Consolidation in the African cement market

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A member of the Global Cement LinkedIn group recently posed a question about the relative sizes of LafargeHolcim and Nigeria's Dangote Cement in the African cement market. The correspondent wanted to get a handle on their relative sizes and how the situation would change as a result of the merger. Would Dangote lose its position as Africa's number one producer? If so, would its aggressive expansion allow it to regain its position at the number one spot?

As both one of the most rapidly-growing markets in the world for cement and the one with the most potential for future gains, Africa has been discussed in this column on many previous occasions. However, we have previously considered Africa's different regional markets, be it Dangote-dominated West Africa, North Africa, rapidly-growing East Africa or the far south, where PPC is looking to counter Dangote's growing strength.

However, the formation of LafargeHolcim and the news that HeidelbergCement will acquire Italcementi (starting with an immediate 45% stake), has massively consolidated the African market. In conjunction with Dangote's rapid development, these deals have transformed the African cement sector from one with a large number of small national and regional markets into a far more homogeneous entity. A number of key players, namely LafargeHolcim, Dangote Cement, HeidelbergCement and PPC, are present in numerous important markets all over the continent.

In answer to the aforementioned LinkedIn group member, the Global Cement Lafarge-Holcim Merger Report, states that LafargeHolcim controls 47.1Mt/yr of capacity in Africa. The new group is present in markets as diverse as Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe. It is currently Africa's largest cement producer.

The second-largest producer at the moment is Dangote Cement, the only African-based large multinational cement producer. According to its website, it has 31.2Mt/yr of capacity currently active in Africa. The group is rapidly expanding. "We hope to commission four other cement plants in Senegal, South Africa, Cameroon and Tanzania before the end of 2015," said Aiko Dangote, Dangote Group President this week.

The new Dangote capacity that we can identify adds 4Mt/yr. This takes Dangote's total to 35.2Mt/yr. This is close to the 37.1Mt/yr of African capacity that LafargeHolcim actually owns, but Dangote is always planning its next move. Indeed this week it was rumoured to have been looking at purchasing Italcementi itself, hence HeidelbergCement's rapid movement.

In its press-release, HeidelbergCement suggests that the purchase of Italcementi will give it a position as strong as Dangote in the African market at around 30Mt/yr. It will add strong positions in Morocco and Egypt to its existing strengths on the West African coast. For its part, South Africa-based PPC currently has around 8Mt/yr of capacity in South Africa (4Mt/yr), Botswana, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia. It is currently installing capacity in the Democratic Republic of Congo and as far afield as Algeria, where it is involved in a joint venture with a local group.

Between them, these 'Big Four' share approximately 116Mt/yr of capacity in Africa. According to the Global Cement Directory 2015, this is just over half of Africa's 225Mt/yr of cement production capacity. This proportion will only increase as Dangote and PPC enlarge their presences.

The multinational players will likely not expand as rapidly, even in Africa. At the launch of LafargeHolcim, Group CEO Eric Olsen was pretty clear that the company does not plan any 'capital-intensive' expansions in the coming years. HeidelbergCement's future actions are less predictable, especially as we are yet to hear about any divestments that may be required from HeidelbergCement and Italcementi in order to satisfy competition authorities around the world.

Whatever happens in the future, it is clear that the African cement industry has undergone a significant transformation in the past few weeks. With per-capita cement consumption far lower than on other continents, there will be plenty of room for growth as well as for more acquisitions, divestments, mergers and expansion projects from the 'Big Four' and others in the coming years.

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