Economy & Market
examines and studies the cement, concrete, concrete equipment sector for the coming year. The study was done basically to comprehend and analyse the current state of each sector. Also,
bring to you the opinions of dealers, who know the real pulse of the market.
The first half of the year 2012 of the cement industry witnessed a sluggish demand and almost the other half felt the cost pressure. In the states like Andhra Pradesh, the year ended on a discouraging note since the prices dipped further by Rs 40-45. However as per the Working Committee report on cement industry suggests that the Government of India plans to increase its investment in infrastructure to US $ 1 trillion in the Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012-17) as compared to US $ 514 billion expected to be spent on infrastructure development under the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-12). Further, infrastructure projects such as the dedicated freight corridors, upgraded and new airports and ports are expected to enhance the scale of economic activity, leading to a substantial increase in cement demand. Housing sector and road also provide significant opportunities. The cement demand is likely to be sensitive to the growth in these sectors and also the policy initiatives. Further, capacity addition in cement would continue to be preferably front loaded. It may be desirable to create some excess capacity rather than operate with shortages or supply bottlenecks. Keeping in view the factors responsible for the increasing demand for the sector and the assumptions mentioned below, four lines of projection in the demand for cement up to next 25 years (2027) have been given. The annual average growth in the demand, production and installed capacity of the cement during the period could be within the range of 10-11.75 per cent. The production of cement would be sensitive to the GDP growth and the growth of sectors which are major users of cement. A step up in demand of these sectors could provide some stimulus to the cement sector as well.
• Base line growth from 2014-15 is kept at assumed GDP growth, or an elasticity of 1.0.
• The growth is expected to increase by 1 per cent above the base line in scenario 2 assuming NH and SH to be initially covered.
• In scenario 3, assuming a further increase in growth by 0.5 per cent and in scenario 4 growth is scaled up further by 0.25 per cent.
• Base Growth kept a little lower than GDP growth in first three years because of pickup in demand may take some time.
• With all the three expectations being met, growth improves to 10.75 per cent or with an assumed elasticity of roughly 1.2, as against observed elasticity of 1.07 during 12th Plan and further to 11.75 per cent in the next 10 years. Elasticity tapers off to 1.175.
12 The Task Force for the 11th Plan for the Cement sector also mentioned that the concrete roads, besides providing an excellent surface, enjoy a lower life cycle cost. In the current scenario, however, concrete roads enjoy an initial cost advantage as well.
2012 a mixed bag
The year 2012 for the cement industry was full of controversies. Be it the issue of catelisation, wherein the 11 cement giants were penalised with a mammoth amount of Rs 6,304 crore or the reduction in prices of cement by the end or the year. The cement market was volatile and slowed signs of improvement. The acquisition of Calcom in the beginning of the year and Adhunik in September 2012 by Dalmia proved that consolidation remains the key for the cement business. By the end of the year they increased their stake in Calcom by 26 per cent.
Expressing his opinion on the market scenario in the year 2012, Jagdeep Verma, Head- Business Consulting, Holtec Consulting said, "The good news was that cement consumption grew by 8 per cent, despite a slowdown in GDP growth. Retail prices too increased by an average 6-7 per cent over the last year, though there were large price fluctuations in some states and key consumption centres on account of consumption-supply imbalances. The price increase enabled most producers to offset the increased cost of inputs, significant offenders being fuel and logistics."
He further explained the negative side of the sector. "On the flip side, industry sentiment was adversely affected, not only by the penalty proposed by the Competition Commission of India, but also by general economic sluggishness, the current prevalence of market surplus, high borrowing rates/ poor liquidity conditions in user segments, difficulties faced in land acquisition/ procuring environmental clearances and ambivalent perceptions regarding the emerging politico-economic scenario. All this manifested itself in a reining in of capacity addition initiatives. Firms with high costs pressures are opening up to M&A possibilities and PE funding in order to smoothen their cash flow obligations."
