Buzzi Unicem SpA said its full-year net profit rose to 349.8 mln eur from 255.6 mln in 2005, beating market expectations, underpinned by higher sales and improved profitability in the US, Central and Eastern Europe, Mexico and Italy.
Thomson First Call’s consensus forecast was for a net profit of 313.2 mln eur.
Sales rose 8.6 pct to 3.205 bln eur, gross operating profit rose to 931.1 mln from 800.8 mln, and pretax profit rose to 658.7 mln from 412.8, it said.
Buzzi said results improved due to a favourable price trend in the US and a very good performance in Central and Eastern Europe, where continued growth in Russia was coupled with a ’boom’ in Poland and the Czech Republic.
In Italy, ordinary profitability improved compared to a ’dull’ 2005 thanks to record consumption and a positive price trend, while in Germany volumes fell and recovery in prices was slow, it said.
In Mexico, a mix of factors helped the Cerritos plant to significantly improve its results, it said.
Net debt at the end of 2006 was 609.0 mln eur, against 1.051 bln at the end of 2005.
Buzzi said it will pay a dividend of 0.350 eur per ordinary share and of 0.374 eur per saving share, and proposed the payment of a special dividend of 0.05 eur per share for both categories to celebrate its 100th anniversary.
It will seek shareholder authorisation also to buy back a further up to 2 mln ordinary and/or saving shares for a total outlay of 87 mln eur.
Currently the company holds 377,000 of its own shares, representing 0.18 pct of total share capital.
Looking ahead, Buzzi said it was confident that 2007 operating results, net of non-recurring items, would be in line with the ’very satisfying’ results of 2006.
In Italy, Buzzi expects volumes to be stable or to increase slightly, while inflation in production prices has not stabilised yet.
In Germany, cement sales volumes are expected to rise and prices to approach the West Europe average.
In Poland and the Czech Republic, it expects good prospects for 2007.
In the US, volumes are expected to decline at a pace depending on how the residential market would react to the slowing economy.
In Mexico, cement consumption is expected to rise.