Step forward UltraTech Cement into the vertical rumour mill! The Indian cement producer is the latest company reported as wanting to buy Jaypee Group's cement business in Gujarat. It follows Italcementi, Aditya Birla and CRH, who announced in October 2012 that negotiations had been 'terminated' as the parties had been unable to agree terms.
This time the asking price has risen, with Ultratech allegedly offering US$160-165/t and Jaypee holding out for US$180-185/t. Whilst UltraTech hasn't publicly confirmed the move, it pointedly hasn't denied it either. The Aditya Birla Group subsidiary only commented to the Bombay Stock Exchange that it had not issued any press releases on the subject. Aditya Birla Group itself was reported in October 2012 as pursing interest at US$130/t for Jaypee's 9.8Mt/yr operations in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.
Given the number of rumours and cash-rich CRH's very public failure to strike a deal it seems likely that Jaypee has a specific price in mind and it's sticking to it. Prasad Baji of Edelweiss Securities stated in a television interview with CNBC-TV18 that he thought that the cement industry cycle was starting to look up. Crucially he predicted that India's capacity utilisation was set to rise from its current level of 78% to 82% despite price declines in the current quarter.
This is in sharp contrast with Fitch Ratings which rated the Indian cement industry with a negative outlook at the start of 2012 and reports in late May 2012 that capacity ultilisation had actually fallen from 76% to 71%. Since then ICRA Research reported in late September 2012 that it expected Indian capacity ultilisation to stick to 76% for 2012 with prices showing 'resistance' in some regions to cost increases due to rising input costs.
With all this in mind it seems likely that UltraTech will join the growing list of Jaypee's spurned buyers when it fails to reach terms or when the rumours simply fizzle out. However if UltraTech does strike a deal the Indian industry will be the one to watch in 2013. According to data in the Global Cement Directory 2013, an acquisition of nearly 10Mt/yr production capacity would boost UltraTech's capacity to 62Mt/yr making it the 12th largest cement company in the world.