Cemex

Cemex, the Mexican cement giant, is breathing a little sigh of relief.

It had been biting its nails ahead of a ruling from an Egyptian appeals court on whether its 1999 purchase, in a privatisation, of Assiut Cement Company (ACC), should stand. 

So much for cementing a recovery. Cemex, the Mexican cement company that is one of the biggest in the industry in the world, disappointed with another loss in the third quarter that was significantly bigger than the market had been expecting. Bloomberg said it was the 16th straight quarterly loss.

Cutting its coat according to its cloth, it also announced a reduction in capex to $620m this year from expectations of $700m. 

If the performance of the Central and South American unit of Mexican cement giant Cemex is anything to go by, the biggest cement maker in the Americas should be looking at a bright earnings release on Thursday.

Cemex floated part of its Central and South American operations last year into Cemex Latam Holdings (CLH) which reported an 18 per cent rise in consolidated net sales, to $474m, in the third quarter, and EBITDA up 24 per cent to $168m. 

According to its vice-president of finance, Fernando González, “2012 was a year of recovery for Cemex”.

It was, but the recovery still faces a long slog, judging by the fourth quarter results reported on Thursday by the Mexican cement and building materials giant. 

The new kid on the cement block, Cemex Latam Holdings, made its quarterly earnings debut to warm applause.

The South and Central American offshoot of Mexico’s Cemex that was floated late last year on the Bogotá exchange reported sales in last year’s fourth-quarter of $404m, a 23 per cent year-on-year increase. 

Kenya ShillingEverything seemed to be going well enough earlier this month when Cemex, the Mexican cement producer, raised $1.15bn from the partial sale of its Latin American subsidiary on the Colombian Stock Exchange. According to the BVC, as the exchange is called, the offering raised $153m in Colombia and $997m overseas, through two simultaneous operations.

Sadly for Cemex Latam Holdings, or CLH, its shares dropped 2.7 per cent, to 11,920 pesos, in its first trading day on Friday. The company had issued 170.4m shares at 12,250 pesos. 

The collapse of Colombia’s biggest broker, Interbolsa, might have prompted some investors to dump the country’s bond and currency last week.

Yet that was not enough to prevent Cemex, the Mexican cement producer, from raising close to $1.1bn from the partial sale of its Latin American subsidiary on the Colombian Stock Exchange last Wednesday. 

Cemex, one of the world’s largest cement producers, on Thursday obtained an important green light along the road back to financial health: regulatory approval to sell a minority stake in its Central and South American assets.

The signal, given by authorities in Colombia, where the Mexican-based cement producer intends to list the assets, should significantly help Cemex to continue paying down debt after coming unstuck in 2008. 

Take one look at Mexico’s corporate landscape, and one of the first conclusions is that each of the business sectors is dominated by one or, more commonly, two groups.

The resulting lack of competition is a constant theme in discussions on why the economy has not performed better during the last decade or more. But Tuesday brought a small but important sign that things may slowly be changing: Elementia, an industrial conglomerate partly owned by Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire, announced that it would enter the country’s cement market

Stick a pin on a world map, and you’re fairly sure to hit one of the 50 countries where Cemex has operations and more than 100 with which it trades.

Which is why it is almost anyone’s guess where the Mexico-based cement maker is likely to wield the axe under a new asset sale announced Monday in tandem with a debt restructuring. 

It’s been quite a week for Cemex. Just one day after the company announced that creditors holding 91.5 per cent of a US$7.3bn loan had accepted a refinancing offer that includes extending maturities by three years, the Mexican cement manufacturer said it planned to sell a minority stake in its Latin America operations.

Both pieces of news went down well: Cemex shares on Mexico’s stock exchange have jumped more than 4.5 per cent in the past five days and are now trading at levels about 50 per cent higher than at the start of the year.