Displaying items by tag: PPC
Lafarge and Holcim merger
The year has been dominated by one story: the merger of the two largest European-based cement producers, Lafarge and Holcim. The implications are massive. At a stroke the new company can dispose of less profitable units, clear debts and benefit from new mega-economies of scale. As Europe emerges from the recession, LafargeHolcim will be ready. Worldwide it is a rebuff to the consolidating Chinese cement producers who are poised, if they wish, to emerge from China and dominate international markets. The process has appeared surprisingly smooth so far with considerable forward planning. This week the European Commission has approved the proposed merger.
Lafarge CEO Bruno Lafont described the deal as 'a merger of equals'. What he didn't say is that the merger will leave LafargeHolcim with no equal. However, one question remains. Once the merger is complete will the new company be profitable?
China heads abroad
State planners in Hebei Province revealed plans to move excess cement production capacity outside of China in their usual sparse style. The quiet tone of the announcement failed to match its intentions to move 30Mt of capacity abroad by 2023. It is the next step after becoming the world's biggest cement producer, capturing swathes of the equipment market and consolidating its many local producers. How Chinese cement producers will fare in the wider global market remains to be seen. Yet while its economy remains strong the gobbling up of European utilities by Chinese companies suggests that, if all else fails, money talks.
Coal for India
If you can't fire-up your kiln you can't make clinker. With Indian cement producers reporting falling profits in 2014 the squabbling over coal allocation in the country summed up some of the input cost and infrastructure problems facing the country's cement industry. The coal blocks are due to be auctioned off from January 2015. Meanwhile analysts predict that Indian cement demand is unlikely to grow until 2016.
Sub-Saharan scares and skirmishes
The creation of Lafarge Africa means that three producers are now in a skirmish in Sub-Saharan Africa: Lafarge, Dangote and PPC. All three companies are present in multiple countries and expanding fast. This week, for example, PPC announced proposed merger plans with AfriSam. Given the low cement consumption per capita in this region the benefits of getting in early are immense. Unfortunately, there are many speed bumps along this road to development. One is the on-going Ebola epidemic. Left unchecked it could cause untold economic damage.
ASEAN set to open up
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is set to drop import tariffs in 2015 as it establishes a common market. Already in preparation cement producers have started to change their strategies, thinking regionally instead of nationally. Holcim Philippines, for example, announced in February 2014 that it was considering delaying building a new plant as it analysed the situation. The region, including high-growth countries like Indonesia and Thailand, could see its cement industry go into overdrive. However, the benefits may not be uniform as countries like the Philippines may lose out.
The US, fracking and falling oil prices
Of the western economies recovering from the 2007 recession, the US cement industry has rebounded the fastest, due in part to fracking which has brought down the cost of energy. The Brent Crude price hit a low of US$60 per barrel this week and this has consequences for everybody in the cement industry as fuel procurement strategies adapt.
For starters, cement producers gain a fuel bill cut as the cost of fuels fall. Producers in Egypt who have been frenziedly converting kilns from gas to coal may suddenly find their margins improve. Low energy prices also take away financial motivation to co-process alternative fuels in cement kilns. Finally, what of the giant infrastructure projects in Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) like Saudi Arabia? Take away the petrodollars propping up these builds and cement demand may evaporate.
For more a more detailed look at trends in the cement industry check out the Global Cement Top 100 Report.
Global Cement Weekly will return on 7 January 2015. Enjoy the festive break!
South Africa: PPC, South Africa's largest lime and cement maker has said that AfriSam, its competitor, has proposed a merger between the two companies. AfriSam's proposal was conditional and non-binding and prompted PPC's shares to surge on 10 December 2014. This was reported by local media as a sign that the market likes the idea of the merger.
PPC said that its board of directors was currently considering the proposal and would make a further announcement in due course once it has concluded its consideration of the proposal. The firm has been in a state of flux in 2014 due to protracted boardroom wrangling.
South Africa: PPC will reshuffle its board due to shareholder pressure. However, it will not reinstate its former chief executive Ketso Gordhan. In a statement, it said that four of its current directors will step down and be replaced by six new ones, expanding the number of directors to 12, according to Reuters.
Shareholders in PPC were due to vote to remove the board in a resolution put forward by three minority shareholders, who had also backed Gordhan as a director. However, the shareholders have agreed to withdraw that demand in favour of the reshuffling plan. Gordhan was not among the latest set of candidates for new board positions.
PPC shareholders and investors were advised against removing the board to support a return by Gordhan by global shareholder voting research firm Glass Lewis & Company. The US firm told clients in a report that while Gordhan seemed qualified to implement PPC's expansion strategy, he had displayed 'erratic and volatile' behaviour and the company's board had been reasonable in accepting his resignation in September 2014.
South Africa: PPC has concluded an agreement to source waste tyres from the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa (Redisa) for use at its De Hoek cement plant in Piketburg, Westerm Cape. PPC is also investigating the possibility of using waste tyres in some of its other plants, according to Azola Lowan, the executive for investor relations and strategy.
Redisa is the only waste tyre management plan approved by the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs and is involved in the collection and processing of waste tyres. Lowan said that the use of the waste tyres in the kilns at the De Hoek plant would be introduced from the middle of 2015 and indications were that the tyres could replace 10% of its coal usage. Lowan also confirmed there was a cost benefit from using the waste tyres instead of coal and a carbon advantage because of the reduced use of coal. Some investment was required in the feeder system to use waste tyres, which meant this initiative would only generate a return over a few years.
