Due to good economic conditions in Asia and Latin America and growing demand for construction materials in North America and Africa Middle East consolidated cement deliveries increased. Higher shipments were achieved particularly by the Group companies in India, the US, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia as well as in Russia and Azerbaijan.
However, in contrast to last year’s mild climate, the harsh winter brought many construction sites in Western and Eastern Europe to a temporary standstill in February. Hence, sales volumes decreased in this Group region in all segments and impacted first quarter results.
Holcim achieved better prices in various markets. Overall, the Group achieved an operating EBITDA close to last year, and like-for-like operating EBITDA growth reached 5.5 percent.
Table: Group January-March 2012 (including comparative numbers for 2011)
Sales development and financial results
Consolidated cement sales increased by 6.2 percent to 35.2 million tonnes, and deliveries of aggregates were down by 7.8 percent to 31.6 million tonnes. Volumes of ready-mix concrete decreased by 0.3 percent to 10.4 million cubic meters, and asphalt sales declined by 18.4 percent to 1.4 million tonnes.
With shipments of cement up by more than 1.8 million tonnes, Asia Pacific was well ahead in terms of volume, mainly due to India. In aggregates, Group region Africa Middle East achieved the highest growth rate. In ready-mix concrete, North America recorded the highest volume growth, mainly due to the full incorporation of Lattimore Materials in Texas in March of last year, and the first-time consolidation of Ennstone in Virginia in November 2011.
A positive development is the fact that Holcim was able to mostly pass on cost increases through higher sales prices in all segments and in all Group regions, with the exception of Africa Middle East.
Consolidated net sales increased by 2.2 percent to CHF 4.8 billion. In absolute terms, Asia Pacific ranked first with net sales of CHF 2.2 billion.
Operating EBITDA was almost stable with a decline of 1.1 percent to CHF 745 million. The negative weather effects in Europe could be almost entirely absorbed. It is worthwhile to note that energy and transport costs somewhat stabilized.
With the exception of Europe, all Group regions performed better. The Group grew like-for-like by 5.5 percent.
Net income of CHF 116 million almost reached the previous year’s level, and Group net income attributable to shareholders of Holcim Ltd rose by 1.2 percent to CHF 10 million. Due to the seasonal pattern of the first quarter, cash flow from operating activities amounted to a negative CHF 474 million, an improvement of 11.8 percent compared to the previous year’s reporting period.
The last 12 months have seen net financial debt decrease 4.9 percent to CHF 11.8 billion. The sale of Holcim shares contributed an amount of CHF 296 million.
Holcim expects demand for building materials to rise in emerging markets in Asia and Latin America, as well as in Russia and Azerbaijan in 2012. A slight improvement for North America can also be expected. In Europe, demand should remain stable, provided that the situation is not undermined by further systemic shocks. In any case, Holcim will accord cost management the closest attention, and pass on inflation-induced cost increases. Holcim’s approach to new investments will be cautious. Holcim expects that the Group will achieve organic growth at operating EBITDA level.
Program to further strengthen market and cost leadership
A program to further strengthen market and cost leadership will be announced next week, after the respective measures are concluded at the Group Management Meeting. The aim is to significantly improve operating profit and therefore to support a higher return on invested capital.
Key figures on Group regions
Key figures Group Holcim January-March
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Holcim is one of the world's leading suppliers of cement and aggregates (crushed stone, sand and gravel) as well as further activities such as ready-mix concrete and asphalt including services. The Group holds majority and minority interests in around 70 countries on all continents.
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