The Annual General Meeting of Lafarge shareholders, which was held in Paris on May 25, 2004, approved the 2003 financial statements.
The Group reiterated that it achieved a solid operational performance in 2003 amid challenging conditions, as well as a significant improvement in its financial structure, with a very substantial net debt reduction and a strong improvement of its financial ratios.
Confirming the Group's outlook for 2004, Bernard Kasriel, the Group's Chief Executive Officer, said:
“The Group has made a good start to the year, with increases in sales across all divisions during the first quarter. In markets generally experiencing moderate growth, we are actively continuing to implement our performance improvement programs and we confirm our expectation of robust growth in our operating income on ordinary activities for 2004, excluding currency fluctuations.”
The Annual General Meeting set the distribution of a net dividend per share of €2.30. From June 1st to June 22nd, 2004 inclusive, shareholders will have the opportunity to reinvest dividends at a preferred purchase price of €59.97 per share.
Lafarge, the world leader in building materials, holds top-ranking positions in all four of its Divisions: Cement, Aggregates & Concrete, Roofing and Gypsum. Lafarge employs 75,000 people in 75 countries and posted sales of €13.6 billion and operating income on ordinary activities of €1.9 billion in 2003.
Statements made in this press release that are not historical facts, including statements regarding our expected operating income, are forward-looking statements made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions ("Factors"), which are difficult to predict. Some of the Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to: the cyclical nature of the Company's business; national and regional economic conditions in the countries in which the Group does business; currency fluctuations; seasonal nature of the Company's operations; levels of construction spending in major markets; supply/demand structure of the industry; competition from new or existing competitors; unfavorable weather conditions during peak construction periods; changes in and implementation of environmental and other governmental regulations; our ability to successfully identify, complete and efficiently integrate acquisitions; our ability to successfully penetrate new markets; and other Factors disclosed in the Company's public filings with the French Autorité des Marchés Financiers and the US Securities and Exchange Commission including its Reference Document and annual report on Form 20-F. In general, the Company is subject to the risks and uncertainties of the construction industry and of doing business throughout the world. The forward-looking statements are made as of this date and the Company undertakes no obligation to update them, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.