Broad-based profit rise due to expansion and internal growth

11.09.2005
 


  • Higher sales volumes across all segments
  • Net sales up 34 percent to CHF 13.425 billion
  • Substantial 25.4 percent rise in operating EBITDA to CHF 3.501 billion
  • Operating profit advances 44.2 percent to CHF 2.576 billion
  • Net income jumps 58.2 percent to CHF 1.384 billion
  • Cash flow from operating activities increases 11.7 percent to CHF 1.864 billion

Further earnings growth
Holcim is able to report a further substantial improvement in its performance in the third quarter of 2005, building on acquisitions and the sound internal growth achieved in the first half. The intact global construction cycle, Holcim's worldwide presence and the right mix of production sites in mature and emerging markets led to this pleasing result. Sales gains and cost-savings - for example, due to the increased substitution of fossil fuels - supported robust internal growth. This more than offset rising energy costs and price pressure in some markets.

Integration of companies acquired this year in the UK, USA and India is proceeding well. The successive assimilation of these companies into the Group enables Holcim to leverage the synergies announced when it acquired Aggregate Industries and will lift earnings in India. By strengthening the aggregates and ready-mix concrete segments and by gaining a foothold on the Indian sub-continent, Holcim has secured new growth potential.

Consolidated cement sales increased 7.4 percent to 83 million tonnes in the first nine months of the year. Major contributions came from emerging markets, but a clear uptrend was also registered in most parts of Europe and North America. The trend in aggregates was more mixed but overall this segment achieved a strong improvement of 55.8 percent to 122.3 million tonnes. While Group regions Europe and North America benefited for the first time from the consolidated deliveries of Aggregate Industries (44.6 million tonnes), slowdowns were registered in Latin America due to the general market situation and in Asia as a result of changes in the scope of consolidation. Thanks to South Africa, the aggregates segment posted strong growth in Group region Africa Middle East. Consolidated sales of ready-mix concrete increased 28.3 percent to 28.1 million cubic meters. All Group regions reported an improvement with Europe and North America registering the strongest rise, owing to the consolidation of Aggregate Industries which delivered 4.1 million cubic meters of ready-mix concrete and 9 million tonnes of asphalt.

Group half-year results

Consolidated net sales advanced 34 percent to CHF 13,425 million. Despite higher energy and transport costs and tougher price pressure in some markets, four out of five Group regions contributed significantly to the substantial 25.4 percent rise in operating EBITDA to CHF 3,501 million. Particularly impressive was the improvement achieved by North America (+62.4 percent), followed by Africa Middle East (+34.3 percent), Europe (+28.1 percent) and Asia Pacific (+12.9 percent). In Latin America, operating EBITDA remained stable. Factoring out Aggregate Industries, Ambuja Cement Eastern and Cemento de El Salvador which were consolidated for the first time this year, internal operating EBITDA growth was pleasing at 9.7 percent as well. Consolidated operating profit rose 44.2 percent to CHF 2,576 million. Net income was boosted by changes in the scope of consolidation and amendments to the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), e.g. the abolition of goodwill amortization (CHF 190 million as per end-September 2004). Net income was 58.2 percent higher at CHF 1,384 million and the share of net income attributable to equity holders of Holcim Ltd was CHF 1,175 million (+70.5 percent).

Better results in Europe
Despite regional variations within the European construction sector, on balance Holcim booked a positive trend. Order inflow was at a relatively high level in most western European countries, including the UK, and dynamic construction activity was registered in France, Switzerland and, above all, Spain. By contrast, demand remained low in Germany and, in northern Italy, the sector only recovered gradually from the dip in the first half of the year. A satisfactory level of building activity was registered in the markets Holcim serves in southeastern Europe.

