The first quarter results from Holcim show group turnover 1.1 per cent lower at SwFr2730m (€1,761m) with the operating profit at the EBITDA level declining by 5.2 per cent to SwFr658m (€425m). Excluding exchange rate movements, turnover rose by 2.1 per cent while the EBITDA declined by 1.3 per cent. The lower profitability in the period is entirely related to Europe and Latin America.
Cement and clinker deliveries in the three months rose by 1.8 per cent to 22.3Mt and ready-mixed concrete deliveries were 3.3 per cent higher at 6.3mm³, but aggregates shipments fell by 9.9 per cent to 18.2Mt. The recently acquired Aggregate Industries and The Associated Cement Companies were not included in the volume and profit numbers, with consolidation only taking place at the end of the period. As a result of consolidation, net debt rose by 90.3 per cent compared with the end of December to SwFr13,027m (€8402m) to give a gearing level of 111.7 per cent.
In Europe, the cold winter weather lasting into March, not just in northern and eastern Europe but also affecting southern European countries such as Italy and Croatia, as well as an early Easter, depressed European volumes, particularly when compared with the kinder weather in the previous year. Only Spain and Romania saw higher underlying cement deliveries, though, thanks to the acquisition of the Plevenski works, shipments in Bulgaria also rose. As a result, the underlying EBITDA fell by 19.4 per cent to SwFr175m (€113m) on a turnover 6.3 per cent lower at SwFr914m (€590m). Increased competitive pressures were also encountered in Belgium and in Italy. European cement deliveries declined from 6.1Mt to 5.5Mt and aggregates shipments fell by 12.2 per cent to 10.8Mt but ready-mixed concrete deliveries were 0.1mm³ higher at 2.9mm³.
North American turnover rose by 6.3 per cent to SwFr405m (€261m) and the underlying EBITDA advanced by 62.1 per cent to SwFr43m (€28m) in a seasonally weak quarter. In a buoyant market, Holcim US increased cement volumes and prices in all its operating regions, but St. Lawrence Cement recorded a decline because of supply problems in the north-eastern USA though Canadian volumes were ahead. Overall cement shipments in North America were broadly unchanged at 3.0Mt.