Croatia: The CEO of Holcim Croatia has said that the company expects flat revenues in 2012 compared to 2011, while it expects to maintain its capacity utilisation rate of 80%. "The last three years were extremely difficult for the construction sector in Croatia," explained Mario Grassl. "Annual cement consumption in Croatia has contracted by 40% compared to 2008. The lack of investment in the construction sector and an unfavourable ratio of fixed costs compared to sales volumes are the main reasons for the loss of around Euro2.5m that Holcim Croatia posted in 2011."
To make matters worse, the overcapacity of local and international producers has depressed sale prices while input costs, mainly those related to fuels, raw materials, energy and distribution, have increased significantly. On top of that, the recent increase in Croatia's VAT rate from 23% to 25% is an additional burden for the end user.
Demand for construction materials in Croatia is still declining. Grassl said that he thinks that a full recovery to pre-crisis levels is still at least three years away. The customer base has been shrinking due to bankruptcy and liquidation procedures and although expectations for improved liquidity in the business sector are high, they will have to be underpinned by stimulus measures at government level. "Based on data from the Croatian Bureau of Statistics, the number of finished residential construction projects in 2011 was around 23% lower than in 2010. Looking ahead, there are no major projects that could be realistically expected to get underway in the next six months. Therefore we expect demand this year to stay at the 2011 level with consumption of cement flat at around 1.8Mt," Grassl said.
Despite the sharp drop in domestic demand over the last few years, Holcim has managed to maintain a share of around 20% of the Croatian market.The company's revenue grew by around 6% in 2011 and Grassl said that he expects a flat performance in that respect in 2012 in a 'best-case' scenario.
In 2011 Holcim Croatia managed to post a growth in exports to Italy and to Bosnia and Herzegovina in the low single digits and expects exports to be similar in 2012. The company exports approximately 20% of its output to Italy which is its largest export market, followed by Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. "Due to logistic bottlenecks and costs we do not plan to enter new markets," Grassl said.
On all three segments of the building materials market where Holcim Croatia is active, investment activities in 2012 will be mainly related to maintenance and better cost management. "For example, in the first quarter of the year we invested Euro1m at the Koromacno cement plant in the reconstruction of a clinker cooler. This will increase thermal energy efficiency and decrease maintenance costs," said Grassl.