Dyckerhoff’s operating profit at the EBITDA level rose by 1.8 per cent to €274.0m, in spite of the devastating effect of the price war in Germany, thanks to considerable savings being achieved under the ‘Dyckerhoff 21’ cost cutting programme and even in Germany profitability improved by some €20m. At the running profit level before tax, Dyckerhoff achieved a profit of €30.1m compared with a loss of €34.8m in 2002. The group turnover fell by 14.7 per cent to €1.319m, reflecting a combination of price and currency effects as well as the disposals of Hispania and the stake in the previously proportionally consolidated Anneliese Zementwerke. Capital investment dropped by 31.1 per cent to €62m, but financial investments increased by €20m to €43m as minority interests in Ciments Luxembourgeois and ZAPA Beton were acquired. The balance sheet has also been considerably strengthened, in part by the disposals, and the gearing level fell from 131.2 per cent at the end of 2002 to 74.7 per cent last December, with the net debt 36.2 per cent lower at €785.3m.
For the current year, Dyckerhoff is expecting broadly stable cement demand in Germany and rising prices, albeit from an exceptionally low level. Volumes in Luxembourg are expected to be slightly higher this year on stable prices. Turnover in eastern Europe rose by 11.9 per cent to €260.1m and the EBITDA rose by 34.0 per cent to €88.3m in spite of negative exchange rate effects. In the Ukraine, Dyckerhoff’s cement sales were up by around 30 per cent, but pricing continued to weaken. Further growth in cement demand in the region of 10 per cent is being forecast for this year and prices are now beginning to recover, as over-capacity is becoming less of a problem. The positive price trend observed by the Suchoi Log plant is continuing into this year. An improved trice trend is also being forecast for Poland this year, but the pricing trend in the Czech Republic looks less encouraging and the price drift seen last year is likely to continue in the short term.
In the United States, the sales value in local currency terms advanced by 3.2 per cent, but the lower dollar led to a 13.3 per cent decline in turnover on conversion to €384.7m. Margins, however, improved and the EBITDA was only 9.7 per cent lower at €131.7m and should improve further this year in the wake of the merger of Dyckerhoff’s US operations with Buzzi Unicem’s RC Cement at the beginning of this year.