* Q4 2012 loss $489 mln vs Q4 2011 loss $761 mln
* Revenue flat compared with year-earlier quarter
* Shares down 3.8 percent
By Elinor Comlay and Gabriela Lopez
MEXICO CITY/MONTERREY, Feb 7 Mexico's Cemex, the
giant cement company that has been struggling to turn around its
debt-laden business since the U.S. housing crisis, said weak
sales in Europe offset a pickup in its U.S. business and led it
to report a wider-than-expected fourth-quarter loss.
Cemex said that although revenue from its
hard-hit U.S. unit increased 11 percent, cement sales in
northern Europe and the Mediterranean region fell 8 percent and
the company's total revenue was flat compared with the
year-earlier quarter at $3.71 billion.
The Monterrey-based company's shares fell 3.8 percent to
13.28 pesos after it reported on Thursday a loss of $489 million
in the fourth quarter, compared with $761 million a year
earlier. Analysts on average expected a loss of $47 million,
according to a Reuters survey.
The company's sales in Mexico, where it dominates the cement
market, were also a little lower than expected, analysts noted.
That may be a result of last year's presidential election and
change in administration that has slowed infrastructure
Still, Cemex reported a pickup in operating income and core
profit, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and
amortization (EBITDA), that confirmed the company was turning
around, analysts said.
"This actually looks like a pretty solid quarter even though
it was a bit of a miss," said Todd Vencil, an analyst at Sterne
Agee in Richmond, Virginia.
Cemex's shares were up 8.7 percent this year through
Wednesday, fueled by expectations of a U.S. construction
Vencil, who spoke before markets opened, said investors may
have been getting a little ahead of themselves. "If Cemex ends
up being down today I think it's going to be due more to
overheated expectations than the reality of the quarter."
Cemex said EBITDA increased 13 percent to $611 million in
the quarter from $540 million in the fourth quarter of 2011.
The company also reported a higher quarterly operating
profit of $285 million, up 26 percent from $227 million in the
year-ago quarter, but below analysts' expectations of $299
million, according to a Reuters survey.
Cemex expects to sell between 1 and 3 percent more cement in
Mexico, the United States, Latin America and Asia in 2013. Those
increased sales volumes "will more than offset the expected
weaker Northern Europe and Mediterranean regions," finance
executive Fernando Gonzalez told analysts on a call.
The company also expects to invest about $700 million on
capital expenditures this year, with most of that money going
toward maintenance and $175 million for "strategic capex,"
"The fact is that in North America ... we seem to be solidly
in the early phases of a good construction recovery," Vencil
said. "Europe and Cemex's Mediterranean region is still
challenged, but hopefully that goes in the same direction before
Cemex was hurt by the 2008 U.S. housing meltdown shortly
after paying out $16 billion to buy Australian peer Rinker. It
has been digging out of deep debt obligations for the past three
It wrapped up a refinancing package in the autumn that gave
it much-needed room to push back looming debt payments for up to
Cemex has also used non-core asset sales in the past to pay
off debt. It raised about $1.1 billion in November by selling a
bigger-than-expected stake in its Latam unit in an IPO in