Swiss cement group Holcim’s Moroccan subsidiary on Monday announced a partnership with a local private group to build a US$290.6m cement plant that will produce 1.7Mt a year. The new plant will enable Holcim Maroc to increase its 22 percent share of Morocco’s US$800m annual cement sales market. Moroccan industrial group Omar Laraqui will sell a 51 per cent stake in local cement maker Asment Oulad Zidane (AOZ) to Holcim Maroc, a subsidiary of Swiss cement maker Holcim, under an agreement signed on March 31, 2005.
Holcim Maroc and Omar Laraqui group agreed to a 51-49 percent share ownership in the plant located in the Settat region, 90 km (55 miles) south of the business hub of Casablanca, it said in a statement. Laraqui group had planned to build a 1.2Mta cement plant in Settat a few months before Holcim announced a similar plan but for a plant producing 1.7Mta.
"Laraqui had a quarry of good quality which Holcim wanted to boost its future supply in raw material in this region where demand is on the rise," Younes Benmakhlouf, financial analyst at BMCI Bourse brokerage said. "This deal enables Holcim to get rid of a potential rival in this already highly-competitive region," he added.
Building industry operators and analysts say both partners were motivated by fast-growing demand and huge potential offered in the region of Casablanca, the supply of which is dominated by market leader Lafarge Ciments. Works to build the plant are already underway and will be finished by the end of 2007 although the plant’s bagging unit will apparently start operating this summer.