Lafarge profits up, debts down ahead of merger

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French cement giant Lafarge, set to merge with Swiss rival Holcim, announced on Friday an increase in second-quarter net profit, off the back of successful cost-cutting and a strong showing in Asian and South American emerging markets.

Lafarge and Holcim, both of which have international activities, intend to create a giant materials group with their merger, due to be completed in the first half of 2015.

The Lafarge group posted a net profit of 205 million euros ($275 million) in the second quarter, up 2.0 percent from the equivalent figure last year, but over the first six months it plunged by 16.6 percent to 70 million euros.

Hampered by the relative strength of the euro compared to emerging market currencies, Lafarge's first-quarter sales slumped 4.0 percent to 6 billion euros, which at constant exchange rates represented a 6.0 percent increase.

Underlying operating profit as measured by earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) fell by 1 percent in the first quarter to 1.1 billion euros, a gain of 13.0 percent on a comparable basis.

Lafarge also said that its profit margin on operations had improved reflecting "our success in reducing costs and promoting our innovative products and solutions."

CEO Bruno Lafont said: "North America is improving, growth continues in emerging markets, and we see the first signs of recovery in Europe."

The French group last year reduced its debt to nearly 10 billion euros to regain investor confidence that would grant greater access to capital markets.

It confirmed its targets for 2014, aiming to cut its debt to below nine billion euros -- a year ahead of schedule -- and make an additional 600 million euros (Ebitda).

The group also confirmed its outlook of cement demand growth of 2.0 to 5.0 percent this year.


© 2014 AFP

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