Holcim's first-quarter turnover came off by 1.8% to CHF4657m (€3638m), representing an increase of 6.8% on a comparable basis and, measured in euros, the turnover advanced by 12%. The operating EBITDA declined by 17.1% to CHF753m (€588m), which represents a 9.8% reduction on an underlying basis. The trading profit fell by 24.7% to CHF347m (€271m), but at the net attributable level there was small profit of CHF10m (€8m) compared with a CHF68m (€47m) loss a year ago. Net debt at the end of March stood at CHF12,379m (€9522m), an increase of 4.8%, giving a gearing level of 58.6%. Capital expenditure in the quarter declined by 5.2% to CHF291m (€227m) and acquisition expenditure was lowered by 30% to CHF49m (€38m).

Cement deliveries increased by 7.2% to 33.2Mt while mineral components volumes jumped by 107% to 1.2Mt. The aggregates tonnage improved by 16.3% to 34.3Mt and ready-mixed concrete deliveries were up by 9.8% to 10.4Mm³, while sales of asphalt mix advanced by 3.5% to 1.7Mt.

The Asia Pacific area, the group's largest, accounted for 42.3% of turnover, advancing to CHF2036m (€1591m), 1.6% in francs but a 15.9% jump in euro terms. The EBITDA declined by 7.1% to CHF472m (€379m), but rose effectively because of the strength of the Swiss currency. Cement deliveries increased by 6.3% to 19.3Mt, with the strongest increases coming from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Sri Lanka, while volumes were down in the Philippines, New Zealand and Australia. The Antipodes were hit by natural disasters that are likely to boost the demand for Holcim's products in the medium term. In the big Indian group companies, ACC Limited reported a 10.4% volume increase to 6.16Mt, while Ambuja Cements increased shipments by 6.8% to 5.64Mt. Holcim's interests in both ACC and Ambuja Cements have recently been raised to just over 50%, enabling them to be treated as a single entity. Cement pricing was generally positive, in particular in Vietnam and Malaysia.

Holcim's European turnover, 28.3% of the group total, emerged 2.3% higher at CHF1364m (€1066m), but the EBITDA fell by 41.5% to CHF75m (€59m) as there were no credits from the sale of emission rights, compared with a CHF65m gain a year earlier. Ignoring the effect of these credits last year, the EBITDA would have increased by 4.1%. Cement deliveries improved by 19.9% to 5.2Mt, helped by a milder winter. Mature markets did perform better than the emerging markets of Eastern Europe, with cement volumes in established markets rising by 21.2% compared 16.8% for emerging markets. Italy and Bulgaria showed the weakest cement prices with reductions of 14.8% and 14.1%, respectively, followed by Slovakia with 9.2%. Volumes were ahead in all countries, with the sole exception of Hungary, where there was a 16.5% drop, with notable improvements seen in Bulgaria, Russia, Belgium, France, Switzerland and Slovakia.

The Latin American turnover declined by 2.2% to CHF804m (€628m) and the EBITDA was off by 12.5% to CHF217m (€170m), but was static in euro terms. Cement deliveries improved by 2.3% to 5.6Mt. Holcim Apasco in Mexico sold increased volumes of cement and cement prices rose by 5%. Brazilian cement volumes increased by a further 5.7% in the quarter at prices that were 4.3% higher, though heavy rainfall in March did reduce construction activity in that month. Cemento Polpaico in Chile increases sales volumes across all its products. Of the smaller markets, Nicaragua performed well with a 17.2% increase in domestic deliveries, but Costa Rica fared badly with a 24.5% volume drop.

Turnover in North America declined by 12.6% to CHF396m (€309m) but the seasonal loss at the EBITDA level was reduced by a further 6.2% to CHF27m (€21m), which included the costs of mothballing the Catskill, New York, cement works (about US$4.8m) from this coming June as there is little sign of improving demand. Cement deliveries improved by 3.5% to 1.8Mt, but Canada, which performed more strongly last year, saw cement volumes decline by 8.8%, but south of the border volumes improved by 5.5%, albeit at prices that were 9.5% lower. Canadian prices, however, improved by 2.2%.

Turnover in Africa and the Middle East declined by 19.7% to CHF218m (€170m) and the EBITDA fell by 20.7% to CHF73m (€57m). The reduction in EBITDA is essentially attributable to Morocco, Lebanon and Ivory Coast, with the grinding centre in Ivory Coast being affected by the political instability there. Cement shipments in the region were down by 10% to 1.9Mt.

ACC Limited, one of Holcim's two main subsidiaries in India, reported a 13.9% advance in cement production during April to 2.05Mt, giving a 12.8% increase to 8.28Mt for the first four months of the year, with cement deliveries being 12.7% higher at 8.27Mt. ACC is planning to expand its cementitious activities by building a 1Mt plant to make pozzolanic cement, using fly ash from the Udupi power station.

Ambuja Cements, the other main Holcim arm in India, announced a 4.9% decline in cement production to 1.81Mt and a 2.4% reduction in dispatches, while for the four months production was 2.2% higher at 7.4Mt and deliveries of cement and clinker advanced by 3.7% to 7.55Mt. Production and deliveries in May are expected to be down by 8.8% and 6.6%, respectively.