Egypt's ASEC Cement plans to triple output by 2013


Updated Mon, 13 Dec 2010 00:00:00 GMT

Egypt's ASEC Cement is on track to triple its cement production in the Middle East and North Africa by 2013 and is finalising talks with banks to boost production in Syria, its chief executive said.

ASEC, a subsidiary of Cairo-based Citadel Capital, controls plants in Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Syria, Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan and Ethiopia with an annual combined cement production of nearly 4 million tonnes, Giorgio Bodo said.

"The Middle East is still a young part of the world. You have lots of new families and everybody wants new houses, new ports, hospitals, and schools," Bodo said in an interview. "By 2013 if all goes well, we will be close to 12.6 million tonnes."

ASEC is also considering expansion elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa but will focus on its main markets first, Bodo said.

The company has finished the first phase of its Syrian plant, 85 km north-east of Damascus, which it expects to bring in revenue of $93 million in 2013. It is now finalising talks with Syrian banks to expand further.

"Syria is an interesting country because it is opening up from an economic point of view and the banking sector is growing," Bodo said, adding that demand for cement was enormous.

The firm, which has stakes in Egypt's Misr Cement Qena in Egypt and Zahana Cement in Algeria, plans to consider investment alternatives in Africa, where cement demand is growing, once its ongoing projects are further along.

"What we would like to do is target especially sub-Saharan Africa," Bodo said. "We think this is the continent that will have the most important growth curve in the future."

Still, ASEC may slash production at its $253 million Takamol plant in Sudan, which has a nominal capacity of 1.3 million tonnes, to 1 million tonnes due to political uncertainty ahead of a referendum for Southern independence, he said.

The referendum is scheduled for January 9.

"It is not clear what we are up against if the South will decide to secede," Bodo said. "We are not able to operate at full production because demand is not particularly dynamic given the political situation."

In Egypt, ASEC has secured funding for a 1.6 million tonne-per-year grey cement greenfield plant in the southern province of Minya owned by its subsidiary al-Arabiya al-Wataniya (ANCC), and production will start in early 2013, he said.

ASEC plans to boost its sales of ready-mix cement, which it is producing in a joint venture with Misr Cement Qena in Upper Egypt, to complement its cement business, Bodo said.

"Our aim is to develop the ready-mix sector in a part of the country that we feel is growing and where there are no other major players. There is room to provide high quality products."