Strong Middle East results from Lafarge contrast weak Europe

Strong Middle East results from Lafarge contrast weak Europe
Published: 31 July 2009

Lafarge saw its first half turnover fall by 11.9% to €7,991m, with the EBITDA declining by 19.7% to €1,700m and the trading profit dropping by 29.8% to €1,131m.  The net attributable profit showed a 59.4% reduction to €370m.  Net debt at the end of June was down by 11.2% to €15,388m, with the gearing having come down from 124.6% a year ago to 97.0%.  Capital expenditure was down by 19.6% to €817m, with all of the reduction taking place in maintenance expenditure, which was cut by 61.8%, while spending on acquisitions was a modest €67m.

Cement deliveries declined by 10.1% to 70.0m tonnes and the turnover from cement was down by 10.2% to €5,145m, or 64.4% of the group total.  The corresponding EBITDA was off by 14.4% to €1,462m or 86.0% of the group total.   The turnover from aggregates and concrete declined by 15.4% to €2,479m, with the EBITDA dropping by 86.9% to €31m.  The aggregates tonnage fell by 21.3% to 89.6m tonnes, of which western Europe accounted for a 21.1% reduction to 33.2m tonnes, with the turnover in pure aggregates being down by 20.4% to €891m and the EBITDA falling by 52.0% to €98m.  Ready-mixed concrete volumes declined by 9.2% to 18.7m m³, with 7.2m m³ being in western Europe, which represented a turnover reduction of 11.3% to €1,488m and the EBITDA dropped by 49.6% to €69m.  Lafarge’s global plasterboard volumes declined by 14.6% to 326Mm², with turnover being off by 13.1% to €696m but the EBITDA edged ahead by some 3% to €32m as North American losses were reduced from  €32m to €20m.

European cement turnover declined by 33.1% to €1,439m, with central and eastern Europe showing a 44% reduction compared with a 28% decline in western Europe.  The EBITDA fell by 44.8% to €415m, with cement shipments being off by 34.0% to 16.7Mt.  In France, cement volumes fell by 20.7%, but prices improved modestly.  In Spain, cement shipments fell by 42.7%, having already fallen by 18.3% in the first half of last year, and average prices drifted by 4.9%.  In the United Kingdom and Greece, volumes dropped by 38.3% and 27.6% respectively, but prices improved, particularly in Britain.  German volumes fell by 17.2%, while prices continued to improve, while in neighbouring Poland, volumes declined by 15.5% with prices being pretty stable.  Romania, which had been a very strong performer in the previous spring, saw volumes drop by 39.7% and turnover by 36.2%.  In Serbia, Lafarge’s volumes suffered a 29.2% reduction, but higher prices did improve turnover in double figures.  Russia, on the other hand, saw strong reduction in both volumes and prices and turnover dropped by 54.2% as shipments fell by 26.2%.  

The North American cement turnover fell by 21.6% to €547m as US cement shipments dropped by 29.6% while the Canadian reduction was a little more modest at 23.4%.  Overall cement deliveries were down by some 28% to 5.7Mt and the EBITDA fell by 85% to €20m.  Cement prices edged ahead in Canada but were barely stable south of the border.  North American aggregates shipments were down by 29.8% to 37.9m tonnes and the turnover declined by 24.8% to €318m, while ready-mixed concrete volumes dropped by 32.7% to 3.1m m³ and the turnover fell by 32.7% to €328m.  In Latin America, cement turnover was badly affected by the elimination of Venezuela and dad fall by 14.9% to €319m, though at the underlying level there was a 2.5% advance.  The EBITDA declined by some 19% to €82m on volumes that were about 13% lower at 3.9m tonnes.  In Brazil, prices recovered further, while volumes improved by 1.2%.  In Chile, which is in the process of being sold, volumes dropped by 24.6%. 

Cement deliveries in the Middle and Near East improved by some 13% to 10.8m tonnes in spite of a 16.3% reduction in Turkey.  Turkey, which has now been sold, also experienced falling prices.  The strongest relative performance was seen in Irak, where, helped by additional capacity, volumes rose by 20.0% and prices by 7.2%, with Egypt being another very strong market with volumes rising by 19.4%.  The EBITDA rose by 31.7% to €291m on a turnover 32.8% higher at €709m.   In Africa, turnover was up by 1.7% to €1,193m as strong increases in Kenya and Algeria more than made up for the weakness in South Africa and, to a lesser extent, in Nigeria.  The EBITDA put on 23.1% to €384m.  Helped by new plants in Algeria and Zambia, the cement volume increased by 7.0% to 12.2Mt. Volumes rose by 29.4% in Kenya, by 18.7% in Algeria and by 3.2% in Morocco, but fell by 16.5% in South Africa and by 4.7% in Nigeria.