HeidelbergCement lifts prices to stem cost surge

HeidelbergCement lifts prices to stem cost surge
Published: 03 May 2012


HeidelbergCement joined peers in raising prices after posting a 77% decline in operating profit in the 1Q12, a bigger fall than expected due to higher energy costs.

Operating profit in the first three months of the year declined to €14m (US$18m) from €60m a year earlier, the company said on Thursday.

That was below than the €52.9m expected on average by analysts in a Reuters poll.

"In view of the higher costs of energy and raw materials we launched price increases and in some markets we were already able to execute them in order to improve our operating margins," said Bernd Scheifele, HeidelbergCement’s CEO.

Shares were indicated down 1.6% at 05.43GMT before the start of trading, according to brokerage Lang & Schwarz, while the German bluechip index DAX was seen up 0.55%.

CEO Scheifele wants to get energy costs under control to maintain the company's profitability at least at last year's level, when it was among the highest in the industry.

Profit and sales will climb for a third year in a row in 2012, Scheifele reiterated, without being more specific, ahead of the company's annual meeting of shareholders meeting in Heidelberg.

"You cannot blame the company for the higher costs, in particular since it beat its savings target last year and then increased the target," said Silvia Quandt Research analyst Ralf Groenemeyer.

"The earnings situation in North America and Asia is better than expected and I expect that to make up for the weak first-quarter results over the full year," he said.

Cemex posted a smaller-than-expected first-quarter net loss last week as it raised prices in the United States and increased sales there, offsetting a weaker performance in northern Europe.

In 2011, HeidelbergCement cut almost €184m more in annual costs than it had planned and increased its savings programme to a total of €1bn by 2014 compared with its 2010 cost base.

Making cement, the most heavily-consumed substance on earth after water, costs a lot of energy as its ingredients have to be crushed and burned.