The FINANCIAL -- On February 20, HeidelbergCement presented its preliminary, unaudited figures for sales volumes, revenue, result from current operations before depreciation and amortisation (RCOBD) and result from current operations (RCO) for the fourth quarter and the whole of 2017.
“We successfully completed the year 2017 despite a very challenging market environment and achieved our operational earnings target,” said Dr. Bernd Scheifele, Chairman of the Managing Board. “The challenges were numerous: energy cost inflation, increased competition in emerging markets, especially in Indonesia, uncertainties following the Brexit decision and bad weather, especially in the USA. Nevertheless, we were able to increase our result from current operations as guided. The consistent focus on efficiency and margin improvement and the successful integration of Italcementi that led to higher than expected synergies contributed to this success. Overall, 2017 was a record year for sales volumes, revenue and result from current operations.”
In the reporting year, sales volumes of the core products cement, aggregates, and ready-mixed concrete rose significantly as a result of the consolidation of Italcementi as from 1 July 2016. In 2016, Italcementi contributed to sales volumes, revenue and result only in the second half of the year, in 2017 in both half years, according to HeidelbergCement.
Financial year 2017
Cement and clinker sales volumes of the Group rose significantly due to consolidation by 22% to 126 million tonnes (previous year: 103). Aggregates sales volumes recorded a growth of 12% to 305 million tonnes (previous year: 272). Ready-mixed concrete volumes increased by 11% to 47 million tonnes (previous year 43).
Revenue and results of current operations before (RCOBD) and after depreciation and amortisation (RCO) also increased significantly as a result of the consolidation of Italcementi. Revenue rose by 14% to €17.3 billion (previous year: 15.2). Negative exchange rate effects impacted revenue by about €311 million. RCOBD also improved by 14% to €3.3 billion (previous year: 2.9). Price increases, consistent cost management, especially in light of energy cost inflation and the realization of synergies from the Italcementi integration contributed to the significant result improvement, on top of the consolidation effects. The synergy target of €470 million by end of 2018 was already clearly exceeded end of 2017 with €513 million. Due to the successful integration, the synergy target was raised to €550 million by end of 2018.
In the fourth quarter, sales volumes increased in all business lines compared with the prior year’s quarter. Cement and clinker sales volumes grew by 6% to 32 million tonnes (previous year: 30) due to a robust development in all Group areas. Aggregate deliveries increased by 4% to 76 million tonnes (previous year: 73). Except for Western and Southern Europe, all Group areas contributed to this growth, especially North America. Ready-mixed concrete volumes improved slightly by 0.5% to 12 million tonnes (previous year: 12).
In the fourth quarter, Group revenue rose by 1% to €4.3 billion (previous year: 4.2). Negative exchange rate effects impacted revenue by €235 million. Adjusted for currency and consolidation effects, revenue increased by about 5%. RCOBD improved by 17% to €892 million (previous year: 765) and RCO by 35% to €610 million (previous year: 451). Adjusted for currency and consolidation effects, effects from the purchase price allocation (PPA) and from CO2-sales, RCOBD and RCO increased by 16% and 28%, respectively. Successful price increases, higher than expected synergies from the integration of Italcementi and the successful disposal of a depleted quarry in the USA contributed in particular to this result improvement.
On pro forma basis, i.e. taking into account contributions of Italcementi also for the first half of 2016, sales volumes of cement increased slightly whereas aggregates grew moderately and ready-mixed concrete declined slightly. While cement recorded increasing deliveries in all Group areas except Africa-Eastern Mediterranean, aggregates benefited from growth in all Group areas except Western and Southern Europe as well as from the consolidation of Mibau. The positive ready-mixed concrete volume growth in Northern and Eastern Europe-Central Asia, North America and Africa-Eastern Mediterranean could not compensate for the decline in Western and Southern Europe and Asia-Pacific.
Adjusted for currency and consolidation effects, revenue increased on a pro-forma basis by about 2%. After adjusting also for effects from the purchase price allocation and sales of CO2 rights in the prior year, RCOBD and RCO improved by 6% and 10%, respectively, and are in accordance with the outlook from March 2017. Apart from the revenue growth, the effective management of energy costs and the significant overachievement of the synergy targets relating to the Italcementi acquisition, contributed particularly to this positive development of results.
