Taiwan Cement said this week that it is aiming for cement to account for less than half of its sales by 2025. At the annual shareholders’ meeting chair Nelson Chang defended the cement sector as a core business but said that the company was expanding more into the green energy sector through its energy storage and vehicle charging lines. Chang directly linked the strategy to growing carbon taxes around the world, such as the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme, where the carbon price has been occasionally close to pushing past Euro100/t since early 2022. Taiwan Cement formed a joint venture with Türkiye-based Oyak Group in 2018 that runs Cimpor in Portugal.
|Cement share of business
|Other main sectors
|Aggregates, concrete, gypsum, wind turbines, batteries, engineering
|Aggregates, concrete, sand, trading
|Aggregates, concrete, lightweight building materials
|Aggregates, concrete, asphalt
|Power supply, rechargeable lithium-ion battery, sea and land transportation
Table 1: Cement business share by revenue of selected cement producers. Source: Corporate annual reports.
Taiwan Cement’s plan to decrease its reliance on cement is becoming a familiar one. Holcim notably revealed in 2021 that it was growing its light building materials division. Its cement division represented 60% of sales in 2020 with concrete and aggregates making up most of the rest to 92% and the remaining 8% on other products including light building materials. This started to change with the acquisition of roofing and building envelope producer Firestone Building Products in 2021. Other similar acquisitions have followed. Holcim’s current target is to grow the Solutions & Products division to around 30% by 2025, with cement reduced to somewhere between a third and half of sales. Earlier this year Japan-based Taiheiyo Cement said it was doing a similar thing as part of its medium-term strategy to 2035. In its case cement represented 70% of its sales in 2022 but it is now aiming to reduce this to 65% by 2025 and 50% by 2035.
A common pattern for the business composition of European cement companies is a mixture of heavy building materials made up of cement, concrete and aggregate. However, not every cement company follows the same route. Some cement companies are simply parts of larger conglomerates. UltraTech Cement, for example, is mostly just a cement company. However, it is also part of Aditya Birla Group, which runs a wide range of industries including chemicals, textiles, financial services, telecoms, mining and more. Depending on how one looks at it, UltraTech Cement’s cement business ratio is large or Aditya Birla Group’s ratio is small. Siam Cement Group (SCG) in Thailand is another example of a cement producer operated by a conglomerate with other major businesses.
A different approach that some cement producers take is to mix cement production with complimentary businesses outside of heavy building materials. A good example of this is Votorantim Cement in Brazil, which manufactures cement and steel. Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional (CSN) is another Brazil-based cement producer that is also well known for steel production. Adani Group in India, meanwhile, was well known for logistics, power generation and airports before it purchased Ambuja Cements and ACC from Holcim in 2022.
The driver for cement companies looking to reduce cement as a proportion of their businesses has varied between the three examples presented above. Holcim’s approach has been in response to growing European carbon costs but it also fits with a general desire to broaden its business as the company has sought to reshape itself following the merger between Lafarge and Holcim. Taiheiyo Cement’s plans also have a sustainability angle but the Japanese market has been in slow decline since the 1990s and this has been made worse by the spike in energy prices since 2022. Investing in new businesses makes sense for either of these reasons. Lastly, Taiwan Cement says it is taking action in response to carbon prices around the world. However, its proximity to many other large-scale producers in the Far East may also be a factor. Whether more companies follow suit and also start to reduce the ratio of their cement businesses remains to be seen. Yet, mounting carbon taxes and global production overcapacity look set to make more of the larger cement producers consider their options in certain places.