Strong start to 2004 at Holcim

Strong start to 2004 at Holcim
Published: 14 May 2004

Holcim has reported a good first quarter performance from all its geographical regions, with the strongest volume improvements coming from Europe and North America, where the first quarter results tend to be considerably influenced by the weather.  Turnover rose by 11.9% to Sw.Fr.2,760m, which represents a 12.3% increase in local currency terms, or +20.8% in US dollars but only +4.8% in euros.  The operating EBITDA advanced by 16.2% to Sw.Fr.694m.  Sales of cement and clinker during the quarter rose by 12.9% to 21.9m tonnes, while deliveries of aggregates were 13.5% higher at 20.2m tonnes and the ready-mixed concrete volume advanced by 8.9% to 6.1m cu.m.

The European operations had the benefit of further good volume growth in Spain, in particular in Andalusia, and across the rest of southern as well as in eastern Europe demand levels were good, only in Germany and in Switzerland did the underlying demand weaken.  In The Netherlands, the group has acquired the ready-mixed concrete producer Den Boer, adding a few more batching plants to the existing small presence there.  The Russian Alpha Cement was consolidated for the first time, following the increase in the stake to 68.8%.  The trading profit across Europe grew from Sw.Fr.58m to Sw.Fr.84m, while the underlying growth in cement volume was 8.3%.

Helped by the utilisation of more modern capacity and improved volumes, Holcim US reported improved results and improved demand in the area served by the new Holly Hill plant in South Carolina was particularly helpful.  St. Lawrence Cement did worse because weaker pricing in the north-eastern part of the United States, but in Canada demand remained robust, with cement deliveries being slightly ahead and the aggregates volume rose substantially, helped by the acquisition of an additional quarry and a sand and gravel pit in Ontario.  The seasonal trading loss in North America was little changed at Sw.Fr.25m and price increases of US$2 to US$6 per short ton only take effect from April, with a further price increase for certain areas indicated for August.