Economy & Market
Colombia's Cementos Argos to buy out US cement companies
Cementos Argos SA, Colombia's largest cement company plans to purchase several cement plants in South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia. The company entered the US market in 2005, and would become the fourth-largest ready mix producer in the US after it completes the purchase of the plants that it is buying from France's Lafarge SA. Argos will finance the purchase through a bank loan and cash it has from selling its stake last year in a holding company. "Argos will also sell the portfolio assets that are unrelated to its core cement business", Jose Velez, chief executive, Cementos Argos SA said without giving more details. The purchase of some of Lafarge's assets will bring Argos's US investments to nearly $1.5 billion over the last five years. The Colombian company could start considering other acquisitions in 2012 once it finishes integrating the Lafarge plants, Velez added. The company's US assets are concentrated in the Southeast, a region which Velez said could see strong growth in the construction industry in the next few years. The purchase, which is still subject to the approval of US regulators, will bring Argos's installed capacity in the US to 3.2 million metric tonnes of cement and about 10 million cubic meters of ready mix per year. The increased reliance on dollar-denominated income has not directly affected the company's balance sheet despite the strength of the Colombian peso against the dollar, Velez said. "Because of the weakness of the dollar most of our inputs are cheaper now," which helps offset the impact of the peso's appreciation on dollar revenue, he said. "The net impact of the appreciation is really zero at this time," Velez added.