said Michael Widmer, metals strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in London.
"You have two factors, the population size and manufacturing intensity which was very supportive in China. You don't have that combination to the same extent in other countries."
Commodity strategist Nikos Kavalis at RBS said: "Our projections for other emerging Asian countries see healthy growth over the next few years, but we do not see any of them really becoming another China. This is the case in terms of growth rates, volume and intensity of demand."
The biggest country on the brink of rapid urbanisation is India, with a vast, surging population, but it is no China, with an economy focused more on services than heavy industry.
India's population is expected to grow by nearly a fifth to 1.46 billion by 2025, when it is forecast to overtake China as the world's most populous nation, according the to U.N. Population Fund.
Demand for commodities will grow, but without a strong central government to push through infrastructure development, it is unlikely to approach China's intensive demand for metals.
Use of crude steel per capita in India was just 56.3 kg in 2010 compared to 445.2 kg in China, according to the World Steel Association.
In India, land acquisition issues and complicated regulatory procedures curb big projects and hamper demand for steel, a report by accountancy and consultancy group Ernst & Young said.
"While issues around social licences to operate and growing resource nationalism are visible in most developing economies, and many developed countries as well, their impact on the growth of the Indian steel sector is more profound at current times," the report said.
A less concentrated pattern of residential construction is also a factor, said Chief Executive Marius Kloppers of the world's biggest mining group BHP Billiton (BLT.L) (BHP.AX).
"The pattern of buildings is quite significantly different in terms of low rise (in India) versus high rise (in China) and less steel intensive," he told Reuters earlier this year.
Indonesia and other fast growing southeast Asian countries, with a combined population of 700 million, also have economies that require only a fraction of the metal consumption as China.
In terms of copper, mainly used in construction and power sectors, consumption by all emerging east Asian nations excluding China was 2 million tonnes last year, and Latin American demand was 685,000 tonnes. Altogether the total was just over a third of the Chinese appetite of 7.6 million tonnes.
OIL FUELLED BY GROWING POPULATION
Oil demand, however, is less dependent on industrialisation, and may have more impact from pure population growth.
India is expected to see an average of 3.5 percent annual growth in oil demand between 2008 and 2035, outpacing China's 2.9 percent and compared to a weak 0.2 percent for industrialised nations, according to forecasts by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Christopher Wheaton, manager of the Allianz RCM Energy fund, which has some 190 million euros under management, has coined the term New Economic Dynamos (NEDS), to describe countries that are neither part of the industrialised OECD grouping nor the advanced emerging BRIC nations.
The NEDS - including Indonesia, Philippines, Nigeria, Vietnam and Bangladesh - account for 45 percent of the world's population and half of global oil demand growth.
"There are countries that you wouldn't think of, but these are all people who want better lives for themselves," Wheaton said. "These are countries that are driving the underlying growth in oil consumption in the world, they are urbanising, consume rising and that consumes energy."
(Reporting by Eric Onstad)
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