Displaying items by tag: LafargeHolcim
France: The French government has confirmed that it is investigating Lafarge over alleged illegal activities in Syria following European Union (EU) sanctions that were imposed in 2012. The Paris prosecutor's office said that a probe was opened in October 2016 after the French Ministry of Economy and Finance filed a complaint against the cement producer, according to the Associated Press. LafargeHolcim, the company formed from a merger between Lafarge and Holcim in 2015, said that it was, “in the process of establishing the facts concerning our activities in Syria.”
A group led by the non-government organisation (NGO) Sherpa filed a complaint in Paris against Lafarge for allegedly ‘financing terrorism’ in November 2016. The complaint accused it of maintaining commercial relations with the Islamic State group in Syria in 2013 and 2014 so it could continue operating a cement plant in the country.
At the time, Lafarge denied ‘financing so-called terrorist groups.’ The company said it had launched a ‘thorough and independent investigation’ into the allegations to determine whether its internal code of conduct had been properly followed and if procedures needed to be adapted. It said it would implement ‘any remediation measures required.’
Jordan: LafargeHolcim’s Rashadiya cement plant is set to generate up to a quarter of its power from a solar plant that will start operations in July 2017. Dubai’s Adenium Energy Capital signed a deal for the cement producer to develop the photovoltaic (PV) facility, according to SeeNews. Previously the PV unit was reported to have a capacity of 15MW but this has not been confirmed. In October 2016 Adenium Energy Capital said it had commissioned four PV parks in Jordan with a total capacity of 50MW in total.
New Zealand: Holcim is conducting negotiations with prospective buyers for its Westport cement plant and associated assets. The cement producer closed the site in June 2016 with the loss of 100 jobs, according to the Daily Post newspaper. The assets on sale include the cement plant site, a quarry, a packing plant site, wharf silos, a water treatment plant and 11 houses. The assets comprise about 500 hectares of land, including 200 hectares of farmland. Expressions of interest closed in July 2016.
Uganda: Hima Cement is set to launch its new grinding plant in Tororo. The 1Mt/yr plant at Nyakesi, Rubongi cost US$40m, according to the Ugandan Observer newspaper. The new unit is planned to meet demand for local infrastructure projects and for regional markets.
With president-elect Trump due to take office this week we wonder what this means for the cement industry in Mexico. In 2016 this column looked a couple of times at the implications of Trump upon the US cement industry. First, we looked at who might benefit if he builds his wall along the Mexican border and then we wondered what his policies might mean for the US industry. To answer the latter first, the main issues for the US industry are infrastructure, changes to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and the repercussions if Trumps serious about a trade war with China. So long as a trade war doesn’t happen then Trump is probably good news for the US cement industry. As for Mexico, the joke has been that Trump will be good for the construction business ever since market analysts Bernstein’s passed a note around in the summer of 2016 about that wall.
Graph 1: Breakdown of Mexican cement industry by production capacity. Source: Global Cement Directory 2017.
The makeup of the domestic Mexican cement industry hasn’t changed too much in the last decade, even with the merger between Lafarge and Holcim, preserving the same market share in production capacity between the companies. Most of the producers have reported growth in 2016. Cemex reported that its cement sales volumes rose by 3% for the first nine months of 2016 and by 10% in the third quarter of that year. Overall though, its net sales fell slightly to US$2.16bn in the first nine months, alongside a fall in ready-mix concrete sales volumes. Cemex, crucially, also seems to have taken charge of its debts in 2016, saying that it was on track to meet its targets and that it had announced nearly US$2bn worth of divestments in that year. Currently the company is trying to buy out Trinidad Cement in the Caribbean, which may be a sign that it has turned a corner.
Grupo Cementos de Chihuahua’s (GCC) cement sales volumes rose in the first three quarters of 2016, in its case by 4%. Its overall net sales in Mexico rose by 4.2% in Mexican Pesos for the same period but fell when calculated in US Dollars due to currency variations. GCC attributed its sales growth to better pricing environment and increased cement volumes, mainly for projects in the commercial and industrial sectors that compensated for a decline in the public sector, following the culmination of two major urban paving and highway construction projects in 2015. At the smaller end of the market, Elementia reported that its cement sales skyrocketed by 30% to US$104m in the first nine months of the year aided by higher prices and volumes.
