Lafarge reports robust growth of full year sales to December 31, 2004

27 January 2005

Euronext: LG, NYSE: LR

  • Up 5.7% to € 14,436 million
  • Up 7.7% on a like for like basis (5.6% in Q4)

Sales were up 5.7% to € 14,436 million as at December 31, 2004 compared to € 13,658 million in 2003. The net scope effect was favorable (+1.5%). Foreign exchange variations impacted sales negatively by 3.5%.

“ We are pleased to report robust sales growth in most of our operations throughout the year, with healthy demand in the second half. This enables us to confirm our expectation of a growth in our operating income on ordinary activities for 2004 exceeding 10%, excluding currency fluctuations, in a context of sharp rise in energy costs.

We are confident that most of our markets will continue to show favorable trends, in both volumes and pricing, in 2005” said Bernard Kasriel, Chief Executive Officer of the Group.

The sales report for each Division, excluding foreign exchange, scope effects, and before inter divisional sales elimination is as follows:

CEMENT: +9.2%
Sales rose 9.2% in 2004 (+12.9% in Quarter 1, +10.7% in Quarter 2, +7.8% in Quarter 3 and + 6.7% in Quarter 4).

The Cement Division's strong sales growth in 2004 has been driven by good pricing trends in the context of sharply rising energy costs. Volume growth overall has been solid, with strong growth in North America, the Eastern Mediterranean, and on the African continent and a moderate rise in Asia.

In Western Europe sales growth in 2004 was largely driven by favorable pricing trends
France delivered the strongest sales growth in the region with sustained volume growth throughout the year coupled with a favorable pricing environment. In the UK, volumes were slightly down in a market that saw slower construction growth and increased imports. Despite this environment, prices held up well. Spain continued to record favorable trends in construction spending allowing for good price increases. In Germany, the construction market and cement volumes weakened once again, but this was more than offset by the steady recovery in prices from the low level of the previous year. In Greece, volumes slowed as expected following the completion of Olympics' related building projects but pricing showed good levels of increase.

In North America, sales grew strongly during 2004
Favorable economic conditions supported strong levels of demand across markets throughout the year, and we also benefited from more favorable weather conditions at both the start and the end of the year. High levels of demand particularly in the first half of the year, led to increased imports to meet customer demand. Pricing trends continued to be positive, with successful price increases achieved in the majority of markets during the first half. In several US markets, a second price increase was also realized later in the year.

Positive sales trends were recorded in all other regions of the world
In Central and Eastern Europe, sales grew strongly, driven by a buoyant construction market in Romania.

In the Mediterranean Basin, sales were up sharply in Jordan and in Turkey where the market grew strongly. In Morocco, volumes saw good growth, although overall sales prices were negatively affected by the implementation of a cement sales tax in 2004.

In Africa, high levels of growth were seen particularly in Nigeria and in South Africa.
In Latin America, the continued improvement in Venezuela offset lower volumes and prices in Brazil. In Asia, demand was disappointing, with the exception of India and Indonesia where demand was strong. In the Philippines significant price increases were successfully implemented throughout the year but volumes were slightly lower due to low levels of government spending. Similarly, Malaysia suffered from lower public sector spending especially in infrastructure, leading to lower selling prices. In South Korea the construction industry was badly affected by government initiatives to dampen property price inflation, which led to a sharp fall in construction orders. The consequent decline in cement volumes increased competition between domestic producers and importers, leading to price weakness.

Sales rose 7.6% in 2004 (+11.4% in Quarter 1, +6.0% in Quarter 2, +5.9% in Quarter 3 and +8.4% in Quarter 4).

The Aggregates and Concrete Division delivered robust levels of sales growth overall with strong volumes in both North America and France, coupled with favorable pricing trends in most countries.

In Aggregates, sales rose 7.2% with a strong increase in North America.
Volumes rose with solid overall demand levels in the U.S. and strong sales in Canada. Aggregate prices were also higher in most North American markets.
In Western Europe the situation was mixed. In France, sales growth varied regionally, with stronger growth in Southern regions. In the UK, sales were lower due to a decline in infrastructure spending, which strongly affected Asphalt and Paving.
Aggregates prices continued to show favorable trends compared to 2003.

In Concrete, sales grew by 8.3%.
In North America, sales rose 7.3%, with overall positive pricing conditions. Demand was particularly strong in West Canada and in the Eastern part of the United States.
In France, sales grew strongly due to a combination of high levels of residential housing in most regions and favorable pricing trends which supported increased sales of special quality concretes. In the UK, concrete sales were robust with improved pricing trends supported by increased volumes of special quality products.

ROOFING: -1.0%
Sales were down by 1.0% in 2004 (+6.0% in Quarter 1, +6.0% in Quarter 2, –6.2% in Quarter 3 and –7.5% in Quarter 4).

The Roofing Division's decline in sales resulted from renewed weakness in Germany in the second half after a more promising first half.

In Western Europe, sales of both concrete and clay tiles were down. The renewed decline in sales in Germany offset the generally favorable trends seen across the rest of Europe, particularly in France, Italy and Scandinavia.
Sales in the U.S. continued to be strong, driven by a buoyant housing market.

