Harsh winter hits Holcim’s volumes

Harsh winter hits Holcim’s volumes
Published: 07 May 2009

First quarter turnover at Holcim declined by 17.9% to SFr4,523m (€3,015m), or by 8.5% on a comparable basis. The operating EBITDA was down by 33.7% to SFr763m (€509m), which represents a 23.0% fall on an underlying basis.  In the wake of the colder weather and the recession in North America and Europe, the trading profit fell by 53.5% to SFr343m (€229m) and the net attributable profit dropped by 80.0% to SFr74m (€491m).  Net debt at the end of March amounted to SFr16,658m (€11,105m), an increase of 10.7%, to give a gearing of 87.9%.  Capital expenditure in the period was 32.8% lower at SFr544m (€353m).

Group cement deliveries were 13.2% lower at 29.7Mt, which represents an underlying reduction of 11.1%, with mineral components declining by 14.3% to 0.6Mt.  The aggregates volume fell by 23.2% to 25.1m tonnes while ready-mixed concrete deliveries declined by 17.1% to 8.7Mm³ and sales of asphalt mix fell by 15.8% to 1.6Mt.  

Holcim’s European turnover fell by 32.6% to SFr1,511m (€1,007m) and the EBITDA dropped by 71.9% to SFr119m (€79m) as the combination of a harsh winter and the recession hit the numbers.  Consolidated cement deliveries were down by 30.1% to 5.1Mt.  Apart from the permanent closure of a small Spanish works, 2.1Mt of cement capacity has been mothballed.  The sharpest falls were seen in Slovakia (-57.6%), the Czech Republic (-46.8%), Spain (-44.9%) and Russia (-43.8%) and only in Switzerland (-9.6%) was the volume drop contained in single figures.  With the exception of Russia, Spain and Italy, prices improved in all countries, though only marginally so in Hungary.  Shipments of aggregates were down by 25.7% to 16.2m tonnes while ready-mixed concrete deliveries fell by 21.3% to 3.7m m³.

In the Asia Pacific area, turnover was off by 1.2%, to SFr1,519m (€1,012m), but the EBITDA improved by 4.0% to SFr419m (€279m).  Cement deliveries were unchanged at 16.8m tonnes, with the higher volumes being achieved in India, Bangladesh and the Philippines being offset by reductions elsewhere, with Sri Lanka being by far the weakest market with a 26.7% volume drop.  A 9.9% reduction in domestic deliveries in Indonesia was more than compensated for by higher export shipments.  The two Indian subsidiaries, in particular Ambuja Cements, had to use imports in order to satisfy demand.  With the exception of Thailand, prices improved in all markets.  Shipments of aggregates improved by 10.0% to 1.1m tonnes, but ready-mixed concrete deliveries declined by 5.9% to 1.6m m³.  

The North American turnover dropped by 20.1% to SFr517m (€345m) and the seasonal loss at the EBITDA level worsened from SFr14m to SFr54m (€36m).  Cement deliveries fell by 33.3% to 1.8m tonnes, with the strongest reductions being recorded in the markets served by the Mississippi and the Missouri as well as in Texas.  With exports having effectively been eliminated, domestic deliveries fell by 27.4% in the USA and by 17.3% in Canada, with prices being pretty stable overall in both countries.   A US cement price increase originally intended for January was only introduced in April, and in in all markets.  Sales of aggregates fell by 30.8% to 4.5Mt while ready-mixed concrete deliveries were down by 27.3% to 0.8Mm³.