China: Analysts expect the profitability of China's leading cement producers to weaken in 2012 due to slowing demand and falling prices.
SWS Research analyst Ye Rong expects the earnings of China's second-biggest cement producer, Anhui Conch Cement, to plummet by half in the first quarter, because the Yangtze River Delta, where most of Anhui Conch's sales are based, has seen cement price drops of 5% to 20% since the Lunar New Year, on 23 January 2012. Citic Securities forecasts the Hong Kong-listed firm's net profit will drop by 40% in the first quarter.
The net profit of Anhui Conch soared by 88.1% to US$1.84bn in 2011, while revenue surged by 41% to US$7.71bn. The state-owned enterprise's results for 2011 were in line with market expectations, wrote Luo Yang in a Nomura report. However, Anhui Conch's profit margin was likely to deteriorate in 2012, due to downward pressure on selling prices, rising costs and decelerating productivity, Luo wrote. "Under severe overcapacity, the company is subject to higher price risk in comparison with most of its peers."
Anhui Conch chairman Guo Wensan said the industry would face unfavourable factors in 2012, such as a slowdown in investment growth, regulation of the real-estate sector and rising energy prices. Anhui Conch plans a capital expenditure of US$1.27bn in 2012 less than the US$1.44bn in 2011.
In an exception to this trend, mainland China's biggest cement producer, China National Building Materials, announced it expected net profit to jump more than 100% from 2011. However, JP Morgan expects prices and profit per tonne for most mainland cement producers in 2012 to be up to 10% lower than 2011, and has trimmed its earning estimates for most listed cement companies. The growth in the mainland's cement consumption would be 5% to 8% in 2012, against 11% in 2011, the China Cement Association said.
The net profit of China National Materials (Sinoma) rose by 32.78% to US$231m in 2011, while turnover grew by 14% to US$8.04bn. The Hong Kong-listed firm's cement sales surged by 40% to US$3.21bn in 2011, while sales of its hi-tech materials increased by 7.7% to US$981m and its cement equipment business dipped by 0.1% to US$3.85bn.
Sinoma's net profit in 2011 was 10% below market consensus and 11% below Nomura's estimate. This was mainly due to much lower top-line growth and a disappointing margin performance. The state-owned firm's biggest business sector, cement equipment, suffered a small drop in 2011, because China's fixed-asset investment in cement fell by 8.3% in 2011, Luo wrote. "We expect it to further decrease by 15% in 2012." Sinoma's cement prices were under significant downward pressure, especially in Xinjiang province, due to worsening overcapacity, Luo warned.