Regional mix helps Ambuja post strong results
Regional mix helps Ambuja post strong results

Regional mix helps Ambuja post strong results

Ambuja Cements' exposure to west, north and east India drove strong growth in realisations, which were much better than the forecasts. Cement volume growth of 5 per cent was also a positive in the current context, driving market share gains. The company managed to post the highest unit EBITDA in nearly 19 quarters, as was the case with its 50 per cent-sub, ACC. Net earnings still fell 13 per cent YoY to Rs 3.9 billion, which was 22 per cent ahead of the estimate.

Ambuja's 2Q standalone EBITDA rose 6 per cent YoY to Rs 6.1 billion, 19 per cent ahead of our estimate. Depreciation was a bit lower and so was other income; the tax rate of 28.2 per cent too came in a bit lower. Net earnings declined 13 per cent YoY to Rs 3.9 billion, which was 22 per cent ahead of our estimate. Consolidated EBITDA (including ACC) was up 21 per cent YoY to Rs 12.9 billion while net earnings rose 7 per cent YoY to Rs 5.6 billion.

Ambuja reported 5 per cent YoY growth in cement volume with overall volume up 4 per cent; this was a tad lower than our forecast. Cement realisation, however, rose at a strong 11 per cent QoQ to Rs 233 per bag. Ambuja benefitted from its strong presence, as all its regions had strong pricing trends. We believe that prices rose the most in west India followed by north and then the east. Overall costs were also under check with unit cost up just 1 per cent QoQ. The cost of manufacturing (materials+energy) rose 2 per cent QoQ while freight was marginally down. Unit EBITDA increased to a 19-quarter high of Rs 1,010 per tonne (+67 per cent QoQ). Ambuja's 50 per cent-held subsidiary, ACC, reported better results than we had expected led by higher volume and lower costs. Overall 2Q EBITDA rose 20 per cent YoY to Rs 5 billion, 12 per cent ahead, and a saw strong beat at the net earnings level too. Volume growth of 10 per cent was also strong led by new capacity in the east with a 5 per cent QoQ rise in net realisations. Unit EBITDA at ACC was also at a 19-quarter high of Rs 735 per tonne.

JSW IPO to hit market in 2019
JSW Cement, a subsidiary of JSW Steel, announced that it is looking at a valuation of around Rs 25,000 crore to Rs 30,000 crore when it issues its initial public offer (IPO) in 2019.

The company is eyeing at raising Rs 2,500-Rs 3,000 crore from a 10 per cent dilution in the first phase. It plans to propose for an IPO after 2019 general elections as the company want to be a 20 MT cement company with limestone reserves in two to three states.

Govt nod for Cement Corp revival
The Government has approved revival of the three operating units of state-owned Cement Corporation of India and will shut down the non-operating units of the company. In a written reply in the Rajya Sabha, Minister of State for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Babul Supriyo said that the Government has approved 'revival (of Cement Corporation of India) as a public sector enterprise'through closure of non-operating units and revival of three operating units.

The Board for Reconstruction of Public Sector Enterprises had recommended closure and sale of non-operating units and revival of operating units as a public sector enterprise. However, in its reply, the Government was silent on the sale of the non-operating units and said it has approved their closure.

PWD to use green tech for laying roads
The Public Works Department (PWD) will go in for Cold In-Place Recycling (CIR) of bituminous pavement, an environment-friendly green technology for laying roads. The National Highway wing of the PWD is adopting the new technology close on the heels of using shredded plastic, rubber, application of geosynthetics, coir geotextiles and pavement recycling to enhance the life of road corridors.

The National Highway 66 corridor between Pathirappally and Purakkad in Alappuzha district has been subjected for the first time in the State the CIR, a rehabilitation technique of pavement in which the existing materials are reused. Of the 28-km stretch identified, 16 had been relaid using green technology with Indian Road Congress (IRC) specifications and is offering cozy ride to motorists, Chief Engineer, PWD, NH KP Prabhakaran told. The remaining stretch in Alappuzha will be taken up after the rain and has plans to use it to more NH corridors.

The Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement (RAP) material is obtained by milling, planning or crushing the existing pavement. RAP material along with fresh aggregate are mixed, laid and then compacted. The CIR can restore old pavement to the desired profile, eliminate ruts, restore the crown and cross slope and eliminate potholes, unevenness and rough areas.

In Alappuzha, the pavement condition warranted for almost a full depth reclamation as the damages extended up to the sub-base at many locations. The pavement was milled for a thickness of 160 mm and relaid using cold process.

A wearing course of 50 mm BC was given over recycled layer. The CIR involves reuse of existing pavement materials without application of heat. Foam bitumen was used as recycling agent in the cold milling equipment. Almost 15 per cent fresh aggregate was added along with cement.

The existing road would be cleaned by air compressor and the around 15 per cent aggregates and 1.5 per cent cement would be pre-spread on the asphalt road. The road would be rehabilitated by in-situ pulverising (milling) the top 160 mm of the existing pavement. At the time of pulverizing, the pre-spread aggregates, cement and hot bitumen is injected into milled surface. The recycled mix is then compacted and graded to profile using roller and grader and eventually sealed by BC.

Bank of Baroda moves NCLT to recover money from Binani
Bank of Baroda has filed a petition against Binani Cement Ltd with the National Company Law Tribunal's (NCLT) Kolkata bench, seeking to recover Rs 97 crore in an outstanding loan under the new Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code after the firm failed to come up with a restructuring plan to clear its dues.

Lawyers for Binani Cement, a privately held firm of the Braj Binani Group, claimed that the application from Bank of Baroda had several technical flaws, and that its claim was minuscule compared with the total value of the group's assets, which, according to its lawyers, is Rs 14,000 crore.

Binani Cement, which is a unit of Binani Industries Ltd, had assets worth Rs 5,074 crore at the end of March, according to the holding firm's auditor, MZSK & Associates. NCLT's Kolkata bench reserved its order on whether or not it would admit the lender's application under the new insolvency code. If the application is admitted, the company's board will be superseded and an interim resolution professional appointed to take control of its assets and operations. Bank of Baroda wants management consulting firm Deloitte to be appointed as interim resolution professional.

Pratap Chatterjee, counsel for Binani Cement, said Bank of Baroda was not the lead lender to the cement maker and that it had not taken the approval of the joint forum of lenders before moving NCLT. Citing Reserve Bank of India rules, Chatterjee said Bank of Baroda was required to write to the joint forum and wait for at least 30 days before unilaterally moving NCLT.

Chatterjee asked why Bank of Baroda was seeking the appointment of an administrator to recover a small loan of Rs 97 crore when the lead banker, Central Bank of India, was not seeking dispute resolution in this manner.

Gujarat HC notice to govt, Ambuja over mining safety
The Gujarat High Court has issued notice to concerned authorities and the cement factory in Gir-Somnath district over a PIL complaining that safety measures are not taken in mining activity and that the mining is illegally carried out in reserve forest areas.

Petitioner RTI Activist Sangathan has sought direction from the high court to direct the authorities to make Gujarat Ambuja Cement Ltd compel to erect fence around its mining areas. The petitioner has complained that at least 15 persons have lost their lives in Gir-Somnath district where the company is undertaking its mining operations. This has happened due to deliberate neglect on part of the company and the authorities that fencing is a must safety measure.

The petitioner alleged that the company also undertakes mining in private land, grazing land as well as in the forest areas also. Upon hearing the case, the HC issued notice to the Centre, the cement company, Director of Mining Safety, DySP of Gir-Somnath and the Jamwala Range Forest Officer of Gir sancturary. Further hearing is on September 6.

LafargeHolcim lowers growth forecast
Swiss-French cement group LafargeHolcim has lowered its forecast for growth in global cement markets this year after second quarter sales fell short of expectations. Based on developments in the first half 2017, it expected growth in its markets this year of between 1 and 3 per cent in 2017, the world's largest cement company by sales said. That compared with the 2 to 4 per cent it had expected in May.

However, Beat Hess, Chairman, said that the group still expected to meet its 2017 and 2018 targets, 'with key countries such as the US, India, Nigeria and, notably this quarter, Mexico making significant contributions to earnings, more than offsetting headwinds in some of our markets.'

