LONDON - An increasingly complex global industry structure has resulted in the concentration of coatings manufacturing in the hands of various industrial companies and private-investment firms as well as the giant chemical and "brand-management" concerns, a new industry study concludes.

"The Coatings 100," from Information Research Ltd., London, says the structure of the global coatings industry has been markedly reshaped by mergers and acquisitions that have seen private equity firms holding majority stakes in coatings businesses, hardware retailers operating their own coatings-production facilities, and chemical companies holding relatively small coatings positions. These coatings businesses "compete alongside diversified chemical giants and brand-management companies for a slice of the world paint market," the publishers say.

The report says that as a result of these changes in the industry, approximately 25 of the top 100 companies active in paint and coatings production boast annual sales of $1 billion or more.

In another market study, Information Research says the coatings market in the Middle East is experiencing strong demand growth for products used in the construction, protective and marine segments. Coatings markets in Africa, meanwhile, are considered mature, with the South African market still recovering from a "crash" in the architectural sector in 1997, the report says.

"A Profile of the Middle Eastern and African Paint Industry" suggests that the rebuilding of Iraq will fuel coatings demand growth, with potential seen for low-cost insulation coatings designed to withstand the Iraqi climate. The report says the fastest-growing national coatings market in the Middle East is Qatar, where infrastructure activities are under way in preparation for the Asian Games in 2006.

Africa's major coatings markets are led by South Africa, followed by Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. The emergence of the black middle class in South Africa is generating increased spending and spurring growth in demand for architectural and product-finishes coatings, although the architectural segment accounts for approximately 65% of the total coatings market, the report says.

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