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PCA forecasts moderate consumption growth to 31 December 2021

US: The Portland Cement Association (PCA) has releases a two-year forecast of moderate growth in cement consumption between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2021. It projected growth of 1.7% in 2020, slowing slightly to 1.4% in 2021, corresponding to 2.1% and 1.7% GDP growth annually. Speaking at the 38th International Cement Seminar in Atlanta, PCA senior vice president and chief economist Ed Sullivan projected consumption growth of 1.6% – 2.3% in 2019 against GDP growth of 2.4% over the period, with consumption bolstered by the 2018 Federal Budget, which allowed for US$20bn in infrastructure investments in 2018 and 2019. He noted growing uncertainty (21% in 2019) with the expiry of the ‘pent-up demand zip that invigorates the initial stages of economic recovery long past.’

Rising house prices and mild inflation signify the continuation of the US economy’s longest expansion post-World War Two, with 161,000 net new jobs generated so far in 2019. With a forecasted population increase of 60m by 2040, US cement producers appears still have their work cut out in keeping up with demand.


Panama scales down cement production as imports hit high

Panama: 0.87Mt of domestically produced cement was sold in Panama in the six months to 31 July 2019, corresponding to a drop in production of 12.8% compared to the same period of 2018. Figures released by the treasury office showed total cement imports at a high of 85,600t; 10% of domestic consumption.


Cement executive on trial as State Control Committee calls for penalties for officials

Belarus: The Council of Ministers has received a recommendation from the State Control Commission (SCC) that punitive measures be taken against officials responsible for cement production in the midst of another disappointing year. Belapan has reported that members of the SCC blamed the failure to secure efficient performance on untenable costs due to intermediaries. Investigators from the SCC’s Financial Investigations Department (FID) found that Russian intermediaries were selling cement produced in Belarus to Belarusian state-owned companies at a marked-up price. A total of 13 criminal cases have been opened in connection with the findings, including one against an executive of a Belarusian cement company.

In 2013, Belarus completed the modernisation of its three state-owned cement producers, Belarusian Cement, Krasnoselsktroymaterialy and Krichevcementnoshifer to a total capacity of 2.3Mt/yr, at a cost of US$1.1bn. In 2018, the companies missed eight of their 10 key performance targets. Besides cost reduction, capacity utilisation and labour productivity targets were not met.

Elsewhere, Krasnoselsktroymaterialy has tendered for the supply of gas cleaning equipment, including the replacement of bag filters at two of the mills in its grinding facility.


Disaster near LafargeHolcim quarry

Zimbabwe: A blast at Lafarge Cement Zimbabwe’s Sternblick quarry on 15 August 2019 has killed one person and injured another.

Agence Ecofin has reported that two women were at home on Pangoula Farm, Harare, when debris from the quarry entered through the roof, striking 36-year-old Shupikai Chatsina, who lost her life instantly, on the head. She leaves behind a husband and five children. The second woman, Ms Chatsina’s aunt, is recovering in hospital.

LafargeHolcim’s contractor Afri Mining did not follow established blasting procedures. The disaster is under police investigation.


Trade Secretary welcomes report into import protection

Philippines: Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez has welcomed a Tariff Commission (TC) report that has increased the safeguard duty on imported cement, but noted that his department was still reviewing the evaluations made.

Speaking on 14 August 2019, Lopez said, “We just got the full report on cement from the TC and will study the evaluations made. We welcome the finding that there was injury to the industry and that the safeguard duty should be US$5.65/t or US$0.23/bag (40kg).” The TC report said the US$0.23/bag safeguard duty was the difference between the weighted average landed cost of imported cement and the average domestic ex-plant selling price of the local cement industry for 2018.

Lopez earlier claimed that imports of cement increased from only 3558t in 2013 to more than 3Mt in 2017. The share of imports increased from only 0.02% to 15% during the same period.


