LafargeHolcim announced its plans to sell its business in Indonesia to Semen Indonesia this week for US$1.75bn. The deal covers four cement plants, 33 ready-mix plants and two aggregate quarries. It is part of its portfolio assessment scheme with a target to divest assets worth Euro1.7bn in 2019. At the current exchange rate, if the deal completes next year, then that’s most of the target met. Job done.
But wait just a moment. Global Cement Directory 2018 data has Holcim Indonesia’s cement production capacity listed as 11.9Mt/yr. Just taking the integrated cement plants into account and then recognising that the subsidiary has an 80.6% share in the business, puts the cost at a little under US$120/t of production capacity. The other concrete and aggregate assets can only reduce this figure as their value is taken into account. Then, don’t forget that Holcim Indonesia also operates two cement grinding plant: one at Ciwandan in Banten and a mothballed unit at Kuala Indah in North Sumatra. Nor did a cement terminal in Lampung and a cement warehouse in Palembang receive a mention. Holcim Indonesia placed its total cement production capacity at 15Mt/yr in its 2017 annual report. Take that figure into account and one gets a value of below US$100/t for the cement production capacity of Holcim Indonesia. It seems unlikely that LafargeHolcim has undervalued its assets but somebody somewhere must be taking a loss on this deal.
Earlier in the year we looked at LafargeHolcim’s options in Indonesia following speculation in the local press that it was considering selling. Our conclusion was that market overcapacity wasn’t going away anytime soon and LafargeHolcim had a publicly stated desire to sell its assets around the world to cut back its overheads towards profitability. The subsidiary made a loss in 2016 and this tripled to US$58m in 2017. Its earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) have fallen in consecutive years since 2015. LafargeHolcim has opted for the bold option to totally leave the market of one of the world’s top ten national cement producers.
From its perspective, Semen Indonesia said that it was looking forward to taking on-board Holcim Indonesia’s co-processing technology and rolling it to its other plants. Holcim Indonesia’s alternative fuels and recycling subsidiary, Geocycle, processed 0.36Mt of waste fuels in 2017, a 23% year-on-year rise from 0.30Mt in 2016. Semen Indonesia also has plans to submit a mandatory tender offer for the remaining share of Holcim Indonesia. It expressed pride at the transaction making it the biggest cement producer in South-East Asia with a production capacity of 53Mt/yr but it didn’t say exactly where it plans to sell its products.
Graph 1: Domestic cement consumption in Indonesia, 2010 – 2017. Source: Indonesian Cement Association (ASI).
That last bit is important. Since the Holcim Indonesia assets and Semen Indonesia’s plants don’t seem to overlap too much geographically it seems likely that the competition authorities will approve the deal if they can overlook the state-owned company owning over half the country’s production capacity. Indonesian Cement Association (ASI) data put sales at 66.4Mt in 2017, giving a capacity utilisation rate of 84% using the Global Cement Directory’s national capacity of 79.3Mt/yr or 61% using the ASI’s figure of 108Mt/yr for 2017. ASI data shows that local cement consumption grew by 7.6% year-on-year in 2017 following five years of slowing growth. So far, growth for the first half of 2018 seems slower at 3.6% year-on-year to 30.1Mt. These figures may have prompted LafargeHolcim to make its final decision to exit the country suggesting that there is no end in sight to the poor market.
LafargeHolcim’s decision to leave Indonesia seems sound but the selling price seems low and it is walking away from a large market. Either the production assets are old, the market is worse than we think it is or something else is going on. That said though, LafargeHolcim has taken decisive action that should ultimately benefit its bottom line.