Lowan stressed this was one of several environmental and alternative energy initiatives being undertaken by PPC to ensure that PPC is compliant with environmental legislation and regulations by 2020. PPC has already commissioned the use of carbonaceous spent pot liner, a waste material from the aluminium industry, at its Dwaalboom cement plant in Limpopo. "We basically get paid to use that product and again it replaces about 5% of the coal," Lowan said. She added that PPC was also doing a feasibility study on a waste heat recovery (WHR) system at its Dwaalboom plant. PPC also has an agreement with Innowind, which is constructing a 60MW wind farm in the Eastern Cape to provide electricity to PPC's Grassridge quarry.
South Africa: PPC has announced that its full-year profit declined by 9% as its Africa expansion plan failed to offset declining sales in the domestic market. Net income was US$76.7m in the year through November 2014, compared with US$84.1m a year earlier. Sales grew by 9% year-on-year to US$8.13bn. Cement sales volumes grew by 2% year-on-year. "Performance was hampered by industrial action on the platinum belt, which had an adverse impact on trading conditions in South Africa," said PPC.
South Africa: PPC has compiled a shortlist of six candidates to succeed Ketso Gordhan as CEO and will make an appointment after a shareholders' meeting in December 2014, according to chairman Bheki Sibiya.
"We have 85 candidates, of whom six are the cream of the crop," said Sibiya. "We are looking at a person who is going to buy into the board's strategy. We are not looking at anybody who is going to change it."
South Africa: The board of PCC has accused former CEO Ketso Gordhan of defamation and published the circumstances behind his resignation, according to local media.
Initially the board of PPC stated that Gordhan had resigned due to 'a difference of opinion' regarding board procedures. However, Gordhan later said that he had lost confidence in the board for not dismissing an executive who was 'undermining company strategy.' PPC had only two executives at the time, Gordhan and CFO Tryphosa Ramano.
PPC said the reasons Gordhan had given for wanting to fire CFO Ramano included that she 'had a bigger office than him' and had requested a reserved parking spot. Ramano had also refused to participate in a voluntary salary sacrifice scheme aimed at raising the wages of lower-level workers and was 'interrogating a loan agreement' which Gordhan had verbally agreed to with a potential funder. The board said that Ramano had ill-treated an employee whom Gordhan had employed.
The board was of the view that the reasons advanced by Gordhan were not substantive and did not warrant the termination of the CFO. Additionally, PPC said that Gordhan had resigned twice in his 20-month stint as CEO.
According to Gordhan PPC's statement is, "Making a complete mockery of the substantial reasons I presented to the board and shows the board's inability to actually deal with the relevant matters impacting the business and shareholder value."
Ethiopia: South African cement producer PPC has acquired Industrial Development Corporation's 20% stake in Ethiopian-based Habesha Cement for a purchase consideration of US$13m. PPC's initial 27% stake in Habesha, acquired in July 2012, now rises to 51%, while the balance of the shareholding in Habesha is held by around 16,000 local shareholders.
"We are very excited about our increased investment in Ethiopia; a country with a population of 91 million people that is set to reach 100 million by 2018 and having a growth rate that is expected to remain above 8% in the medium term," said Bheki Sibiya, Executive Chairman of PPC.
Habesha has begun the construction of a 1.4Mt/yr cement plant 35 km north-west of Addis Ababa. The project has cost approximately US$135m and commissioning is planned for 2016. In addition to the Habesha project, PPC has started building projects in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe.
Financial closure of this acquisition is expected in December 2014 once all conditions have been satisfied.
South Africa: On 23 October 2014 PPC confirmed the resignation of Richard Tomes, joint managing director of PPC's South African business and one of the business's key sales and marketing personnel.
The resignation of Tomes comes a month after Ketso Gordhan resigned as CEO and the company's board subsequently plunged into a tussle with group shareholders seeking a new board. PPC said that Tomes, who joined the firm in 1998 and who shared the job as head of domestic operations with Johann Claassen, had resigned effective Thursday to 'pursue other opportunities.'
With his departure, Claassen will lead PPC's South African cement business, while Pepe Meijer remains managing director of PPC's international business. While PPC has lost an experienced managing director in Tomes, it sought to assure investors that its South African business remained under strong leadership: "Johan is a professional engineer who joined PPC in 1989 and has served as executive of cement operations and of lime," said PPC. "He has also held various other senior and general management roles across the cement and lime divisions."
South Africa: PPC's lawyers have moved to silence the company's former CEO, Ketso Gordhan, to stop him making 'offensive statements' about PPC and have threatened to make Gordhan pay with a possible damages claim. Gordhan has been locked in a battle with the PPC board to regain his job and has been at the centre of a shareholder revolt that could see the entire board removed.
PPC's attorneys told Gordhan that the company had been faithful to the terms of Gordhan's departure and had 'refrained from divulging the true reasons behind his resignation' which, if revealed, would be 'extremely embarrassing and detrimental to his career.' The lawyers demanded that Gordhan respond within a day to confirm that he would desist from making such further statements. Tshisevhe Gwina Ratshimbilani Incorporated (TGR Attorneys), on behalf of PPC, said that Gordhan's resignation agreement, which was signed five weeks ago, required him to stick to the company's internal brief and public announcement regarding the reasons for his resignation.