May 4, 2011 / 5:12 AM / 6 years ago

UPDATE 3-Holcim profit capped by materials, energy costs

* Q1 net profit 10 mln Swiss francs, vs 127 mln forecast

* Some infrastructure projects in mature markets postponed

* Peers Lafarge, HeidelbergCement, others report Thursday

* Shares down 3.9 percent

(Adds industry context, analyst comment, share open)

By Sam Cage

ZURICH, May 4 (Reuters) - Holcim HOLN.VX, the world’s second-largest cementmaker, missed first-quarter profit forecasts on Wednesday, citing high raw material and energy costs and postponed infrastructure projects in mature markets.

The construction industry has been struggling to emerge from the global economic crisis, particularly in developed markets in North America and Europe, and Holcim’s underwhelming results set the scene for a slew of peers set to report on Thursday.

Holcim shares, which had lagged just behind the European construction sector .SXOP this year, were down 3.9 percent by 0735 GMT, underperforming rivals HeidelbergCement (HEIG.DE) and Lafarge LAFP.PA whose stock also fell.

Holcim posted a first-quarter net profit after minorities of 10 million Swiss francs ($11.6 million), compared with a forecast for 127 million in a Reuters poll and after a 68 million loss in the 2010 period. [ID:nLDE7410QP]

“This is partly due to no CO2 rights sales, but partly due to lower true operating performance,” Kepler Capital Markets analyst Josep Pujal said. “We recommend being patient and we stick to our ‘buy’ rating given the top line and margin expansion we expect for the next three to four years.”

Holcim, which is providing the cement for the London 2012 Olympics and competes with Mexican group Cemex (CX.N), said higher sales volumes could not fully compensate for materials and energy price rises.

Holcim has not yet sold any CO2 emissions certificates in 2011, which hurt results, as did the stronger franc.

POSTPONED PROJECTS

Lafarge and HeidelbergCement were both due to report first-quarter results on Thursday, as were Italcementi ITAI.MI and Titan Cement (TTNr.AT). Cemex reported a first-quarter loss last week. [ID:nN29107250] “In the emerging markets of Asia and Latin America, the economic climate and demand for building materials continued to grow,” Holcim said. “However, in many mature markets, infrastructure projects ready for execution were postponed. In Europe, a mild winter provided some compensation.”

Holcim makes more than a third of its sales in the Asia Pacific region and has the largest exposure to the region among the big cementmakers and said markets there continued to grow, particularly India.

It holds 46 percent stakes in ACC (ACC.BO) and Ambuja Cements (ABUJ.BO), India’s second and third-biggest cement producers, both of whose first-quarter results beat forecasts. [ID:nWNAS1910] [ID:nWNAS1907]

“We are still of the opinion that the construction sector in the mature markets will recover and that the growth in the emerging markets will continue,” Holcim said. (Editing by Erica Billingham and Dan Lalor) ($1 = 0.8605 Swiss franc)

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