Çimsa targets white cement

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Çimsa and its parent company Sabancı Holding renewed their ambition to become a global leader in the global white cement market this week with the formation of Cimsa Sabanci Cement. The new subsidiary brings together most of Çimsa’s international white cement companies including Cimsa Americas Cement Manufacturing and Sales Corporation in the US, Cimsa Cement Sales North in Germany, Cimsa Cementos Espana in Spain and Cimsa Adriatico in Italy. Notably, the new entity does not include businesses in Romania and Russia or at home in Turkey. The move coincides with regulatory approval from the Comisión Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia (CNMC) for Çimsa’s purchase of Cemex’s white cement business in Spain, including its integrated Buñol white cement plant, for around US$180m, which was first announced in March 2019.

The acquisition in Spain came with conditions though since Çimsa has now become the market leader in both bagged and bulk white cement locally, with a combined share of over 50% in the case of bulk white cement. Firstly, Çimsa has agreed to give Cementos Molins the rights to use its silo in Alicante along with a customer list over the last three years. Secondly, it has agreed to supply all its customers previously supplied from a silo in Seville from one in Motril instead for two years. The Motril terminal was purchased from Cemex. The idea here is to give Cementos Molins time to establish itself in the new market and for customers in the south of Spain to find alternative white cement suppliers if they want to. The latter condition was enough for the CNMC to approve the Cemex purchase in Spain. It was proposed on 24 September 2020 and then approved by the end of the month.

The wider picture is that Çimsa has been playing up its ambitions in white cement for a while now. At the time that the acquisition in Spain was announced, Tamer Saka, the president of Sabancı Holding Cement Group and chairman of Çimsa said, “With the integration of the Buñol white cement plant to our production and distribution networks, we will increase our white cement production capacity by 40%, translating into Çimsa becoming the world's largest white cement company.” This compares to Cementir’s self-declared world share of around 27% white cement production capacity, through its Aalborg White brand and others. Other recent developments at Çimsa include the commissioning of a 0.35Mt/yr white cement grinding plant in Houston, Texas by Cimsa Americas Cement Manufacturing and Sales Corporation in July 2019 with commercial sales starting later that year.

Back home in Turkey the domestic grey cement industry has faced difficulties in the last few years as the economy suffered, the capacity utilisation rate fell, competition increased in export markets and then coronavirus-related lockdowns caused further stress this year. By contrast the world white cement market has remained quite buoyant over the last decade, rising by around 7% year-on-year to 21Mt in 2018 and then remaining at a similar level in 2019.

HeidelbergCement memorably described white cement as a “niche product” when it left the scene in 2018 by selling its remaining shares in Lehigh White Cement in the US to Cementir. It has faced problems of its own this week with the decision by the European General Court (EGC) to uphold the European Commission’s (EC) previous ruling in 2017 to block a proposed takeover of Cemex Croatia by HeidelbergCement and Schwenk Zement. Funnily enough, that acquisition also revolved around a cement terminal. In this case the EC didn’t think that the offer by the potential buyers to grant access to a cement terminal in Metković in southern Croatia would be enough to assuage concerns about reduced competition following the transaction. Some you win, some you lose.

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