However Prakash Raja, the Committee Member of Cement Dealers' Stockist Association feels that on one hand where there was a hike in cement prices, on the other hand, the demand that showed signs of pick up never really caught on, which brought a lot of volatility in the market. "We have seen cement companies, which have been region specific for almost decades, now venturing out in hunt for newer markets. Consequently, a mini price war was witnessed this year. In fact the rates are still far from being stable. Since many construction companies do not utilise input Value Added Tax ('VAT') credit, they prefer buying material against C-form, ensuring concessional rate of Central Sales Tax ('CST') and consequently, lowering of input costs. This has made it worthwhile for the new market seeking companies to do business across states, without really breaking the bank." The slump has impacted their business in a threefold manner. Jugal Raja, King's Trade Links said that the slump has a threefold effect on the dealers. "Higher borrowing costs, higher prices of cement and elongation of credit period offered to the buyers are the three negatives that have ensured that most of our revenues are literally wiped out. To illustrate, if we take the cement price hike on a smoothened average basis to be Rs.40, the cost of borrowings rise at 2.5-3 per cent per annum and the elongation of credit period on an average by 40-60 days, the income remaining constant, one can imagine the impact on the margins. Given the slow down and overall slug-gishness, lowering volumes have made this worse than it looks. Many dealers have been raising their voice against the stagnant commission and pass-on since the last 5 years.
Although the prices of cement have risen, the absolute value of dealers' pass-on has been kept constant by the manufacturers, citing growth in volumes to be enough to compensate the dealers. Now that there is slow down, there is a strong case for the hike in dealers' margins, albeit only at the manufacturers' discretion."
Even the concrete equipment sector witnessed severe disappointment. Anand Sundaresan, Managing Director, Schwing Stetter said that the entire industry went through a bad phase and the concrete equipment industry was no exception to that which led to drop in their numbers. Talking about the percentage in slouch he said,"It will be very difficult to talk about by what percentage has our business gone down since the Finance Minister is also trying his level best to improve the sector by introducing new policies which might work out and we might be in a better position."
Recently Lucky Cement, Pakistan's largest cement manufacturer was keen on setting up a cement plant in India. Generally cements from Pakistan are said to be of a cheaper rate and of a better quality. But Jugal Raja, Dealer, King's Trade Links believes that India being the second largest producer of cement in the world is producing almost three times the total output of the third largest producer - Iran. We firmly believe there is no case, be it quality or affordability that makes our economy open up to such imports, more so when such notorious activities have been un-earthed. If the pricing is so enticing, there must be a reason for it. We see it and it's high time the end users as well as the authorities see it. This may sound like a very Nationalist and even slightly jingoistic view, but imagine where cement companies from South of India are finding it difficult in terms of costs to move the material to areas such as Mumbai at Rs 270 per bag, how would it be a profitable affair for an economy such as Pakistan which is surviving on external aid to push it from longer distances at Rs 220 per bag."
With the mismatch of demand and supply faced by the cement industry is expected to encounter with a lot of challenges, which will further impact all the related industries.
According to Sundaresan, the major challenge faced by the equipment manufacturing sector is substantial increase in input costs due to a hike in commodity prices, increase in interest rates, increase in employee and power costs and almost an increase of 25 per cent in the dollar exchange rate between April 2011 and average exchange rate in the year 2012.
Whilst Verma feels that the cement industry will face a series of challenges like dwindling natural resources, cost reduction, optimisation of logistics, acute shortage of dom-estic coal and the increase in costs and gestation period. "Shortage of natural resources is a serious cause of concern. Among these, limestone, fossil fuel and water, if not conserved, could definitely inhibit the long term growth of the industry. The onus of conservation, till now, has generally been technology-based and, therefore, largely driven by equipment suppliers. Wasteful practices need much higher attention and cement producers must pick up the baton on directly arresting these in the course of normal operations." He further said that the life of limestone reserves being limited to the next 40 years or so, initiatives to use poorer grades appear imminent; despite conventional wisdom, high quality limestone imports are, possibly, inevitable.
