(Adds comment from conference call, updates share price)
By Christine Murray
MEXICO CITY, April 30 Mexico's Cemex, one of the
world's largest cement companies, on Wednesday reported a
first-quarter loss that was slightly better than estimates,
helped by higher demand for cement in the U.S.
The Monterrey-based company posted a loss
of $293 million, while analysts in a Reuters poll estimated a
$305 million loss.
The better-than-expected performance was helped by a bigger
contribution from the homebuilding and industrial sectors in the
United States, despite unfavorable weather conditions there.
Net sales rose 8 percent to $3.59 billion, in line with
"Given the strong underlying drivers in Cemex's key regions,
we believe the stock's reaction will be positive," Credit Suisse
analysts said in a note.
Although the loss beat expectations, it was wider than the
same period a year earlier, mostly reflecting higher interest
payments on debt.
Cemex, which has struggled with a heavy debt load from
expensive acquisitions, said total debt increased 1 percent from
a year earlier to $16.69 billion.
Executives on a call said the company may be open to further
acquisitions or asset swaps that could come as Cemex competitors
Holcim and Lafarge try to win regulatory
approval for their planned merger.
"We do believe that in this industry there are economies of
scale and Holcim and Lafarge and us and other companies of our
level...are always trying to obtain economies of scale," Chief
Financial Officer Fernando Gonzalez told analysts on a call.
"We are open to analyze whatever the opportunities," he
said, answering a question about whether Cemex will participate
in any of the possible divestitures, adding the company cannot
be specific until it knows the details of the asset sales.
Infrastructure spending in Mexico, Cemex's biggest market as
measured by core profit, began slowly last year after a new
government took office. The debt default of the country's three
biggest homebuilders compounded Cemex's problems.
But the company said on Wednesday demand for its products in
Mexico was fueled by higher activity in both the infrastructure
and homebuilding sectors.
Shares in Cemex were up 2.7 percent in morning trading.
(Reporting by Christine Murray, additional reporting by Elinor
Comlay, Editing by Franklin Paul, Jeffrey Benkoe and Meredith