Lafarge said it still expects full year 2004 operating profit to rise more than 10 per cent as it reported sales which reached the top end of analysts’ forecasts. The company said sales last year rose 5.7 per cent to Euro14.436bn from Euro13.658bn in 2003. Forecasts for revenues ranged between Euro14.178-14.434bn On a like-for-like basis, sales over the year grew 7.7 per cent.
"We are confident that most of our markets will continue to show favourable trends, in both volumes and pricing, in 2005," Chief Executive Bernard Kasriel said in a statement.
The cement division saw sales rise 9.2 per cent over the full year on a like-for-like basis to Euro 6.810bn. But the company also confirmed a slowing of growth, at 6.7 per cent in the fourth quarter after 7.8 per cent in the third, 10.7 per cent in the second, and 12.9 per cent in the first. Aggregates and concrete operations saw sales rise a like-for-like 7.6 per cent over the year to Euro 4.747bn. The company also added that 2004 was marked by a negative forex impact of 3.5 per cent amounting to Euro 442m.
The stock has climbed some 11 per cent since the start of this year, outperforming the DJ Stoxx construction and building materials index by four per cent amid mounting speculation it might move to consolidate its position in the industry by targeting UK firm Hanson.