The major Mexican cement producers all have a presence in the US with the exception of Cruz Azul. Cemex has held assets north of the border for years, Cemento Portland Moctezuma has links to Buzzi Unicem, GCC bought US assets from Cemex in 2016 and Elementia completed its purchase of Giant Cement also in 2016. These companies have clinker in their kilns in plants on US soil manned by US citizens. This represents investment in local industry and it is exactly the kind of thing that appeals to the rhetoric of Trump’s approach so far. If the new president builds his wall then Mexican producers will probably be producing much of the cement that builds it. Even the Mexican Peso’s slow decline since 2014 could help the local cement industry, as it will cut the cost of moving exports and materials north of the border. Indeed, Enrique Escalante, the chief executive officer of GCC said in late 2016 that his company was ‘ready to build’ Trump’s wall.
However, the sheer uncertainty factor of an incoming president with as little experience of public office as Donald Trump must be giving chief executives pause for thought. After all, Trump's tweets before he has assumed office have forced car manufacturers to change policy. If he manages to disrupt the North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in order to protect US jobs then the repercussions for the Mexican economy will be profound. It sends nearly three quarters of its exports to the US. Local cement producers would surely suffer in the resulting economic disruption.
So, currency devaluations aside, Mexican producers are making money from their cement operations at home and they are increasingly hedging their bets by operating or buying units in the US. Some, like GCC, are even being ebullient about the benefits that might come their way. It may be a bumpy ride but the Mexican industry is ready. However, it may wish to avoid appearing in any of Donald Trump’s tweets anytime soon.
Spain: LafargeHolcim’s Sagunto cement plant in Valencia cut its production by nearly 10% in 2016 due to a fall in exports to Algeria. The plant exports 85% of its production and Algeria cut its imports by half, according to the Expansión newspaper. The plant is considering new export destinations including Colombia. However, its permit to mine aggregates from the Salt de Llop quarry is due to expire in December 2017 and the local government is reportedly not keen to renew it.
Greece: The Labour Ministry has said that a European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling on a group dismissal of workers by the Heracles General Cement Company in 2013 has supported the government’s position on the issue. The ministry has defended its current legislation on mass layoffs, saying that it should be modified not abolished, according to the Athens News Agency.
"We must first clarify that the court's decision does not concern the existing restrictions on mass dismissals, which are absolutely compatible with community law. The court's ruling is confined to the issue of the administrative advance approval of dismissals and the criteria taken into account by Greek authorities to make these decisions," said the labour ministry in a statement. It added that the ruling found that the Greek government was allowed to block mass layoffs under European Union law in certain circumstances.
HeidelbergCement buys Italcementi
Undeniably the big story of the year, HeidelbergCement has gradually acquired Italcementi throughout 2016. Notably, unlike the merger of Lafarge and Holcim, the cement producer has not held a party to mark the occasion. Instead each major step of the process has been reported upon incrementally in press releases and other sources throughout the year. The enlarged HeidelbergCement appears to be in a better market position than LafargeHolcim but it will be watched carefully in 2017 for signs of weakness.
LafargeHolcim faces accusations over conduct in Syria
The general theme for LafargeHolcim in 2016 has been one of divestments to shore up its balance sheet. However, one news story could potentially sum up its decline for the wider public. In June 2016 French newspaper Le Monde alleged that Lafarge had struck deals with armed groups in Syria, including so-called Islamic State (IS), to protect its assets in 2013 and 2014. LafargeHolcim didn’t deny the claims directly in June. Then in response to a legal challenge on the issue mounted in November 2016 its language tightened to statements condoning terrorism whilst still allowing some wriggle room. As almost all of the international groups in Syria are opposed to IS, should these allegations prove to be true it will not look good for the world’s largest cement producer.
