It's official: the big boys are heading to India this week.
First Lafarge head Bruno Lafont announced broad expansion plans in the subcontinent. Then a Holcim presentation emerged from earlier in 2012 projecting that the company expects India's overall construction market to take the global third position after China and the US by 2020.
With the Indian construction share set to rise from US$360bn in 2010 to US$840bn in 2020 that's one massive market share up for grabs. Throw in some interpretation from India's 2011 census and the signs are that its population could overtake China's by 2030. Sounds like an absolutely perfect opportunity for your average embattled European cement corporation!
Except that there's no such thing as a sure bet. As we covered previously, Indian cement consumption fell for the first time in 20 years in August 2011. The cause was put down to political problems holding up infrastructure in key states. In March 2012 we've had two stories that have impacted upon the local industry. First the Railway Board of India hiked the freight rates by 24%. Then the Union Budget for 2012-13 increased the excise and service tax. Clearly everybody wants a piece of the 'inevitable' bonanza. If anything impedes India's growth in the next decade there may be bargains going for cement on the export market.
Elsewhere this week we have stories on the potential cost of a proposed air pollution ruling upon two plants in the US state of Montana, more information on a revival in the Gulf Cooperation Council region and more capacity growth in Indonesia.