Cost reduction will be another issue which is expected to dominate the upcoming two to three fiscals. The biggest costs in cement business are energy and logistics, thus adequate attention has, only been recently directed at one of the largest components of delivered cost, viz. input and output freight. Given the acute shortage of domestic coal and the increase in costs in imported coal, alternate fuels would continue to receive enhanced attention and could provide 7-10 per cent of the total thermal fuel requirements by FY 2015-16. The usage of gas, especially in plants enjoying logistical proximity to gas resources, could well become a reality. While Greenfield plants would setup captive power plants to ensure reliable power supply, the existing plans would consider use of alternative fuels and also installation of Waste Heat Recovery systems to keep costs under control Verma further explained, "An analysis of the components of the final delivered cost of cement shows that 40 per cent is constituted by production costs, 25 per cent by the transport costs of inputs and outputs and 35 per cent by direct and indirect taxes. Optimisation of transportation logistics, spanning modes, nodes and routes, is thus an area deserving a higher degree of focused attention.
The potential for reducing costs in non-equipment related domains, e.g. material inventories, consumable consumption rates and tariffs, financial expenses, etc. has still not been adequately harnessed.
Also with the pre-project activities, such as land acquisition and statutory clearances, being expected to consume more time, the gestation period in the future is likely to be in the range of 5-7 years.
Industry players could attempt to bring down actual construction time by employing more steel in civil engineering structures.
According to SN Subrahmanyan, Member of the Board and Sr. EVP (Infrastructure & Construction), L&T Construction, the cement equipmeny industry is also going through alot of changes. The current focus is on savings in energy consumption and emission control methods, with stringent pollution control norms which are tightened day by day and the introduction of PAT (Perform, Achieve and Trade) scheme. "Cement manufacturers are expected to operate their plant in optimised conditions all the time. Power availability is also a key factor that affects cement plant operations. Clients are looking for equipment which reduces energy, fuel consumption, and effective utilisation of waste heat. Due to this trend waste heat recovery systems and alternate fuel firing systems have become common requirements in cement plant tenders."
Regarding future trends:
In India Municipal Waste Firing (MWF) in cement plants is an area with great potential but still underutilised. The reason for that is non-homogeneity and lack of continuous availability of the wastes. This irregularity creates fluctuations in the cement process and causes undesirable emission levels, increase in energy consumption patterns and also affects clinker quality. Every state should have waste collection centres to ensure continuous supply of wastes to cement plants. Substantial research is required to develop municipal waste firing systems suitable for Indian conditions considering mode of transport and hygiene. Existing designs are predominantly based on western country municipal wastes, but the wastes generated in western countries are quite different from the municipal wastes generated in Indian cities due to cultural differences. This change in type of waste impacts the system performance and firing rate. Availability of municipal waste is also inconsistent in India. If flexible firing systems are developed then Municipal wastes can be substituted for fossil fuels by 20-30 per cent. Currently cement plants are able to substitute only 5-15 per cent of waste for fuel fired in the system due to above said reasons. We believe with increasing coal prices and non-availability of power may encourage more cement plant clients to prefer municipal waste firing systems in the near future.
With over 200 major construction projects pending in India, the entire construction industry is suffering with losses. "First and the foremost, the government should push investment in infrastructure projects, and bring in whatever policies changes that are necessary to speed this up and make it investment friendly," said Sundaresan. The other hindrance faced by the industry is most road contractors talk about land acquisitions as one of the major bottlenecks for speedy completion of projects.
Definitely, this issue has to be addressed, which is pending for quite some time. Coming to the equipment industry he commented, "Concerning the equipment industry, the government should bring in similar kind of sops like what was done during the budget 2009, i.e., reduction in excise duty for capital equipments. In addition to that, we have other usual grievances like abolition of entry tax, GST, Uniform Tax Policy, etc."
Even the dealers are of the opinion that the Government needs to clearances to the pending projects. "We require only one support and that is the clearing of proposed and further issuance of quality projects which will help build a new India. The money injected will churn into the economy fastest through this route as we have witnessed in the past. To supplement this, we believe India has a top-notch infrastructure funding mechanism in the form of multiple lending institutions. Perhaps, easing of certain eligibility criteria will do a host of good." He further added, "Maybe, a different, more 'ambitious projects' centric version of IDFC is the need of the hour. Also, as mentioned earlier, there is disparity among VAT and concessional rate of CST for end-users not utilising input VAT to pay output VAT. This disparity should be mitigated with the introduction of GST as early as possible."
