Sales down 8.6 per cent to €10,281m from €11,251m Negative foreign exchange impact due to Euro appreciation increase of year to date in underlying sales: + 3.0 per cent. Strong third quarter sales noted.
Sales as at September 30, 2003 declined 8.6 per cent to €10,281m from €11,251m at September 30, 2002 largely due to significant foreign currency variations which impacted sales by -9.5 per cent. The net scope effect on sales amounted to -2.1 per cent mainly as a consequence of the divestments realized in 2002. Underlying sales were up +3.0 per cent at the end of September, following a much improved third quarter during which sales grew by 6.6 per cent. The level of sales at the end of September keeps us on track with our 2003 objective for operating income on ordinary activities. The pick up in cement activity levels observed at the end of June were confirmed during the third quarter with sales rising by 7.7 per cent on the back of a strong rise in volumes sold particularly in emerging markets. Western Europe recorded a slight increase overall, despite lower sales realized in the third quarter in the UK. These were more than offset by strong sales in Greece. In Germany the severe price erosion experienced over the past year has now stabilized and price increases are being implemented.
After a marked improvement in the third quarter with rising cement volumes and only a marginal price decline overall, sales in North America now show only a modest decline by the end of September. The contrast remains, however, between Canada and the USA. In Canada the group continues to record good levels of growth in both volumes sold and prices compared to the USA, where volumes are down and prices continue to be lower than in 2002 in several markets.
Positive sales trends overall were recorded in the rest of the world. Particularly good cement market conditions allowed strong growth in Romania, Morocco, Jordan, across much of Africa, South Korea and Chile. Favorable pricing trends in Latin America and India helped offset generally lower volumes. Malaysia continued to recover despite continued price pressure. Areas of weakness remain Poland, which is still experiencing a depressed construction market and Venezuela where the unstable economic situation has led to a large fall in volumes. In the Philippines, where the severe price competition over the last year has resulted in a significant decline in sales, the situation has started to improve with increasing volumes and a rise in prices.