Domestic shipments of cement fell 3.5% to 57.56Mt in fiscal 2004, though the market share rankings of the top five players in the sector remained unchanged from the previous year.
Industry leader Taiheiyo Cement Corp dropped 0.8 of a share point due to declining demand in the Tohoku region, where the company holds a relatively large slice of the market. The loss was divided among the other four major companies.
Despite the fall, Taiheiyo maintained healthy earnings for the year as it put priority on profitability over market share, a stance also favored by its rivals.
Cement makers are generally expected to strengthen their profit-first policy given the possibility that the rising price of coal, a fuel used in cement production, could squeeze their bottom lines down the road.
However, signs are emerging of a bottoming out of the domestic demand slowdown as reconstruction work for areas hit by earthquakes and typhoons last year have started on a full scale. Private-sector demand for cement is also solid largely thanks to a growing number of urban redevelopment projects.
Domestic sales of cement expanded 7.4% to 4.29 million tons in May, up 7.4% from the same month a year earlier and the third consecutive month of year-on-year rise. As a result, cement makers are feeling confident enough to hike their sales prices.