Germany: HeidelbergCement started the new year better than ever before, according to chief executive officer (CEO) Dominik von Achten. He reported that this had been mainly due to good weather before the onset of the coronavirus outbreak. Von Achten warned that the situation had already changed beyond recognition since mid-February 2020 for the multinational.
He said that the coronavirus outbreak had not only caused plants to be closed, either by enforcement or due to a lack of demand, but because migrant workers are unable to travel to construction sites. For example, workers from Eastern Europe are increasingly lacking in Western Europe. In Indonesia, a market that is important for HeidelbergCement, the lack of Chinese construction workers is stark, as they remain confined to their home country.
According to Von Achten, HeidelbergCement is now paying particular attention to its costs, has deferred all unnecessary investments and has considerable liquidity leeway. He added that the group is likely to benefit significantly from lower fuel costs as conditions improve over the course of 2020. HeidelbergCement is currently particularly affected in Lombardy, where its Italcementi subsidiary has its headquarters. HeidelbergCement has shut down its factories in Italy and imposed a freeze on hiring and non-essential spending. "You can see it's hitting the world like a wave," says Von Achten. "It's a tough test."