In its year-end trading statement, Hanson expects a broadly stable underlying level of demand next year in its principal US, British and Australian markets. The company is confident of improving trading margins in 2005, with higher input costs being more than offset by price increases and cost savings.
In the year about to end, Hanson North America has been able to offset higher prices for fuel, cement and bitumen by increasing prices for aggregates, concrete, blacktop and bricks, with stable volumes in the aggregates division and an increase in the case of building products. The British market, on the other hand, has been somewhat weaker, but prices for aggregates have improved further. British brick volumes are lower, but prices and margins are ahead. The British brick business has recently been expanded with the purchase of Wilnecote Brick, which produces around 35m bricks per annum. The Australian business, which is being rebranded from Pioneer to Hanson, continues to perform strongly as demand is shifting from residential construction to civil engineering and commercial building.