Two fairly serious investments in Peru made the industry headlines this week. The first was Yura’s plans to upgrade its Arequipa cement plant at a cost of US$200m. The project will involve increasing the plant’s clinker production capacity as well as installing a new mill and a 4.3km conveyor. The second was the latest instalment in Cementos Interoceanicos’ long held ambition to build a plant. It has struck a deal with France-based Satarem to build a 1Mt/yr plant near Puno. The deal also includes Satarem buying a 30% stake in Cementos Interoceanicos and plans to construct two lime units as well.
Graph 1: Local cement sales in Peru, January 2020 to February 2021 compared to January 2019 to February 2020. Source: ASOCEM.
These projects follow a squeeze for the local industry due to coronavirus-related containment measures. Data from the Association of Cement Producers (ASOCEM) shows that cement sales collapsed during the lockdown to just 11,000t in April 2020 before recovering in the autumn. Total annual local sales fell by 17% year-on-year to 9.7Mt from 11.6Mt. Sales have also remained high in January and February 2021.
The experience from the larger cement producers mirror the data from ASOCEM. Cementos Pacasmayo’s sales revenue fell by 7% year-on-year to US$354m in 2020 and its earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) fell by 21% to US$86.3m. Unión Andina de Cementos’ (UNACEM) income fell by 14% year-on-year to US$467m in 2020. Despite this, UNACEM managed to sign a deal to buy Cementos La Unión Chile for US$23m in December 2020. The purchase consists of a 0.3Mt/yr cement grinding plant and a 0.34Mm3/yr ready-mix concrete business with multiple concrete plants and trucks. UNACEM described Chile as its main clinker export destination and it holds concrete and precast subsidiaries in the country.
Yura’s general manager Ramón Pizá reportedly called his company’s plans a “vote of faith in Peru.” This is not an understatement considering the market shocks caused by coronavirus in 2020. The country implemented public health measures relatively early during the pandemic but still ended up with one of the worst death rates per capita in Latin America so far. As the British Medical Journal (BMJ) pointed out earlier this month, the timing was right but tragically the application of public health measures has been found wanting. Yet, the fundamentals for the Peruvian cement market are strong. Annual sales mounted from 2017 to 2019, and were showing signs of continuing this in early 2020 before the lockdown shut the market down. This growth pattern has continued so far in 2021.