Growth during the year remained strong, and companies enter 2019 with confidence, despite the expected challenges


This article originally appeared in CemWeek 49. Click here or on the image to read the full interview

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Four of the largest global cement companies saw their results improve in 2018, and are expecting that growth to continue in 2019, despite the looming economic headwinds that point to a mild slowdown in global growth for the year.

Starting with LafargeHolcim, net sales improved by 5.1 percent year-on-year, to CHF 27.5 billion in 2018, with sales in Europe topping the charts, at CHF 7.6 billion, closely followed by Asia, at CHF 7.4 billion. The company’s recurring EBITDA also reached CHF 6.0 billion in 2018, inching up from the previous year’s results, with all four business segments contributing to the growth.

Cement in particular saw sales volumes expand by 4.4 percent from 2017 to 221.9 million tons in 2018, while sales rose 6.0 percent during the same period. This growth was more prominent in Asia Pacific, due to infrastructure and rural housing, and Europe, which was supported by higher construction and residential activity as well as incremental infrastructure spending. North America also saw strong growth during the year despite the unfavorable weather, and demand in the Latin American markets of Brazil and Colombia recovered partially, while sales in the Middle East and Africa were in line with the previous year.

Commenting on the year’s results, Beat Hess, the board chairman observed that LafargeHolcim “grew faster than the market and improved the Recurring EBITDA of the company through greater efficiency and cost discipline.” This growth particularly accelerated in the second half of the year, having exceeded sales targets, just as profitability surged over proportionally as well.

HeidelbegCement’s sales volumes and revenues attained new records during the year, despite considerable negative exchange rate effects. The company’s managing board chairman, Bernd Scheifele, commented: “In its 145-year history, HeidelbergCement has never sold more cement, concrete, sand, and gravel than in 2018. Thanks to robust demand in many markets, new record figures for sales volumes and revenue were achieved.” Cement and clinker volumes reached 129.9 million tons in 2018, increasing by 3.4 percent from 125.7 million tons in 2017, while revenue grew by five percent to over EUR 18 billion for the first time.

The company recorded improvements across all regions, with the exception of North America, where revenues fell from EUR 4.4 billion in 2017 to EUR 4.3 billion in 2018, due to adverse weather conditions and margin pressure in the North region. In Western and Southern Europe, the positive development of results in the content helped to offset inflation and currency losses in the UK. In Northern and Eastern Europe-Central Asia, there was a significant increase in results due to the good development in Norway, Sweden, and particularly in Poland, Czechia and Hungary. Meanwhile, in Asia-Pacific, results fell below the previous year, but growth in Indonesia, Thailand and Australia remained high. In Africa-Eastern Mediterranean Basin, results increased despite the challenging environment, due to positive developments in Ghana, Tanzania, and Egypt. The company’s group services business segment also showed significant expansion during the year, to EUR 1.8 billion.

While the company’s growth was positive, there were still significant headwinds that affected its performance, namely stronger-than-expected increases in energy and electricity costs, and lower-than-planned income from the sale of depleted quarries (...)


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