Can Peru’s cement industry continue to grow?

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If you ever visit Lima be sure to try the wonton soup! One of the surprises of the Peruvian capital is the large number of Chinese restaurants. Peru has one of the largest proportions of inhabitants of Chinese-descent in Latin America. This adds a spoonful of historical context to this week's news of China's Jidong Development Group's intentions to buy Cementos Interoceanicos. It is one of a few stories affirming Peru's growth in recent years, although this trend may be changing.

The major Chinese producer is acquiring a cement plant with mineral rights that was first proposed in 2008. Originally the 1.6Mt/yr plant was budgeted at US$250m with construction set to start in 2009 and production intended to start in early 2011. At the time company executive director Armando Belfiore told local press that reserves of 700Mt of limestone and 390Mt of pozzolan exist in the Macusani, Ajoyani and Potoni districts in the Carabaya province of Puno. Subsequent plans were to develop lime and calcium carbide also. However, at present the project still appears to be in the development phase. No doubt Chinese money will be very welcome.

Meanwhile Peru's local producers have steadily been making their own progress towards becoming regional players in their own right. In December 2014 Union Andina de Cementos (Unacem) completed its purchase of Lafarge's cement assets in Ecuador. The US$517m deal included a 1.4Mt/yr cement plant in Otavalo. This followed Holding Cementero del Peru, a subsidiary of Gloria which operates Cementos Yura, paying US$300m to buy up to 98.4% in Sociedad Boliviana de Cemento (Soboce), Bolivia's largest cement producer. Media analysts have predicted that Cementos Pacasmayo is also likely to expand internationally once it has finished its local projects.

Internally, each of the major Peruvian cement producers has its own projects. Unacem is investing US$374m on its Atocongo and Condorcocha plants between 2014 and 2018, with a focus on the cement mill, the development of the Carpapata III hydroelectricity project and the construction of bagging facilities in Condorcocha. Cementos Yura targeted US$50m towards machinery and equipment at its Yura plant near Arequipa. Cementos Pacasmayo's new US$385m cement plant at Piura is due to start operation in the second half of 2015. The new plant in northwest Peru will have a production capacity of 1.6Mt/yr of cement and 1Mt/yr of clinker.

Cement production in Peru has slowed since 2012 when the country saw production rise by 16% year-on-year to 9.85Mt. 2013 saw production rise by 6% to 10.5Mt. Currently released figures from the association of cement manufacturers in Peru (Asocem) to November 2014 suggest that this growth has continued to fall to 1.5% year-on-year.

Cementos Pacasmayo reported in its third quarter report for 2014 that the Peruvian economy had experienced a slowdown during the first nine months of the year although it was expected to recover in the final quarter and beyond due to impending infrastructure projects and spending. Given Peru's continued growth in gross domestic product (GDP), Jidong, Pacasmayo and Peru's other cement producers could do worse than order a nice bowl of wonton soup while they wait and see what happens.


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