Holcim boosted by emerging markets

Holcim boosted by emerging markets
Published: 05 March 2012

Tagged Under: Holcim 

Holcim reported sales increases in four of its five group regions in 2011, led by emerging markets in Latin America and Asia, but the impact of the soaring Swiss franc continued to affect results.

Turnover eased 4.2% to CHF20,744m, but in euro terms there was a 7% increase to €16,790m and in US$ terms there was an 11.9% advance. Operating EBITDA declined 12.3% to CHF3958m, but measured in euros the reduction was just 2% to €32,030m and in US dollars there was a 2.5% increase. Trading profit fell 26.2% to €1565m, while the net attributable profit dropped 76.7% to €222m.

Net debt at the end of December was 1.6% higher at €9484m, giving a gearing level of 58.8. Capital investment recovered by 2.9% last year to €1328m but net spending on acquisitions was modest and exceeded by divestments.

Group cement deliveries increased by 5.6% to 144.3Mt. In terms of new capacity, Holcim is adding 1.7Mta of cement in Azerbaijan and 0.4Mta of clinker capacity in Morocco. Next year, there will be a 1.6Mta expansion in Indonesia, 1.3Mta in West Africa and 0.7Mta in Bangladesh. The following year should see 2.6Mta of new capacity in Brazil, 1Mta in Australia and 0.6Mta in France. In 2015, three new lines in India will raise capacity by 5.15Mta.

Last year, Holcim’s Asian operations predominantly remained on a growth path and cement deliveries improved by 5.9% to 75.6Mt. With the exception of the Philippines, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand, cement shipments increased in all countries. Of the two major Indian cement producers, ACC increased cement sales by 11.9% to 23.68Mt and Ambuja Cements boosted volumes by 4.2% to 20.95Mt. The strongest volume increases were seen in Sri Lanka and in Malaysia with rises of 12.3% and 11.7%, respectively.

In Europe, Holcim reported some positive developments as cement deliveries recovered by 2.3% to 26.8Mt. Russian operations were helped by the new 2.1Mta Alpha Cement works, with volumes up 21.8%. Other countries to witness increased demand were Belgium (+10.7%), France (+10.6%), Romania (+7.3%) and Switzerland (+4.4%), while strong declines were seen in Spain (-22.8), Hungary (-21.4%), Italy (-10.7%) and the Czech Republic (-9%). Swiss consumption remains strong, but the strong currency limits price increases. One cement works in Hungary has been closed.

Holcim’s cement deliveries from the remaining 17 works in the USA improved by 2.7% to 11.4Mt, and due to the new 4Mta Ste Genevieve works on the Mississippi, the Catskill and Artesia plants were closed down permanently. Cement volumes rose by 4% in the USA, but declined by 1.8% in Canada.

Over in Latin America, where the group saw the best cement advances, shipments improved 6.7% to 24.2Mt with cement volumes rising by over 17% in Colombia and 14.5% in El Salvador. Only in Costa Rica did volumes decline. Holcim Ecuador brought an additional 1.8Mta of capacity on-stream in late 2011. Growth in cement sales at Holcim Apasco, the biggest group company in the area with 12.2Mta capacity, was a modest 1.4%.

Only the Africa/Middle East region saw a slight decline in sales volumes where cement deliveries were down 2.1% to 8.7Mt. Holcim Maroc, the largest contributor, is having to cope with the arrival of new players in the domestic market, but demand in Lebanon has been strong enough to warrant importing more expensive clinker. Next year should see the completion of a new 1.3Mta works in Guinea.

In terms of the company’s outlook, Holcim’s new CEO, Bernard Fontana, said the group expects “Demand for building materials to rise in emerging markets in Latin America and Asia as well as Russia and Azerbaijan in 2012. Slight improvement can also be expected for North America. In Europe the demand should remain stable of course with some regional disparities provided the situation is not undermined by further systematic shocks.” He further added: “Our approach to new investments will be cautious and on this basis we expect that the group will achieve organic growth in terms of operating EBITDA.”

Mr Fontana, who replaced Markus Akermann in February, said he would continue to work on cost management. "My view is that a lot has been achieved, but we still have numerous opportunities to further continue what I call our 'cost leadership journey.' I expect significant initiatives to be further deployed on cost improvements.”