Holcim's sales have risen steadily in Spain since the start of the year, mainly because of the continued boom in housing construction in Madrid and the south of the country as well as major public-sector infrastructure projects. Sales volumes also increased in France, but price pressure in Belgium resulted in a slight drop in deliveries. In Switzerland and southern Germany, Group companies moved ahead in all segments. Group companies reported far higher sales in Romania, Bulgaria and Russia.

Year-on-year, consolidated sales increased in all segments. Deliveries of cement were up 1.7 percent at 24 million tonnes. The rise in sales was particularly high in the aggregates and ready-mix concrete segments, which posted improvements of 33.9 percent to 58.8 million tonnes and 27.5 percent to 13 million cubic meters. Of this, 14.5 million tonnes and 1.4 million cubic meters were attributable to Aggregate Industries UK, which has been fully consolidated since April 2005 and has a nationwide presence in the UK. This company also sold 3 million tonnes of asphalt.

Half-year results Europe

Operating EBITDA increased 28.1 percent to CHF 1,253 million in Europe, while internal operating EBITDA growth was 7.7 percent. It should be noted that there was renewed improvement in the results of the Group companies in Spain, Switzerland and southeastern Europe and, thanks to a slight recovery of prices, Germany.

Pleasing improvement in North American margins
Economic conditions in North America remained dynamic, with a further boost coming from the upturn in industrial and commercial construction activity in the USA. Spending on infrastructure renewal and private home construction was also higher than in the previous year. However, there was a reduction in the number of new housing starts in the USA. Since demand for cement was well above domestic output, large quantities of cement and clinker had to be imported despite consistantly high freight rates. Supply has also been affected in the areas hit by hurricane Katrina. In Canada, the construction cycle remained stable.

Cement deliveries increased further in this Group region, rising 2.3 percent to 13.5 million tonnes. This included a strong advance at Holcim US. At the same time, prices rose in some regions. In Canada, St. Lawrence Cement also reported improved sales accompanied by higher prices in most cases. However, on the US East Coast its sales declined due to delivery bottlenecks.

Holcim made a leap forward in aggregates and ready-mix concrete. The acquisition of Aggregate Industries has significantly extended its product range in key US regional markets. This new Group company is very well-positioned and developing in line with expectations. Since April 2005, Aggregate Industries US has sold 30.1 million tonnes of aggregates, 2.7 million cubic meters of ready-mix concrete and 6 million tonnes of asphalt. Including the slight drop in sales at the Canadian affiliate, consolidated deliveries of aggregates on this continent increased 193.5 percent to 44.9 million tonnes while deliveries of ready-mix concrete rose 131.6 percent to 4.4 million cubic meters.

Half-year results North America

Good market trends in North America and consolidation of Aggregate Industries in the second and third quarters markedly lifted earnings. Despite some softening of growth around the Great Lakes and in the northeast of the US, as well as rising energy costs, operating EBITDA was 62.4 percent higher at CHF 674 million in North America and internal operating EBITDA grew by an impressive 16.1 percent.

Work has begun on the new cement plant at Ste. Genevieve on the Mississippi. When the plant comes on stream in 2009 with an annual capacity of 4 million tonnes of cement, Holcim US will be able to further expand its cost leadership along the entire Mississippi-Missouri river system up to the Great Lakes.

Sound earnings position in Latin America
In most Latin American markets in which Holcim operates, the construction sector was supported by private investments and public-sector housing and infrastructure programs. The situation in Central America was less dynamic due to the restricted funding available to the public sector for construction projects.

Demand for building materials was better than anticipated in Mexico. As well as benefiting from rising domestic demand for cement, the Mexican company Holcim Apasco took advantage of export opportunities. Holcim Brazil posted a slight rise in cement sales on the back of a general upturn in demand. Moreover, the creation of new processing capacity for aggregates in the greater Rio de Janeiro area enabled this segment to boost volumes. Group companies in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Chile also benefited from higher orders. Demand continued to rise in Argentina, where Grupo Minetti considerably increased cement sales.

