In the four years since the onset of the financial crisis, price instability has pervaded the steel market.

From August 2011 to February 2012, steel billet prices fell more than 30 per cent to below $500 a tonne. By comparison, in June 2008, average prices were well above $1,000. The GCC has not remained immune to these fluctuations. While regional structural steel prices were relatively flat through the latter half of 2011, prices fell by almost a third in Qatar, despite its position as one of the region’s busiest projects markets.

Regardless, steel manufacturers are looking to the future, with emerging markets in the Middle East and Asia key to their growth strategies. Total global output is set to rise 4.4 per cent year-on-year on an anticipated rebound in demand in 2012, according to a report published by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

In the GCC, an upswing in the projects market is expected to drive regional demand and restore pricing levels in the mid- to long-term.

In a bid to diversify their economies, countries including Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have been eyeing the potential of developing downstream steel manufacturing industries.

An abundance of natural energy resources and their relative proximity to iron ore source markets in Asia, Africa and South America, make these countries ideal locations for steel processing and trans-shipment.

According to regional projects tracker MEED Projects, the total value of steel projects in the region is currently $58.2bn, although only $23.9bn of these have progressed to construction. To capitalise on the anticipated upswing in demand and rebound in prices, the region’s aspiring steel manufacturers would do well to fast-track their development plans in 2012.