- By Region
Holcim, the world’s biggest cement company by sales, echoed the more encouraging tone of rival Lafarge with signs of improving market conditions in the first quarter.
The Swiss group, which is also prominent in aggregates such as gravel, said demand in Asia and Latin America continued to grow, while there were also signs of an upturn in North America.
But Europe remained challenging because of economic difficulties in southern regions and a particularly harsh winter, which had damped building activity.
Net profits after minority interests remained stable at SFr10m ($10.8m) year on year, while sales rose 2.2 per cent to SFr4.76bn. Adjusted for currency factors, notably the strong Swiss franc, the value of sales rose more than 7 per cent.
The group said it was able to push through price increases in many regions, allowing it to reduce the impact of rising costs, notably for energy. Operating profits slipped 1.1 per cent to SFr745m, although the company said they rose 5.5 per cent on a “like-for-like” basis.
The group said it expected demand for building materials to continue rising in Asia and Latin America, with Russia also showing growth, along with a “slight” improvement in North America.
Holcim said it expected Europe to remain stable “provided that the situation is not undermined by further systemic shocks”.
The group, now under new chief executive Bernard Fontana, put unusual stress on cost management, and foreshadowed a new savings and productivity programme, which it said would be unveiled next week.
The group’s international senior managers are due to meet in Zurich on Friday, in Mr Fontana’s major debut to most staff, and the programme is expected to thrash out measures intended achieve significant improvements to operating profits.