There was little change in Holcim Ltd's economic environment for most markets in comparison with the previous quarter. The worldwide volume of cement sales was higher than in the very strong first quarter of 2001, partly due to the extended scope of consolidation, while consolidated net sales were unchanged at CHF 2.8 billion despite currency losses. With the exception of North America, all Holcim Group regions made a considerable contribution to an encouraging consolidated result in overall terms. Consolidated operating profit fell slightly from CHF 324 million in the previous year to CHF 310 million. The 4 percent decline primarily reflects an absence of volumes due to the production outage at the Holcim US Portland plant as well as the crisis in Argentina. Excluding these factors, operating profit was significantly above the level for the first quarter of 2001. Consolidated net income reached CHF 77 million (first quarter 2001: 82), while cash flow from operating activities grew from CHF 74 million to CHF 108 million. The biggest gains of all were in Asia, Eastern Europe and once again Latin America.
Rising demand for cement in Europe
After a very cold January in many parts of Europe, demand for cement picked up rapidly in February and March and sales developed positively in a majority of cases. Significantly higher delivery volumes were achieved by Holcim Group companies in Central and Eastern Europe, but cement deliveries were also higher in Western Europe. At the same time, there was a slight weakening in the aggregates and concrete business, particularly in Western Europe. Consolidated operating profit for Group region Europe rose by 24 percent to CHF 63 million (first quarter 2001: 51).
US Portland plant poised to come on stream
The essential reinforcing work on the preheater tower at the new Portland plant has been carried out on schedule and production is to be geared up by the middle of the year. This means the US Group company will soon be able to make full use of its nominal capacity once again, thus impacting positively on the earnings situation from the second half of 2002. At Holcim US, a decline in sales of around 0.3 million tonnes, mainly due to the production outage at the Portland plant, rising distribution costs and increased write-offs in connection with the closure of the Fort Collins plant hit earnings in Group region North America in the first quarter of 2002, leading to an operating deficit of CHF 48 million (first quarter 2001: -9). The Canadian Group company St. Lawrence Cement achieved higher sales in all areas as well as improved financial results, although it could not fully compensate the setback at Holcim US.
Further improvement in results for Latin America
Aside from Argentina, Latin America proved to be very stable in economic terms. Nearly all Group companies achieved a significant increase in deliveries. In particular, Apasco in Mexico made a substantial contribution to the strong performance. In contrast, construction activity came to a virtual standstill in Argentina, with Minetti suffering a 40 percent drop in cement deliveries. The 5 percent improvement in consolidated operating profit to CHF 209 million (first quarter 2001: 199) is due to the healthy profitability of the other Group companies in Latin America.
Africa and Middle East maintain their position
Cement consumption developed positively in this Group region. Exceptions included the West Africa group of countries as well as Madagascar and La Réunion. Holcim achieved a notable increase in sales across Lebanon, Morocco and Egypt. In overall terms, consolidated operating profit increased by 10 percent to CHF 55 million (first quarter 2001: 50), while the contribution from Holcim Lebanon was above-average. In local currency terms, nearly all Group companies improved their results.
Asia Pacific gaining in importance
The Group region Asia Pacific gained significantly in importance with the first-time consolidation of PT Semen Cibinong in Indonesia. The Group companies were buoyed by a recovery in the construction sector. They consistently achieved higher cement deliveries, with the exception of Holcim in Sri Lanka. Output of aggregates and ready-mix concrete also grew, primarily due to new business opportunities in Indonesia. The financial results of the Group region underwent a substantial improvement. Consolidated operating profit rose by 10 percent to CHF 34 million (first quarter 2001: 31).
Promising outlook for the year 2002
The overall financial results achieved in the first quarter of 2002 are encouraging. We expect commissioning of production at the new Portland plant to bring about an improvement in results for Holcim US from the second half of 2002 onwards. The situation in Argentina will remain difficult. However, the Group's global presence in all relevant markets will once again balance out any regional fluctuations. Given the solid basis and an upturn in construction activity in Thailand and Vietnam, prospects remain generally healthy. In Europe, the economic skies are slowly clearing - except in Germany - and in Asia there is a noticeable rise in demand for cement. Holcim anticipates that the results for the previous year will be matched in the financial year 2002 and even exceeded if market conditions remain favorable and exchange rates stable.
Holcim Ltd's first quarterly report
This is the first time Holcim Ltd has released quarterly results. The step has been taken mainly in response to a desire among investors and other stakeholders for greater transparency and more timely information. In interpreting the figures shown, it is important to bear in mind that activity in the construction sector is subject to sharp seasonal fluctuations. Consequently, demand for building materials such as cement, aggregates and ready-mix concrete can vary sharply, depending on weather conditions and the climatic situation. This is particularly true for most of Europe and North America. For this reason, the "quieter" winter months are used as an opportunity to carry out maintenance work that is demanding in terms of labor and other costs. This has direct implications for earnings and cash flow. The first quarter report should therefore be viewed within this context. Finally, the interim financial statements are compiled in accordance with the same accounting and valuation principles as those used for the annual financial statements, i.e. in compliance with International Accounting Standards (IAS).
|Group Holcim First Quarter||2002||2001||+/-%|
|Annual cement production capacity||million t||135.7||121.2||+12.0|
|Sales of cement and clinker||million t||19.1||18.1||+5.5|
|Sales of aggregates||million t||19.7||18.9||+4.2|
|Sales of ready-mix concrete||million m 3||5.5||5.6||-1.8|
|Net sales||million CHF||2'847||2'863||-0.6|
|Operating profit||million CHF||310||324||-4.3|
|Cash flow from operating activities||million CHF||108||74||+45.9|
|Group net income before minority interests||million CHF||129||120||+7.5|
|Group net income after minority interests||million CHF||77||82||-6.1|
|Earnings per dividend-bearing bearer share||CHF||1.97||2.18||-9.6|
|Earnings per dividend-bearing registered share||CHF||0.39||0.44||-11.4|
* * * * * * *
With majority and minority interests in over 70 countries on all continents, Holcim is one of the world's leading suppliers of cement, as well as aggregates (gravel and sand), concrete and construction-related services.
* * * * * * *