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This follows the clearance received by the merger of Lafarge and Holcim by the Competition Commission of India. Industry activity apart, the government has announced several infrastructure and road projects that should see immense activity involving consumption of cement.
Cement, among others, have gained since January The gains have ranged from 30 to over per cent. Rising demand The demand for cement was hugely impacted between andas the sector witnessed problems owing to execution delays in projects and high leverage burden on balance sheets with credit shortfall.
The other major consumers include infrastructure at 13 per cent, commercial construction at 11 per cent, followed by industrial construction at 9 per cent. Cement production witnessed a growth of 0.
Its cumulative growth during April to January was 7. The other factor that plays a favourable role in the resurgence of the cement sector is the fall in oil and coal prices, which play a significant role in the margins of cement companies.
The average coal prices during April-December were down 10 per cent compared to average cost during FY Challenges ahead Although a cyclical infrastructure recovery and capex revival might catalyse cement demand, structural concerns related to low utilisation levels still prevail.
Capacity utilisation for the cement industry at the national level is per cent, with the maximum 60 per cent in the south.
However, it will take a long time for cement companies to reach a capacity utilisation of 85 per cent, a level of operation that can improve margins and financial performance. Moreover, demand-supply in the plant cluster, efficiency of the plant and extent of limestone reserves gives one a reasonable idea of the long-term prospects of a company.
Coal costs nearly per cent of the total power and fuel cost, while freight costs per cent of the total cost, which will impact companies that are dependent on road and rail routes for freight.
Despite the governmental initiatives, the continued slackness in execution of infrastructure projects amid rising fears of rural slowdown could drag volume growth rates for the next couple of quarters.
Bright prospects The recent cement demand pick-up and slowdown in pace of capacity additions has led to gradual improvement in utilisation rates across the regions. This will help cement companies as the narrowing supply-demand gap would help in pricing power. The budget push creates a favourable backdrop but is unlikely to immediately impact volumes.
So all in all, sentiment is on a high and hence the valuations. Globally, the sector is dominated by few major companies who control capacity in particular.
In India, there is no such scenario as the industry is regionally fragmented and, today, several cement companies are available below replacement cost, opening opportunities for consolidation for bigger players. The Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion DIPPAmitabh Kant, had said in March that the cement industry has to grow per cent annually over the next three decades to meet the requirement of a rapidly growing Indian economy.
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