PCA makes appointments in Government Affairs, Communications and Finance

US: The Portland Cement Association (PCA) has made appointments to its executive teams in Government Affairs, Communications and Finance.

Sean O’Neill has been appointed as the Senior Vice President of Government Affairs. He joins the PCA from the Associated General Conwtractors of America as Vice President of Congressional Relations/Infrastructure Advancement. Previously he served as Director of Government Affairs at the International Association of Fire Fighters, Special Assistant to Secretary Elaine Chao and Chief of Staff for Congressman John Sweeney.

Nick Ferrari has been appointed Senior Vice President of Communications and Media Relations. He was previously Director of Publishing and Content Development at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He was also the chief executive officer (CEO) of Erdos and Morgan, a marketing and media research company and Executive Vice President at American Business Media. He has also held senior positions at Crain Communications.

Debra Adlis has been appointed as the chief financial officer (CFO). She will serve as treasurer and CFO for PCA, while also serving as Executive Vice President of Finance for the National Ready Mix Concrete Association. Adlis has led non-profit finance teams at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, the Immune Deficiency Foundation and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Previous to those roles Adlis worked with the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts.


Pakistan cement exports fall in second quarter of 2019

Pakistan: Data from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics shows that cement exports fell by 2.5% year-on-year to 1.16Mt in the second quarter of 2019 from 1.22Mt in the same period in 2018. After a strong first quarter exports remained high in April 2019 before starting to decline in May and June. Overall, exports rose by 22.8% year-on-year to 2.7Mt in the first half of 2019.


Vicat fights poor markets in Turkey, Switzerland, Indian and West Africa in first half of 2019

France: Vicat’s sales rose by 4.6% year-on-year to Euro1.34bn in the first half of 2019 from Euro1.28bn in the same period in 2018. This was mainly due to its acquisition of Brazil’s Ciplan in late 2018. At constant scope and exchange rates its sales fell by 0.6% due to poor markets in Turkey, Switzerland, Indian and West Africa. Its earnings before interest and tax fell by 9.4% to Euro97m from Euro107m. Cement sales volumes dropped by 4.9% to 10.8Mt from 11.4Mt and concrete volumes decreased by 6.7% to 4.3Mm3 from 4.57Mm3.

“In the first half of 2019, solid performances in France, Asia and the US drove an increase in our sales and earnings before interest, taxation, deprecation and amortisation (EBITDA). These results reflect a marked improvement in the operational profitability given the on-going increase in consumed energy costs, the deteriorating macroeconomic situation in Turkey and the exceptional rainfalls in California that we experienced in the first half,” said Guy Sidos, the group’s chief executive officer (CEO).

By region, the group’s sales and earnings rose in France but fell in the rest of Europe. Sales grew in the Americas region, even without the Ciplan acquisition, but earnings fell due to a Euro10.6mn settlement payment booked in the US in the first half of 2018. The group’s sales fell in India but earnings rose due to price increases. Poor markets in Turkey and Egypt hit sales and caused a loss.


Panama improves cement quality requirements and standards

Panama: Ramón Martínez, the Minister of Trade and Industry, has signed two resolutions intended to improve the requirements and standards of cement quality both domestically and for imports. DGNTI-COPANIT 5-2019 sets out the chemical, physical and performance requirements of general and specialised cements, as well as the packaging, transportation, storage and use requirements, according to La Estrella newspaper. DGNTI-COPANIT-90-2019 specifies the procedure for verifying and monitoring the quality of hydraulic cements produced, imported and marketed in the country.


Saudi Arabia exports 25Mt of cement since mid-2017

Saudi Arabia: Total exports of cement have reached 25Mt since the export rules were relaxed in mid-2017. Abdul Rahman Hussein, from the Ministry of Trade and Investment, said that the government is now planning to charge fees on exporters after a two-year tax holiday, according to the Aliqtisadia newspaper. He noted that the ministry has approved 53 cement export licences. 22 of these have been issued during the current year.