India: Growth in the Indian cement industry for March 2012 was 12%, the lowest figure since November 2011, causing some analysts to fear that there may be a slowdown ahead.
Despatches for the four main Indian companies, namely ACC, Ambuja, UltraTech and JP Associates, peaked at 21% in November 2011. Subsequent growth has averaged out at 13% for the December 2011 to February 2012 period. The high growth since November 2011 has been attributed to an increase in demand during the Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly elections and an addition of new capacity. Subsequently, industry growth estimates for 2013 were increased from 7-8% to 10%. However, with March 2012 witnessing the lowest growth in five months, a few analysts are cautious about this. The industry growth is now expected to be around 6.5%.
Pinakin Parekh and Neha Manpuria, JP Morgan analysts, commented, "The big four companies have seen a year-on-year growth come to an average 12%, among the lowest over the last five months." They added that growth slowdown in March 2012 could be due to decline in despatches by JP Associates.
An analyst from a domestic brokerage said, "A good amount of capacity was added by these players in 2011. The rise in demand growth rates in November 2011 and its slowing down in March 2012 could be due to this. Some of these months are being compared with months a year ago when these capacities were still being commissioned." The analyst expects demand growth for the rest of 2012 to average 6-7% with a high possibility of an upside.
However, a few have turned bullish on the sector. Anand Agarwal and Rahul Kumar, analysts with international brokerage Jefferies, said, "Strong despatches by major cement companies in March confirm our belief of a revival of cement demand and we expect overall industry despatches to clock a double-digit growth for a fifth consecutive month in March 2012. We expect the strong demand momentum to sustain throughout 2012." Mihir Jhaveri, Prateek Kumar and Suhas Harinarayan from Religare Research see a 9-10% despatch growth for the 2013 fiscal year.