Lafarge North America, owned 54 per cent by Lafarge SA, said third quarter net profit rose to US$172.1m from US$165.6m in the same period last year, on the back of price increases for all products and strength for gypsum sales. The higher prices helped offset the impact of higher energy costs and softness in several markets, as well as the blow to economic activity from Hurricane Katrina, the company said. Operating profit rose 5 per cent to US$278.5m, on sales that rose 12 per cent to US$1.4bn.
’Increased inflation, reduced cement plant production, and weather disruptions offset the gains we wanted to achieve this quarter,’ said CEO Philippe Rollier. However, our pricing performance continues to be strong, and we expect to deliver strong earnings growth this year.’ Looking ahead, Lafarge NA said it is too early to know if weakness in certain markets will continue, but demand from regions affected by Hurricane Katrina is not seen rebounding until next year. ’Higher energy prices and inflation are expected to increase pressure on margins during the balance of the year. However, the company expects pricing power to remain strong and has announced further price increases for 2006,’ it said.