Explanations in the following text refer to the development in the individual Group areas. Comments on annual results are done on a pro-forma basis. Fourth quarter results do not need a pro-forma view as Italcementi was already consolidated in the prior year’s quarter.
In North America, the growth in demand for building materials continued, in particular due to the sustained economic recovery and declining unemployment figures. Main drivers in 2017 were commercial and residential construction. With the acquisition of Italcementi’s North American subsidiary Essroc in July 2016, we have significantly expanded our footprint in the Northeast and Midwest of the USA as well as in the eastern part of Canada. In addition, we strengthened our vertical integration by acquiring the building materials business of Cemex in the Northwest of the USA and the operational assets of Saunders Companies in the Northeast of the USA.
In 2017, particularly strong growth of building materials deliveries was recorded in the West of the USA and in Canada. Sales volumes in the regions West and Canada still suffered from bad weather in the first quarter but developed very positively for the full year. In Canada, sales volumes benefitted from the recovery of oil projects in the Prairie provinces as well as from continuing strong demand in the regions Vancouver and Seattle. Deliveries of cement and ready-mixed concrete in the regions North and South, however, declined, due to bad weather. Overall, sales volumes increased in all business lines. Adjusted for consolidation effects, cement sales volumes improved, while sales volumes for aggregates, ready-mixed concrete and asphalt declined slightly.
Revenue grew slightly on a comparable pro forma basis whereas RCOBD and RCO improved significantly, driven by price increases, consistent cost management, the realization of synergies at Essroc and the disposal of a depleted quarry in the USA in the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter, sales volumes increased in all business lines, especially driven by the strong development in the regions West and Canada. The slight decline in revenue is purely due to negative exchange rate effects. On a comparable pro-forma basis, revenue improved moderately and RCOBD and RCO increased significantly due to the reasons mentioned, before.
While Construction activity in the Eurozone developed positively in 2017, it suffered in the UK from the uncertainties as a result of the Brexit vote. In Germany, building materials deliveries improved in all business lines due to the strong demand especially in residential construction. In the UK, delays in infrastructure programmes and weakening residential and commercial building activities in London led to declining sales volumes in all business lines. Italy, Spain, and France show signs of a recovery. In Benelux, sales volumes for aggregates and ready-mixed concrete declined while cement remained stable. In total, cement sales volumes improved slightly while aggregates and ready-mixed concrete sales volumes declined.
In 2017, revenue and result were impaired by the devaluation of the British pound against the euro. Adjusted for exchange rate effects, revenue increased slightly. RCO improved in all countries except the UK that recorded a significant decline due to lower sales volumes and increasing cost inflation. Overall, RCOBD and RCO remained about stable on prior year’s level.
The positive trend in cement sales continued in the fourth quarter thanks to solid demand in Germany and the southern European countries. Sales volumes of aggregates and ready-mixed concrete, however, declined due to the weak development in Benelux and UK. Currency and consolidation effects did not play a relevant role in the fourth quarter. Revenue increased slightly due to cement volume growth and successful price increases. On a comparable basis, RCOBD and RCO improved significantly due to effective cost management and the successful realisation of synergies.
In the Group area Northern and Eastern Europe-Central Asia, the strong development of building activity continued in the Northern European countries. In Norway, lively construction activity on infrastructure projects led to a further increase in cement sales volumes. In Sweden, demand was driven by private residential construction. Sales volumes in Eastern Europe also showed a pleasing development. Cement sales volumes in Poland and Romania benefitted from a rise in private residential construction. Bulgaria could increase cement sales as well. In Russia and Ukraine, however, sales volumes declined; focus in those two countries was on increasing prices. Adjusted for consolidation effects, sales volumes grew moderately in all business lines.
The positive sales development, successful price increases and consistent cost management are reflected in the improvement of revenue and results in the Northern and Eastern Europe-Central Asia Group area.
Economic growth in the Asia-Pacific Group area has stabilised. In Indonesia, demand for building products picked up thanks to the beginning of the infrastructure programmes. However, delays in infra projects and weak residential construction resulted in declining sales volumes in Thailand. Demand in India suffered from the impact of demonetisation and the implementation of a tax reform and declined slightly. In Australia, sales volumes of aggregates well increased thanks to strong construction activities on the east coast.
