Dangote breaks cover

Byyuanyanping

Updated Thu, 21 Aug 2014 14:04:37 GMT

Of the five African cement news stories in this edition of Global Cement Weekly, three concern the actions of Nigerian cement giant Dangote Cement. This week it has announced a new captive power plant in Nigeria and the fact that Sephaku Cement, which is owned by Dangote to the tune of 64%, is now in a position to produce cement from its Aganang plant in South Africa. These two items are fairly typical of the type of announcement that Dangote makes in the African market, and the high frequency with which it makes them. It is the third story, of course, which is unusual.

We have heard, for a couple of years now, that Dangote has designs on becoming a pan-African cement giant. Certainly it is the pre-eminent producer in west Africa, with its influence rapidly spreading to the east, north west and south of this vast continent. Few others, (but perhaps South Africa's PPC), can claim to have such influence and, unopposed, there seems no limit to Dangote's ambitions.

This week we heard just how bold those ambitions are. For the first time Africa's No. 1 cement producer has said that it wants to break out of Africa and enter new markets. No longer satisfied with operating at home, a company release has identified the Middle East and Latin America as potential hunting grounds, either for new capacity or acquisitions. The proposed list of LafargeHolcim cast-offs, which includes few assets in either region (LINK), will also have received significant attention in the Dangote boardroom.

The selection of the Middle East and Latin America, however, is not accidental. The Middle East is a high growth area and provides a platform for possible 'pincer-movement' expansion into more impenetrable markets in central Africa like Chad and (South) Sudan. The Middle East also means proximity to India. Dangote may also want to dampen the influence that Indian, Pakistani and Iranian exports have in the region. Potential tie-ups with Dangote's growing operations in east Africa are clear.

The selection of Latin America, on the face of it at least, is less obvious. There are numerous strong and growing local and regional producers. Not least of these is Colombia's Cementos Argos, which has increased its influence in the USA through strategic acquisitions. There are also numerous domestic large Brazilian producers but Dangote may feel like there is room for more to joint the party. Cade, the Brazilian competition authority, has certainly agreed that competition could be improved in Brazil following its recent investigations. Could Brazil be a prime target?

Wherever Dangote decides to play its first non-African card, it will be a major step for the company and African cement producers. How long until we see the first African-owned cement plant on another continent?