Holcim and Lafarge agree on merger to create cement giant

Switzerland's Holcim unveiled an all-share deal to buy France's Lafarge on Monday to create the world's biggest cement maker with combined sales of 32 billion euros.

The partners billed the deal as a merger of equals under which Lafarge shareholders will receive one Holcim share for every Lafarge share held, with the combined group to be based in Switzerland and listed in Zurich and Paris.
 
Shares in Lafarge rose 4 per cent at the open, the top gainer on France's blue-chip CAC 40 .

FCHI index, while shares in Holcim were up 5.4 per cent.
 
The new entity, worth just under $60 billion, will see 53 per cent shareholder control for Holcim and 47 per cent for Lafarge, the companies said in a joint website presentation, which follows news the pair were in talks on Friday and agreement over the weekend.
 
The deal will be the industry's biggest-ever tie-up, and would help the companies slash costs, trim debt and better cope with the soaring energy prices, tough competition and weaker demand that have hurt the sector since the 2008 economic crisis.
 
The groups complement each other well geographically, with Lafarge stronger in Africa and Holcim stronger in Latin America, company executives said on a conference call.
 
The merged group will be present in 90 countries, with emerging markets such as Latin America and Africa accounting for 60 per cent of sales, but no single country representing more than 10 percent.
 
"The new group will offer higher growth and low risk, thus creating more value," said Lafarge Chief Executive Bruno Lafont, who will become CEO of LafargeHolcim.
 
The companies added that they expected total annual savings from joining forces of 1.4 billion euros after three years, thanks to economies of scale, better operational efficiency and lower financing costs.
 
"Globally, it's likely that growth in the next 10 years will be lower than in the 10 years before the financial crisis, and one has to adapt correspondingly; this is happening on the cost side," said Vontobel analyst Panagiotis Spiliopoulos.
 
The deal is expected to draw scrutiny from competition watchdogs, however, with UBS analysts pointing to anti-trust issues in key markets including Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, France, the UK, the United States, Morocco and Philippines.
 
"Given the potential issues and required remedies, we expect a lengthy approval process, possibly taking up to two years," UBS analysts wrote.
 
Multi-billion divestments

Lafarge and Holcim confirmed that they would sell businesses worth 10-15 percent of the group's earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) to satisfy antitrust concerns.
 
They have combined EBITDA of 6.5 billion euros. Based on a multiple of eight times EBITDA, they could dispose of 5 to 8 billion euros' worth of business, Natixis analysts wrote.
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