LafargeHolcim reported net sales had risen by 3.6 per cent to SFr 6.85 billion on a like-for-like basis in the three months to June. That compared with the almost SFr 7 billion expected on average by analysts. Adjusted pre-tax operating profits of SFr 1.74 billion were 10 per cent higher than a year earlier on a like-for-like basis - and slightly higher than expected by analysts.

LafargeHolcim was formed by the Ç41 billion merger in 2015 of Lafarge of France and Holcim of Switzerland. Over the past year, the group has been dogged by a scandal over a plant it operated in Syria until September 2014. In April, Eric Olsen resigned as chief executive to help restore calm at the company - although the company said he was not involved in or aware of any wrongdoing.

Global pension funds keen on highway projects
International pension funds with an appetite for staying invested for several years are expected to be primary suitors for the highway contracts to be auctioned by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). Experts say the Government wants to generate cash to support its next tranche of investment in the highways sector. They are of the view that foreign pension funds would be keen to bid for such projects because they typically invest in those with a longer duration, unlike private companies, which look for quick results.

'Since most of the construction-related risk is taken care of by the Government, the private sector would be interested in these contracts because the traffic is already established and the Government is hopeful of getting surplus cash post auctions,'said Adil Zaidi, partner-economic development and infrastructure advisory, EY. He said the Government should plan the highways and alignments it intended to auction.

Global pension funds might be attracted by the certainty of the return on investment, an analyst said. Last year, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs authorised the NHAI to monetise 111 publicly-funded requiring reduced NHAI involvement in projects.

Further, the corpus generated from the proceeds of such project monetisation could be utilised by the Government to meet its requirements on development and O&M of highways in the country NH projects that were operational and were generating toll for at least two years after the Commercial Operations Date (COD) through the toll-operate-transfer (TOT) model. Around 75 operational NH projects completed under public funding have been preliminarily identified for potential monetisation using the TOT model. This model would provide an operation and maintenance (O&M) framework, requiring the NHAI's reduced involvement in projects after construction completion.

Further, the corpus generated from the proceeds of such project monetisation could be utilised by the government to meet its fund requirements regarding development and O&M of highways in the country. This could help the development and strengthening of highways in unviable geographies. The Government aims to cater for that category of investors which is averse to taking construction risks but is adequately equipped for making long-term investments in road infrastructure, e.g. institutional investors including pension and insurance funds, and sovereign funds. In the past Macquarie, Brookfield, Cube Highways, and other such global funds took equity in NH projects worth about 4,150 crore, from which private promoters had exited. The auction can also be seen as a move to allow the entry of sovereign funds from Abu Dhabi and Qatar into such projects.

Orient posts Rs 39 cr net profit
CK Birla group firm Orient Cement Ltd reported a net profit of Rs 38.92 crore in the first quarter ended on June 30, 2017. The company had posted a net loss of Rs 7.56 crore in the same period last fiscal, Orient Cement Ltd said.

Revenue from operations during the period under review was at Rs 656.73 crore as against Rs 505.21 crore in the year-ago period, up 30 per cent. During the quarter, the company signed definitive agreement for acquisition of 74 per cent shares of Bhilai Jaypee Cement from Jaiprakash Associates and its nominees for an enterprise value of Rs 1,450 crore.

The company also inked similar pact for the business transfer of Nigrie Cement Grinding unit of Jayprakash Power Ventures Ltd at an enterprise value Rs 496 crore.

Govt to assist Assam for repair of highways
The Minister of Road Transport & Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari has announced a financial assistance of Rs 200 crore as the first installment for the immediate repairs of National Highways damaged due to heavy rains in Assam. The announcement was made after the Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal called on Gadkari for a review of the situation in Assam where heavy rains have led to National Highways being damaged.

Meanwhile, an expert team of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) officials has been dispatched for on the spot assessment of the damage. If needed, further financial assistance will be provided based on the NHAI team's report. Another Rs 400 crore has been sanctioned for dredging work in Brahmaputra river. The work will start from September using six dredgers. Dredging will increase the depth of the river and prevent it from flooding. A total of seven bridges are to be built on Brahmaputra river during the next five years for better road connectivity with the NE region. Work on two bridges is underway. DPR for three more bridges is to be prepared by the State Government.