GYPSUM: +12.2%
Sales rose 12.2% in 2004 (+14.2% in Quarter 1, +13.2% in Quarter 2, +10.8% in Quarter 3 and +10.8% in Quarter 4).

The Gypsum Division's strong sales growth in 2004 was driven by positive trends in both volumes and prices in most markets.In Western Europe, pricing was favorable in France but continued to be negative in Germany. Volumes were driven by strong demand in the UK and by strong fourth quarter sales in Germany ahead of 2005 price increases.

Sales grew significantly in the United States with our plants running at high capacity rates. The strong activity in residential housing and renovation work continued and facilitated further price increases in all of our markets during the year.
In Asia, sales were down due to the decline in the South Korean construction market.

The translation impact of negative foreign currency fluctuations on 2004 sales was generated mostly in the following currencies: US Dollar (€ 231 million), Malaysian Ringgit (€ 33 million), Canadian Dollar (€ 27 million), and the Nigerian Naira (€ 22 million). This was slightly offset by the appreciation of the Pound Sterling (+€ 26 million) and the South African Rand (+€ 16 million).

Sales from acquisitions amounted to a positive scope effect of € 392 million, of which € 176 million is due to the increase to 51.17% in our percentage ownership of Lafarge Halla Cement in South Korea, which triggered a change from the proportionate to global consolidation method. Aggregates and Concrete acquisitions contributed € 137 million of which € 70 million was in North America and € 48 million in France.
The reduction in sales due to negative scope effects totaled € 178 million, primarily as a result of the divestment of Florida cement operations (€ 54 million), various divestments from the Aggregates and Concrete Division (€ 70 million ) and the disposal of the remaining lime operations in Europe and road markings in the USA (€ 49 million).

Consolidated sales as of 30 September 2004
December 31, 2004
€ Million
December 31, 2003
€ Million
Variation At constant scope
and foreign exchange
At constant scope
and foreign exchange,
before inter divisional
sales elimination
Cement 6,81 6,383 +6.7% +9.2% +9.2%
Aggregates & Concrete 4,747 4,465 +6.3% +7.6% +7.6%
Roofing 1,493 1,510 -1.1% -1.0% -1.0%
Gypsum 1,340 1,194 +12.2% +12.0% +12.2%
Others 46 106 -56.6% -8.1%
TOTAL 14,436 13,658 5,70% +7.7% NA

Lafarge, the world leader in building materials, holds top-ranking positions in all four of its Divisions: Cement, Aggregates & Concrete, Roofing and Gypsum. Lafarge employs 75,000 people in 75 countries and posted sales of € 14.3 billion in 2004.

Lafarge's next financial publication – 2004 Full Year Results – will be on Thursday 24th February, 2005 (before the Euronext stock market opens.) The publication of the 2004 Full Year Results will be made in French GAAP together with a publication of the 2004 results restated in IFRS.

For release worldwide with simultaneous release in the United States.

Press Contacts Investor Relations
Stéphanie Tessier
33-1 44-34-92-32
James Palmer
33-1 44 34 11 26
Amanda Jones
33-1 44-34-19-47
Danièle Daouphars
33-1 44 34 11 51

Statements made in this press release that are not historical facts, including statements regarding our expected operating income, are forward-looking statements made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions ("Factors"), which are difficult to predict. Some of the Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to: the cyclical nature of the Company's business; national and regional economic conditions in the countries in which the Group does business; currency fluctuations; seasonal nature of the Company's operations; levels of construction spending in major markets; supply/demand structure of the industry; competition from new or existing competitors; unfavorable weather conditions during peak construction periods; changes in and implementation of environmental and other governmental regulations; our ability to successfully identify, complete and efficiently integrate acquisitions; our ability to successfully penetrate new markets; and other Factors disclosed in the Company's public filings with the French Autorité des Marchés Financiers and the US Securities and Exchange Commission including its Reference Document and annual report on Form 20-F. In general, the Company is subject to the risks and uncertainties of the construction industry and of doing business throughout the world. The forward-looking statements are made as of this date and the Company undertakes no obligation to update them, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

Conference Call on Sales to January 27, 2005
Following the release of Lafarge's sales to December 31, 2004, a conference call will be held on:
January 27, 2005 at 15:30 French time, in English
(14:30 UK time; 09:30AM EDT in North America)
The speakers will be:
Jean-Jacques Gauthier – Executive Vice President, Finance
James Palmer – Vice-President Investor Relations
Danièle Daouphars – Manager Investor Relations

If you wish to participate in the conference call, please dial:
From France: +33 (0)1 70 99 35 15
From UK : +44 208 515 2301
From UK toll free (from UK only): 0800 358 0857
From USA: +1 303 262 2211
From USA toll free: 800 219 6110
Conference call name: “Lafarge 2004 Full Year Sales”

A replay of the conference call will be available from January 27, 2005 at 7.30 pm French time to February 4, 2005 at 7.30 pm at the following numbers:
From France +33(0) 1 70 99 32 94 Access code: 132895#
From UK +44 208 515 2499 Access code: 630458#
From UK toll free (from UK only): 0 800 026 0020 Access code: 630458#
From USA: +1 303 590 3000 Access code: 1121078#
From USA toll free: 800 405 2236 Access code: 1121078#

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