LafargeHolcim says Australasian business is not up for sale


Updated Wed, 02 Dec 2015 09:56:57 GMT

LafargeHolcim has said that, despite what has been reported recently in the media, its Australian and New Zealand operations are not for sale.

LafargeHolcim recently announced a plan to divest almost US$5bn of assets in 2016 after posting unexpectedly weak third-quarter results. Speculation had emerged that it might exit from the Australasia region.

However, according to local media, an internal email sent to staff on 30 November 2015, Holcim Australia Chief Executive Mark Campbell said the company was 'not currently being sold,' but could not rule out an exit in the long term.

"I have checked whether the LafargeHolcim group had made a decision to sell the businesses in Australia and New Zealand and started a sale process without my knowledge and the answer I have received is 'no,'" said Campbell. "That said, organisations change focus over time and it is impossible to say that we will always be part of the LafargeHolcim group."

Australian-listed rivals, including Boral, Fletcher Building and Adelaide Brighton, are seen as potential acquirers, should the multinational giant choose to sell off its local arm. Ireland's CRH may also be interested. However, Morgan Stanley said that many of LafargeHolcim's local competitors might run into competition issues, given that the market is concentrated among several large players. "Should Adelaide Brighton fully participate, we cannot rule out that the 50% share in Cement Australia would be divested due to Australian regulations, given Adelaide Brighton's already strong share in cement," said Morgan Stanley Analyst James Rutledge. "While we think Fletcher Building is unlikely to be in a position to participate in industry consolidation, a change in owner that was less integrated into the region may be a positive for Fletcher Building at the margin," said Rutledge. "Given Boral's strong share in aggregates and the concrete market, we believe it will be difficult to participate in industry consolidation."

While Lafarge has a limited local presence in Australia and New Zealand, Holcim bought a string of Australian assets from Mexico's Cemex in 2009 for US$2bn and now boasts more than 350 sites nationwide.