The turnover at Lafarge rose by an underlying 7.7 per cent in 2004 to €14,436m, with cement accounting for €7,403m (51.3 per cent). Turnover in the cement division rose by 9.2 per cent, though the increase declined gradually through the year, from 12.9 per cent in the first quarter to 6.7 per cent in the final quarter. Cement shipments reached 119.4Mt, representing an 11.1 per cent increase in absolute terms, or 4.1 per cent on a comparative structure, of which 34.8Mt came from former Blue Circle operations.
In Europe, the group sold 42.1Mt of cement, an increase of 6.3 per cent, with turnover rising by 6.1 per cent to €2,661m. The strongest volume increases were seen in Romania and in France, with increases of 7.8 per cent and 7.3 per cent respectively. On the other hand, group cement deliveries fell by 8.3 per cent in Greece, by 5.6 per cent in Germany and were 0.9 per cent lower in the United Kingdom. Thanks to improved prices, Romania recorded an increase in turnover of 29.7 per cent and Russian turnover rose by 19.8 per cent although cement deliveries were just 4.1 per cent higher. The emerging Mediterranean markets recorded an overall increase in cement deliveries of 10.5 per cent to 9.7Mt, with increases of 20.1 per cent in Jordan, 12.6 per cent in Turkey and 6.1 per cent in Morocco being partially offset by a 7.1 per cent decline in Egypt.
North American cement deliveries rose by 8.0 per cent and cementitious products by 9.4 per cent to 21.0Mt. Although prices started the year on a weak note, there were one or two price increases during the year, resulting in an 11.1 per cent increase in turnover in local currency terms, which translated into a 0.5 per cent decline on conversion to €1,338m. A strong volume recovery in Venezuela of 36.9 per cent and a 5.7 per cent increase in Chile were offset by a 6.0 per cent decline in Brazil, with Brazilian prices also weakening.
Underlying domestic deliveries in Asia were 2.4 per cent higher at 28.2Mt and the turnover was 17.4 per cent higher at €1,065m, because of the increased stake in Lafarge Halla Cement. In India, volumes rose by 18.7 per cent and pricing was positive. With additional capacity, China is now more meaningful with 3.6Mt of cement sold last year. A strong recovery in prices was seen in The Philippines, though domestic deliveries were 1.6 per cent lower. While an improvement is expected in Malaysia this year, the South Korean market is expected to remain difficult, with weak demand and continued import pressure.
In Africa and the Indian Ocean, turnover rose by 23.2 per cent to €944m, helped by better prices and by the strength of the South African rand. Cement deliveries rose by 13.6 per cent to 12.4Mt, with stronger growth in the major markets of South Africa and Kenya, both up by 18.1 per cent, and Nigeria, with a 16.0 per cent increase, in the latter case thanks to improved production and imports being less competitive because of higher freight costs.