May 14, 2020 / 6:17 AM / 16 days ago

Brickmaker Wienerberger sees all plants open by June as European construction recovers

(Reuters) - Austrian construction materials firm Wienerberger (WBSV.VI) aims to reopen all its manufacturing operations by the end of June, predicting a return of most construction in Europe that will bring back 80% of demand, its CEO said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Wienerberger, the world's biggest brick maker, is seen at its headquarters in Hennersdorf, Austria August 13, 2019. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

Europe’s largest brickmaker cut its full-year earnings outlook sharply and reported a first quarter loss due to coronavirus lockdowns. Shares were up 2% at 1415 GMT, after they had fallen 1.5% at open.

“We have restarted our operations in France, we are gradually reopening in England over the next one and a half months and hopefully soon in Ireland and Italy,” CEO Heimo Scheuch said in an interview with Reuters.

Britain is Wienerberger’s largest single market with around 10% of group sales in recent years, and the company was planning to expand there after Britain’s exit from the EU.

NORTH AMERICAN WRITE-OFF TRIGGERS LOSS

Assuming no further lockdown measures and a normalisation of demand, the company now expects adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of 440 million euros to 480 million euros ($475-$519 million) in 2020.

This compared with an earlier estimate of between 625 million euros and 645 million euros.

It posted a loss of 106.3 million euros in the three months through March, compared with a profit of 26.8 million euros a year earlier and a forecast of 24.0 million euros profit in a company-provided consensus.

It said the fall was due to impairment charges of around 116 million euros for the first quarter, largely due to a goodwill write-off relating to Wienerberger’s North American business.

Wienerberger said its North America business was first exposed to extreme weather conditions and then to the outbreak of the coronavirus in the first quarter, leading to lower demand for bricks and the postponement of investment decisions.

North America accounted for 10% of Wienerberger’s external revenues in 2019.

Reporting by Bartosz Dabrowski in Gdansk; Editing by Alexander Smith and Peter Graff

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