* Restructuring plan already announced in May
* Costs brought forward to 2012 as plan accelerated
* 410 mln Sfr in property, plant and equipment writedowns
* Says dividend not in danger
* Shares down 1.1 pct, had risen on Friday to 18-month high
(Adds details, background, analyst comment, shares)
By Emma Thomasson and Katharina Bart
ZURICH, Dec 17 Swiss cement maker Holcim Ltd
is booking 510 million francs ($553.3 million) of
restructuring charges and write-offs as it accelerates its
response to sluggish construction activity in Europe.
The world's second-largest cement maker is bringing forward
the measures having in May announced a programme to cut costs
and seek efficiency measures, saying at the time the plan was
expected to cost 200 million francs, mainly to be taken in 2013.
The cement industry has been suffering as infrastructure
spending is hurt by government austerity programmes, especially
in southern European countries which have been at the heart of
the euro zone debt crisis.
Holcim and rivals such as world no. 1 Lafarge,
HeidelbergCement and Cemex have
also been struggling to deal with a surge in electricity, coal
and oil costs, which they have been trying to pass on to
customers by hiking prices.
Holcim said on Monday it had speeded up its restructuring
plans and would charge 100 million francs in costs in the fourth
quarter, on top of 58 million already booked in the first nine
months of the year.
It said it had begun talks about an undisclosed number of
job cuts. A spokesman declined to give further details, citing
consultation processes in different countries.
Holcim also said it would write down 410 million francs of
property, plant and equipment in the quarter and would introduce
a leaner management structure in Europe to adapt to the lower
level of construction activity.
"Holcim is proceeding with its restructuring programme
faster than first assumed and hence cost savings are supposed to
be reached earlier, too," said Vontobel analyst Christian
"However, additional write-offs of property, plant and
equipments are somewhat worrying."
Holcim shares, which had risen on Friday to their highest
level in 18 months, were down 1.1 percent at 64.95 francs at
1051 GMT, compared with a 0.1 percent weaker European
Analyst Josep Pujal at brokerage Kepler said the write-offs
were a positive sign.
"In our view, it is a good thing, as they are related to
'real' capacity closures instead of goodwill depreciation, a
good initiative to avoid pricing pressure," Pujal said.
"Should other players do the same, it would be a very good
warranty for the safety of selling prices in Europe in future."
Holcim's measures echo others being taken in the industry.
Last month, HeidelbergCement said a savings programme had
cut annual costs by 241 million euros as of the end of
September, beating the 200 million originally planned.
Meanwhile, Lafarge has been shedding non-core assets and
refocusing on its cement and concrete business, after the debt
it racked up to acquire Middle Eastern cement maker Orascom in
2007 led to the loss of its investment-grade credit rating last
Holcim, which paid a 1 franc per share dividend for 2011,
said the group's payout potential for 2012 remained and would be
finalised by the board when the company reports full-year
earnings on Feb. 27.
($1 = 0.9218 Swiss franc)
(Editing by Dan Lalor and David Holmes)