At a general level, the industry would like stable economic policies and lowering of interest rates leading to positive growth sentiments and increase in GDP, GFCF and thereby construction related investment. This would enable the industry to systematically plan its capacity expansions and focus on ways to meet cement demand.
At an industry level, cogent policies to own mines and coals blocks, as also those associated with land acquisition, would be desired. This would facilitate ease of setting up cement plants within acceptable gestation periods, generate acceptable returns to stakeholders and keep debt related cash outflows low-in turn downward inflowing cement prices.
According to Verma, "A regulatory body to ensure adherence to India Standards by all concrete producers (commercial and captive) would help the industry to ensure quality concrete is made available to all end users. With such an intervention, the industry could then further educate its customers on concrete production and usage. Malpractices followed by small-scale concrete producers would come to an end and prices narrow down within an acceptable band. This could impel more cement producers to forward integrate into the RMC industry and serve their customers better."
Also for the dealers logistics remains the biggest challenge for the year 2013. Mumbai, (which is considered a separate region altogether, giving exclusivity to this market, separate from the rest of the Western region) has the threshold logistical permissibility of 750,000- 800,000 metric tonne a month. With rising demand in satellite areas and the ambitious projects waiting in the flanks, there is consensus that this constraint be dealt with. Same goes for Bangalore and even for some up and coming tier-two cities such as Mangalore and Bhopal, where demand has been robust. Another challenge that the industry faces is really something which is not in control of the industry, viz, the log-jam of various projects, both private and state/central funded. This log-jam is expected to be cleared out before the last budget of the UPA-2 on a populist count. Be that as it may be, the opportunity for the cement industry is huge, considering that the Indian growth story is still very much intact.
Most of the industries related to cement are expecting a sluggish year ahead. For the concrete equipment industry the year is expected to grow marginally. "Even though the government is bringing in a lot of policy reforms and steps for improving the economic growth, the award of contracts will take some time. Besides that, concreting comes at a much later stage, i.e. after excavation or earth moving. Therefore, for the concreting equipment industry, I feel 2013 will be a flat year or it will be with a marginal growth," said Anand. To combat the same the company is all set to launch new equipment in the upcoming bCIndia 2013.
Cement consumption is expected to sustain in the range of 8-9 per cent, taking estimated cement consumption in FY 2013 from around 260 mio t to 280-285 mio t in FY 2014.
Due to public perceptions of high cement prices, cement demand (not to be mistaken with consumption) would remain unfulfilled. Producing "affordable cement" without compromising the quantum (not per cent) of EBIDTA is possibly the one major initiative that would possibly dwarf all other initiatives. This would necessitate the harnessing of technology, amending operating practices and modifying customer mindsets. The net effect could be significant increase in customer base and consequentially a mini-explosion in the size of the cement market pie. There is also a strong likelihood of players announcing greenfield capacity additions, in order to ensure plants are operational by the time cement consumption overtakes capacity (FY 2018). Possible pre-conditions for these announcements to be translated into action would include a lowering of interest rates and expeditious action on statutory clearances.
The likelihood of PE Firms playing a higher role to fund the cash-strapped companies would increase. M&A activities are also likely to accelerate, particularly with larger cement players having an opportunity to acquire plants under financial pressures.
Capacities would most probably exchange ownership if the agreed valuation is in the range of USD 145-165/ t.
On the technology front, efforts to utilise Alternative Fuels and install Waste Heat Recovery are initiatives which are likely to become much more widespread.
For the dealers the summer of 2013 is touted to be the start of the new bull run for the entire infra space. With both, the Holcim group (ACC and Ambuja) and Aditya Birla group (Ultratech) having the right arsenal in place in the form of increased capacities, and with the other upcoming brands, the total tally of consumption in cement will see a huge pick up owing to moderated base of last two years. There were times when demand would be so high that companies were compelled to allocate the total arrivals in preference of consumer loyalty and buying patterns.
We believe that won't happen in the next bull run since the easing of logistical situation backed by the expansion of capacity has taken place since then.
Thus only time will show that if the industry will regain its old pace or will deteriorate further.