Lafarge chairman and former chief executive Bertrand Collomb said its US market rebound has continued, with further improvement in volume and pricing conditions, but Germany will remain weak until later in the year.
Speaking on the sidelines of the International Chamber of Commerce conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, Collomb told AFX News that the German market has continued to decline, although there are signs portending a recovery in the second half.
’There has been a downward trend in terms of volumes (in 2004 so far), yet hopefully it will bottom out this year ... with pricing going up for cement, but not very quickly,’ he said.
He said that the US does not have the cement production capacity to meet current demand, raising fears of a shortage among builders.
’In this context, there are price increases that have already been introduced, so the market should be good in terms of prices and volume,’ he said.
He said demand in southern Europe remains strong, with the French market largely stable.
Growth in the future was likely to be through small- to medium-sized acquisitions, but Collomb would not be specific about target markets. Chinese market share remains at approximately 1 pct.
’We have decided to develop China step by step,’ he said. ’It’s not completely a market economy and you have to be careful not to go faster than the Chinese are.’
He reiterated full-year guidance that earnings at the operational level will show ’robust’ growth, excluding currency effects.