Gadkari has also asked the State Government to submit the DPR for the proposed Bhramaputra National Highways to be built along the banks of the river at a cost of Rs 40,000 crore.

Govt may lease out infra projects to private operators: NITI CEO
The Government needs to exit infrastructure projects and even look at handing over jails, schools and colleges to the private sector as happens to be the case in countries like Canada and Australia, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said. At the same time, he was highly critical of India's private sector, terming it as 'most irrational'and 'insensitive'. Kant said it messed up projects by aggressive bidding and creating current crisis in the public private partnership (PPP) model.

'The Government has done a lot of big projects but the government is not good at operation and maintenance. Therefore, the government must start the process of reverse BOT (build, operate and transfer), must sell out projects and let the private sector handle it,'he said addressing India PPP Summit 2017, organised by industry body FICCI.

Citing the example of dirty bathrooms at airports, which fall under the Airport Authority of India, he said: 'We must bring in the private sector. That is, the fastest way to bring in private sector and bring private sector money back in infrastructure. These projects are fully de-risked.'

Kant also said that there were huge opportunities for the private sector in India like station re-development projects, Port construction and Sagarmala projects. There is no shortage of money in the market and India can use the opportunity by de listing its projects, he said.

Dangote records sales volume rise across Africa
Dangote Cement, Africa's largest cement producer, has announced its unaudited results for the six months ended June 30, 2017, posting a 12.6 percent increase in sales volume across Africa. Financials released indicated that the increase in sales volume showed a growing capture of Pan-African market as Dangote Cement continues to gain grounds.

Revenues from operations in Nigeria increased by 34.5 per cent while Pan-Africa revenue increased by 63.7 per cent mainly as a result of increased volumes and foreign exchange gains when converting the sales from country local currency into Naira. Analysis of the half year result revealed that sales volumes of African operations increased by 12.6 per cent to 4.7 million metric tonne with Sierra Leone making a 53 kt maiden contribution.

Record of sales from its operations scattered around the African continent revealed that a total of 1.1 million metric tonnes of cement was sold in Ethiopia, almost 0.7 million metric tonne sold in Senegal, 0.6 million metric tonne sold in Cameroon, and 0.5 million tonne in Ghana.

Also, 0.4 million metric tonnes of cement was sold in Tanzania and 0.3 million tonne in Zambia. Sales volumes from Nigerian operations fell from 8.8 mt to 6.9 mt, occasioned by the onset of rains which stalled many construction projects.

East proves best for Shree Cement
Shree Cement's Street-beating Q1 performance was led by its cement business. Though the company's power segment reported a loss at the operating level, cement was the show-stopper, enabling Shree Cement post an EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) of Rs 680 crore, which was reasonably ahead of Bloomberg consensus estimates of Rs 646 crore. A better-than-expected recovery in cement realisations, led by price hikes since the start of April, helped the company beat cost pressures too.

Birla to invest Rs 2.4k cr in new cement plant Birla Corporation Limited, the MP Birla Group flagship company, would invest around Rs 2,400 crore for its proposed new cement plant at Mukutbandh near Nagpur. 'We are planning to invest around Rs 2,400 crore for 4 MTPA greenfield cement plant at Mukutbandh. We will now go to the board for approval', Chairman of Birla Corporation Harsh V Lodha told at the company's AGM. Lodha said after the completion of the new plant, the total cement production capacity of the company would touch 20 MTPA from the present 15.5 MTPA after acquisition of Reliance Cement. Funding of the project would be a mixture of debt and internal accruals, he said.

Birla Corporation had acquired the cement plants of Reliance at a consideration of Rs 4,800 crore. To fund this acquisition, Birla Corporation had taken a loan of Rs 1,000 crore on its books. Lodha said that the company was making some capital expenditure at the acquired plants to make it more efficient.

'Reliance's plants did not have a captive power plant. So we are in the process of setting up a waste heat recovery system at a cost Rs 125 crore', he said. This would provide us power to meet a portion of the total demand, 45 MW, free of cost. 'We are studying the feasibility of a captive thermal power plant there', he said.

Lodha said as the demand for cement was rising in central India and no new capacity was coming up in the region, the company was well-poised to take advantage of this. On GST, he said it would not have any major impact.

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