China and India balance sector restructuring with production growth
Both China and India seem to have turned a corner in 2016 with growing cement production and a generally more upbeat feeling for the industries. Both have also seen some high profile consolidations or mergers underway which will hopefully cut inefficiencies. China’s focus on its ‘One Belt, One Road’ appears to be delivering foreign contracts as CBMI’s recent flurry of orders in Africa attests although Sinoma’s equipment arm was losing money in the first half of 2016. Meanwhile, India may have damaged its own growth in the short term through its demonetisation policy to take high value Indian rupee currency notes out of circulation. In November 2016 cement demand was believed to have dropped by up to half as the real estate sector struggled to adapt. The pain is anticipated to carry on until the end of March 2017.
US industry growth stuck in the slow lane
The US cement industry has failed to take off yet again in 2016 with growth lagging below 5%. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has reported that clinker production has risen by 1% in the first ten months of 2016 and that it fell in the third quarter of the year. In response, the Portland Cement Association (PCA) lowered its forecasts for both 2016 and 2017. One unknown here has been the election of President-elect Donald Trump and the uncertainty over what his policies might bring. If he ‘goes large,’ as he said he wants to, on infrastructure then the cement industry will benefit. Yet, knock-on effects from other potential policies like restricting migrant labour might have unpredictable consequences upon the general construction industry.
African expansion follows the money
International cement producers have prospered at the expense of local ones in 2016. The big shock this year was when Nigeria’s Dangote announced that it was scaling back its expansion plans in response to problems in Nigeria principally with the devaluation of the Naira. Since then it has also faced local problems in Ghana, Ethiopia and Tanzania. Its sub-Saharan competitor PPC has also had problems too. By contrast, foreign investors from outside the continent, led by China, have scented opportunity and opened their wallets.
Changes in store for the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme
A late entry to this roundup is the proposed amendment to the European Union (EU) Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). This may entail the introduction of a Border Adjustment Measure (BAM) with the loss of free allowances for the cement sector in Phase IV. Cembureau, the European Cement Association, has slammed the changes as ‘discriminatory’ and raised concerns over how this would affect competitiveness. In opposition the environmental campaign group Sandbag has defended the changes as ones that could put a stop to the ‘cement sector’s windfall profits from the ETS.’
High growth shifts to Philippines and other territories
Indonesia may be lurching towards production overcapacity, but fear not, the Philippines have arrived on the scene to provide high double-digit growth on the back of the Duterte Infrastructure Plan. The Cement Manufacturers Association of the Philippines (CEMAP) has said that cement sales have risen by 10.1% year-on-year to 20.1Mt in the first three quarters of 2016 and lots of new plants and upgrade projects are underway. The other place drawing attention in the second half of the year has been Pakistan with cement sales jumping in response to projects being built by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Global Cement Weekly will return on 4 January 2016
Cameroon: CBMI has signed a contract with LafargeHolcim to build a 0.5Mt/yr cement grinding plant in Yaoundé. The project will be built for Cimencam, LafargeHolcim's joint venture in the country. No value for the deal was disclosed.
The scope of the project covers clinker feeding to cement packing and shipping. The contract will come into force after being signed, receiving of guarantees and CBMI’s receiving advance payments. Contract periods are 18 months after contracts coming into force to complete industrial tests, and 19 months to commissioning.
It follows the announcement in mid-December 2016 of grinding plant projects in Uganda and Kenya.
Bangladesh: Lafarge Surma Cement, a joint venture between LafargeHolcim and Cementos Molins, intends to buy a 100% stake in Holcim Bangladesh from LafargeHolcim for US$117m. The transaction is subject to approval by the shareholders of Lafarge Surma as well as other regulatory and customary approvals in Bangladesh. Following the acquisition Lafarge Surma Cement will operate one integrated cement plant and three grinding plants in the country. It will also offer a range of products including Supercrete, Holcim Strong Structure, Holcim Red and Holcim Gold.