* Sales hit by wintry weather in Europe, U.S.
* Holcim operating profit hurt by weaker Indian results
* Sales of Cement Australia boost Holcim net profit
* Cartel fine dents HeidelbergCement net profit
* Both firms plan cost cuts, price hikes
ZURICH/FRANKFURT, May 8 Holcim and
HeidelbergCement said on Wednesday a long winter in
Europe and North America contributed to a fall in first-quarter
sales, putting more pressure on the cement makers' plans to cut
costs and raise prices.
The bad weather added to problems of overcapacity in the
construction sector, which is battling weak construction
spending due to government austerity measures and sluggish
In Austria, Wienerberger, the world's biggest
brickmaker, also blamed the snowy winter in Europe for holding
back building activity and contributing to a fall in
Sales at Switzerland-based Holcim fell 7.2 percent to 4.3
billion Swiss francs ($4.57 billion) in the quarter, falling
short of the average analyst forecast of 4.6 billion in a
At Germany's HeidelbergCement, sales dropped to 2.76 billion
euros ($3.61 billion), compared to 2.8 billion euros expected by
In response to the weak economic climate, Holcim and
HeidelbergCement have been cutting costs and selling
Holcim, the world's largest cement maker by market value,
started a cost-cutting drive last year to boost profits by at
least 1.5 billion francs by the end of 2014. The company said
the programme contributed 169 million to operating profit in the
Holcim said it expected further improvement of operating
margins this year, helped by costs cuts and price hikes.
It also stuck to its prediction for higher cement sales in
Asia, North America and Latin America, but remained less
optimistic about Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
HeidelbergCement said in February it aimed to accelerate a
cost-cutting programme to save an extra 150 million euros this
year, bringing its target for cutting annual costs over three
years ending 2013 to 1 billion euros.
The company, based in Heidelberg in southern Germany, said
it was continuing to raise prices.
HeidelbergCement's net profit in the quarter, which missed
analysts' expectations, was affected by increased provisions for
a cartel fine for cement price fixing.
It was fined 160 million euros for fixing the cement price
with peers including Holcim and Lafarge from 1990 to 2002.
The company posted a net loss after minorities of 235
million euros ($308 million) from 208 million euros in the same
period a year earlier.
Holcim's first-quarter operating profit fell 17.8 percent to
270 million francs, hit by weaker results from its Indian
Net profit increased to 187 million francs from 10 million
francs, boosted by the sale of its 25 percent share in Cement
Australia to HeidelbergCement.
Holcim shares rose 2.4 percent to 74.25 euros at 0750 GMT,
while HeidelbergCement shares dropped 0.7 percent to 55.65
euros, compared with a 0.3 percent increase in the sector