Outlook for Thailand’s cement industry

Outlook for Thailand’s cement industry
Published: 23 December 2005

Outlook for Thailand’s cement industry

The Thai cement industry has exhibited decelerating growth in 2005. Even though demand for cement at home had expanded vigorously during the first half of the year, it slowed steadily during the latter half. This slowdown came mainly from sagging demand as a result of decreases in public works projects in Q3/2005 from that seen in the same period of last year. Worse still, private construction has also seen deceleration in line with the slowing real estate industry, particularly, the housing market.

Kasikorn Research Center (KResearch) forecasts that domestic sales of cement throughout this year, may have reached some 29.7Mt, a year-on-year increase of 9.2 per cent over the 27.2Mt in 2004, slowing from the growth of 12.2 per cent seen in 2004. On the external front, Thailand’s exports of cement are expected to reach some 15Mt, or around US$440m, this year, representing increases of 26 per cent and 41 per cent, respectively, from the 11.9Mt tons and US$312.1m in value of 2004. This healthy growth in cement exports can be attributed to surges in demand from key markets, i.e., the US , and Thailand’s neighboring countries in ASEAN and South Asia and the Middle East.

In the midst of slowdowns in the domestic market, cement output in 2005 is expected to total some 38.5Mt, an increase of 8.2 per cent, year-on-year. Meanwhile, the capacity utilisation of the cement industry will likely have reached 67.5 per cent, rising over the 62.8 per cent in 2004.

Looking ahead into next year, key variables for the cement industry will lie in implementation of public investment projects. This is particularly true for the government’s mega-projects that are set to be a major driving force for the construction sector, thus likely boosting demand for cement. At the same time, the private construction is likely to slow modestly, as the housing business may remain plagued with ebbing demand.

Overall, the domestic demand for cement may be higher if the state’s mega-projects can progress on schedule. In the base case of assumption, where the state’s investments in construction can proceed as planned within the government’s and state enterprises’ investment budget timeframes for fiscal 2006, KResearch forecasts that domestic demand for cement in 2006 will be 34.1Mt, growing by 15 per cent, which would be higher than the forecast in 2005 that it would grow around 9.2 per cent.

However, KResearch has analyzed the outcome if the state’s mega-projects are delayed by considering two important factors; the investments in mass transit electrical train systems may be delayed, and/or the state’s investments may be cut somewhat if the government lacks sufficient income from state enterprise privatization. KResearch projects that the state sector’s investments in construction that may be reduced if these factors come true may lower the domestic demand for cement in 2006 to 32.7 million tons, growing around 10 per cent, which is still a higher rate than in 2005.

Overall, taking exports into account, it is projected that the production of the cement industry in 2006 will increase to 42.4-43.6Mt, growing around 10-13 per cent, which would be the result of improved domestic demand for cement. This would cause the capacity utilisation of the cement industry in 2006 to increase to 75 per cent, from the 67.5 per cent in 2005.