Holcim pushes capital expenditure ahead

Holcim pushes capital expenditure ahead
Published: 07 May 2008

First quarter turnover at Holcim declined by 3.8% to SFr5,509m (EUR3,443m), principally reflecting the de-consolidation of the Egyptian and South African businesses but, on a comparative basis, there was a 7.4% advance.  The operating EBITDA was off by 14.2% to SFr1,151m (EUR719m), but improved by a marginal 0.6% on an underlying basis.  The trading profit was down by 18.5% to SFr737m (EUR461m) and the net attributable profit did increase by 3.9% to SFr370m (EUR231m).  Net debt at the end of March amounted to SFr13,455m (EUR8570m), an increase of 15.6%, to give a gearing level of 68.1%, compared with 58.7% a year earlier.  Capital expenditure in the period was 40.2% higher at SFr809m (EUR506m).
Group cement deliveries amounted to 34.2Mt, which represents an underlying increase of 4.0% but a decline of 1.2% in absolute terms.  The aggregates volume fell by 9.7%, or by 5.5% on a comparative basis, to 32.7Mt while ready-mixed concrete deliveries rose by 11.7% to 10.5Mm³, but sales of asphalt mix declined by 9.5% to 1.9Mt.  
The European turnover edged ahead by 0.3% to SFr2,243m (
EUR1,402m) but the EBITDA was off by 2.5% to SFr4249m (EUR265m). Consolidated cement deliveries declined by 1.4% to 7.3Mt, reflecting a considerable weakness in Spain, where domestic deliveries fell by 16.3%, some volume reduction in Hungary and a slight production shortfall from Russian plant up-grades.  Russian prices, however, were up by some 96%. 

Volumes were stable in France/Benelux and ahead in Switzerland, Italy and Germany (both domestic and exports) while the rest of central and eastern Europe was generally ahead, with a particularly strong performance being seen in Rumania and notable advances also being achieved in Slovakia and Serbia. Ready-mixed concrete deliveries rose by 9.3% to 4.7Mm³, as demand rose is southeastern Europe, France, Italy and the London market.  On the other hand, the aggregates volume was off by 4.8% to 21.8m tonnes with Spain, Italy and exports from Scotland and Norway being lower. 
The Asia Pacific area increased turnover by 5.9%, to SFr1,537m (
EUR960m) and the EBITDA advanced by 9.2% to SFr403m (EUR252m).  Cement deliveries rose by 5.7% to 16.8Mt.  Notable volume increases of between 21% and 38% were achieved in Malaysia, Bangladesh and Vietnam, while in Indonesia and India prices improved by 13% and 12% respectively on higher volumes.  Only in Thailand did domestic cement deliveries fall, by around 6%.  In Australia and in New Zealand volumes were up in low single figures.  In the case of both Indonesia and The Philippines exports were reduced in order to concentrate on the more profitable domestic markets.  Helped by the consolidation of additional quarries in Thailand, aggregates shipments rose by 25.0% to 1Mt, while the 41.7m increase in ready-mixed concrete deliveries to 1.7Mm³ was heavily influenced by the initial consolidation of Jurong Cement in Singapore.  
In North America, turnover fell by 16.3% to SFr647m (
EUR404m) and the seasonal loss at the EBITDA level rose by 182.4% to SFr14m (EUR9m).  Cement deliveries were off by 6.9% to 2.74Mt, with the US North-East and the Great Lakes region being the worst hit, while Texas and Oklahoma performed relatively well.  US domestic cement volumes declined by 13.6%, but in Canada there was a 7.1% increase.  Sales of aggregates declined 7.1% to 6.5Mt but ready-mixed concrete deliveries increased by 22.2% to 1.1Mm³, thanks to the acquisition of Hardaway Concrete in South Carolina, which is less influenced by seasonality than the operations further north.