On a comparable pro-forma basis, revenue remained roughly stable whereas RCO declined significantly, mainly due to the strong price erosion in Indonesia. In addition, result development was negatively impacted by increasing energy costs.
In the Group area Asia-Pacific, cement demand improved in the course of the year, especially in Indonesia. Sales volume growth in the fourth quarter came in well above the annual average. On a comparable pro-forma basis, revenue increased in the fourth quarter. RCO continued to decline due to the lower price levels compared to the prior year’s quarter and fuel cost inflation.
Market development in Africa was varied. Construction activity in the oil-exporting countries benefitted from the increased oil price. In most of the sub-Saharan countries, cement sales volumes could be increased, in part, considerably. However, this growth was not sufficient to compensate for the decline in Egypt due to the weak economy of the country.
In addition, revenue and RCO were negatively impacted by increased competition, cost inflation and weakening exchange rates, especially of the Egyptian pound. On the cost side, Egypt could realize significant savings due to the realization of synergies and the adjustment of the fuel-mix due to the commissioning of a new coal mill. However, this was not sufficient to compensate for the margin pressure in the sub-Saharan countries. On a comparable pro-forma basis revenue could be improved moderately whereas RCOBD and RCO declined slightly.
In the course of 2017 the market environment in the Group area improved. The sales volume growth in the fourth quarter was well above the annual average. Revenue increased significantly before negative exchange rate effects, and on a comparable basis RCO even improved by almost 30% due to synergies and consistent cost management.
First outlook 2018
In its forecast of January 2018, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects a further acceleration of economic growth from 3.7% in 2017 to 3.9% in 2018. Many countries have seen a pickup in growth that leads to the broadest synchronised global growth upsurge since 2010. Relevant drivers of this development are on the one hand the accelerating growth in the USA, fueled by the recently adopted tax reform as well as the continued economic recovery in the Eurozone. On the other hand, the growth rates of the emerging markets are anticipated to rise again despite a further economic slowdown in China. Particularly for the countries in Northern Africa, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa higher growth rates are expected, among others due to the significant increase in oil price last year.
Global risks remain unchanged and include both macroeconomic and geopolitical risks. Macroeconomic risks include, above all, a faster than expected increase in inflation and interest rates and the unpredictable consequences of the economic slowdown in China. Geopolitical risks include, in particular, tensions and political uncertainties in some countries, especially in the UK.
In North America, HeidelbergCement, in conformity with the IMF, expects stronger economic growth and therefore a further increase in demand for building materials. In the Eurozone a continuation of the economic recovery and a robust market development is expected. The uncertainties around the Brexit, however, are hampering the economic development in the UK. In Northern Europe, we expect a continuation of the solid growth. In Eastern Europe, we anticipate growing demand for building materials as a result of the EU infrastructure programme, among other things. The economic situation in Russia and Kazakhstan has improved after the rise of the oil price. The crisis in eastern Ukraine will continue to impair the sales volumes and results of the country. Competitive pressure in emerging countries remains elevated. In Asia, HeidelbergCement anticipates economic growth on high levels. Sales of building materials is supported by increasing infrastructure investments in Indonesia and a recovery in Thailand, Malaysia, and India. The positive demand development in Australia is expected to continue. In the African markets, we anticipate an accelerated growth in demand and continued competition.
“Considering the overall positive outlook for the global economy we are confident about the future,” says Dr. Bernd Scheifele. “At the same time, we are aware of the macroeconomic risks, in particular the rise in energy prices and inflation as a whole, and initiated countermeasures on the cost and price side. HeidelbergCement continues to be well equipped to follow up on the strategic priorities – growth and increase in shareholder returns – over the coming years. Our programmes to improve efficiency and margins will also be consistently pursued in 2018. On top of that we will drive the digitisation along our value chain.”
“In 2018, we will benefit from the economic development in the USA and the continued recovery in the Eurozone,” continues Dr. Bernd Scheifele. “With our strong positioning in raw material reserves and production sites at attractive locations, our unique vertical integration, and excellent product portfolio, as well as our margin management which is best-in-class in our industry, we believe that we are well equipped for the opportunities and challenges of 2018.”