Cement deliveries increased 14.3 percent to 17.6 million tonnes. Since the start of this year, the figures have included volumes supplied by Cemento de El Salvador. Sales of ready-mix concrete were up, especially in Chile, Argentina and Venezuela. The improvement in this segment was posted at 3.2 percent.

Half-year results Latin America

Several Group companies reported renewed improvement in their results. Operating EBITDA rose only slightly to CHF 845 million due to price pressure in Brazil and Colombia and higher energy costs. Internal operating EBITDA growth contracted further, but the decline of minus 3.4 percent was lower than in the first half of the year, endorsing the prompt action taken to enhance cost-efficiency.

Higher earnings in Africa and the Middle East
Growth impetus again came from the construction of public housing and the expansion of transport network and tourist infrastructure. In South Africa, business was also stimulated by continued high demand for building materials in the mining industry.

The Group companies in Morocco and Lebanon and, above all, Holcim South Africa, took advantage of the favorable business conditions to increase cement sales. Deliveries of ready-mix concrete also increased substantially in some markets. Egyptian Cement performed well in a somewhat difficult market and reported renewed growth in domestic shipments. However, export business contracted. In Madagascar, cement volumes declined in the wake of the weak construction cycle. Road building on La Réunion ensured high sales of aggregates and ready-mix concrete.

Half-year results Africa, Middle East

As a whole, Group region Africa Middle East made impressive headway. Operating EBITDA increased 34.3 percent to CHF 474 million while internal operating EBITDA growth was 29.4 percent. All Group companies played a part in this pleasing improvement in results. The Group companies in South Africa, Lebanon and the Indian Ocean contributed far higher earnings and Egyptian Cement and Holcim Morocco also posted substantial growth in their financial performance.

Further progress in Asia Pacific
In this Group region, demand for cement picked up in almost all markets, with housing and infrastructure construction mainly responsible. India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand all reported respectable growth in construction, but cement consumption declined slightly in Malaysia and the Philippines as a result of limited public spending.

Thanks to the improvement in business conditions, Holcim was able to lift cement volumes delivered to 21.9 million tonnes, a considerable improvement (14.7 percent) compared with the first nine months of 2004. Positive factors included the expanded scope of consolidation as cement sales of Ambuja Cement Eastern, India, have been included since April 2005.

In terms of volumes, Siam City Cement in Thailand, PT Semen Cibinong in Indonesia and Holcim Vietnam posted the largest sales growth. Thanks to buoyant domestic demand and significant export orders, the facility at Saraburi in Thailand operated at full capacity. Timely capacity expansion enabled Holcim Vietnam to meet steadily rising demand and ensure uninterrupted supply in the south of the country.

Half-year results Asia Pacific

Virtually all companies in this Group region posted better results. Operating EBITDA increased 12.9 percent to CHF 421 million despite higher energy and transport costs. Principal contributions came from Holcim Philippines - benefiting from a more stable price situation - and Siam City Cement. The Group companies in Australia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka also reported better results than in the first nine months of the previous year. India also made its first profit contribution through Ambuja Cement Eastern. Internal operating EBITDA growth in this region was 10.7 percent.

A good performance in 2005
The Board of Directors and Executive Committee are pleased to report that business trends in almost all markets served by Holcim have been encouraging this year. Holcim is currently benefiting significantly from good economic conditions in key growth markets. Since this is unlikely to change in the coming months, internal operating EBITDA growth should be well above the long-term average of 5 percent, providing an excellent foundation for fiscal 2006.

Key Figures 3Q 2005
Key Figures

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Holcim is one of the world's leading suppliers of cement, aggregates (crushed stone, sand and gravel), concrete and construction-related services. The Group holds majority and minority interests in more than 70 countries on all continents.
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This media release is also available in German.
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Corporate Communications: phone +41 58 858 87 10
Investor Relations: phone +41 58 858 87 87
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This media release, the third quarter interim report 2005 and results presentation can be downloaded from www.holcim.com/presentations