India Ratings upgrades 2013 outlook for cement sector

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India: India Ratings has revised its outlook for Indian cement manufacturers to 'stable to negative' for 2013 from 'negative' in 2012, driven by limited downside risk for demand. The ratings agency also expects consolidation in the medium-to-long-term with large-scale merger and acquisition activities, according to a report. "We expect consolidation in cement industry in the medium-to-long-term with large merger and acquisition activities in the sector," the rating agency said.

The agency expects credit profiles of large cement firms with superior cost positions and a presence across India to remain stable in 2013. However, smaller companies, with unfavourable cost structures and regional concentrations, are likely to be under pressure.

With growth of the housing sector at 13% and that of the commercial real estate sector (CRE) at 4% until November 2012, India Ratings expects cement demand to grow by 5-8% year-on-year in 2013. Cement production volume in 2012 was mainly driven by a relatively robust activity in housing and commercial real estate. From September 2010 to March 2012, the average growth in credit to the housing sector was around 15-16% in commercial real estate.

Large integrated players, those that are among the top five in the country in terms of production capacity, are likely to have median earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) margins in the range of 23-24% in 2013, comparable to the levels seen in the 2012 financial year. However, smaller or partially-integrated players are likely to exhibit margins ranging from 17-19%, lower than the median margins observed for such companies in 2012 financial year, the report said.

With regards to consolidation the report says that the top five companies, constituting around 50% of the industry capacity, enjoy a better cost-structure driven by significant vertical integration and locational advantage with respect to sourcing of raw materials and market access.

"Most other companies, because of lack of one or more of these factors, have a weaker competitive position. The industry economics and the regulatory actions exhibited by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) may push marginal players to consolidate", the ratings agency said.

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